Wednesday, April 18, 2012
10 Soul-Damaging Things That Always Happen When I’m Trying To Impress My Boss At A Regional Meeting
1. I hit the failblog when trying to get to the meeting place on time.
I can leave three days early for the festivities and I still won’t make the starting time. Something random and absurd always happens, like a sanitation strike or a runaway elephant blocking the road. Of course, everybody else hears about the tragedy in plenty of time to take an alternate route, getting there early enough to visit with the rest of the participants and become best friends, which marks me as the lone outcast before I even get there.
2. I can’t gracefully enter the conference room.
Nope, I’ve got to clatter in the door after they’ve already started the opening remarks, proceed to trip over a pocket of air, stagger into the bagel table, nearly upend the sloshing coffee urn, send packets of sweetener skittering across the floor, and then finish with a flourish by losing control of my briefcase at just the right moment that it hits the end of the conference table and bounces back into my gut, knocking the wind out of me. In the ensuing stunned silence, I do not receive any high scores from the Olympic judges.
3. I will lower my ass into the loudest chair known to mankind.
There can be a whole pack of unoccupied office chairs, shoved over in a corner because people have already gone through them and picked out the good ones. Try as I might to find the most well-behaved of the lot, I will end up selecting the one that squeaks like people have been having career-advancement sex on it since 1972. And as I try to sit perfectly still and not make annoying noises, the height-adjustment lever will snap off and the whole contraption will plummet to the floor so that my knees are above my head.
4. I will be seated too far away from any known electrical outlets.
And my laptop will have roughly three minutes left on the battery. The laptop that has 47 spreadsheets that I am supposed to share with everyone else or the meeting cannot continue and people have flown from other states for nothing. The unit will fire up long enough to tell me that it is dying. And then it does.
5. I will have a small mental breakdown during Introductions.
As we go around the table, everyone else will have fascinating job titles, exciting careers that have won them Nobel prizes, and a charming personal anecdote to share that has the crowd showering them with laughter and adoration. When it’s my turn, my suddenly dried-out mouth will barely be able to choke out my name, I’ll be unable to remember the official designation of my current position or who I report to, and my pitiful, meandering, pointless job description will make three people cry about the shame I must be experiencing. Later, one of them will discreetly hand me a check so that I can seek therapy.
6. I will have no idea where my glasses are.
They will be completely AWOL, despite having worn them mere minutes ago on the drive in. I do my best not to cause even more of a ruckus as I get frustrated and re-check each and every pocket in my briefcase. (Despite my stealth maneuvers, the incessant zipping and unzipping will cause the surrounding people to give me glares indicating that I’ve had far too much coffee and really need to settle down.)
Just as I give up the search and hope that I can wing my way through the mess, the moderator will ask me to review the slide on the overhead and fully explain how we can resolved Critical Issue #3. I can’t read a word on the screen, never mind the numbers, and I’m not sure if the things in front of the screen are people or potted plants.
7. I will have a life-threatening coughing fit.
At some point during the proceedings, probably right when the topic is “how your job performance affects your compensation”, I will get one of those inexplicable throat tickles that come out of nowhere. I will stupidly try to remedy the situation with a simple throat-clearing, which quickly escalates into a full-on round of hacking and choking, complete with the horror of uncontrolled spittle flying out of my mouth and across the conference table, landing in parts unknown.
Naturally, there won’t be a handy bottle of water anywhere around, because they drank all that up waiting for my tardy ass to get there. So the only recourse is to stagger out of the room and collapse in a nearby stairwell because I have no idea where the bathrooms might be, having missed orientation and donuts. No one will bother to check on me for hours, until a surprised janitor bonks me on the head with his mop.
8. I will get caught not paying attention at some point.
I can spend the entire day listening carefully and taking copious notes, but that one moment when I very briefly wonder if I should get a tattoo of a barcode on the back of my head will be the exact moment that a vice-president asks me for my opinion of what was just stated. (At least I think it’s him, I can’t really see anybody on that side of the room. It might be the janitor, who got a very serious promotion and joined our staff after performing CPR in the stairwell.)
9. I will get something in my crotch.
This never fails, ever. I always manage to get a shame-inducing stain on my pants at some point during the meeting. And the real kicker is that I never know where this stain comes from. Knowing that I have this issue, I will avoid all provided snacks on the little table, I’ll skip lunch and just read in my car, and I stay away from water fountains (a notorious source of surprise wetness).
Yet, usually about mid-afternoon, I’ll look down, and right there in my crotch will be some melted chocolate or a splash of salsa or some organic vinaigrette. Two seconds after this discovery, I will be asked to step up to the whiteboard and draw a diagram of the new inventory system. (Try drawing and talking when you’ve got your privates mashed against the wall or hidden behind a briefcase that you clearly don’t need to be carrying. Fun times.)
10. I will not get out of the meeting early.
All my co-workers get to attend “all-day” meetings that actually end about 2PM, with everybody running off to use their expense accounts at the local bar. I will get that one facilitator who loves her job and can’t wait to solve the entire world’s problems with sticky notes and a flow chart. We will be there way past 5PM, while we debate the merits of four proposals that won’t change a damn thing about how we do business, my laptop continues to be dead and my crotch dries into a crackling crust of obnoxious humiliation. And then my throat starts to tickle…