The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Staff meetings, or shootout at Durango Gulch

The monthly staff meeting was today precisely at noon, as it always is, and I was there on time, just as I always am, and just as always I spent much of the time during this monthly staff meeting sitting in my uncomfortable chair wondering what it is about monthly staff meetings that make me wish I were dead. I can’t say for certain why this is my inevitable reaction to monthly staff meetings, but I strongly suspect that the reason I feel this way is that, as the late and much lamented dearly departed Akaky Bashmachkin, no one could require me to go to monthly staff meetings, and if, like the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who attends all staff meetings held at the University College London despite his having died in 1832, my presence was a requirement no matter what my state of temporal being, I would not care one way or the other, apathy being one of the salient characteristics of those who are blind, deaf, dumb, and dead.  Unfortunate, I fear, but all too true; the dead are the very embodiment of the low information voter whose lack of historical knowledge and pride in our civic institutions are the bane of our modern political discourse. It is no wonder then, I think, that most of the dead vote for Democrats. 

The interested observer can usually distinguish monthly staff meetings from other congregations of like-minded people by the monotonous drone. In this monthly staff meetings differ from baseball games, for example, where the crowd noises are generally happy, especially if the home team is winning, horse races, where the crowd noises are imploring, particularly if the horse you’ve just bet the ranch on is starting to fade coming into the home stretch, and the St. Patrick’s Day parade, where the crowd’s noise is generally both loud and peristaltic; green beer will do that to you.  Monthly staff meetings, on the other hand, drone on and on and on like a set of out of tune bagpipes, although that in itself poses the question: if the bagpipes you are listening to were out of tune, how would you know?  Yes, the drone, like the beat, goes on, its monotony enhanced with subtle undertones of minutiae and spiced every so often with fresh organic ennui just brought in from the garden, where even the woodchucks wouldn’t eat the stuff. Woodchucks have standards, after all, unlike your average organic vegan locavore, for whom the taste of dirt is the imprimatur of their moral and cultural superiority over the unwashed and unenlightened masses of their countrymen, who delight in stuffing their pie holes with hamburgers, French fries, and other such disgusting rot.

And what do we discuss at the monthly staff meeting?  Nothing of any consequence. Directives will be promulgated, policies will be implemented, staff inputs will be sought, actions will be discussed, it is all very passive voice, as if the directives and the policies and the staff inputs will pop up all by themselves like poison ivy or a long lost relative at the reading of your rich aunt’s will.  And what are staff inputs, anyway? I have been on the staff of the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread for longer than I care to think about and in all of that time no one has ever asked me for an input. People have asked me for help, people have asked me for money, and one guy asked me to stop banging on the men’s room door until he was done banging his girlfriend—yes, that was embarrassing, thank you for asking—but no one’s ever asked for an input. So I have no clue what a staff input is, except that the people who run this place think so much of them that they call monthly staff meetings in order to bore the staff to tears talking about them. Perhaps they do it because they can.  In The Rebel, Albert Camus wrote, “tyrants conduct monologues above a million solitudes.”  Well, there’s not quite a million of us—we wouldn’t all fit in the building if there were—but we do have some people who like to talk whether or not they have anything to say and some other people who like to talk when they know that the people they are talking to have to sit there and listen.

The interesting thing about monthly staff meetings, perhaps the only interesting thing from a purely scientific point of view, is how the monthly staff meeting refutes key aspects of Einstein’s theory of special relativity.  Einstein postulated that as a physical object grows nearer and nearer to the speed of light, time itself would start to slow down, until a few seconds at near light speed for that object could see the passing of years, decades, centuries in normal time. And yet this mycological cesspit moves no faster than the rest of the planet, and despite this, time slows down to an unendurable crawl during the monthly staff meetings just as surely as it does at near light speed. Why time would make an exception to the physical rules of the universe for a monthly staff meeting is not known, but as someone who has to endure these temporal slowdowns twice a month (once for the entire staff and another for department heads) I cannot discount the possibility that time does this because time is a big jerk.  This makes as much sense as any other reason that is out there, I think, and frankly, the idea appeals to the broad streak of rampant paranoia that makes up a good part of my personality.

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