Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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June 15, 2014

New task leads to swap

PRINCETON — How do I like pubic speaking? That was the question posed by my boss Samantha Perry. I knew it was a trick question. Public speaking and newspapers don’t belong together, unless it is a special occasion. I was recruited to attend Friday’s Chicory Square concert and welcome the crowd. My Friday morning changed in less than five minutes. Typical newsroom, but you would think after almost seven years, I would be more prepared for the unexpected. I wasn’t worried about speaking. Like most females, I wished I had worn a different outfit.

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There is nothing a quick wardrobe change can’t fix on a Friday morning. When reporter Anne Elgin and I were given two completely different assignments, we knew our outfits wouldn’t make the cut. On Fridays, I go for the casual “almost the weekend” outfit, as does a lot of corporate offices. I didn’t have any meetings or interviews planned for the day. It was just my computer and me. Anne walked in the newsroom in a colorful sundress. But a change of plans — Anne to flooded regions of McDowell County and me to the Chicory Square in downtown Bluefield — called for a wardrobe switch. I needed a cute sundress to address the crowd at Chicory Square. Anne needed a pair of denim jeans and a T-shirt to wade through the floodwaters in Panther. (She had boots in her car from an earlier trip to McDowell County.) We gave a lot of our co-workers a double take when we reappeared, each ready for our new tasks.

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Sunshine. I felt it on my face, my shoulders and the back of my legs. Then, I noticed the nice breeze on my hair, ruffling the bottom of the dress. This didn’t feel like work at all. While I soaked in the sun, I failed to notice how fast the crowd was growing at Chicory Square. Instead of the sun, I felt a few butterflies in my stomach. I squashed them with memories of college speech class and high school math at the board. This, talking to folks waiting to hear good music, was easy compared to trying to solve an algebra problem on a chalkboard with 15 sets of eyes watching your every move. I walked up to the microphone and said a small little prayer asking the good Lord to remove all the “uhs” and “ums.” Back in school, that could ruin your grade before you even got back to your seat. I kept it short and sweet. I knew the crowd didn’t come to hear me ramble; they came for the music and sense of community that only summertime can bring together. I walked back to the side of the stage and into the sun.

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I had about 20 minutes before I had to go back to the office. I lingered by the square, choosing to stand rather than sit in the shade. When you are older, I think you appreciate moments of weekday sunshine more. It is like recess for working adults, right? I watched the crowd and sang along to the familiar song, “Country Roads.” West Virginians can’t help but sing that song, no matter the outcome of the previous WVU football season. When I went back to the office, my desk was nothing like the warm sunshine. Samantha, who usually goes to Chicory Square, offered her thanks. I felt like I needed to thank her instead. Warm sunshine, a concert, small talk and a break out of the office were a pleasant experience. I wondered about Anne’s day, and if her change of plans was as good as mine. If not, at least she was in the right outfit to battle out an unexpected Friday’s day of news.

Jamie Null is the Lifestyle editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at jnull@bdtonline.com or on Twitter @BDTParsell.

 

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