Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Fine Art Of Swooning

      Maymester is in full swing, and Sissey is fully immersed in Speech Class. It's a small class of fourteen, and the professor is a vibrant and enthusiastic theater gal who runs the class with wit and creativity while still maintaining a strong professional arena.  The students are required to give eight speeches on various subjects with various formats: some are timed, some are spontaneous, some involve objects and demonstrations, and some are scripted. On the first day of class, she lectured on the importance of capturing the audience's attention and keeping them engaged throughout the speech.  Sissey  mastered both of these points in one fell swoop. Literally.
      How, you may ask, did she manage such an amazing feat in one speech? How, you may ask, did she manage to attract the attention of her audience and keep them fully engaged? It only took one little gimmick, one unplanned but brilliant move that has assured her a place in the annals of the history on the USC-L campus forever.
      She fainted during her speech on Monday, and let me tell you, it got their attention and they were fully engaged.  I should have seen it coming as she stood at the podium, legs firmly locked in place, hands with a death grip on her walker, face becoming increasingly pale as she gave her speech while forgetting to breathe.  She was almost at the end when a funny look came over her face. She looked up for a moment as though she were confused and then she frowned. That was when she went down fast and she went down hard. Her head cracked the back of the walker as she slumped down, arms tangled in the bars and keeping her from fully landing on the floor.
    The minute she crashed, the two ex-military guys in the class jumped into action as the first response team.  As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and with Jungle Response Operations Training,  the Navy man and the Army guy were quick and efficient.   They kicked into reflexive motion and bolted to the front of the classroom, got her untangled from her walker, laid her flat on the ground, and wrapped her in a jacket.
     After I recovered from my paralyzing shock, I ran to the front of the room,  put her head in my lap, and started slapping her on the face, yelling, "Sissey, Sissey, wake up!" I'm not sure if the slapping was effective, but it was the best I could do.  The professor was in the back screaming "Should I call 911? Should I call 911?" and I couldn't yell fast enough, "No!", thinking  'Please, Lord, don't let the ambulance show up. She will be mortified enough as it is, and being hauled out of class on a stretcher could cause permanent brain damage.'
     The military drill team lifted her onto a wheeled chair and scooted her into the hall. Danyell, who bears the scars and scrapnel of four gunshot wounds in his ankle and leg, did a 2-minute mile running for water and cold rags. Gregg got her elevated, hydrated, and resucitated, and thankfully, she quickly revived. Danyell jokingly told her he was ready to start mouth-to-mouth but was afraid she would go into cardiac arrest if she woke up and saw his big scary face on top of her. She thanked him profusely for showing such restraint and assured him she was breathing just fine on her own.
     After she came to and realized what had occurred,  she covered her face and began to cry, "I am so embarrassed! I don't know what happened. Now everyone is going to think I am so weird."
    "Oh honey, no!" I  told her while wiping her brow. "Fainting is a very Southern thing. Women used to practice swooning all the time!  You don't have to be embarrassed. It's a real talent to be able to faint gracefully, and believe me, you have just mastered the fine art of swooning!"
     I promised to buy her a sterling silver vial of smelling salts which she could carry in her pocket with a lavendar scented lace hankie. She rolled her eyes at me, and I thought she was going to swoon again until I realized she was simply trying to tune me out and pretend I wasn't there. Sometimes she just doesn't think I'm funny.
   The irony of it all is that her speech was entitled "Am I Nuts or Insane? Only My Doctor Can Tell" and it detailed the professional distinctions between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. She was informing the audience about when one might need the services of a psychologist (her intended major) or when one might need the professional help of a psychiatrist when she passed out. It was not an intentionally practiced part of her speech, although it was effective, well-timed, and a great visual prop.  After she pulled herself back together and reentered the classroom,  she gave an embarrassed grin, apologized to the class and joked, "Well, I obviously need a psychiatrist!'
     She told the professor she'd like to try again, this time sitting down instead of standing, please.  I almost fainted myself as I watched her go to the front of the classroom and give the entire speech from beginning to end-- a flawless rendition that came in at 4 minutes and 4 seconds, well within the required time frame,  with the entire audience fully engaged and at attention, and with no swooning needed.            
      Sissey earned her credentials that Monday as a true Southern lady, having mastered the fine art of swooning, having been rescued by our military's finest, having shown impeccable manners in a delicate situation, and having exhibited the courage to get up and march back into that classroom to give her speech.
      That took more guts than I have ever had.  
     And that, my dear, is what we call a real steel magnolia.

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