Not much fear, but a shit ton of loathing…

Today, perhaps as much as or even more than any other, reflects one of the biggest reasons I’ve learned to loath Monday through Friday. Sit back and let me tell you a little story…

It was supposed to be a run of the mill briefing. Spend an hour talking about Topic A, find out the new whims of the powers at echelons higher than reality, and drive on smartly towards the finish line. A few hours before show time, they also added Topic B to the lineup. That’s fine. A little bit of fiddling with the material and all will be well. Thirty minutes after that they announced the need for a pre-meeting meeting. Fine. Good. Let’s talk about what we’re going to talk about. Ten minutes later, a message comes out adding an additional 30 minutes to the meeting. Now we’re weighing in at 90 minutes with Topics A, B, and C. Finally, an hour before everything is theoretically supposed to be in place, the final call comes that we’ll really be discussing Topics A, B, C, and D so please have that prepped and printed in the next 30 minutes. Also, your 60 minute meeting is now scheduled for 120 minutes.

At the appointed time, the people gather – the deputies, and strap hangers, and clerks, and slide flippers, and administrators that accompany every movement of important people. The court of a minor royal house, if you will. And then, when all were assembled and the proceedings were just getting underway, the Gods on Olympus decided to take a pass. More commandments would be issued. More perfect explanations offered. And opportunities to revise and extend remarks concerning Topics A, B, C, and D would be offered before laying the motion to reconsider back upon the table.

Fuck all if we don’t make every little thing 10 or 100 or 1000 times harder than it needs to be if you’d just let common sense prevail instead of spending all day every day worried about what asses need covered and which ones need kissed. I use to be good at just turning off my brain and letting the stupid flow over and around me like a river in spring flood. The older I get, though, the harder it seems to keep my mouth shut and my own ass out if trouble. At this rate I can’t even begin to imagine the things that will come flying out of my mouth 17 years and 11 months from now when self-preservation is no longer an operational consideration.

Legitimate controlling authority…

Despite having no actual personal interest in event planning, I have a skill for it. I’ve largely learned to accept that fate for the time being. The thing about being a party planner is that it relies entirely on convincing people to go along with whatever wild ass scheme you come up with for them since you have no actual statutory authority to direct anyone to do anything.

The largest portion of my job that isn’t slamming together PowerPoint slides is taken up by “facilitating.” Since I’m not a subject matter expert in nearly anything these days, I specialize in putting the right people in a room and trying to help them come up with a plan. Sometimes people don’t want to play along. That sucks, but beyond flooding their inbox with meeting invitations and leaving the occasional well-worded voice message, I don’t have any actual power to force anyone to show up.

There are those at echelons higher than reality, however, that do have the power to force people to show up at specific times and places where they would rather not be. When those people turn to you and demand to know why someone isn’t in the room, well, the best I can do is shrug and remind them that I sent the invitation, I followed up with multiple calls, I sent a second invitation… and that at the end of the day, I’m not the one with the authority to make anyone do shit.

If those with legitimate controlling authority choose not to exercise it in favor of having we mere mortals ask nicely, I have no idea why they’d expect the results to be anything other than what they are.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Working lunch. Fuck that noise. I’m either working or I’m at lunch. There is no middle ground where that issue is concerned. Lunch implies a pause from labor in order to nourish and sustain the body. Flipping slides as part of a conclave of the great and the good while popping Tic Tacs and swilling warm Coke and cold coffee just to keep myself awake does not in any way constitute “having lunch.” Don’t worry, though, I’ll go ahead and adjust my departure time accordingly.

2. Undeserved ego. I don’t have any complaint about people whose ego is deserved. There are plenty who walk among us who are perfectly justified in displaying their swollen head at every opportunity. It’s something else entirely if you’re thinking so highly of yourself for no discernible reason. Because people are generally polite by nature, most of them won’t tell you that your new clothes aren’t clothes at all – Their desire for self-preservation will see to that. But rest assured, every single one of us will be thinking it every time your pie hole swings open.

