Applause didn’t matter. Audience laughter didn’t matter. Seven seconds did.
I stepped away from the stage — an area Toastmasters competition in Hobbs, if that’s important — having just given a speech I’d been working on throughout the week. I admit it wasn’t the greatest speech, but it was a work in progress. I only needed one of the top two places to move on to the next round of competition, where I could have three weeks to prepare and perfect.
For those unfamiliar with the contest form, the international speech competition can be on anything, as long as you created the speech yourself and as long as you stay between 4:30 and 7:30 — a 5-to-7-minute speech, with a 30-second grace period either way.
You get a green card flashed when you’ve made the needed time, a yellow when you’ve got a minute left and the red card when you’re in the 30-second grace period.
I wasn’t into my wrap-up — honestly, I was miles away — when the red came up. It was a miracle that I even got to 7:37.
The miracle didn’t matter, though. I knew I was disqualified, and I watched two other speeches go after me. I’m confident I’d have beaten out at least one of them, but the time thing is an automatic DQ — and I’m not talking about Dairy Queen.
Everybody felt horrible about my disqualification, but I was the only one who knew my speech. In their world I was just seven seconds too long, and I had lost by a field goal. I knew it was closer to a minute and a half I didn’t get to deliver; I really lost by a few touchdowns.
So I was OK, but there were still small reminders as we drove away. Where some people would have seen Hobbs’ Dairy Queen, I saw the big “DQ.”
Since we had a long drive back, I thought of just what seven seconds could mean. I remember reading a basketball book called “:07 Seconds Or Less,” about the Phoenix Suns’ fast-paced offense. Grammar mistake in the title aside (grammar hounds don’t need my help spotting it), it taught me about not being afraid to do things differently … and the proper way to pronounce bruschetta from then-Suns coach and Italian Mike D’Antoni.
I thought that seven seconds was enough to lose a speech competition, but it’s also enough time to order a large pizza and drink from Pizza Mill in Hobbs. Anybody who knows that place from its Portales days knows that makes up for anything.
Seven seconds is enough to send a text message, but it’s also enough time to kill yourself in a car accident if you aren’t watching the road.
Seven seconds is enough time to write somebody’s address on a card, decide what’s good for dinner or shut off the cell phone and tablet and go do something.
It gave me a great idea for another speech to perfect. “Seven Seconds or Less” sounds pretty good to me.
Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 319, or by email: