I am an honorary Alabamian, even though Florida is my home state. It’s kind of a long story, but I promise, if you bear with me, this will be a complete waste of your time.
It started in a hotel lobby full of Alabama officials. It was sort of like spring break check-in at some fancy resort. Only these weren’t teenagers with suntans. These were white-haired people with sport coats and extremely low centers of gravity.
I went to the front desk and checked into my hotel room.
A guy behind me in line said, “So, you’re the keynote speaker for the Alabama Governor’s Conference?”
“Where in Alabama are you from?”
“I’m from Florida.”
“What? And YOU’RE our keynote speaker?”
To which he replied, “Huh!”
The enormous auditorium started to fill up. And I’m talking about a room the size of a rural school district. I kept having this feeling that I didn’t belong here. What was I doing? I’m not an Alabamian. I was starting to feel pretty dumb.
Another man shook my hand and said, “So, what part of Alabama are you
“I’m not,” I said. “I’m from the Panhandle.”
He gave a confused look, then he said “Why on earth did they hire you?”
So things were off to a great start.
I took the stage. I tapped the microphone. I said, “Hello, is this thing on?” But it turned out that the sound system was screwed up. What everyone heard was:
And that’s how the next forty minutes went.
When I finished, nobody was aware that I had concluded my speech because my voice was still reverberating in the airplane-hangar-like room. For all I know my voice is still echoing in that auditorium to this day.
The thing is, I truly love Alabama. That’s probably why I was asked to speak. I write more columns about Alabama than I do about…