How To Tie A Bow

The following is a speech I recently delivered at one of my Toastmasters clubs and it was so well received that I just had to share it here.  Though technically the title of my following speech was How to Tie Off a Bag, it is (was) impossible to find an image of a tied off bag and hence, this post title is more in keeping with the lovely image I did find.  Technically speaking, in tieing off a bag, you do in fact, tie a bow.

The purpose of this speech was to share some aspect of an experience as a protégé/mentee.


Ladies and gentlemen, I used to work for Australia Post in the mail sorting division and one of the areas I loved working in was the small parcels area.  A small parcel is a packet that weighs less than 500 grams.

In the small parcels area of a mail sorting centre, large canvas bags are hung on a framework of hooks that creates a four by four network of bags, with each station clearly marked with its respective destination.  The small parcels arrive in large wheelie bins, big square metal tubs on wheels, and your duty is to sort them into their corresponding bag.  This is where an accurate arm comes in handy because although some bags are within easy reach, others are not, and you literally toss them across the network and into the right bag.  Being accurate helps because you will regret retrieving one and placing it into the correct bag should you miss.

 

Normally, two people work this area, one on each side of the frame, and each responsible for the eight bags in front of them.  When a bag gets full, it’s removed, the neck of the bag secured, together with a matching destination label.  The bag is then placed onto a bag cart for wheeling off to the despatch area, where it’s placed into a corresponding container for delivery to whatever location its destination happens to be.

For the entire journey to be successful, the neck of the bag must be firmly secured, and there is a right and a wrong way to fasten the neck of a canvas bag full of parcels small or large.  I’d been working for Australia Post for four years before I met Pat who revelled in teaching me how to do it properly.

Pat was the bull mastiff of the small parcels area, and the queen of the Saturday afternoon shift.  She ruled with an iron fist and a razor-sharp tongue and heaven help anyone who got in her way.

I was afraid of Pat, and she could smell it on me.

Before I even entered the area, before I even introduced myself to her, Pat had already formed her opinion of me as well.  She saw me as an intruder, a weakling, an inexperienced newbie, and the shift supervisor’s ‘pet’.  That made me management, and she was right, I was the second in charge that day, and she was my one report for the duration of our 7½ hour shift.

I’m sure Pat heard my knees knocking from the other side of the room as I discussed the shift targets with the upper echelon.

As I walk across the floor, all 250 metres of it, with Pat’s beady little eyes boring holes through my uniform, I decided I could either stand up, puff out my chest and show her who’s boss.  After all, I was.  Or, I could submit, roll over and show my soft underbelly and hope for the best.

And that’s what I did.

“Hi Pat, I’m Clare, and it’s really nice to meet you.”  And then, as I removed an overflowing bag from the rack, I said, “I have no idea how to tie off a bag correctly.  Pat, would you mind showing me how?”

I swear, Pat grew two inches as she strutted around to where I was and proceeded to show me in unambiguous detail, exactly how to tie off a bag.

 

That was one of the many things Pat taught me that afternoon.  She beamed with pride as I tied each bag exactly as she’d shown.  She took me under her wing and freely sharing her knowledge with me about everything and everyone.  Later she would proudly tell everyone she taught me how to manage the small parcels area, how to do my job properly, as well as how to be a good supervisor.

I didn’t dare tell her I’d been a supervisor for three years in Townsville before transferring to Brisbane and that four years earlier, on my very first day as a mail officer, Richard had shown me the exact same technique of looping the string under itself three times before pulling it tight and tying it off.

Pat didn’t need to hear any of that, and I didn’t need to tell her either.

What Pat needed was for me to listen.  What I needed was for Pat to mentor me on the ways of working on the Saturday afternoon shift in a large mail centre in Brisbane.

And she certainly did that.


As with many speeches delivered by Toastmasters across the world, there are three versions – the one you practise, the one you deliver, and the one you wish you’d delivered – usually recited in the car on your way home.  (This is the Toastmasters version of a quote by Dale Carnegie.)

This is a combination of the speech I practised and the speech I delivered.  I was not disappointed with my delivery. 

I was inspired to share this speech in response to The New, Unofficial, On-line Writer’s Guild’s writing prompt #99 – That’s Not What I Do because this is not what I do for a living anymore.

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