Oh, sweetest listener.
They are an integral part of grown-up life, like love, depression, and buying the wrong bin bags. Whatever your vocation in this strange and bewildering grown-up world, you will, at some point, have sat through a meeting.
That meeting might have been so phenomenal that you emerged from it on a PowerPoint-induced high and were forced to do something spontaneous and dangerous, like a bungee jump or get an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, just to make use of the adrenaline.
On the other hand, that meeting might have caused you to question the very meaning of humanity and your status therein, wish a terrible ‘accident’ upon everyone the room, and wonder whether the fall from the window would kill you.
As the question ‘Why are meetings evil?’ is one of the most pressing and profound in the modern world, I have attempted to answer this with a comprehensive list of reasons, and, for the good of mankind, have also suggested the best methods with which to remedy these ghastly situations. (I did prepare a PowerPoint presentation, but Stickman closed it down before I could save it, all because he wanted to look at his disgusting websites.)
The foundations behind any meeting’s evilness. I have never sat down at a large cluster of tables with a plastic cup of cold coffee and been told ‘Right, the purpose of today’s meeting is to design a Julie Andrews-themed theme park, and come up with names for the rides, like ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialigoodnessmethisisfast’. We will also be drawing a lot of pictures of roller coasters.’
That literally never happens.
What does happen, is someone says ‘BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA QUALITY DATA BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAA PERFORMANCE INDICATORS BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA SPREADSHEETS BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA EFFICIENCY MANAGEMENT BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAABIMBAMBUMBOODLE I’M GOING TO BORE THE BUM OFF YOU BUMBUMBUMBUMBUMSPOON.’
Due to the fact that the topic under discussion is invariably as enchanting as a hernia, the very act of being alive can become a strain. You begin to wish your skin would melt off just so you could leave the room to get some Savlon from the first aid box. The speaker’s words cease to be words, just noises, like a walrus humming. Concern grows that your brain might actually be crumbling, and will soon dribble out of your ears like a torrent of soggy moths. The clock tells you you have two more hours to endure, and you panic.
If there is a view from the window, estimate how long it would take you to travel from one end of the view to the other using various styles of movement i.e. crawling, galloping, ambling as though filled with hubris. If there is no view from the window, imagine one bursting with sunshine, meadows, sparkling brooks, and those cartoon cupids from Fantasia. If there is no window, get out immediately. You are being held against your will and they are going to torture you, remove your limbs, and laugh at your helpless torso.
In an age where we can hold the world in our hands, explore distant galaxies, and make washing machines that are also tumble dryers, no one has invented a meeting room with a stable climate in which living organisms can exist comfortably for any portion of time. In these chambers of atmospheric whimsy you will either be boiled to death in temperatures that make the Sahara feel like an English Summer, or you will get hypothermia, pneumonia and frostbite in a sub-zero climate about which you can do absolutely NOTHING, because the air-conditioning is controlled from an office in Saffron Waldon, and by the time you have logged a call, requested that the air-conditioning is turned off, received an acknowledgement of your request and a promise to respond within 24 hours, you will already be dead.
If it is too hot, strip to your underwear, lie on the table and ask the speaker for a Lemon Fanta and a massage. If it is too cold, your most judicious option is to make a hefty coat from the skins of your colleagues. If you have no instruments with which to achieve this (don’t underestimate the uses of the humble Biro) or are of a non-murderous disposition, you’ll just have to hold up a placard with a polite request to put the heating on, vocal ability having been rendered impossible due to the air-conditioning drying your passages so that they resemble the dusty pipes of a derelict manor house.
Without doubt the most deathly appalling and evil element of any meeting. In that inescapable confined space you are subjected to the various bodily clanks and clunks of people you haven’t chosen to be locked up with, because why would you choose to spend two hours with someone who clears their throat every six and a half seconds? Not a cough, listener – they never actually cough, there is an apparently insufficient build-up of phlegm to warrant an actual cough – a mere clearing of the throat. Every six and a half seconds. You know the sort I mean. A little ‘hahhugm’ noise. Every six and a half seconds. After two hours each ‘hahhugm’ is like a dagger in your heart.
And then you must contend with the sniffers, the sneezers, the sighers, and, the godfather of all evil meeting elements: the speaker’s mouth noises.
The loud swallows, listener – every squelch his saliva makes as it forces itself down his throat echoes through the room and pierces your very soul with its heinousness. The sucking of his tongue on his teeth every time he draws breath or starts a new sentence; the occasional slurp or snort; or the accumulation of such a quantity of saliva in his mouth that it sounds like he’s talking through a mouthful of cotton wool, and this only serves to intensify your growing panic as you begin to rock back and forth, a tear forms in your eye, and you silently offer up your own grandmother in exchange for just one swallow from the speaker.
There is no easy way to deal with this evil meeting situation without making tyrannical and barbaric use of staple guns and shredding machines.
No, I mean there really is no other way.
It is well-known that meeting rooms are fitted with devices that spray invisible yet potent soporific gases into the atmosphere to cause almost coma-level drowsiness and extreme weakness in the inhabitants of said room. There is no other way to explain the unfathomable and almost biblical lethargy that one feels immediately upon entering a meeting room. You might think you’re a fairly virile, bounding sort of chap – you eat a lot of pulses and lean protein, and you fit in a couple of 5K runs a week and people say things like ‘I wish I had your energy’ or ‘I can’t keep up with you’ – and yet you are no match for the epic fatigue that consumes your entire being during a meeting.
There are two effective methods to combat the epic fatigue: the first is to make a cocktail of espresso, Lucozade, Red Bull and cocaine, and fifteen minutes before the meeting inject it into your veins. There are possible extraordinary side effects of this method, including re-enacting an entire battle scene from Gladiator with you playing all the parts (including the horses), building a scale model of a pyramid using pencils, agendas and your colleagues, and trying to walk on the ceiling.
A less disruptive method is to simply give in to the epic fatigue and get yourself a nice couple of hours kip, with only a marginal risk of shouting out potentially compromising dream words.
So there you have it. I hope you now feel equipped, dear attentive listener, to deal with any future meetings that you will inevitably have to attend if you are to remain in this grown-up life. There is, of course, the catalogue of Plausible and Implausible But Always Mega Excuses to Avoid Going to a Meeting, which you should carry around with you at all times, particularly for those unscheduled meetings that managers like to spring on employees to make sure they’re still alive.