Boom Boom Boom
The knocking started at 8:30 AM on a muggy-muck Wednesday a couple of weeks ago.
Unaccustomed to early-morning visitors (or, any visitors…ever), I half-jogged towards the noise, spying the uniform through the window: navy, crisp, foreboding. My heart rate increased to a hummingbird’s. As I opened the door, I catalogued the whereabouts of the 5 other members of my household, once again wishing I had a clock like Mrs. Weasley to give me a heads-up when someone was in “mortal peril”. Or jail.
Not that jail’s a possibility or anything.
“Hello,” I said, concentrating on not keeling over until after I heard the news, “Is everything all right?” I braced myself, raising my eyes to catch the details of his response.
The police officer’s arms were relaxed, his stance was wide, his eyes were confident, and his smile was HUGE. My heart slowed to a hamster rate. That smile has to mean that all is well, and that the parking ticket from 2010 was…never mind.
He gave me a hearty, “Good morning!” and then motioned down the driveway to where his partner waited. “We’re just wondering if you know who the car parked across the street belongs to?”
He went on to explain that someone had reported a suspicious vehicle (tinted windows apparently equaling the mob or the undead), and that there had recently been some stealing, ditching and swapping going on in the area. Which sounded a lot like my high school prom.
As much as I wished I could provide that all-important clue to help them bust the possible delinquent vampire, I was glad when the encounter was over, and my usual level of anxiety could go back down to its comfort zone of: Moderately Worrying About Everything.
The officer’s surprise visit got me thinking about “presentation,” though, as he clearly had some schooling in this department; He had monitored his body language, word choice and tone. He had an awareness of personal space and a reassuring manner. And, his knock had even been somewhat controlled.
The Academy apparently realizes the value of teaching future law enforcement officials how to deal with citizens on the brink of… some very natural and normal feelings.
Even though the equation should be: Police=Safety, it’s hard to stop that jumpy, rumbly feeling in your gut when those red and blue lights start flashing behind you or an officer shows up on your doorstep for a personal chat. If you’re like me, you almost immediately feel anxious or start wondering if it’s really OK to accidentally keep the hotel key card. How our first responders present themselves during their encounters with the public can help keep the cray cray away. Way.
Of course, there are the sayings that, “Presentation is everything,” or “It’s all about presentation!” And, while I may not believe it’s everything, I certainly believe that it’s something.
Like the difference between an a worst-date-ever rant or a marriage proposal. A new client or a lost prospect. An “A plus” in Speech 101 or a “C”… ya again next semester!”
It’s a powerful tool that, with some common sense, can be carefully tailored towards a positive or negative end result. Think of a teenager’s explanation to a parent’s accusation…it can earn them one night without their phone. Or a week without the car. Or a month’s grounding. (Word of Advice: Watch the sass, and tell the truth.)
For writers, presentation can be the difference between a best-selling novel of mediocre words and an mediocre-selling novel of the best words. It can help make characters live and breathe or fail to grow beyond the first page.
And, as I get closer to heading back to the classroom with my young charges, it makes me think how the magic of presentation can affect whether a child begins to love (or hate) school. Or how they choose to interact with their peers. Or whether they feel safe when they walk into our building each day.
My thanks to my friendly neighborhood police officer for the reminder.
Do have any stories about a time when presentation was everything? Or, at least, something? And, are you currently running from the law? Please share in the comments!
Find me on Twitter @amandahoving