Thursday, April 7, 2016

Story 129: Neverending Meeting

            (Scene: A conference room with a long table seating 12 and a monitor on the wall opposite the door)
            Chair: This meeting has come to order.  Have you all finished reviewing the minutes?  (Nearly everyone shakes their heads “No”)  What’s the matter with you people?!  You have one job to do!  Now we’re set back half an hour, because we are not rubber-stamping the last meeting: you are all going to sit here and read them thoroughly, and that’s a Robert’s Rules of Order!
            (They take five minutes to read the meeting minutes thoroughly, in shame)
            Member 1: I make a motion to approve?
            Chair: Are you asking me or telling the floor?
            Member 1: I make a motion to approve.
            Member 2: So moved.
            Chair: Only I can say “So moved”!  You have to say “second”!
            Member 2: Second!
            Chair: Thank you.  All in favor?
            Member 3: I have one revision….
            (Ten minutes later)
            Chair: For the last time, it was never tabled, it was passed unanimously!  Am I the only one who pays attention?  Now: motion to approve?
            Member 1: Motion.
            Chair: Second?
            Member 4: Second.
            Chair: All in favor?
            Member 5: (Looking closely at the papers) Wait a minute, it says here….
            (Fifteen minutes later)
            Chair: (Leaning on his hand with his elbow propped on the table) Motion to approve?  (Hands raise in the air) Second? (More hands) All in favor?  (All hands raise) So moved.
            Member 6: [Sighs in relief]
            Chair: (Straightens up in his seat and picks up the meeting packet) We’ll proceed now with the rest of the agenda.  The first item is a video presentation of the plans for the second floor’s conversion.  (The secretary starts the video on the monitor) This is 20 minutes long, so feel free to visit the buffet while it is playing.  (Two thirds of the table leaves to grab food.  About halfway through the video, the sound cuts out as someone drills through the ceiling)
            Chair: (Looking upward) Who the blazes are you?!
            Worker: (Sticks head through the hole in the ceiling) Hi, we were hired to work on the second floor conversion.
           Chair: Oh really?  As you were, then.  (The head retreats through the hole; the Chair addresses the rest of the committee) And just when was I going to be told about this?  Why on earth are we just now seeing a video with the proposed plans when the plans are obviously so far advanced that they’ve commenced with the drilling!
            Secretary: The higher ups just sent me the video yesterday.
          Chair: Typical.  Might as well watch the rest of it, then; just turn on the closed captioning, would you?
            (They watch the rest of the video with the drilling as a soundtrack)
         Chair: Right – that was fascinating, and clearly any vote we might have had on this is meaningless, so this will be on the record as “Informational,” with our disapproval clearly emphasized.
            Member 7: I have a few points to make that I would like on the record, if you don’t mind –
            Chair: I do mind!  But go ahead.
            (Half an hour later)
            Member 7: …and they will have to go back and fix it anyway; it’s all about money.
          Chair: Why are you always surprised when you realize that?  Speaking of money, can we please move on to next year’s budget?
            Member 7: I have one more thing.
            Chair: No you don’t, you’ve had 20 things already.  Next year’s budget, please?
           Member 5: Yes, I brought some numbers from this fiscal year and the previous one that I’d like you all to look at.  (Distributes papers)
          Chair: Why didn’t you forward these earlier so we had time to look at them before the meeting?!  Never mind, it’s too late now.  (Quickly reads the papers and then tosses them away)  These numbers are garbage.  How are we making any money?
            Member 5: Well, here are some other numbers that exclude certain factors – you may like these better.  (Distributes papers)
            Chair: (Reads) And they say numbers never lie.
            Member 5: Not without some assistance.
            Chair: I do like these better; I want to keep them and use them for next year’s budget.
            Member 8: Just a moment: there seem to be entire months missing from the second report.
            Member 5: They were months that had the certain factors that could be excluded.
            Member 8: Could you review your methodology on that for me?
            Member 5: Now?
            Member 8: Yes.
            Chair: Must you?
            Member 8: Yes!
            (Twenty-five minutes later)
            Member 8: But you still haven’t shown where that line item went!
            (Member 9 starts banging his head on the table)
            Chair: Yes, I think we have all heard enough on finances to last us forever.  Motion to table this until a more accurate and acceptable report is issued?
            Member 5: Hey!
            Member 8: Second!
            Chair: So moved.  (Looks at the agenda) Where’s the vendor rep?
            Secretary: She got stuck in traffic.
            Chair: All right, table that for now.
            Member 10: Can we go back to the second floor conversion topic for a bit?
            (Forty-five minutes later)
           Chair: I don’t want them to have cameras in all the cubicles either, but apparently no one cares what we think, what’s done is done, and I don’t want to talk about this anymore ever again!  Now, can we please go on to the next item on the agenda?
            Member 1: Motion.
            Chair: That doesn’t need a motion!  (Clears throat) The topic is “Customer Satisfaction.”
            Member 7: Can we say “non-existent”?
            Chair: So says the one who LOST THREE ACCOUNTS THIS YEAR!
            (Member 7 slides down in her seat)
            Chair: Well, folks?  Any ideas on how to improve this disaster?
            Member 2: Lower prices? 
            Member 3: Better people on the phone to speak to?
            Member 4: Better products?
            Chair: All I’m hearing is gibberish.
            (The door to the conference room opens)
            Secretary: Oh, hi!  It’s the rep.
            Rep: Sorry I’m late – I thought I missed the meeting.
            Chair: No, as you can see, we are all still here and will be for quite some time.
            (The next presentation is shown, to the sound of jackhammering in the ceiling.  The video is over in five minutes)
            Chair: That’s it?!
            Rep: I was requested to keep it brief because you wanted a short meeting.
          Chair: Well we can’t always get what we want.  Questions?  (To the rep) OK, thank you for coming –
            Member 6: Wait, I have a question.
            (Members 2 and 9 run screaming out of the room; 20 minutes later)
            Member 6: Could you go over the projected timeframe analysis one more time?  I’m confused on a few things.
            Rep: (Looks at watch) I actually will have to e-mail that to you later; I just realized that I’m needed back at the office – right now.  Thank you for your time!  (Hastens away)
            Chair: Hm.  Since we are now entering Hour 3 of this meeting, I want to keep this section brief: “Pay Cuts.”
            Member 5: Shouldn’t that issue’ve been raised with the budget?  Speaking of which….
            (Fifteen minutes later)
            Chair: We’re arguing in circles!  “No” means “Forget it!”
            (The door opens)
            Another Secretary: Excuse me, the next meeting scheduled for this room is here.
            Chair: Tell them to get lost!  We have another 10 items on our agenda, one of which is “Open Discussion,” so tell them to come back tomorrow!
            (The remaining committee members and both secretaries have left in the meantime)
           Chair: Well.  I never said that we adjourned, so technically this meeting is in perpetual session.

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