Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A funny thing happened to me on the way to my Presentation...

When you work with kids, you get used to the fact that pretty well anything can happen. If they don't like your shtick, they just lie down on the floor and go to sleep. Or, as one kid did last year at an otherwise  perfectly pleasant  public school, they shout out, "Booooo-ring!"  

I really enjoyed the time when I asked kids which country's scientists they thought might have conducted the fart experiment described in Science on the Loose. I got the answer, "Chile? Because they like beans?"

That stopped my act cold.

On my recent author tour in California, though, it was neither my own wit nor a kid's chutzpah  that brought the house down. It was the grade 6 teacher.

I often conclude my shows with a recital of "The Ode to Underwear," a real crowd pleaser. Since kids usually want to know why I write about such silly topics,  I introduce the poem with a fairly standard answer.

"Well, I think underwear is OVER-looked and UNDER-appreciated. My underwear, after all, is among my favorite things. I love mine so much, I never go anywhere without it!"

I sometimes then turn to the teacher in charge and ask, "Do you?"

The reply has always been a resounding, "Noooooo! Of course not!" or words to that effect.

Except this time.

When I asked the teacher - let's call him 'Peter' - if he ever went anywhere without his underwear, he opened his mouth to answer. Then he promptly closed it. And his face turned a brilliant shade of fuschia.

Clearly, Peter was not wearing any skivvies - and the mental image this revelation conjured up was not a pretty one! I promptly burst into fits of giggles, shocked and thrilled by this unexpectedly naughty knickers- twist to my routine.

I wasn't the only one. The grade 6 kids, all sharp as tacks, gasped as one. With eyes the size of Jupiter, their hands flew to their mouths to cover their horrified, delighted, unbelieving whoops of laughter.

From the corner of my eye, I saw the other teachers in the auditorium - there were more than 200 kids and at least 6 teachers -  turning their faces from their students and trying to suppress their own sniggers. But once the fifth-graders caught on and began laughing too, it was game over.

Mass hysteria ensued, and continued unabated for at least 5 solid minutes. Just when things would start settling down, a peal of giggles from a corner of the auditorium would set everyone else off again, over and over.

Finally, I caught my breath. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I read my now anti-climactic Ode.

I'm sure this one will go down in history as one of the funniest presentations ever, thanks to that painfully honest commando of the classroom. I imagine poor Peter will also be the "butt" of many jokes for years to come!

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