Thursday, September 12, 2013

Left is Right - Toastmasters Humorous Competition 2013

This is a speech that I gave in the Toastmasters Humorous Speech competition. I did it twice on 8/20/2013 and 9/9/2013 and placed second on both occasions. The video below is from the second competition at Showtime Toastmasters.

Bang [shout and clap hands together], the 747 touched down at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport 2nd October 2005. My wife and I had arrived as immigrants in the United States of America.

Madam contest chair, fellow toastmaster and guests.

In Britain and other commonwealth countries we drive on the left and the steering wheel is on the right. A lot of people think that the first challenge we face as immigrants is learning to drive on the right. It’s not. It’s finding the steering wheel. Getting out of the habit of going around the right of the car is a tough one to break and after you open the door and notice that there’s no steering wheel you shut it, walk around to the driver’s side and get in. On a bad day would climb into the passenger seat and shut the door before I noticed that the steering wheel was missing. Depending on how athletic I felt I would either climb over the console or get out and walk around.

On one occasion I looked up from this misstep and noticed a couple of police officers watching me. Is it illegal to climb over the console? I had no idea. I opened the glove box and rummaged through the papers in there. Grabbing a handful of papers I got out and smiled at the officers “found them,” and walked around to the drivers side.

They followed me for about a mile before the lights came on. Those lights are as bright as the sun. How someone could ever use the excuse that they didn’t notice the lights is beyond me.
“Sir, I need to see your Driver’s License and Registration.”
This guy had a gun and handcuffs on his belt and his partner was standing next to him with his thumbs hooked into his belt like John Wayne; about to draw a six-shooter and riddle the car with bullets.
“Sir you’re going to have to get an Arizona drivers license within the next 7 days.”
In Britain the police don’t have guns. I was terrified and would have done anything he told me to do. Later that day I had my Arizona drivers license.

The biggest driving challenge when switching from the left to the right is the left turn. Your instinct is to immediately turn onto the left of the road. Most of the time I did this at traffic lights where the oncoming traffic was stationary.

Seeing all the cars facing me brought me to a screeching halt and a western style standoff. The other drivers would be staring at me waiting to see what my next move was. How can I possibly recover gracefully from this.

I remember a passenger in one of the cars pointing at me [mouth some words turning head from left to center] ...damn Brits.

We spent most of our first few weeks in Phoenix getting lost. In many respects that was fun and we got to see parts of Phoenix we may never have seen. At one point we came across a giant building with a big sign outside it that read The Candy Store.
“Do you see the size of that candy store? Only in America would a candy store be that big,” my wife said.
“We have to take a look at that, though strange that they have a silhouette of a woman above the front door and no windows. This country still doesn’t make sense to me,” was my reply.
“We have to pay to go into a candy store? These must be very special candies in this store. Perhaps part of it is a museum and and there’s candy that’s only on display that you can’t touch.”
Oh my Gosh, the sales assistants are topless.
“Darling, I think we’re in a strip club,” my wife said.
“Act cool, pretend we knew that,” was my reply
A lady walked up to us, “Would you like anything to drink?”
Me: “blabbering for a few seconds.” We had to get out of there. I turned straight into the oncoming traffic. Luckily the local drivers expect that type of driving from people leaving that [air quotes] store.

Since our arrival in America my wife and I have produced two new American citizens; I have a daughter and a son. A couple of weeks ago we were driving past the Candy Store and my daughter pipes up from the back. “Daddy, I like candy. I’m going to work at that shop one day.”

The shock of that statement made me swerve into the oncoming traffic. I've done that so often that it was an easy recovery.

America and Americans, I’d like to thank you for tolerating my mistakes, my misunderstandings, and my misdirections. I leave you with the following thought. If you see someone driving on the left side of the road remember that it might be right for them; or they've just come out of The Candy Store.

Madam Contest Chair.

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