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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Where's that Smile I Seemed to have Lost Twenty Years Ago?

What do you think of this one? Sincere Enough to be Believable?
This is the best I could do after 30 minutes of practice.

Hello Troops,
They often say that kids say the darnedest things. Perhaps its because they haven't lived long enough to learn what is allowable for politeness sake and what isn't. It's a skill we pick up over time and through experience. How many times have you opened your month and stuck your foot in it? How many times have you said something and the moment the words escaped you realized you put yourself into a social corner you couldn't get out of? Of course, most of these types of blunders can be forgiven because we know the person speaking meant no harm by the statement. They just didn't think before they spoke.

Then we have students that say things they know full well carry strong meanings - capable of pushing someone's buttons to force an overreaction and possible embarrassment. This happened a few weeks ago just as the overnight camp was winding up. I was standing in front of the campers giving my final speech before dismissing them to their parents.

One young teen boy raised his hand just after I told them where to put their pens and pencils, used to complete our camp end satisfaction survey. I normally don't get questions at that point of the wind up speech and wondered what it was about "where to put his pen" he didnt' get. I pointed to him so he could speak.

"Mr. Williamson, do you ever smile?" he asked.

I'll admit the question startled me. I was hit broadside by something I wasn't expecting and he wanted an answer. I looked for all the physical clues that would indicate he was joking around but they weren't there. From what I could tell, the question was legit. The issue that immediately came to mind was how to answer. I could have ignored the question with a frown, thus fueling the fire that fed the question and proving to the 44 campers that I was incapable of smiling. Or, I could be honest and say that I wasn't aware I looked liked someone weaned on a pickle.

I had to say something quickly because if I didn't the campers would see a crack in my solid 'Camp Director' facade. If I didn't answer quickly then I'd be admitting defeat to this young teen and that I couldn't do.

I opened my mouth to speak, stopped and gave him the biggest smile I could muster. Then I spoke. "I smile all the time AFTER all of you go home!"

I got a laugh from the rest of the campers. His half smile told me he thought my response was lame but I didn't care - at least I got out of the situation with my dignity. I mean, how can we constantly preach that the Space Center is the Second Funnest Place on Earth without always looking so happy you couldn't imagine yourself being anyplace else at that particular time.

I dismissed the campers and purposefully smiled as I walked down the two long hallways back to my desk to tally the surveys. I also made it a point to smile as I worked through the surveys and kept smiling until I knew the last of the campers were gone. Only then did I relax my mouth muscles and let them go back to their natural droopy state.

I will admit some good did come from his question/statement. I am now painfully aware that my appearance does make a difference in how other perceive the Space Center so I've made a start of the year resolution to try my best to smile more. I know it won't look sincere to those of you that know me well but as long as it passes and genuine to those that don't know me then we are in business.

So, here I am. You may call me the Happy Man that Runs the Space Center. Yes, I'm the guy that soon no one will trust because I'll be smiling all the time (isn't it true, you never trust someone that is always happy and cheerful?)

I'm practicing different smiles at home in the mirror. I've settled on two that look OK. The only problem is my teeth. They carry the slightly yellowish hue that comes from years of drinking Diet Coke. Kyle Herring recommended I have them whitened but fear the only thing capable of whitening these aged ivory relics is pure bleach and the warning labels on Bleach bottles warn against it. I see my dentist for a check up in a few weeks. I'll see what he says - once I get him to stop laughing.

So, life continues here at the Space Center. I spent last week filling our field trip calendar. This week we rehearse our new planetarium shows in the the new Digitarium and I venture back into the Voyager and review my school missions. I haven't flown since the end of last school year so I'm a bit rusty.

Thank you to everyone that reads this blog and a thank you to our many wonderful volunteers and staff. I'm grateful you've put up with my grumpy face all this time without saying something.

Perhaps I need to send more time with the Odyssey Flight Directors. They're always happy, bubbly and all smiley. Tis a mystery.....

Mr. Williamson
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