Cheeseburger Gothic

The Meeting

Posted July 15, 2013 into Funny by John Birmingham

(From the back page of the Sunday Age)

I called a meeting this week. I felt it was important to meet because I read an article in The Wall Street Journal about how checklists could turn ineffective meetings into growling, super-charged engines of productivity. My spluttering, lawnmower engine of productivity often coughs and stalls when I’m distracted by articles of eye glazing dullness on sites I would never visit in a million years were I not on deadline, so at the top of my meeting checklist was an agenda item to discuss the importance of not reading Wall Street Journal articles about meeting checklists.

I summoned my department heads and senior VPs of this and that which, since I work from home, meant the cat and the dog. The dog, who is the hero of our organization’s long struggle to waste as little effort as possible was already efficiently asleep under my desk, her early arrival at the meeting signaled by gentle farts and a rumbling snore.

The cat, however, was nowhere to be seen. Hmm. This meeting was already going off the rails. Not sure how to proceed, I checked back with the Journal.

The other division heads are plotting against me. I know it.

The ‘first thing to check’ said The Wall Street Journal, was whether this meeting required ‘a meeting’ or whether we could simply meet? Given the many, long festering rivalries between my subordinates, disputes which have on occasion erupted into open hostilities, the chances of being able to resolve anything during some informal corridor meet up were judged to be somewhat less than the chances of any such meet up turning into a yowling, spitting explosion of bad blood and fur.

It seemed then that we did require a proper meeting, because important working people in this go-go business world of ours are always meeting and if we were not to be left behind it was time to get down to business and started checking off that list. Cat or no cat.

The dog farted, once, softly in agreement.

Having satisfied the need for our meeting, but still hamstrung by the absence of a key player, I turned to the Journal for guidance. The dog lifted her head at the mention of ham.

Are the right people meeting, the Journal demanded to know, and only the right people? The dog signaled her agreement with some on topic flatulence that, as far as she was concerned we had everyone present who needed to be present, but there should probably be some ham, too. I opened a window to clear the air of her contribution. She did have a point, though. According to The Wall Street Journal, anyone not directly contributing to the meeting was nothing more than a Meeting Tourist and should be detailed off to more productive work.

This raised an important point that I felt justified moving off-agenda, even if only briefly, lest this meeting fail to meet its objectives, forcing me to return to writing something for money. The cat, by his studied indifference to and absence from a meeting he very well knew to be important to the future of this whole operation, was not contributing. As such he really couldn’t be considered anything more than a Meeting Tourist and should be dismissed to get back to his core competencies of having a long nap on the front deck unless he was already busy sleeping in the sunny spot on the couch.

But if the cat wasn’t there, how could we even move these things forward.

Well, Wall Street Journal? Well?!!?

The Journal, never one to be taken unexpectedly by the unexpected, demanded to know “who is leading this meeting”. For the first time I was actually thankful for the absence of the cat which has long questioned and even openly challenged the formal hierarchy of our organization.

“Me,” I said. “I’m in charge here. Don’t listen to that damned cat.”

I could have sworn the dog laughed at that point, but she cunningly pretended to be asleep again and turned it into a snore when I glared at her. This whole meeting was teetering precariously on the edge of collapse and ignominy. I had deadlines to attend to, paying deadlines, and yet here I was stuck in some interminable meeting that stopped me from moving on to other things which could have just as unprofitably stopped me from moving onto those deadlines.

Buzzfeed’s very important articles on “The Miniature Pigs You Need To See Before You Die” and “40 Things We Learned At The Hedgehog Convention” remained unread while I was shitting stress kittens trying to deal with the ticking timebomb of this whole meeting checklist fiasco.

The last thing I needed to hear at that moment was the whiny, judgmental drone of the The Wall Street Bloody Journal asking “Are you stressing yourself by trying to run the agenda, keep time, take notes, direct the conversation all at once?”

No! I was stressing myself by trying to bring some semblance of order to a bloody shambles of a day that had been torpedoed amidships by my shiftless and disloyal feline Vice President for lounging around on his furry arse all day and the complete lack of anything even resembling support from Farty the Wonder Dog who decided to opt out of any sensible contribution just because there was no ham on the agenda.

Finally, in a fit of rage I declared the meeting closed and stormed out of the office, only to be confronted by the cat, arriving late, saying he’d heard there was ham.

30 Responses to ‘The Meeting’

Rob has opinions thus...

