As related elsewhere, my current job has all employees go through the training program originated by Dale Carnegie. Last night, Thursday the 17th of November, was the last session of that class.

At work, ever since my hire, people have been treating me as if I'm some sort of code wizard. I don't understand it, but I'm used to it at this point. But, overall, I'm a fairly introverted shy guy.

I threw myself into the class, figuring I would give it my best shot. The result was that my classmates (ranging from a few of my coworkers to people from other area corporations) thought I was a naturally outgoing, enthusiastic person, talented beyond their ability to equal. My coworkers think this too.

For the last class, we had to give a talk about the major breakthrough we received due to the course. I planned a different incident, but I changed my mind and said something like what you read below, because I felt they deserved to know the truth... (linebreaks are intentional, because this involved a lot of pausing due to the emotion involved).

    I'd like to take a leap and do something I didn't plan.

    How many of you would describe me as "enthusiastic"? (Everyone's hands go up.)

    Okay, how many of you would describe me as "outgoing"? (Just about everyone's hands go up.)

    (I pause and give a weak smile.) That's wonderful, because I'm going to take you back to my high school days. I was a shy person who didn't think much of myself. (Emotions spring up, and the waterworks go for a while. Eventually, I collect myself.)

    I was so shy that my wife had to ask me out.

    I went to college, joined a fraternity, but I was still shy and didn't consider myself worthwhile.

    They made me Commander, and I still doubted myself.

    I was at my bachelor party, and it began to sink in that they did care, and I began to feel better about myself. But I thought I would always be that person, that I would be introverted all my life

    And now, I bring you to the session a few weeks ago where we gave and received compliments, and I realized I wasn't that person any longer.

    So what I ask you to do is, give people a compliment -- but also take those compliments you get, and you'll learn you're capable of much more than you think.

An emotional wreck, I return to my seat. Later on, I am voted the Breakthrough award for the night, receive a nice pen, and get to be congratulated by everyone on their way out. I am unprepared for what people say to me.
    "Wow! I thought you were always like that!"

    "I never would have had the courage to do that, Art."

    "Your talk tonight was really great! It inspired me to try harder!"

    "I thought you were always so self-confident and prepared!"
As many of the class celebrated the ending at a local sports bar, I got to hear more. I found that despite the fact I hadn't been who they thought I was, that I had gaping flaws, they still thought I was a wonderful person.

In fact, it seemed they thought I was even better and more worthy of adulation.

All this from making myself a heap of emotions because the masks I wear couldn't hold the emotional waves back when I shared this experience of mine?

I am the epitome of cool. They all want to be me. Their faces follow me like sunflowers on a clear day. I am the sun.

They are 5 years old and I am the teacher's husband. Kindergarten adoration is hard to get, but easy to keep.

It all started last fall. My darling wife had landed her first teaching job at a small suburban public school, and senior kindergarten was her class. The nondescript lowest bidder brick construction of the school was fresh out of the late seventies, the orange tile and brown curtains eschewing the fashion sense of countless young minds. My wife soon had her little soldiers regimented and learning, the kinks worked out of the pecking order nicely, placing her firmly on top. She sat at the kitchen table and marked crayon creations and dished out stickers with a contented smile. I envied her job satisfaction. My blue collar toiling was not nearly as satisfying. Then came the bat.

Myotis septentrionalis, the common Northern bat, seeks dry cool dark places to rest during the day. In late summer or early autumn the bats gather and move to the places where they will hibernate. Where better than the high steel rafters of a children's classroom? Mr. Squeekers thought they worked out nicely.

Cut to nap time, Monday morning after the weekend Mr. Squeekers moved in. One blond haired mischief-maker tosses a glossy green block of big children’s Lego at the dark spot on the roof. Pandemonium ensues. One angry bat plus 30 children plus one teacher with a morbid fear of flying rats equals one adlibbed fire drill. Seeing the teacher scream in terror boosts the evil little sprits of the bad eggs. My wife returned home that night in tears, the shine taken off her dream job by a tiny lost animal. Action needed to be taken and I happened to have the day off.

The quizzical looks from the janitor soon turned to animated chitchat when he discovered my reason for invading his supply closet. He tried to catch "that damned bat" last night but met limited success. A pool leaf net and a borrowed broom handle became my tools of battle as the morning class met in the hall, abuzz with rumors of the "flying monster". Talk in the hall had the death toll at 3, largely from razor teeth and laser vision from the eyes. After introducing me to the massed little faces, I vowed to catch the monster all by my self. Hushed awe followed me through the brightly decorated door labeled with my wife's name. 60 little eyes strained to see. I closed the door and the bubbling excitement flowed in the crowd.

The process of catching the poor dehydrated trapped bat was fairly anti-climatic. Slipping in the room, I quickly trapped the sleeping animal against the roof and tapped him gently into the net. After a few angry flaps, I had him securely in hand and ready to release outside. The winged terror was barely the length of my hand. Back to the door to face the crowd.

Complete rapture. I think they expected bloody wounds and giant carcass. The big man with a tiny furry animal in his lightly closed hand was beyond comprehension. They crowded around and the questions started. My wife took control and recommended that a quick return to the class and the formation of a semicircle would lead to their best show and tell presentation ever: Mine. A quick wink and I was pressed into service.

Mr. Squeekers was quickly named, his official moniker just narrowly beating out Stinkyhead and Vampire in the voting. I gingerly showed the kids the wings, explained that he ate bugs and not people, and drew a picture of the natural radar bats use to find food (a little over their heads, as I later heard it repeated as the bat shooting bugs down by screaming at them). They soaked it all up. A quick single file march to the playground followed, and Squeekers was on his way. The cheer that went up when he flapped out of my palm was pure childhood joy.

Having completed my task, I gave my wife a peck on the cheek, a move that disgusted the boys and scandalized the girls. Pleas to stay followed me across the playground to my beat up old motorbike. From the reaction of the kids, I was riding a metal dragon. The holed muffler roared to life and I drove out to the road, chased by the whole class running along the inside of the playground fence. A little tire squeal while turning out of the lot for the crowd dropped some jaws.

They asked about me all week.

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