The Gift of a Speech

When I was a freshman in college, I had the most adorable roommate. She was from Tennessee, and her name was Fannie. Yes, Fannie. Everybody loved Fannie. She was cute and funny, and she was fun. We are still friends, and she’s still cute, funny, and fun.

I had a pretty tough course load that first semester, and really, I have absolutely no recollection of what classes Fannie took, but I remember one class: Public Speaking.

Now, I applaud her chutzpah for taking Public Speaking her first semester of college. I was impressed, because there is no way I would have done that. In fact, I never took a Public Speaking class. I don’t remember a lot about her class, but I know she had to write and give different types of speeches. I think she had to give three or four different ones…maybe informative, demonstrative, persuasive, and last but not least…an entertaining speech. Yikes.

To the best of my recollection, Fannie never discussed the first two or three speeches with me. She wrote them; maybe she practiced them. I really don’t remember. But then, as we neared the end of the semester, she had to give the scariest speech of all: the entertaining speech.

What does that mean?! Does that mean you have to be funny?!

Oh, she struggled with it. I should say WE struggled with it, because I felt terrible for her for having to give an entertaining speech. That sounds like something that should be left up to a professional.

The night before her speech, she still had nothing. Was she supposed to come up with a Johnny Carson-style monologue? (Yes, it was 1985, and Johnny still had a few more years on The Tonight Show.) We were sitting in our room discussing different topics, but nothing was truly entertaining. It was painful. She was already convinced she was going to get an F. I think she even considered skipping class altogether. It was agonizing.

At about 10:00 or 11:00 that night, a girl from down the hall came into our room. Everyone on our hall had become friends early in the semester, so it was no surprise this girl would come in for a visit when she came home from a date. Actually, the surprise might have been that she came home from the date at all.

I’ll call her Mary Jane (not her real name). Mary Jane came in telling us she had just had the worst date ever. She had been so excited to go out with this guy. He was supposed to be fun, and he drove a fancy car. We didn’t know what kind of car it was, but it looked fancy. It was the 80s, after all, and we were 18, so we were shallow enough to think a cool car meant he was a cool guy.

Mary Jane went through the rundown of every single thing that had gone wrong on her date. Oh, it was terrible from the very beginning. He came to the dorm to pick her up, and he waited for her in the lobby. When they walked out to his car, he opened the doors that flew up like wings, and Mary Jane said, “I love your Lamborghini!” First mistake.

He quickly informed her it wasn’t a Lamborghini. He was visibly offended. It was a Bricklin. I’d never heard of it before, and I haven’t heard of it since, so I looked it up online. According to, the Bricklin International Owners Club website, “The Bricklin SV-1 is a gull-wing door sports car that was assembled in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.” According to the website, it was manufactured from 1974 to 1976 before the company fell into financial ruin. Sounds to me like he’d have been better off letting her think it was a Lamborghini. It was 1985, after all, and the car was ten years old and manufactured by a failed company.


Bricklin SV-1

According to, the Bricklin International Owners Club website, only 2,854 models were manufactured.

That night, Mary Jane got in the car with the guy we will now call Mr. Bricklin and drove away. He took her to dinner. Mary Jane was a statuesque girl, standing about six feet tall. What she didn’t realize is that the “gull-wing” doors weren’t as tall as she was, so when she attempted to step out of the car, she banged her head on the door. She was making quite an impression.

I think they went to Cypress Inn, which is still in operation today on the banks of the Black Warrior River. While the food was good, dinner was disastrous. First, Mary Jane tried to order an alcoholic beverage but couldn’t produce an ID saying she was old enough to drink. Secondly, she flipped a salad into her lap.

So now she’s sober and wearing her salad dressing.

I think Mr. Bricklin wasn’t known for being a great conversationalist, so that was a failure too. I guess it’s a good thing he had the “fancy car” to get chicks. The only thing that would have worked better is a guitar…or maybe a spot on the football team. College girls love guys who can play guitar, and girls love athletes.

The date was a total bust. Mary Jane came home immediately after dinner, and we got to hear every dreadfully hilarious detail of every disaster that occurred. As she told the story, she was laughing, and we were rolling…laughing the way college girls laugh at stupid stuff.

She finally left our room and turned in for the night.

Fannie was still struggling with her speech.

And then it occurred to me: Mary Jane had just written Fannie’s speech for her! I said, “Fannie! That’s your speech!” “What?” “Mary Jane’s date! That’s your speech! Tell her date story as if it’s your own! Pretend you went on the Bricklin date! Mary Jane just gave you a speech!”

The next morning, Fannie stood up in front of a room of 100 people (I’m totally making up that number, but it was a lot) and told everyone about her Bricklin date that really wasn’t her date. She told that story as if it were her own. She totally owned that story, and she included every little funny detail.

And you know what? Fannie got an A.

I wish I could have heard her give the speech, but I was trying to time my entrance into the math building perfectly so that cute quarterback, Mike Shula, would hold the door open for me…like I said, guitar players and athletes.

Good times!



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