Posted July 15, 2013

That reminds me of a meeting I had organised by a colleague doing a masters degree in management. If I bought my pugs it would have been more interesting, actually the cats and pugs would have made it better.

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Conspiracy Cat would have you know...

Posted July 15, 2013

Once my kidlets were all in school, I found it provident - nay, essential - to gather the family together on a weekly basis to discuss family business. The Sunday night agenda would list such things as upcoming events, (like dress-up days at school, so I'm not stuck making a goat costume at midnight the day before - again), outstanding homework projects (as we don't have a dog to blame for eating them), and who has detention for failing to bring in goat costumes or homework projects the previous week.

As is to be expected, the only way I can entice the family to the meeting table is with deep fried food wrapped in bacon. I can usually manage to discuss (...nag about...) three agenda items before all the good stuff is eaten and the remainder (usually salad) is used for what has become (despite my strenuous objections) an obligatory family meeting food fight. (Allegedly we are a democracy, and I was outvoted. *sigh*). I have learned the hard way to never serve corn cobs on a Sunday night.

Somehow I doubt the Wall Street Journal would have mentioned that.

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sibeen would have you know...

Posted July 15, 2013

I have similar staffing issues at my home office, JB.

The yougest staff member is always complaining about me calling her a bitch.

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insomniac puts forth...

Posted July 15, 2013

The dog is a toady. A cat would never be as yes-man.

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Dino not to be confused with has opinions thus...

Posted July 15, 2013

Labradors=Farts.

When they get up, for no good reason, and walk away you should take note; it's gonna be a bad one.

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Carolyn Cordon asserts...

Posted July 15, 2013

Don't trust the cat. Cat's always have their own agenda. and the words World Domination always feature prominently. Just don't trust the cat, your life and the lives of millions depend on your vigilence.

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat puts forth...

Posted July 15, 2013
You're right, Carolyn. It's taken me 7 months, but I have finally wrestled back my office from the cat. I just Googled "cats and world domination" and there are whole websites devoted to this disturbing truth. On a serious note, there is a team where I work which has "stand-up meetings" - no one is allowed to take a seat, because they want the meetings to take under 10 minutes and be super-slick. Seems to work, but no fried food.

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat mutters...

Posted July 15, 2013
"God made the cat in order that humankind might have the pleasure of caressing the tiger." - Fernand Mery Watch out for that crouching tiger!

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Greybeard swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 15, 2013

I have had far less productive meetings than that with actual people (no offense to any dog or cat who's convinced that they are indeed people). Also got sin-binned from head's of dept meetings for suggesting that most of the items were of no interest to more than two or three people, if anyone. Three week "penalty".

damian reckons...

Posted July 16, 2013

There is a joy in practising the art of disrupting the boring and pointless meeting, a joy that is born in the blackest despair. The very best thing is when your alleged derailment actually turns the meeting productive and leads to a positive outcome.

Well okay, not the very best thing. There are many, many better things. But context is everything...

w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted July 16, 2013

Meetings need to have an agenda and discipline.
On the fun side, I once somewhat reformed a regular meeting that had developed bad timewasting practices by accurately recording the minutes.

  • Simone proposed that her second child, Tommy, was getting too much homework from his 3rd grade teacher. Bob said that, when he was in 3rd grade, he didn't get any homework. It was agreed that Tommy seemed to be getting too much homework.
  • Barry said it took him 75 minutes to get to work that day. It was agreed by all that the traffic is getting terrible. Sally proposed that Barry consider public transport. Barry said that he would try 'park and ride' and report back.

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RobertL has opinions thus...

Posted July 15, 2013
FFS I see heaps of this sort of management advice at work and it's all shit. It's all just common sense. Good managers don't need it and bad managers will never understand it. Once every six months or so I pick up a useful tidbit but that's all.

ww8 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 17, 2013

That is truth!

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Brother PorkChop mutters...

Posted July 16, 2013

I love meetings. I love even more cancelling them or rescheduling at the last minute. So far just today I have screwed up 3!! Dogs are indeed "yes men" but cats are "what evahs". The only good cat is a catseroled cat. My dog loves catserole.

Greybeard ducks in to say...

Posted July 16, 2013

+1 for catserole.

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Shifty Tourist is gonna tell you...

Posted July 16, 2013

Reminds me of my last job where I was in charge of a team of, lets say, "very special people." Anyone who has worked in government service knows who I'm talking about... the "ghosts".... they are often seen pushing mail carts around, have been in the public service for decades, and have been redeployed about a dozen times as their workplaces closed, restructered... to the point where nobody is around who actually remembers hiring them.

