Nov. 7, 2022

SOMETIMES, SILENCE IS GOLDEN.

In 1992, I accepted an invitation to share my Great Wall adventure with eight hundred professional engineers in Houston, Texas.

Before my presentation---luncheon guests, all seated in the Ritz Carleton’s largest ballroom, were treated to a visual presentation, as more than two thousand photos of the Great Wall flashed continuously across the room’s multiple screens, officially documenting my seven-month journey.  Quite appropriately, these Great Wall images were accompanied by authentic Chinese music. 

Following my presentation, I invited audience members to ask questions.  One by one--engineers from every state in America stepped forward to ask a variety of questions about my journey, such as: What I ate, what I enjoyed most, who I met, the language barrier, even questions about Chinese spiders and snakes.

Just when I thought I had answered every question, an attractive gentleman-- probably mid-forties-- walked to a microphone near the back of the ballroom.   Smiling, he addressed me:

“Honey, I found your presentation quite impressive.  You are a great speaker and I really enjoyed the photographs but----I have a major concern.”  Surprised and not knowing what to expect, I held my breath.

“How could you have traveled that wall in 1990?  In 1987, in a famous speech that was broadcast to the world, President Ronald Reagan ordered Gorbachev to tear down that Wall and-- he did!”  At that moment, had a pin dropped, it would have sounded like a crow bar hitting the floor.  Barely breathing, the audience waited for my response.

 Wearing my very-best beauty queen smile, I leaned into the microphone and, in true southern style, delivered these words:  “Honey, I’m really glad you enjoyed the slide show and I truly appreciate your concern and attention-to-detail.

Unfortunately, my dear, you are talking about the wrong wall in the wrong country.  Bless you heart, Honey, you are talking about the Berlin Wall--in Germany”!!!! As the room echoed with thunderous applause, the well-dressed gentleman--looking like a hound dog with his tail between his legs-- scurried out of the Ballroom.

The following year, the National Engineers Association sent me a Christmas card.  The association's president added a postscript:

 “I thought you’d like to know--- the engineer who appeared “geographically challenged” after your Great Wall Presentation, resigned from our association.”

The president added: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, then to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt."