The Green Community Judge Badge means “Rock Star” at the NCFCA Buck-eye Blast Speech and Debate Competition. It differentiates the volunteer who has “no dog in this hunt” from the parent or teacher judges who has invested a great deal. Contestants under pain of death from their parents and coaches express gratitude in an unfailingly polite and practiced:
“Thank you very much for judging, sir.”
They grip the hand firmly, smile sincerely, shake one time, and say:
“Thank you very much for judging, sir.” before releasing.
The repetition becomes particularly apparent when several contestants individually thank multiple judges in series for a single heat at one time.
From the example of FDR, whose battle against the banality of receiving lines reached its peak when he would throw in, “I murdered Eleanor’s mother this morning just after breakfast.” just to see if any one were listening; I ask, “How are you?” or “How many brothers and sisters do you have?”
My variance from the expected norm of “Thank you very much for judging, sir” precipitates a cascade of awkwardness like a chorus of sopranos falling down a ladder of Handelian “Alleluias”.
Separating the competition venue from the judges’ cloister is a Mall of winter rye grass meticulously mown. Parents, sponsors, coaches, aunts, uncles, and cousins of those in contest greet me as I walk into and out of the competitive fray.
“Thank you very much for judging, sir!” with Sunday Morning enthusiasm and glee.
What students execute perfunctorily adults dwell on with an eye toward my badge wondering, “Who is ALEXANDER WATSON?”
The red dot is my license to judge speech events such as: oral interpretation, original presentation, dramatization, duets, apologetics, and lectures of persuasion. The blue dot attests to my credentials to preside over debate: Lincoln/Douglas and Team.
A jurist earns one holographic star for each event judged and accrues status with each affixed merit. Two dots and two stars are phenomenal for Family Member Judges. But, for Community Judges, it’s over-achieving on steroids in heels. Shortly, “sir” becomes “Mr. Watson”, and introductions ensue.
“That’s all the money I have on me…Oh, and this is my friend, Tom. He has no money at all.”
“We’ll take it!” the pragmatists at the door sweep the wadded bills and bite-marked coinage into a manila envelope like croupiers. “The cash bar is over there.” they wave recklessly behind their heads assuming we cannot afford anything. Instead, we hook for $1 Diet Coca-Colas.
The Buffet is lavish with dishes of home-made patés, crudités, and glacées. I introduce myself to Cindy and Richard, Karen and Fran, Eric and Maude. New Acquiantances, Shawn and Chuck, will join us after for pasta at Pompilio’s. Precisely in this manner, we get to know fascinating people whom we introduce to each other.
“I met the most interesting people at Sinner Dinner.” The attendees continue to rave 10 days after the event (“Turnips for Dinner“). “When are we going to do it again?” They gush.
Back at NCFCA, the judges finish up their critiques in the hospitality suite. Bridget introduces me to Pat, the one responsible for this marathon of effective communication. Behind her bouffante sits a chocolate cupcake swirled with chocolate icing and marked: “Chili”