(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 ‘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.