Assuming the very unlikely event that I would walk into a room full of strangers and immediately begin to talk about myself for four minutes is a stretch.
But let’s proceed anyway.
The first thing I realize—I am displaced. The room is full of strangers for the simple reason that I am not an Egyptologist. This explains everything. I have inadvertently strayed into a seminar on ‘Mummies of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty—New Findings from Mitochondrial DNA’.
My hoped for destination was third floor Room 323—Annual Conference of Neologists—not second floor 232.
A troubling, decades-old lack of finesse with directions and/or numbers has betrayed me yet again.
The Annual Conference of Neologists is a grand term that describes a pot of coffee, a table and a smattering of folksy folks who get together to swap new words and scholarly etymologies. We wear thick socks, sturdy shoes, share knitting patterns and are quite keen on chevrons.
Meanwhile, still in second floor room 232 I am wearing my lost look. I know this because a nice lady approaches me with a look that I recognize as ‘going to be helpful to the lady with the lost look’. I am very familiar with this look. Hers, that is. I have no idea what I look like when I am lost. I only know that I am clearly not the guest speaker emeritus she had been watching for at the door.
The nice lady offers me a cup of tea that I wish was a shot of brandy and invites me to introduce myself to the group.
For someone who was just on their way to a word-birthing event, I am conversationally barren. That is the curiosity with word-lovers, you see—they are not actually fertile with the spoken word, just passionate about pedigree, proper usage, titillated by shockingly rude participles, and have even been known to indulge in flirtatiously furtive bouts with puns after dark. (No one can keep a secret better than a neologist.)
Thus finding myself amongst mummy experts, I should feel right at home. In fact, I’m beginning to feel downright embalmed to the soles of my sensible shoes. I wrack my brain(s) for something to say. Almost all I can remember about mummies is that Egypt has more mummies than crocodile eggs, and they found the petrified remains of Rameses I in a freak show in Niagara Falls. He had been exhibited next to a five legged pig for 140 years.
However true it might be, it didn’t sound like something academics would talk about. I switch to sentiment. After about thirty seconds of eulogizing my beloved second grade teacher Mr. Jones, who was, to me, the epitome of gallantry, I see the familiar glazed look of incomprehension come over the faces of my audience.
Clearly, four minutes of self explanation is an embarrassment of riches. I crave the simplicity of being a pauper.
Self-editing now down to two minutes, it would appear that I have buttoned my cardigan wrong—as usual. Several people are staring at it.
I waste thirty precious seconds of my self-reveal wondering if they would believe me if I told them I had descended from Nefertiti. When you think about the fact that she’s been dead for over 3,000 years and is still considered the most beautiful woman in the world, who wouldn’t want to claim her for a grandma?
The name Nefertiti means something like ‘The beautiful one has arrived’. Now that has presence. Instead of talking about myself for an awkward four minutes, I could just give them my DNA and create a mild sensation by solving a centuries-old mystery. ‘Now It Can Be Told!’ screech the headlines. And then I wouldn’t have to talk. I would be related to a somebody that everybody already knows everything about.
Uh….no. A resounding no. The sinister phrase ‘she looks so well-preserved’, swims into view. Not only that; the self-embalming process is beginning to affect my lips. They are sticking to my teeth as I attempt to smile at the group and instead of looking enigmatic and interesting I fear I am beginning to resemble Rameses at the freak show.
Just thinking about how the teeth of mummies always seem to protrude so unattractively makes me realize my lipstick needs freshening up. I drop the idea of trying to pass myself off as Nefertiti’s long lost daughter.
Nix the DNA idea. Jettison the four minutes. Keep my tonsils and vital organs.
Wow. That felt like an eternity. Or at the very least, three thousand years.