I have one overarching goal in life: to make it easier. Life is inherently difficult, what with the constant metabolizing and the breathing and dealing with hat hair and such. It’s just one thing after another.
And so, I take steps to ease my way. To lighten my load. To smooth the potholed path ahead.
Naturally, these steps end up making my life infinitely more difficult and complicated. Because of course they do. No one is surprised by this. Least of all, my hat hair.
Take office meetings, for instance. Office meetings are hard. Obviously. You have to listen, and sometimes you talk, and there are slides and computers and laser pointers to deal with. It’s exhausting. But more than that, there’s the other fundamental, equally difficult question:
“I don’t sit near the head of the table. Obviously.”
Where do you sit?
In my company, the main meeting room is right across the hall from me. There’s a long table at one end, and an empty space — maybe eight by twelve feet — at the other. The slides and computer keyboard and focused light-based pointing devices are up by the head of the table. That’s also where the important people sit. The C-E-something-or-others. People who put together the agendas. People who know how the laser pointers work.
I don’t sit near the head of the table. Obviously.
That leaves maybe a dozen seats further back — but these seats pose their own problem. We’re a growing company. In most meetings of any importance, there are plenty more than twelve non-executive asses for those twelve seats. This gives most people one of two choices:
Either get to the meeting early, and claim one of those comfy desk chairs, or show up on time (or late) and sit in the back.
Now, there are chairs in the back. We don’t make people sit on the hard cold floor. I mean, we’re not Neanderthals. We have laser pointers, for crissakes. But the chairs in the back are not the comfy desk chairs. Nuh-uh. The desk chairs are luxurious — tall-backed, cushioned, adjustable. They go up and down and spin around and even recline, if you want them to. Not lasciviously, mind you. We’re running a business here.
The chairs in the back are not like that. They’re functional, and they’re not uncomfortable. But they’re a quarter-step up from folding chairs, with thin wiry arms and no levers or adjustable knobs to play with. They sit in a stack in the hallway, just waiting for poor meeting-tardy bastards to show up and drag one in to sit on for an hour.
So I had a dilemma. I couldn’t sit up front. I could sit at the table, but only if I get to meetings early — and what are the chances, seriously? And even if I managed to score a table seat, there’d always be someone more important — a director, a manager, one of the janitors, maybe — who’d come in after me and I’d feel like I should be in the back. In a dark corner. In a ghetto chair.
But I don’t want to sit in a ghetto chair. They kind of suck, when there are nice chairs all over the room, mocking me. So I found another path — a way to make my life, ostensibly, easier:
I sit right across the hall. So when I have a meeting, I drag my own damned desk chair into the room. And I put it in the back, in a dark corner, behind the C-E-whatevers and the group leaders and the group members and the assistants and the assistants to the assistants and to the guy who comes in every three months to make sure the fire extinguishers are still working.
I know my place. But I still like to have a comfy tush.
That’s all well and good, of course. A labyrinth of perils, deftly navigated. So now my life is easier, right?
Does the pope shit in the woods?
Of course my life isn’t easier. Because that’s unpossible.
Now I have different problems. First, I have to time my arrival just so, to avoid a room of odd glances. If I show up too early — with my own chair — then I look like a doof.
(Sure, I am a doof. But it’s best to hide it, at least in corporate settings.)
If I show up too late, I look marginally smarter — but then there are people littering the back of their room with the PlaySkool chairs. I’ve got my plush superior throne, but nowhere to put it. That’s no good; the king is not amused.
Getting in is nothing, though. It’s getting out that’s complicated. Everyone else just gets up when the meeting is over and herds toward the door. I can’t do that; I’ve got a piece of freaking furniture to lug out. Insofar as you can “lug” something that rolls on wheels, at least.
Furthermore, I’m camped out in the back of the room, usually right by one of the doors. The other door is up front, where the handful of execs pile out. That leaves two dozen working stiffs to stampede for the lone remaining exit. Plus me. And my chair.
Needless to say, I’m the last one to leave. I tried rushing out once — I had another meeting, in a different room — and nearly scooped one of the managers into the seat and gave her a ride down the hall. That’s probably not the best way for me to get ahead. As I recall, she wasn’t even in the next meeting.
So, life is just as hard. But my chair is soft. I guess that’s some kind of improvement, anyway. Short of actually getting out of meetings altogether, it’s probably as good as I’m gonna get.Permalink | No Comments