Maybe debates get noisy at academic conferences, but it's not at all common to hear raised voices at a gathering of professional speechwriters, perhaps because the stakes are too high. When you're huddling with the only professional friends you have in a world of eight billion people who don't even know you exist, you don't start an argument with them!
So at first when I heard the rising voices in the back of the room during the luncheon keynote speech, I assumed it was a couple of catering people, quarreling over the timing of the afternoon snack. (Speechwriters, from what I can tell, eat continuously.)
But when I went back to tamp down the row, I discovered it wasn't the caterers, but a couple of unregistered, uninvited, and unwelcome guests.
Both men, and each as angry as the other.
The Ear, I gathered as soon as I got within range of his stage whispers, resented being talked about in his absence, ONCE AGAIN.
"Every year," said The Ear, "these people gather to talk to each other about 'what I want to hear.' About what 'suits' me. And most insulting of all, about what I can and cannot understand! Never occurs to them to invite me here to tell them how I feel. They know best."
"At least they respect you," said The Eye. "They talk about me like I'm some kind of pedantic, elitist dandy."
"If the shoe fits," said The Ear.
"Now you listen here, Mr. Ear," replied The Eye. "I'd keep my mouth shut if I was as simple-minded as you are, so as to avoid removing all doubt."
"All doubt about what?"
"You're a slow-learner," said The Eye, without blinking. "You pretty much believe the last thing you hear. And you're sentimental."
Thus boxed, The Ear batted The Eye. "Why, I ought to scratch your cornea. I'd rather be stupid and sentimental than a wiseg-eye with no feelings at all."
"Look here," said The Eye. "Oh that's right, you can't!"
"Listen here," said The Ear. "Oh right, you never do! But that's not the worst thing about you. You know what the worst thing about you is?"
The Eye closed.
"You've got no sense of rhythm."
"Save it for your speech."
"Save it for your op-ed."