The Unforgettable Glass of Water

Published on 20 April 2024 at 17:36

He was a best selling business author, flying first class or by private jet all over the world, advising the biggest of businesses, and, unsurprisingly, he was, at that time, the highest paid speaker on the international circuit.

His suit cost more than my car, his watch more than my London apartment, and his fee for a single gig was more, much more, than I made in a very good year, and I was, I thought, ahead of the game.

He was simply golden, effortlessly charismatic, could hold an audience of hundreds or thousands in the palm of his giant hands for hours, more than a speaker, he was a genuine, bona fide, living guru.

I was little more than a rookie, little more than a dozen big gigs under my belt, so when I bumped into him backstage at the biggest gig of my life - just another working day for him - and he was looking at the delegate ‘happy sheet’, for them to rate every speaker, I should have left him in peace, just walked on by.

Instead, I stopped and said hello, and bet him $50 I would rate higher than him, and he was gracious, smiled, and took the bet, sealed with a handshake.

An hour later, waiting in the wings, adrenaline running through my veins as I heard the host start to introduce me, he walked over and handed me a glass of water.


“You’ll need it, the air con is way up high, it’ll dry you out and strip your voice” he said, and I said “thank you” and took the glass.

“Good luck, kid” he said, and stayed to watch me walk on stage, water cascading from the brim full glass over my shaking hand, splashing onto the stage, blowing any cool I might have had in my Neru collar suit, drawing laughs from an audience who really weren’t there to see me anyway.

I knew I was blushing as I put the glass down on the podium, I wanted to run away, or start again, but as I shook the water from my hand, i couldn’t help it but started laughing too, it was funny.

I leaned into the mic.

“My name is…” I began, then paused, not for effect, but because I was lost for words, couldn’t actually remember what I was called, and in that pause the laughter fell away, to silence. After 5 seconds, an unholy long time to not know your own name, I thought, ‘I’ll make something up’, and then, a few seconds later, it came, and I smiled, and said “Alisdair, that’ll have to do today, and I was off and running.

It was my best gig so far, you have to get a run of PBs in the early days, full of stories, and pure energy, and magic and stunts, and ending with a ball of fire pulled from my chest.

I earned my fee, and afterwards sat at the back and watched him, learned more than I can say, and took a big leap forwards.

Later I put $50 in an envelope and asked the Concierge to have it sent to his room, but within an hour he sent it back, to my room, taped to a box of Havana cigars, and he had written across the bill ‘good gig, kid’.

Pure class.


Be classy this week, and funny too, Dear Reader. Xxx

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