09 July, 2021

Back to the Lectern

Hands up, who remembers my posts about Speak Easy Gavel Club! A few of you do; that's cool.

For those who don't, here's a brief overview: a few years ago I joined the prison's Toastmasters affiliate to bone up on my public speaking and leadership skills. Gavel Club presented an interesting scene. Members take turns delivering speeches, both prepared and improvised, within the formal structure of meetings. The whole setup is a hell of a lot more fun than it sounds, and was occasionally quite challenging.

But I got kicked out, my rapid ascendance through the club's ranks cut short, after I allegedly overstepped my bounds while performing my duties as a club officer. The Institutional Activities Coordinator gave me a rather unceremonious boot and said I could "maybe" sign up again the following year. (To save time, here's a quick and dirty account of the kerfuffle.) I wasn't happy, but what was there to do except heed the Dragon Lady's decree?

Looked at from that end, a year seemed like an eternity. Will I even still be at this prison then? I wondered. Shortly thereafter came COVID. Following that, the year that never was. Days and weeks and months merged into an even more than usually undifferentiated blur. If it was bad for you out there, restrictive official responses to the pandemic felt significantly worse here. One effect of this was to focus my attention on matters far removed from the revocation of my little speechifying club membership. I buried my "Competent Communications" and "Competent Leadership" handbooks deep in my footlocker and let the matter slip from my mind.

Until this week, when I saw a jumbo flyer posted in my wing. A smartly dressed clip-art man at a lectern appears on it, announcing that the Speak Easy Gavel Club is holding a membership drive. The message got to me. It triggered that old feeling of – what's patriotism called when it's directed at a small group of people with common goals? Yeah, I felt that. I'm so busy these days, but could I carve two hours out of my workweek to rejoin the Gaveleers, Tuesdays at 1:30 PM, in pursuit of personal excellence?

I talked it over with the handful of people who'd be affected by my stepping out; then, with their collective blessing, I dropped my request into the mailbox. I'm already contemplating my welcome-back icebreaker speech.


Byron does not have Internet access. Pariahblog.com posts are sent from his cell by way of a secure service especially for prisoners' use. We do read him your comments, however, and he enjoys hearing your thoughts very much.