Technical difficulty causes panic

I recited my lines like a machine. They were written on a crumpled-up sheet of notebook paper I had just tucked into his pocket for the last time – there was no use for it anymore. Besides, I had known my lines like the back of my hand for days. I had been sweating because he was incredibly nervous about anything and everything that could go wrong concerning the pitch that me and my business partners were about to give, but also because how hot my suit became when exposed to the Texas heat in May. This might’ve bothered the technical theater student who was putting on my earpiece and making sure the box at the end of the wire was clipped to my belt. After that, I and the rest of his team gave each other final words of encouragement, things like “let’s do what we’ve been doing all year” and “we got this,” lined up in their predetermined order and waited for the emcee to say their company’s name, WingMate, the cue to walk on stage.

As I walked out onto the brightly-lit stage, I tried not to look at the 300+ people that packed the Westlake High School performing arts center, even though he knew probably a quarter of them. Instead, I focused on putting on a smile for the potential investors in the crowd and shook each of the hands of the five investors who would be determining which team would be receiving the giant $10,000 check.

I knew I was supposed to be confident in winning, but the other four teams that had presented before his all nailed their presentations, and the Law of Averages said that someone or something had to go wrong, right?

As I positioned himself to the left of the giant screen behind him, I felt tension coming from behind his ears, where the wire connected to the box ended, and where the earpiece itself began. The box that had been attached to my belt was hanging inches above the floor, suspended only by the wire. I quickly grabbed the box and shoved it into my pocket. It seemed like all that had gone wrong was finished and had been dealt with, and the presentation was about to start.

I checked if his earpiece was exactly the way it had been put on. As his team’s logo appeared on the screen, I felt his cheek and realized that something had gone horribly wrong.

The actual microphone had been retracted into the plastic of the earpiece, and I couldn’t do what had to be done to correct it without a mirror. I was trying to focus on two things at once: fixing my earpiece and not forgetting my lines at the last minute. I hadn’t figured out what to do by the time the team had started introducing themselves, and I had to say my name without the microphone working. After that, I had under two minutes to fix the earpiece before my own slides began and I would have to speak for three to four minutes.

While someone else on the team was talking, I tapped Will, my teammate and friend, on the arm. Will pretended to ignore him the first time, so I tried again, this time pointing to his ear to show that the microphone had retracted. Will must have realized that this wasn’t something that I could do easily himself, so he reached over and pulled the microphone out of the plastic, just mere seconds before my  slides began.

With the earpiece now fully functional, I was able to recite the content on his three slides perfectly, just as I had practiced. The rest of my team recited their information and answered the investors’ questions effectively. Soon enough, the presentation was over and my team and I walked through the green room and back to their seats in the auditorium, awaiting the investors’ decision. After what seemed like an eternity, the investors returned, with the middle-aged man with slick-back hair and glasses holding the check facing away from the crowd so no one except the investors could see the name of the winning team written on. The man turned the check around to reveal the winner of the $10,000. But it wasn’t WingMate.

I let out a few of the same word that begins with the letter “f” and half-heartedly congratulated the winning team, who sat in the row directly in front of my team. It was somewhat infuriating to watch the winning team celebrate on stage, so me and the rest of his team dejectedly filed out of their seats and walked back through the corridor that led to the green room. After gathering their things, deciding how to move forward, and saying their goodbyes, each walked through the hallway to find their parents to start the process of driving to their respective homes. But I stopped at a trash can in the hallway and threw away the crumpled-up sheet of notebook paper that had his lines written on it. There was no use for it anymore.