You’ve probably heard this one before, but I feel compelled to share it in any case. It happens to be one of my favorites.
Two old timers are sitting on a park bench. One turns to the other and asks, “What do you think is the biggest problem in the world today? It is ignorance or apathy?” The second old timer calmly replies without hesitation, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”
Way back when I was a student at the University of Missouri, I very carefully planned each semester’s classes. I had a decent paying job while I was in school, so I also attempted to group my classes up into morning sessions, leaving the afternoons and evenings and weekends free for work.
It was necessary for me to be very selective in choosing those classes in order to graduate with exactly the right number of completed hours — not one hour over. I was forced to sit out for one semester, due to a lack of finances. I was able to catch up by taking a summer class and piling on additional hours, especially during my last three semesters.
There were a couple of semesters in which I was able to carry a bit more than a full load and put in about 40 hours of work each week. As one might imagine, I did not achieve the highest attainable grade point average. One of my instructors referred to me as a “Grade Satisfizer” as opposed to being a “Grade Maximizer.” I was quite OK with that label.
During the first semester of my senior year, I wound up in a speech class. It was a class that I could use as an elective, it was a morning class, and I didn’t anticipate a great deal of homework. Perfect!
What I had neglected to take into consideration was the fact that we were going to be expected to write and deliver speeches on a somewhat regular basis. Now the delivery part wasn’t going to be difficult for me. It was a small class and the instructor was the laid-back, easygoing sort.
With the other homework and a full work schedule, it proved to be a burden to always be able to come up with a speech. It wasn’t always easy determining a topic and then doing the requisite research. Having time for all that was an issue.
So a situation arises. It is 10 p.m. and I have not yet prepared for a 10 minute speech that is due at 10:40 the next morning. To compound the problem, I don’t even have a topic! It did seem fairly hopeless.
Desperate, I turned to the local University paper, The Maneater. There was a front page article about the low turnout in the last campus election. Seems the student population wasn’t that interested in turning out to vote.
There was my topic: apathy! What a great topic! No one ever talks about it, and it most certainly needs to be discussed. I wrote myself a few quick notes, finished a paper that was due in another class and was asleep before midnight.
The next morning in speech class I asked for and received permission to go first. Most students didn’t ever want to go first, so the instructor seemed pleased with my request.
I began my oration by quoting some of the statistics from the aforementioned newspaper article. I shared that apathy was rampant among college students while moving to the front of the desk. As I partly seated myself on the front of the instructor’s desk, he watched me warily from the back of the room.
At that point I informed the class that they, as a group, didn’t seem that much interested in hearing what I had to say. At that point I told them that I didn’t really care if they listened to me or even if I finished my speech. I then walked over to my desk, picked up my belongings and left the building. The total delivery time couldn’t have been over a minute and a half.
I was able to get to my job early and put in an extra hour that day. And, as a bonus, I received an A for my speech! At least that’s the way I remember it.
David Coffelt is a Harrisonville area resident and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.