An uneasy feeling came over me. Everyone in the room but myself was either clapping like they’d just watched their favorite team win the World Series, the Super Bowl, and the NBA Finals all at once, or else they were weeping with the joy of a devout Christian who’d opened their front door to find Jesus standing there inviting them out for pizza. I’m ashamed to admit it now, but my first reaction was to look around and wonder if I’d missed something. Had I misheard Dr. Shiny? Was the nonsense he’d had to say actually profound and just lost on me? Was there something wrong with me that kept me from being moved as my coworkers had been? I felt like a heathen at a revival, looking around nervously and wondering if the reactions of the people around me was genuine or an act, if I was fundamentally broken in some way that kept me from relating to them. I clapped weakly and glanced back towards the stage, waiting to see if the good doctor would do something more meaningful.
He didn’t. His arms dropped and he swayed on his feet for a few moments before suddenly jumping, startled by seemingly nothing. He looked around in confusion, seeing the room and its inhabitants for the first time, then mumbled, “Creativity will save the world” with a note of desperation in his voice, as if he was pleading with us to understand him, to believe him.
The crowd roared their applause. Dr. Shiny shrunk back. With the demeanor of a kicked dog, he walked off the side of the stage, glancing backwards over his shoulder as if afraid we’d give chase.
The CEO walked back on stage, a beatific smile on his face, his hand rising to wipe pooled tears from the corner of his eyes. “Thank you, Dr. Shiny! Thank you so much for your time!” The crowd cheered and clapped. The CEO raised his hands to silence them and the crowd hushed almost instantly. “I think we’ve all been given something very special here today, and it’s up to us to go out and make the most of it.”
He walked away then. The crowd stood up, stretched, chattered excitedly. Lisa turned to me and smiled. “Wow. I didn’t think… Dr. Shiny looked… Wow.” She smiled wider. This was the happiest I’d ever seen her, I realized. “How often can you point at something and say, “That was it. That was life-changing. That’s where everything changed for me.”
“Not often, I guess,” I offered weakly. Our coworkers pushed past us. Returning to their desks with renewed determination and purpose. Lisa turned and joined them. I lagged behind.