It could have been the glittering 2009 occasion when US President Barack Obama saluted Hazel, wife of then prime minister Patrick Manning, as Trinidad and Tobago's "first lady". President Max Richards and wife Dr Jean Ramjohn Richards, were among the hemispheric grandees who heard Mr Obama's rank misidentification of the Presidential spouse.
That moment at the Americas Summit likely convinced the T&T Head of State of the conceptual no man's land he has inhabited for nearly a decade. A President more than ceremonial but less than executive: this has defined "a large space for education…at all levels of our own society in the outside world and on the part of visitors", President Richards reported last week.
Meanwhile, the tenant at the Port of Spain Botanical Gardens has been extemporising that large part of his role which remains unscripted by the Constitution. The Commander-in-Chief who may not order the forces into battle tries out being the national admonisher-in-chief.
At Wednesday's ceremonial opening of Parliament, he turned up with a fistful of lyrics that represented the sum of lonely learnings gradually compiled over his term. President Richards has not always been assured of an annual hour to strut and fret before the Parliament.
Unlike Queen Elizabeth who reads on behalf of "my government" a speech from the "throne", the T&T President is implicitly invited literally to stand and deliver his own soliloquy. But as prime minister Patrick Manning once confirmed by withdrawing it, the invitation may not be regarded a guaranteed privilege.
"According to plan," he said, last week's was to be "the last time that such a privilege will be afforded me." Still, the freedom to speak his mind isn't exercised with any responsibility to make himself clear.
He declined to clarify by whose "plan" he was operating. Was he disclosing his own deadline to be out of there, or was he facilitating the ruling party's (or parliamentary majority's) arrangements for filling the vacancy due to open in Port of Spain north next March?
On his way out of office, as it were, the President rejoices in being less concerned with misspeaking himself and exceeding some unwritten bounds. Though he discerns widespread unknowing about "what it means to be President of T&T", he ends up by being himself hardly more than speculative on the content of the job.
So far from identifying any learnt rules of engagement, he suggests that being presidential is the sum total of whatever the incumbent says or does. In his case, the President may speak with regal abandon, even as he wonders aloud about entitlement to some "right to orate as I please".
The President exercised that right anyway. Disarmingly opening with a stated resolve not to be "long-winded", he nevertheless went on for his six pages, showing lordly disdain for word economy, never using one word when he could use three.
Presuming thereby on the attention span of his hearers and, as in my own case, his readers, the President indulges a preference for making allusions rather than stating propositions, and even admits to "musing" aloud. The Head of State, who unlike the Queen, speaks not on behalf of the administration, appropriates the usage of "we", as if speaking for some broad national constituency, comprising all the President's men and women and children.
What informs this is an attitude of presumption based on unspecified hope and faith, and some charity toward the speaker. "If we get the education right," he says, "a number of positives will follow, in other aspects of national development."
All right. In that sentence appears nothing to which a reader or listener will say "No". But where does it take us? The broad brush strokes blind us from seeing meaning.
Eventually, the President's language itself becomes a distraction to his hearers and readers. "We cannot say that the road ahead signposts any guarantees," he says, in a sentence that reflects composition as awful as the reference to "the first base of our Republican Constitution".
Elsewhere, he urges: "In no way should the treasury influence the direction of the university". Now, that may work as a line of rhyming rap. But how is it possible to run a public university uninfluenced by a national Treasury that is predictably assailed by multitudinous other demands?
The Presidential response amounts to a profusion of words, preferably words that buzz. He refers to the Higgs boson discovery, which has filled international headlines as an exciting development in advanced physics. "This presents another opportunity for scientific innovation which we should seize," he says.
But President Richards, an academic engineer, hardly suggests how Higgs boson applies to anything going on in T&T. Since his next sentence refers to steel pan innovation in this country, he leaves it airily to be assumed that Higgs boson can have both imaginative and practical relevance here.
To make sense of all the mangling of language and meaning, veteran diplomat and past master of parsing public messaging, Reginald Dumas was summoned to perform a detailed explication of the President's text.
Such is the measure of Presidential privilege.
Correction: Last week in this space,
I referred to Justice Patrick Jones when I meant Justice Patrick Robinson, Jamaica-born president of the International Criminal Court.