Today I wish I was writing about an inspiring night where universal truths were transmitted unimpaired to a worthy candidate but alas, I can not.
Have you ever seen the footage of the Hindenburg exploding? Well, that is about how the night went last night.
It all started rather innocently with a couple of brothers gathered together to break bread before the degree and rapidly deteriorated. I should have smelled it in the air the night before when our Junior Deacon called me to let me know that he could not get out of a board meeting and woul not make it for the degree. Unforeseen stuff happens, so I quickly shot out an email to the WM and Chaplain to scramble together a replacement. We were already short a Junior Steward who was on duty at work that night, but we always manage to round up enough brothers to make things work. So, as we ate a little dinner we solidified who would be sitting where and who was coming in to help.
Our candidate was going out side for a bit of fresh air so I accompanied him and decided there was enough time to pollute the fresh air with a cigar from my humidor, I brought with me for the occasion. We were joined soon enough by a few more brothers and were having a friendly pow wow when an unfamiliar car pulled up to the lodge. And as I pulled on my tasty cigar I recognized the Right Worshipful District Deputy stepping out from his car and gathering his regalia for a surprise visit! I have sat in lodge with him many times and was excited to have him join us but one of our newer Master Masons who was doing the Stewards lecture was absolutely petrified. The DD hung out for a while with those of us who were outside and then went inside to give our WM a good jolt. After the DD went inside, the petrified brother who was doing the Stewards lecture practically begged me to stand in for him for his lecture. I told him not to be worried and shared my own problems with memorizing and we all proceeded inside to start the degree.
I had spent the entire day either listening to or reciting the G lecture without stop. I got to the point where, although not entirely without pause, I could do the whole thing from memory and with some feeling.
The degree went on quite swimmingly. We made it through the first part without a hitch until we came to the Working Tools. I wondered what was going on when the brother who was giving the lecture stumbled a bit when he opened the box that holds our working tools and never gave each tool to the candidate as was customary in our lodge. He explained later that he was quite surprised to find the working tools of a Master Mason when he opened the box. He was given the wrong box of tools! I give him much credit because this was his first time giving a lecture and other than a stumble and giving the lecture with an open box of wrong tools he did quite well. There was something in the air!
After the break we proceeded to the middle chamber. Again my M.O.A.L. hero (see previous post) gracefully danced his way through the longest lecture of the degree. I gained a new and profound respect for the lecture itself, call me crazy but I really love that lecture. Then came my turn.
I was about one minute into my lecture, and going strong, when I came to a momentary brain freeze. I looked up to the prompter for a little assistance and to my horror he was having a word with the WM and not looking at me. With terror I tried to conjure up the words that were missing from my mind all the while repeating the last word I uttered, looking from the prompter to the candidate, prompter, candidate, district deputy, candidate, prompter. As my prompter tried to find the place in the lecture I left off, my brain turned to complete mush. The word I was repeating appears a few times in the lecture and he prompted a line further down in the lecture. I completely lost my composure as I tried to bring him to the point where I left off and it was all down hill from there. There is a certain rhythm to doing lecture that once lost can not be recovered, especially when the flop sweat is flowing for more than just a second. With much prompting I stumbled my way through the rest of the lecture and in utter dismay returned to my seat. But the pain was not over, being the go to guy in my lodge came back to bite me in the ass.
Before I was able to regain my seat, I caught the partner in the Stewards lecture of the petrified brother waving me towards him mouthing that he needed me to do the lecture with him. I had not even glanced at the lecture, being firmly ensconced in memorizing the G lecture, but like a lamb being led to slaughter I returned before the candidate to do an unmemorized, unrehearsed Stewards lecture. On our way to the North East corner of the lodge he asked me whether I wanted to do the questions or answers and being as confident as I was at that time chose to do the answers because I had always done the answer side of the lecture. Unfortunately for the candidate and all others sitting through the painful experience, the Past Master who was on the other side of the lecture had rehearsed the answer side, so we both, with much prompting, fumbled our way through the entire thing. After all was said and done I sat back in my chair just waiting for the lodge to be closed.
The prompter who is our Chaplain, and my mentor, told me afterward that he is so used to me breezing through lecture that he glanced away to answer a question posed by the WM without a thought of my needing a prompt. Afterwards I apologised to the newest Fellowcraft who I have been mentoring and promised extra special mentorship (is that a word?) to get him proficient for his MM degree.
Over a well needed adult beverage the DD reassured me that it happens to everyone and said I did a fine job, considering. The same was repeated by many of my brethren but, in my head it was a night to go down in infamy.