I had a manager who would insist I hold fortnightly team meetings... he was what you could rightly call a management type. He'd read all the books, was all about developing people, efficiency, change (for the sake of change)... part of his plan to get the team to work better was having meetings to discuss processes and bring about "change" for efficency. I kept wanting to tell him, "they're giving it, all they've got Cap'n".... but of course, young ambitious and not completely stupid I knew I couldn't say that.... so we did the team meetings, every fortnight basically the same (because the work hadn't changed, or any potential to change being extremely) just me talking, awkward silences as I seek input which never comes from the crew.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted July 16, 2013

'but of course, young ambitious and not completely stupid I knew I couldn't say that...'

Wish you had.

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Surtac asserts...

Posted July 16, 2013

Having seen the John Cleese training film 'Meetings. Bloody Meetings.' many years ago, I've subsequently been very cynical about meetings ever since. And I think I've seen every variation and fashion in the meeting space, including the stand up type (popular with Booz Allen Hamilton while they were here in a contractor / consultant role iirc).

And Shifty is right: they always seem to end up in the mail room.

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Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted July 16, 2013

Luckily I no longer have to attend many meetings. I used to volunteer to take the minutes. Whatever happened in the meeting is what I put on paper and by jingies you can get away with making up a lot of crap. Just make sure that the person with 'issues' gets his/her name mentioned a lot. There's always someone with 'issues'. Probably more than one which keeps them busy interrupting each other in discussion about the merits of paperclips versus spring back clips.These types live for meetings and the subsequent minutes; its the only time they see their name in print and for some people its their own little fifteen minutes. Loved under a 'budget' agenda item once I minuted the meeting agreeing to invade Poland. The only person interested in 'budget' received a redacted version of the minutes. I only had one other attendee mention the Poland thing and that wasn't the 'issues' person. They were too busy re-reading their starring role in the paperclip debate and basking in their post meeting glow, preparing their agenda item for the following month.

Shifty Tourist reckons...

Posted July 16, 2013

Stupid stupid debate.... paperclips versus springback clips. What moron would choose paperclips.... and don't get me started on four clip binders versus two clip binders.

Dave W puts forth...

Posted July 16, 2013

omigod omigod omigod- mori clips!

Mori clips are da bomb, paper clips and springback clips suck arse. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you just don't work in an office and understand how these things can sometimes excite the imagination. Just imagine how bored you'd have to be for the appropriate way to keep two pieces of paper together.

Yeah, that's right, that bored.

Shifty Tourist mutters...

Posted July 18, 2013

Mori clip!! Fracking philistine!!!

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Chaz mumbles...

Posted July 16, 2013

What you should be worried about is the meeting that cat was attending whilst not attending yours......

It may have been held in the kitchen

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Johnny B Gone reckons...

Posted July 16, 2013

That was an awesome Tuesday morning read.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted July 16, 2013

Cheers guv

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Tim Richards has opinions thus...

Posted July 16, 2013

"What you should be worried about is the meeting that cat was attending whilst not attending yours......

It may have been held in the kitchen"

Chaz I think you were just missing the final line:

"WHERE THE KNIVES ARE KEPT."

And yes, I should be writing things for money right now too.

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Garth ducks in to say...

Posted July 16, 2013

Haha! Echoes of Kinky Friedman in there too, nicely done.

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oberonsghost mumbles...

Posted July 16, 2013

Hilarious. Many thanks for the belly-laugh.

*heads off to find ham sandwich*

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Len would have you know...

Posted July 16, 2013

Yup. The cat was involved in something far more serious than your meagre attempt at a meeting. He's controlling the agenda, running the whole show behind your back, making plans that extend generations into the future. And he'll strike when you least expect it. My advice? The next time you want to hold a meeting, find the cat first. He'll be attending the real deal and then, you'll know. You'll really know. Good luck.

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Red would have you know...

Posted July 16, 2013

Holy shit, you're better off playing your playing marbles than holding a meeting, John. I did however, approve of the good-looking cat and dog, pictured, albeit not your mangy (mangey? whatever... yeasty infested) pets.

The lustrous black cat and the grinning dog who reminded me of myself circa 1984, stoned, were, I trust, not harrassed to attend your said meeting. I am prepared to call the RSPCA.

I trust also that working from home does not drive you stir crazy.

Respectfully, Ms JG aka Joanna who cannot be trusted, JG.

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