You’re in the conference room, the meeting has just begun and so has the idiocy.
In one corner, Daisy’s thumbs are a blur on your iPhone as she posts a photo of a fluffy bunny on Pinterest (“Precious!“). She is The Texter.
Next to her, beads of sweat are forming on Danny’s forehead. He’s rocking back and forth in his chair, ready to erupt because he wants to make a point, but hasn’t been able to muster the composure to speak to an audience greater than two since the Reagan administration. He half-raises his hand, jerks it back down and purses his lips, never sensing the right opportunity to give voice to his thought. A frown but no sound. He is The Mime.
Doug’s lips have been flapping like a seaside banner for the past five minutes, but the only thing coming out is hot air – he simply repeats what someone else just said, in slightly different words. Sometimes in Spanish. He is The Repeat Offender.
From the newsroom to the hood of a Humvee through two decades of professional life, these and other meeting archetypes have stalked me like the imaginary FBI agent who haunted John Nash in “A Beautiful Mind.” For the benefit of humanity I describe a few of them below, so you have an amusing distraction when people start exchanging verbal pablum at your next staff meeting…
A couple years ago, my boss and I were sitting in the back of a darkened room and noticed an acquaintance (call him Big Mac) sitting next to the big boss, nodding vertically at everything that was being said by anyone. My boss whispered, “Look at Big Mac. Idiot. Like he knows what the fuck anyone’s talking about.” The nods became more pronounced as the seniority of the speaker increased. My boss added, “He gives logisticians a bad name.” (Can logisticians have a good name?) Introducing The Bobble Head.
During work meetings, that same boss had an uncanny knack for quoting policy documents, statistics and dates verbatim in a synthesized voice that reminded me of Joshua, the computer that nearly started World War III in the ’80s movie “War Games.” I wondered whether he simply needed to change his oil instead of eating real food. In any case, meet The Robot.
Someone is speaking, but above the din of the projector and her dull monotone voice is incessant clicking, patterned like a Morse Code message. Are the clicks trying to say, “S-O-S, help me?” or “I’m an undisciplined drone who can’t sit still?” This person is The Pen Clicker.
Fancy seminars may have food available, so office drones can optimize productivity by staying in the office for lunch. Awesome. Skip the salad? Pass on the Kettle Chips? Save the apple for the next break? Hell no – eat it inside while someone is trying to talk. Congratulations, you are The Muncher.
Is it 4th-and-goal at the 1-yard line with 2 seconds left? Is it time to put competitors in a chokehold? Maybe punch a hole through his chest? If you catch his hand in our cookie jar again, are you going to cut off his hand? Spit in his face? Cut his throat? Stomp his guts out? Eat his face off? Regardless of the meeting topic, every problem is a knife fight. Every deadline becomes a goal-line stand with seconds left. Every success is celebrated with a fist bump or violent guy hug. Welcome to the meeting, Macho Man.
Post-lunch witching hour? Too early to talk about serious stuff? Just take a nap. Let your eyes rest and become Rip Van Winkle. Good … night … now…