How I envy you people.

Look at you sitting there all calmly in your chairs. Your hands are folded neatly in your lap and you look like you could sit another six hours if need be. Such patient and well-behaved little angels you are.

I’m not saying I hate you. I’m just saying I think you might be robots.

The speaker at the lectern is going on and on. He’s into his 90th minute of rambling discourse and all around me men and women are nodding enthusiastically. They’re scribbling notes in their little pads and even clapping their hands together when it seems appropriate.

Not one of them is squirming. No one is fidgeting, foot-tapping or otherwise showing signs that they might run bawling from the room at any second.

I wish I could say the same for myself.

City council meetings, school committee workshops, long lectures on topics that sound like they were created by glue-sniffing lunatics, these are the things that will one day cause my head to pop right off my shoulders. And when it happens, I expect the rest of you will continue sitting neatly in your chairs, jotting notes in your little pads and perhaps even clapping a bit in that quiet way you have.

I get restless, I tell you. Worse, when I’m required to sit for a long period, I feel a rising sense of panic that won’t be quieted no matter how soothingly I attempt to calm the frantic voices in my head.

The voices sound like this:

You’re fidgeting too much! Others will be able to see your distress. Just sit still and try to nod every now and then. At all cost, you must try to look like the others.

Wait, what did that long-winded fellow just say? Did I miss something important?

Never mind that! Just nod, damn you.

Dear God, how long have I been here? Three days? What if this meeting never ends? What if this is some kind of purgatory where people just keep talking and talking and talking into eternity? I have to escape! I have to find a way out!

But there’s never a way out. No matter how long the people at the head of the table or behind the lectern go on, I have to sit there listening because the cruel editors who sent me here demand it. I have to listen and try my best to understand their words because six of our readers are going to be earnestly interested in what was said during this PowerPoint presentation on “The Importance of Quadrupedalism in Arboreal Locomotion.”

So, I sit. And listen. And fidget and squirm and fight the impulse to run across the room and dive headfirst out a window just to break the monotony and get my limbs moving. And as I sit there suffering, I furtively study the rest of you, admiring and hating you for your poise.

Every once in a while, I’ll spot a person who appears to be suffering the same kind of trembling impatience that is my undoing. Our eyes will meet and a silent communication passes between us.

Be a hero, the other guy’s eyes implore me. Go pull a fire alarm.

That would be too obvious, I reply in a series of blinks. I’m just going to dive out a window. Are you with me? We go on three …

But usually it’s just me, and as the voice from the front of the room drones on about the importance of grasping feet and vertical leaping among proboscis monkeys of the Malaysian riverlands, I understand, dismally, that the fault is not with the speaker, but with my own failings.

If I were to try to self-diagnose, using such powerful medical tools such as Yahoo Answers, I would likely find that I have a touch of clinical hyperactivity. Or an attention-deficit this, obsessive-compulsive that and possibly grasping feet.

It isn’t you, garrulous speaker or loquacious school committee member. It’s me.

And to be fair, it isn’t just long speeches that unnerve me. Utter silence will do the same if I’m forced to sit in one spot for very long. Once, during a seven-hour flight to Los Angeles, I became so overwhelmed by feelings of claustrophobic panic during the seated forced march that I was genuinely afraid that I might soon find myself unable to resist the urge to stand up and start screaming at the top of my lungs. That kind of thing is generally discouraged on airplanes, so instead I ordered 50 gadgets I don’t need from the SkyMall and read the instructions on the vomit bag over 300 times.

Maybe one day I’ll give a three-hour talk on how to properly vomit on an airplane just for the irony of it.

So you people with your deep reserves of inner placidity have my utter respect and/or deep hatred. I see you all the time at weddings and funerals where the holy man at the altar has been going on for an hour about fish of the sea, birds of the air and a whole lot of other things you never knew had anything at all to do with getting hitched.

You never yawn. You never fidget. I’ve studied many of you during these long services and I would swear you never even blinked. I aspire to be like you, my friends, although I don’t believe what you have can ever be learned by one who lacks it. I was designed to run, jump and climb and to occasionally stand up and scream for no good reason. You know, like the proud proboscis monkey of the Malaysian riverlands.

Lord, how I envy them.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer who always chooses invisibility as his superpower. Email him at [email protected]


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