Meetings & Other Tragedies

(Okay, let’s go with “Jeremiah was a bullfrog.” Adjourned.)


Every weekday morning, I suppose, most of us have to get up, leave home and go somewhere to work, unless you’re in prison, or Congress, or both. And usually, this dulling morning routine involves minor irritations like shaving, or putting on clothes. Or both.

Some people, though not many, have the delicious option of working from home, also known as “telecommuting” (a Wharton Business School term that means “attending a phone conference while not wearing pants”). Working from home beats working from an office on every count, except that you still have to swing by the office every now and then to reload on printer paper.

Telecommuting presents the conscientious employee with dozens of attractive options, like a morning commute that’s not measured in miles, but in feet. Heck, just being able to use your own bathroom is worth a buck. But a surprisingly small number of Americans actually get to work from home, despite telecommute-enabling tools like the internet, online meeting tools, and lying.

If you’re still working in an office, you’re already aware of some of the unavoidable side-effects:

  • Lying
  • That mysterious “aroma multiplier effect” that occurs when you’re trapped in an elevator with a woman who apparently had her entire plus-sized body dipped in three-dollar perfume
  • Alleged adults who use “ask” as a noun
  • Forced participation in unimaginably lame “employee motivation” events, with themes like “Crude & Inappropriate Sexual Humor Appreciation Day” and “Dress Like Your Favorite Intestinal Parasite! (dress code still applies)”
  • Public restrooms with no exhaust fans
  • That guy who spends the whole day erupting in noises that are either violent sneezes, or the bellowing mating calls of a desperate, plus-sized Himalayan yak in heat

To be fair, of course, there are plenty of positive aspects to having a job:

  • Getting paid
  • Well, that’s about it

But personally, I think the thing I like least about being in an office is meetings, or as I prefer to call them, the “business prevention unit.” Meetings are mini-conventions in which people at a company gather in a “meeting room,” at a pre-determined time, to wait an additional half-hour for the person who called the meeting to actually show up.

A “meeting room” is usually outfitted with a long desk, a few dozen mismatched chairs, and ten thousand dollars worth of audio-visual equipment that nobody knows how to operate. Once the meeting organizer shows…or not…the attendants then use the remaining time to bandy buzz words and acronyms, and to discuss the latest “ask.” Some common expressions you’re bound to hear in your average meeting are:

  • ASAP
  • Q4
  • synergies
  • EBITDA-positive synergies
  • “Well, nobody told me.”
  • optimally leveraging our co-branded paradigm in new positively-positioned verticals, by Q4
  • “All right, who said that?” followed by a whispered “Idiot, you’re not on mute.

Over the centuries, meetings have been responsible for thousands of decisions, good, bad, and worse. Here are some examples of decisions made by people trapped in meetings:

  • Minutes from the very first meeting: We hereby resolve to eat the apple.
  • “Noah is an idiot. Let’s go to the beach.”
  • 1795: Management chose English over German as America’s official language (Germany lost its influence in America after Samuel Adams figured out how to make beer)
  • 1801: Management chose the bald eagle over the turkey as America’s official bird (apparently, the turkey only spoke German)
  • 1938: “All right, we’ll let Adolph have Czechoslovakia, and then he’ll go away.”
  • 1968: “Let’s go with Dick Nixon. He seems stable enough.”
  • The most effective way to keep law-breaking criminals from owning guns is to keep law-abiding citizens from owning guns
  • “For our Congressional district, let’s nominate a snarky little mutt with an apparent thyroid condition, who’s also a sexting addict and whose last name is Weiner.”
  • “We’re hoping that, over time, the media will warm to candidate Trump.”
  • The best mascot for car insurance commercials would be an animated lizard with a bad Australian accent
  • The United Nations

So, the next time you have to wear pants on a weekday, try to appreciate your alleged value to the company that allows you all that free access to damp stairwells, claustrophobic bathrooms that hint of jilted yak, and three whole days of bereavement pay…unless you’re found to be liable for the bereavement.

Imagine that meeting.

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