For me, the waiting is just about the worst. Sitting in a quiet place knowing in an hour or less it will be swarming with hundreds of people who talk for a living and are yelling to be heard over one another is really just like a descent into madness. Or maybe a decent into hell. Possibly both.
Business developers, sales execs… as far as the eye can see its people who want to talk and want you to talk with them. I’d very nearly rather set myself on fire. I’m sure they are all very fine human beings, but their innate mode of operation exhausts me at a very base level.
Waiting for this barely controlled chaos to start is awful… but pretending to be engaged, polite, and vaguely interested for hours on end in what several hundred complete strangers are saying is really just about the very worst thing you can ask me to do in terms of mental health and wellbeing.
Frankly I’m amazed that year after year I get through it without completely withdrawing into my own head and slipping quietly into psychiatric emergency.
With today’s setting sun we’ve arrived at the halfway point of this week’s events. It’s also the shortest day on the schedule, so thinking of it as halfway done is a bit deceptive. Even if we are fifty percent finished, the more demanding elements of the schedule are still to come – the ones that historically run way over or way under their allotted time without much rhyme or reason for why it’s happening other than the vagaries of public speaking and lack of effective rehearsal time. Fun fact is that most people apparently have absolutely no concept of time once they’re in front of an audience… and they tend to ramble. A lot.
There’s a part of me that wishes I was an optimist and thought that all will be smooth from now through the end. The part of me that has done this more often than I want to remember knows that tomorrow will be the day the wheels fly off if it’s going to happen. I also know there isn’t a think I can do to change that trajectory in the next twelve hours. So, in the finest traditions of the bureaucracy, I shrug, get a few hours of sleep, and wait for the feces to intersect with the air movement mechanism… and people say I don’t know how to have a good time.
I had a moment today. It was a moment in the late afternoon when the phone wasn’t ringing, there weren’t two dozen emails demanding immediate action, and no one was parked at my deskside expecting a decision of any kind. It startled me. It startled me and the the reality set in that I was in the calm… that last moment of peace, the deep breath before the inevitable shitstorm crashes over your head, swamps all efforts to manage it, and defiles everything it touches with its unholy stench.
Yes friends, I had that moment of calm this afternoon and every finely honed sense developed during nearly half a lifetime as a professional bureaucrat is screaming out a warning of rough weather ahead. Truth be known, I could have done without the calm – without the chance to sit back for a minute and think on the myriad of ways the thousand moving parts of this circus can come undone between now and Monday.
Someone once said that “Jeff is happiest when he’s bitching loudest.” There’s probably some truth in that… although I’d settle for being a little less happy if there were reason to need to do a little less bitching.
Next week will be my personal version of hell, featuring 12 hour days, 750 of my new best friends all crammed into one room, and having all the responsibility to make it go right, none of the authority to make any actual decisions, and every bit of the blame if the wheels fall off for any reason. If I were in any way in control of my own destiny this would basically be the very last thing in which I would ever knowingly engage. Yet, party planning sticks with me from job to job like some kind of Gypsy curse.
If next week is hell, this week is a strong contender for that title. It’s the week in which everyone who has been ignoring the impending arrival of hell week has their “oh shit” moment and realizes if they don’t do something they’re going to look like utter twatwaffles in front of a live studio audience. When I was teaching this was the part of the year when I got to tell students that no, they really were going to fail because they didn’t bother to do any homework. I’m told, however, that letting these people fail, regardless of how deserving they may be of it, is “unprofessional.”
It all means that in many ways I’m spoon feeding adult humans a lot of information that was previously made available in slides, and memos, and email, and through various and sundry face to face conversations. I’m paying for the same ground five or six times a day in some cases… and paying for the same ground over and over and over again makes Jeff very, very surly.
Whatever else may be in doubt this week, you can rest assured that behind this serene exterior is a stroke or heart attack just waiting for the right moment to strike me down.
1. The link doesn’t work. In order to register for a major upcoming event, people need to follow a ling from the announcement to the registration page. For 20 people today, the internet proved to be too hard to use… and led to the creation of a response that I could copy and paste instructing them to 1) copy and paste the link into their browser if it wasn’t appearing “hot” in the announcement message; 2) Try using a different browser if that didn’t work; 3) Restart their computer and reconnect to their company network in the event neither #1 or #2 resolved their problem. Failing all three quick fixes, I directed them to the actual help email of the website they were trying to use. These are the thought leaders and business developers in the communications field. I just shouldn’t need to tell them how to internet at a basic level. And people wonder why every damned thing is getting hacked. Sigh.
2. Teams. Against my wishes and my better judgement I’m called upon from time to time to be in charge of various team projects. They’re not fun or character building experience, more something that must simply be endured. The problem, largely, with teams is that they are populated with other people. Those other people will likely not feel the same sense of urgency to get things done that you yourself may feel. Some will have no urgency to speak of while others will treat every small decision like The Most Important Thing in the World. Both of these types of people are obnoxious and entire detrimental to good order and discipline. Sadly punching them in the throat or drinking heavily at your desk are both considered “inappropriate” coping skills.
3. Vaguely worded email. If you’re going to take the time to send me a message via electronic mail, for the love of God go ahead and take the extra 30 seconds to read your own drivel and make sure that it makes some semblance of sense to the reader… Because honest Injun, if I have to consult the oracle or cast bones to divine your intent, that mess is going to end up deleted and I’ll spend the rest of the day judging you.
1. No means no. Yes there are empty seats. No you can’t fill them. If I’m going to risk my career that $50 bribe you offered isn’t going to get it done. Asshat.
2. Closing time. If you’re sitting in a venue and the lights go out, that’s a good sign it’s time to leave. You can go to the local tavern, grab a bit to eat, or finger bang each other out in the parking lot for all I care. But you can’t stay here.
3. Q&A. All your questions are answered on the agenda. Read the agenda. Don’t be the douchebag who asks the 100th time where the bathrooms are or what time someone is presenting. Asked and answers. Actually, we answered before you asked.
4. You look tired. There’s a reason for that. That reson involves the alarm clock ringing at 0330 the last 4 mornings so I can get here at least an hour before you do and being here an hour or two after you’re (supposed to) leave. Want to help me look less tired, go sit in your seat quietly and try not to say anything stupid.
Remember when I said I was going to keep up with blogging this week? Bwahahahahhaha! Yeah. Me neither.