To be a funny speaker, it helps to put two incongruous things together. Like me and a dump truck.
My brother is a contractor. Sometime back he called and told me he’d bought a dump truck in Florida and needed someone to drive it to his place in Oklahoma. He asks if I’ll do it since he and his crews are very busy. I apparently had just watched a Lifetime movie and was feeling warm and mushy inside, so I said “yes”. It seemed like the thing to do, because it just so happened that I had an event coming up in Florida in just a few days so I was going to be in the state anyway. But I made a critical error before I gave this affirmative answer. I failed to ask enough questions. Huge mistake.
I’ll fly into Tampa to pick up the truck, which won’t be a problem driving since my dad was a contractor and I was driving trucks before I drove passenger cars. I may make a living as a funny speaker, but I could also make it as big rig driver if I had too. The plan is to drive the four hours to the site of my gig, the Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island, and then drive the 1000 mile journey to Tulsa. Am I an idiot or what? And have I told you I talked my wife into going along? Another critical error.
I pick up the truck in Tampa. “A pretty new dump truck in really good shape” is what my brother had said. He apparently had only seen pictures from a distance. This picture isn’t the actual truck, but it could’ve been. No air conditioning, no windshield wipers, no turn signals, no radio, and it rode like a covered wagon in a gravel pit. And this is June in the Southeast. It rains everyday and the humidity is around one thousand percent. The temperature is also one thousand. I’m guessing that a 400 pound Bubba rode shotgun in this truck, because all the springs in the passenger side of the bench seat were broken which caused the rider there to fall to the right and face plant into the window. This is where my wife sat. Yet another critical error.
After a delightful trip across Florida, I pull into the entrance of the glamorous Five Star Ritz in this dump truck where….wait for it……they only have valet parking. While the valet is telling me he doesn’t know how to drive a dump truck, my petite wife has climbed into the back of the truck and is pitching our suitcases out of the bed. In retrospect, I wish I would have just dumped the bed and let the bags tumble out. When would I have the opportunity to do that again? Remember too, that because of the heat and humidity and no air conditioning, we are dressed classy. I’m wearing shorts and a tank top, and my wife is in shorts and a sports bra. Modern day Clampetts.
The next morning I’m the final speaker to a bankers conference and immediately following the program I race to my hotel room and pack for the journey to Oklahoma. Because of the one-way street configurations, as I pull out of the Ritz in the dump truck I’m forced to loop through the hotel entry area. To my pleasant surprise, most of my audience is standing at the curb waiting to catch a bus to their golf outing. They see me in full tank top gala driving this elegant rig. Because the windows are down, I hear one of the participants say, “Isn’t that our funny speaker, why is he driving a dump truck?”
The drive to Oklahoma was two long days. It seemed like months. My wife and I entertained ourselves by re-memorizing the state capitols (the capitol of Vermont is Montpelier). This was, of course, after she started speaking to me again, on the second day.
In short, all those pranks I pulled on my little brother 40 years ago came back to haunt me. I knew when I swapped his toothpaste with Bengay, he would someday get even. He did.
This funny speaker used to ignore caller ID. Not anymore.
Mark Mayfield, A Funny Speaker with a Serious Message