3. Meetings (again, because frankly they’re probably the single most annoying element of my life). As a rule of thumb I’ve always thought a meeting should be a quick affair. It’s a chance to pull a lot of people into a room and convey information that can’t be shared any other way. That’s fine in principle. The problem arises when people want to use a meeting as a forum to “do the work.” In my experience that’s the very last thing that happens in a meeting. There may be loads of discussion but you should never confuse that with having accomplished a great deal of work. It’s the kind of thing I think about during the first in a series of three and a half hour long meetings – wherein I have seemingly limitless time to ponder bad career choices and the 210 minutes of my life I will never ever been able to get back.

The bad with the good…

For those of you who work in an environment where having a meeting is not the coin of the realm, all I can say is I’m feeling more than a little bit jealous. I’m jealous because my Friday last week went basically like this:

The Good News: The staff meeting today is cancelled.

The Bad News: You’re going to need to sit through this other 3.5 hour meeting that in no way relates to anything you do on a regular basis.

Wow. Thanks for that opportunity.

Let’s just say that over the course of those three and a half hours we were supposed to cover something on the order of 75 slides. By the two hour mark we had gone over 10 of them. At three hours, that total had climbed to 19. By the time a halt was called at three hours and thirty minutes of endurance, we had managed to get through a total of 23 slides – or 6.57 slides per hour. If you’ve never wanted to gouge your own eyes out just to have something to do, this is the experience that will push you happily towards that extreme.

The cost of just the people sitting in that room for half a day runs north of $5,500 just in baseline salary. Add in incidentals like benefits, electricity, telephone costs, video connection fees, and other extraneous expenses, and that cost easily doubles. My point is not only are meetings an inefficient way to spend our waking hours, but they’re also ruinously expensive.

The only thing saving me from a repeat of this fate tomorrow is a trip to the blessed dentist. If you think for a moment that having a temporary crown ripped off and the permanent version glued into place is in any way the greater of these two evils, well then friend, you just have been in the right meetings.

Sigh. Yet another item on the growing list of things that would be dispensed with if I were elevated to king for the day.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Appointments. Look, I’m the customer. I’m calling your business for an appointment. When I tell you that I don’t want an appointment after 4:00 the next three times you try to give me should not be after 4:00. When I tell you Thursdays are not a good day for me, how about not offering up times on Thursday. I’m trying to give you a not insignificant amount of money to provide a service. The least you could reasonably be expected to do is make the transaction slightly less onerous.

2. Being a square peg fitted into a round hole. There are many subject matter experts in my building. I’m not one of them. My skills don’t lie in my technical expertise. They do, however, lie in making sure the people with the right skill sets all show up to the same place in the often vain hope that something might get accomplished by the time it’s over. I’m a facilitator. When Person A has a problem, I make the appropriate introduction to Person B and then stand back and let the magic happen. I know just enough about the details for my opinions on them to be wrong at least as often as they’re right. That’s why I don’t sell myself as the resident expert… so when you try to cram me into that role because I happen to be available in the moment, don’t be surprised when things don’t go exactly how you planned.

3. Acceptance. I’m an Anglophile from way back. If it weren’t for their ridiculously high taxation and periodic dalliances with socialism, I’d strongly consider England a strong contender as a place I wouldn’t mind ending up in retirement. I follow a number of official UK government social media feeds which have been filled in the recent days with pictures of Her Majesty The Queen and assorted members of the Royal Family distributing knighthoods. I’m starting to come to the grim acceptance that the clock may be running out on my chance to ever make it onto the Honours List.

Friday feeling…

If you spend any time on social media you can’t help by notice the inundation of posts celebrating the arrival of Friday – as if Friday was actually part of the weekend and not just another fifth of the regular work week. As for me, my #FridayFeeling is largely one of profound disinterest – apathy mixed with a deep desire to be almost anywhere else (war zones and 3rd world countries excluded). Mostly, though, it’s a desire to be at home, with a good book and a stiff drink, surround by fuzzy animals. At this stage of life my desires are modest and reasonable.

It’s increasingly hard to remember there was a time when I was actually ambitious – when I wanted to go places and do things. It’s even harder to remember there was a time when I had the mental energy left over to make those things happen. That’s especially true when the here and now is so often taken up with just trying not to fall asleep during a staff meeting and smashing my face into the table or drooling all over myself.

Fifty percent…

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.