I recently had the privilege of being one of the event photographers for the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival which was held August 29-31 at Timpanogos Park just up Provo Canyon.

The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival is an incredible annual event attended by thousands of people who come from near and far to hear professional “tellers” talk about their childhoods, reinvented Greek mythology, the civil rights movement, and other stories that are completely made up.

So, in honor of that, I’ve decided to tell a story instead of talking about the photography.

My freshman year of college, I somehow ended up enrolled in a public speech class. I was absolutely terrified. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem speaking in front of people. Speaking in front of people for a grade, however, is completely different. This was BYU, the land of people who were, are, and will always be better than you at pretty much everything (not that I have a diagnosable complex or anything).

The class turned out to be fairly enjoyable. It helped that it was full of fellow clueless freshman who made it a little easier to stay afloat in the suffocating sea of talent and beauty (again, I haven’t been officially diagnosed). I actually wasn’t half bad, and I like to think I was my professor’s favorite despite writing a few of my speeches five minutes before class. In fact, I was chosen to represent the entire class at a showcase for all of the university’s public speech courses.

I’ll admit, I got a little cocky.

The final for the course coincided with a delicious pancake breakfast at my professor’s house. After we’d filled ourselves with butter and bacon, Coach (as she asked to be called) told us how it was going to go down. For our final exam, we would give a three minute impromptu speech.

But here’s the kicker: it had to make a point.

Double kicker: the speech had to be based on one of three terms written on a piece of paper drawn from a hot chocolate can. (Since it was BYU, a traditional coffee can was unavailable.)

While one person was presenting, another was on deck downstairs. Everyone had exactly three minutes to look at their tiny piece of paper with three words on it and formulate an intelligible speech with a moral. The speech would not be graded on quality, but if it met the requirements. No biggie, right?

To make things even better, I was the very last student to present, because of course, Coach saved the best for last. With confidence practically oozing from every orifice, I reached into the can and extracted my fate before sauntering down the stairs with thoughts of my last speech reaching General MacArthur-esque epicness (and, like him, I had no intention of returning).

As I slowly opened the paper, I saw this: metric, wildflowers, dog park

Good feeling gone.

Suddenly, my hands started to sweat and panic set in. I couldn’t think of a single experience that involved any of those words much less one that I could derive some sort of moral from. Three minutes quickly turned into mere seconds, and before I could conjure up any kind of cohesive concept, the knock at the door derailed my train of thought, and like a death knell, summoned me to my academic demise.

There was quite a bit less spring in my step as I ascended the stairs to face the possibility of flunking the final exam. The fear must have been evident on my face because Coach looked at me with concern and asked, “Do you have something?”

I shook my head.

30 seconds passed awkwardly.

METRIC, WILDFLOWERS, DOG PARK. METRIC, WILDFLOWERS, DOG PARK.

Coach finally broke the silence. “Laren, I have never had a student fail this exam. You of all people cannot be the first.”

I only half heard her as my neurons practically exploded in a desperate attempt to pull together some semblance of speech. I just needed one of the three words spark some sort of inspiration.

METRIC, WILDFLOWERS, DOG PARK. METRIC, WILDFLOWERS, DOG PARK.

Suddenly…..afflatus.

“If one were to hear the term ‘buttload’ in a social or professional setting, I imagine most of us would think, ‘What a vulgar, uneducated person.’ But it may not be as bad as it sounds. Last week I discovered an interesting fact. It turns out that the term ‘buttload’ is actually a metric measurement. It equals exactly 126 gallons. So, let’s say someone sees a large herd of deer run across the road and says, “Whoa! That was a buttload of deer!” Under normal circumstances, that would seem to be a correct observation. The question, however, is if all the deer in that herd were somehow converted into a semi-liquid state, how many one-gallon jugs would they fill? Assuming that one liquified deer equals anywhere between 10 and 15 gallons, you would need approximately 10 deer to make a full buttload. For larger herds (like the one in the aforementioned example) it may actually be more appropriate to say, “Whoa! There go several buttloads of deer!” While our presumably unrefined friend may have underestimated the liquid volume of the entire herd, we have no basis with which to deem him crude. After all, he was simply using an established form of European measurement, and as we all know, Europe is the mecca of refinement. So, the next time you hear someone say something vulgar, before passing out judgements about that person’s intellect or character, think to yourself, “Maybe it’s just part of the metric system.”

NAILED IT.