Wednesday, May 18, 2011

letting go (lyn)

For about ten months now, I have had an event scheduled for tonight on my calendar.  “6pm; Letting Go; Cohen Dining Hall at Horace Mann.  Light supper included.”  We (senior parents) get periodic reminders of this evening, including a beautifully crafted evite.  A few emails even pass among friends regarding what to wear.  It promises to be a special night.  We all expect to cry.

By the time Zelia picks me up, the weather (close to a heavy downpour) and the traffic are both miserable.  But this is a night we both would not think of missing.

Paper tablecloths in the school colors cover the tables, which are sprinkled with silver Hershey kisses.  This is a school that recognizes its discerning audience.  Home baked cookies, nice salads, fruit, and even sushi are typical of the kinds of food served at parent events.  But tonight, for some inexplicable reason, the food-planner must have been on leave from her day job as a party planner for kids’ birthdays. 

The big silver serving bowls with lids mislead us into believing that the food underneath is worth keeping warm.  Pizza bagels, inedible fried dumplings, and pigs in a blanket are offered.  There’s also some cubed cheese and cut-up sandwiches (of fried chicken cutlets and salami).  People are openly appalled.  No fruit.  No salads.  Nothing healthy.  But I’m hungry so I eat.  Two dumplings (Zelia can’t stomach one and warns me; I eat them anyway).  About five mini-pizzas (the ones from Costco are better).  And many many little hot dog things (I like these, despite knowing how bad they are).  Then I eat a cupcake (this is good), some lemonade, and a few pieces of candy off the table.  It’s the unhealthiest night of eating that I’ve had in years.

Following dinner, the evening program begins.  Two short videos created by a talented senior, a short speech from another student, and a reading of a Coleridge poem (Frost at Midnight) from the head of the upper division.  All of these are fine and appropriate.  The headliner of the evening is a well-respected, nationally and internationally acclaimed psychologist with all sorts of fancy credentials.  Her delivery begins and it’s clear she’s never taken any courses in how to connect with your audience, or even, how to deliver a compelling speech.  She drones on about “The Age of Technology.”  Her speech sounds pre-packaged, is uninspiring, and most importantly, is totally irrelevant to the theme of the evening.  Ironically most of the audience texts or twitters throughout the thirty or so minutes she speaks.  At the end, she asks for questions.  There is only one.  It’s from a brave senior girl who asks what everyone is thinking.  “Could you explain how your speech relates to the theme of the evening, Letting Go?”  Many in the audience applaud.  The renowned speaker mumbles something and ends with, “I’m sorry if my speech fell flat,” and sits down.  The discussion part of the evening is over.

The night was scheduled from 6 to 8:30, with the light supper portion ending at 7.  By 7:45 we are in Zelia’s car on the way back to the city.  Everyone agrees that what should have been an emotional and warm evening of good-byes, is instead a night of bad food and a very bad and inappropriate speaker.  This, from a school, that usually gets things right.  It’s a shame they didn’t tonight.

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