We haven’t had a team meeting at work for months now. The gratitude I feel for this is matched only by the gratitude I feel for the fact my siblings and I lacked sufficient imagination to come up with a good enough idea, therefore never got around to writing an appealing enough letter, and were subsequently never successful in our bid to appear on Jim’ll Fix It.
We threw all sorts of ideas around, such was our desire to get on telly. I don’t remember many of them, but I know someone suggested we should ask to dress up as clowns and throw custard pies at each other. The thinking behind that one was to aim low enough to make it nice and easy for Jim to Fix It for us, thus maximising the chance we had of making it on to the show.
Not for the first time, I thank God for our collective familial apathy.
The last team meeting came at a time when our already small department was being hacked to pieces under the guise of improving efficiency. Rancidly overpaid consultants forced us to explain every detail of every pointless task we undertake, and in return we were given patronising snippets of training. The best – and by best I mean the most awkward and vomit-inducingly cringey – was on Excel.
Our consultant opened with a picture of Trigger from Only Fools and Horses and asked, with what I assume was meant to be a wry grin rather than looking as if he was having a stroke, “Does anybody know who this is?” It was a clear attempt to connect with the plebs before blowing their minds with a pivot table and a vlookup.
I dare say he didn’t know the answer to his own question and had only included it in his training material after reading a study on how to communicate with the intellectually inferior. Fuck knows how he went on to link the picture to his subject matter. My brain will have refused to absorb anything beyond that desperate and patronising opener.
Cut forward a few weeks and a meeting was called to bring together the decimated and devastated team, for us to take stock of what had gone on before and what was ahead. Weeks of watching our life-wasting jobs being picked into tiny parts, and then put into graphs and PowerPoint presentations had crushed even those of us who already knew we’re wasting every minute we spend under this strip-lighting, so we shuffled into the meeting room defeated.
It was too hot and too small so we were crammed in together like the terrible punchline to a “How many uninterested adults can you fit around a tiny table in a phone-box sized room to waste another hour of their lives?” joke.
Until this point I’d tried to mask my utter hatred of my job and industry with a tissue-thin veil of professionalism, but on this occasion I was hung over, the glass room was getting hotter and my poker-straight hair was starting to curl in the rising temperature. With every gruelling minute I had slumped lower and lower in my chair until I was almost under the table.
Across this city and the world, meetings are run and overrun by one or two droning voices. They always make up the minority of people in the room, but control the majority by raising point after pointless fucking point. On this occasion, the droning voice punctuated each point by addressing me “I’m sorry I know you don’t want to be in here”.
Who knows what gave it away. Maybe it was the rolling of the eyes, or the mournful cries each time she uttered “Can we also discuss…”, but she was quite right. I’d rather have been dangling from a bamboo, precariously balanced across the top of a live volcano than spent any longer in that room.
The laws of decency state that if you intend to detain someone in a room for a meeting of any longer than one hour, you forewarn them, or you at least provide some sustenance. Since the time spent in there will be completely wasted you might as well get a biscuit or two out of it because, sure as shit, it will be the most productive thing you do in that time.
So when we broke through the one hour mark, in a sweltering and biscuit-free zone, and I heard her say “While we’re all here let’s also…” I punctuated it with my own “Oh for fuck’s sake”, and dropped my head into my hands. It wasn’t enough to stop her so I held on for maybe a few more seconds out of politeness before standing up, announcing “that’s enough” and walking out, to the sound of her speed-talking her way through her final, worthless monologue and a few chairs scraping across the floor as the remaining poor bastards followed me out.
Since then the call for meetings has fallen silent. Maybe this was a direct result of my behaviour, or maybe it was the silent fall of a blanket of apathy across what remains of the team. Either way, it’s worth remembering apathy kept me and my family out of harm’s way as children, so perhaps it’s not such a bad thing after all.