Vol. 12, No. 3,009 - The American Reporter - October 19, 2006

Make My Day

by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
Syracuse, Ind.

Printable version of this story

SYRACUSE, Ind. -- I don't know what it is, but it takes a special kind of person to want to be the center of attention. I'm not talking about whiny moronic musicians who work all their lives to be revered by the public, then spend all their time whining about how their fans annoy them and they just want to be left alone before moving to a castle in Scotland and marry someone whose first name can also be found on the door of a men's room in a '50s-era diner.

I'm talking about the people who want to be the center of attention, but without all the hassles of being famous. They want all eyes to focus on them, because they want to be noticed, appreciated, and feel special. Although this may come as a surprise to many of you, I happen to be one of those people.

"No, Erik, not you! You always seem so quiet and content to workbehind the scenes where the real magic happens."

No, no. I appreciate the thought, but it's time I face my demons and admit that I, Erik Deckers, world strongest humor writer, love to be the center of attention. Shocking, isn't it?

Some part of me has always known this was true, but it wasn't until nearly ten years ago that someone pointed it out to me. But instead of starting down the road to recovery, this self-awareness has only made the problem worse. And so instead of going into a quiet career where nobody would notice me, like accounting, economics, or having my own cooking show on public television, I went into sales and marketing instead.

Although none of them will admit this, everyone good salesperson has that burning desire, that almost-compulsive need to be recognized as an authority for their field of expertise. They want to be able to drone endlessly on about their products, and have customers hang on everyword. Forget the money! It's the attention they crave.

And any salesperson who tells you otherwise is either a liar or just nanoseconds away from an exciting career in doorknob repair.

I suppose it was bound to happen really. I've always had a burning desire to be the center of attention, but somehow always managed to combine this desire with an uncanny knack for doing something stupid to get myself in trouble at the same time. I never thought about what would happen in the few seconds after I acted on my attention-gettingdesires, and didn't really start considering these things until I was 23.

Working to be the center of attention can happen in a number of ways. Often the person in question wants to be recognized as anauthority, to be in a leadership role, or to be able to shout "Heyeveryone, watch this!" without dying immediately afterward. Or in mycase, it can be something completely different, yet equally inappropriate.

When I was in the third grade, our class was going to do a "Civil War" theme for our school talent show. We would sing "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Dixieland," and then Rusty Heiland, the smartestkid in the fourth grade, was going to recite Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. It was our feeble salute to the Civil War, even though none of us had any idea what it meant at the time. Our class was a combined third- and fourth-grade classroom, and Rusty was one of the older kids. Since he was also the one who got into the least amount of trouble, he was a natural choice for Lincoln.

During rehearsals, I always got the idea to mouth the words of the speech as Rusty delivered it. But since I was eight andaddle-minded, I never remembered to do it until he was nearly finished,so I missed most of the address. Each time, I would promise myself thatI would remember next time, so I could mouth the entire address alongwith him. And each time, I would remember it a little earlier, until I nearly did it for the entire speech.

I don't know what it was. For some reason, I thought this wouldbe something cool to do, so I made it my goal to mouth all the words tothe Gettysburg Address at least once in my life. I swore that I would do the entire address with Rusty, and then that would be it. I would have met my goal, and I could move on to something more important, like creating the biggest tinfoil ball in the lunchroom.

Finally, the day of the performance came. We were going to doour segment for the entire school that afternoon, and then again for the parents that evening. I don't know what Mrs. Wilson was thinking, but somehow, I was supposed to stand in the front row, right next to Rusty.

You remember Rusty. He was the kid that would recite the entire Gettysburg Address. By himself. With no backup singers or unnecessary distractions on the stage. He was going to be the only person on the stage with anything to do for 90 whole seconds. And everyone would bewatching him.

It's at this point that I want to remind you of two very important points. First, I was an addle-minded eight year old who had set a very important goal for himself and I was running out of time. Second, I had a burning desire to be the center of attention, but I gave no thought to what would happen afterward.

And so, right there during the performance in front of the entire school, I mouthed the entire Gettysburg Address along with Rusty Heiland.

"Four score and seven years ago," he boomed.

"Four score and seven years ago," I echoed silently.

To this day, I still have gaps in my memory about what happened that day. I vaguely remember classmates poking me in the back, and hissing at me to stop it, but I couldn't. I had to continue. I had a mission, and by God, I was going to complete it!

As you can expect, this misdeed did not go unnoticed or unpunished by Mrs. Wilson, my third grade teacher. She called my parents, and I was banned from participating in the parents' performance that night. I was also grounded for several days, and was pretty much prevented from having any kind of fun at all. I was also known throughout the school as "that kid who did that thing."

But none of it mattered. I was special. I had been the center of attention. The spotlight had sliced through the darkness and landed on my stage. And I, for one brief moment, was able to shove another kid out of the way and use up his 15 minutes of fame.

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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