Uncategorized

The Icebreaker

Some brief background.
In 1992 or so, a friend and I made an impassioned and impulsive decision to try to make the U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team.  We were in our 20s, fit and had no money. Why not?
                                  
Back then, the U.S Bobsled Organization was a pretty loose organization.  They offered classes at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid.  They provided lodging and food and a great gym. All for free.
We booked in and took the Bobsledding Introductory class which consisted of a brief walk down the course, a video showing many of the more severe accidents and deaths, and a tour of the sled which is a very simple machine.  Then they took us up to the halfway point, stuck us in a training sled and away we went.
It was truly the most frightening activity I have ever done.  At the end, I felt I’d cheated death
But, I did complete the rest of the three day course and got my Bobsledding Driver’s License from the ½ mile point.  We went back the following year, by which time they had significantly increased their monitoring.  When we arrived they essentially said, “Sorry, we don’t care what sort of driver’s license you have, you can’t learn to drive the rest of the course without your own sled.”  Sleds cost around $20,000.
Thus ended my brief career as a pre-Olympian. 
But, I got the t-shirt and the little piece of paper and thus, I believe, the right to claim my membership to the US Bobsled Federation as a miscellaneous fact on the bottom of my resume. This makes for interesting conversation at job interviews.
I give you this background, only to tell you this further bit of info.
Fast forward 22 years. 
In addition to my resume, I also use the bobsled story for those little icebreaker games we all play at parties or work events .  “Tell us a little known or fun fact about yourself.”  This being orientation, of course we play this game at the State Department on the very first day.  And, of course, I use my story.  How else can I compete with a man who tripped Nancy Pelosi, or the female Gold Medalists in the Tae Kwan Do World Championship or the former Special Forces people?   It gets a good response until I tell them the rest of the story, and then the conversation drifts back to those with really big achievements.
Fast forward, yet again, to today.
Our three weeks in orientation is coming to a close and we are due for our official swearing in at noon.  On Wednesday, we received a surprise announcement that the ceremony has been pushed back until 1:45 pm because the Secretary of State, himself, wants to do the swearing in.  Apparently, he likes to do this when he’s in town, which is sort of a rare event if you watch the news.  He flew some 275,000 miles last year.
We are all honored and excited and we gather early.  He has so little time that we practice getting our picture taken before he gets there.  We are able to get from our seats to the stage and set for pictures in under 30 seconds.
He’s a few minutes late having put some foreign dignitary on hold. We all stand and clap as he breezes in.  He’s introduced and then he gives a few brief remarks about the world and how we in the Foreign Service will fit in.
He closes with a few remarks about our class.  He notes the Krav Maga black belt, and the Tae Kwan Do World Champion.  He thanks the former Military personnel for volunteering further service to their country.  And, then he says, “We even have someone here who tried out for the U.S Bobsled team.  Where are you?”  I raised my hand sheepishly.  “What, were you inspired by the Jamaicans or something?”
How can I work this into a new icebreaker story?
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