There are times in a person’s life when they are called upon to face seemingly insurmountable odds, like when a bear attacks you or you have to answer a phone call. In these moments, a person discovers not only their true mettle but also what kind of box office potential their life might really have. Sure, some of these things can be avoided. Don’t use a honey-infused facial scrub and then wander in bear-infested woods. Let it go to voicemail which is conveniently full. But sometimes, no matter how careful you are, you become trapped in a deadly scenario, and there are few more life-threatening than the business meeting.
Business meetings, on the surface, seem benign. It’s just a bunch of people sitting in a room, theoretically taking turns talking. There has never been a business meeting that wouldn’t have been better as an email. This is something we all know, but it doesn’t help us, because meetings aren’t about disseminating information or solving problems or anything useful. Fundamentally, they are a way for executives to look busy. But beneath that beige exterior lies a beating heart of pure terror and bad stuff.
Why are they so dangerous?
The obvious danger of the business meeting is the time suck. Consider that every moment of our lives is irretrievable. We should spend them with those we love, doing things that reaffirm our love for them, such as cheating while playing Mario Cart with our children. But instead, we’re stuck in a pointless meeting listening to idiots talk because they’re too stupid to read an email. And our loved ones may die at any moment. Or worse, they might be at home, right now, eating all the Bugles. So, in a very real sense, business meetings lessen the quality and lengths of our lives.
But there is a more insidious danger to business meetings. The human brain is like your computer’s hard drive. You don’t take care of it. You watch stuff on sites you know you shouldn’t be on (we’re not implying it’s porn, but we all know it is) and you end up with adware creeping in, taking up space, slowing things down. Maybe you go through, every so often, and try to clear some of this junk out, but some gets by. And you ignore it. It continues filling up your hard drive and compromising its integrity. But it can only take so much abuse before it shuts down. You can reboot it, but it’s never going to be what it once was.
Let’s switch back to the brain. In this analogy, the adware represents concerns about stakeholder buy-in, leveraging synergies, and…oh crap, we’re infected. What…what were we talking about? Why do we feel so sad inside? WHY ARE ALL OF OUR CLOTHES BEIGE?!
So, what can you do?
In emergency situations, the most important thing is having a helicopter. Or Dwayne Johnson, preferably with a helicopter. But you don’t have a helicopter, and The Rock isn’t returning your calls. Which is a bummer. He seems like such a nice guy. Maybe he’s just busy. Probably. HE’S EARNED THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT, DEBORAH.
All of this means you’ve got to deal with this on your own, and the absolute last thing you want to do is panic. If you panic, people die. Or look at you funny. Either way, it will draw attention, and then Spence is going to ask you a question and then you’ll have to answer it and Jim will give you that weird look while Sharon just glares like she always does and nobody wants any of that. So be cool. Collect your thoughts. Control your breathing. Don’t scream, wet yourself, or jump out of a window. NOT YET.
Assess the Situation.
Probably, Spence is going to talk the whole time, cause that’s what Spence does. If that’s the case, great. You can lay back and try to stay awake. But Jim is here, too, and he just loves to ask questions people have to think about to answer, the sick bastard. So you have to pay attention to every droning moment just in case you have to answer it, or worse, you won’t be able to answer it and will have to “get back to you on that after the meeting.” As if this meeting will ever end. So, you’re doomed.
Unless you can escape. First, find the exits. The main one’s behind Spence. You’d have to get through him to get to it. That’s doable, but not without a lot of blood; he’s been riding his bike to work all week. Just look how taut and firm his hamstrings are. There’s a window behind you. You’re on the fifth floor, so unless you packed a parachute, that’s not going to work.
Look around you. What items do you have at your disposal that could be of use? You’ve got some paper, pens, chairs. The pens might be good in a fight, unless they’re the ones with the company logo. Terry cheaped out on those. They’ll shatter the minute they break skin. Still, it’s a start.
Trust No One.
Remember, everyone in that room will do anything to get out. If you get in their way, they’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of the obstacle you represent.
But what about Roberta, you may ask? Sure, she’s nice. But after listening to Spence monologue about proactive global enterprise solutions for an hour and a half, she would gut you and dance on your corpse for a smoke break.
But someone doesn’t have to be openly malicious to be a pain in the ass. Maybe Brandy has a question. Who’s going to answer it? You. You are going to answer it, you poor, damned fool.
Your Safe Place
It’s difficult to describe what actually happens in a business meeting, because nothing happens. Absolutely nothing of any value. Or maybe something else happens, something so horrific that the human brain can’t comprehend it. To find out, we sent a dog undercover into a business meeting, but we forgot that dogs can’t talk, so when it came out, it just wanted to go for a walk.
But that unawareness doesn’t kick in right away. It will only protect you when things get so bad that your mind can’t handle them anymore. Which means that the lead up, the hours and hours you sit and wait — you have to live those. More on time in a bit. But you can choose to go to a safe place. You can send your heart there to protect it.
First, you’ll need to find something to focus your eyes on. Slow your breathing. Recite a rhythmic phrase in your head to calm yourself, something like Mr. Tumnis twists his tummy. Mummy tokes a Tumnis tummy.
The more nonsensical, the better. That will help you shift your consciousness into the spirit realm.
It can be challenging to discern when you’ve transitioned into the spirit realm. Theoretically, you could get up from your chair and walk through a wall to see what’s inside it, but if you haven’t travelled over, this will probably upset Spence. A subtler approach might be to see if your hand can suddenly pass through the table top without resistance, or if Spence suddenly turns into a giant sunflower whose stem can’t support the weight of his big head. Of course, you might just be having an acid flashback.
Once you truly have crossed over, it’s important to remember two things. One, don’t eat any food or drink from the spirit realm. They have a really high sales tax there. Like 20%. It’s nuts. Two, be careful if you owe anyone money and didn’t repay them before they died. Because they will definitely ask for it back, and it’s going to be awkward if you don’t have any spirit cash.
The great thing is that you can leave your body to sit in the meeting (the dumb sucker) while your spirit explores this new realm. There are lots of sights to see, including the Bellagio and the shrine that all the spiders you didn’t kill in your shower built for you when they crossed over.
But there are dangers, too. Be sure not to get too close to heating ducts. These are like crack cocaine to spirits that have temporarily left their bodies. If you’re not careful, you’ll get sucked in and spend the rest of eternity spinning around in a heat pump rotor.
Getting back can be a challenge. It’s best not to stray too far from your body so that you can keep an eye on whether things seem to be wrapping up. Also, if somebody bumps you or moves you in some way, you’ll never be able to return to your body and will wander the Earth as a formless spirit, doomed forever to observe the human world without being able to participate in it, which is a better retirement than dying in a nursing home, certainly. And at least you won’t have to eat cat food.
But barring calamity, all you have to do is settle back into your body. It will take a moment to totally readjust, so go slow when you stand up. You don’t want to accidentally jump out of your body. Also, you’ll realize, as soon as you return, that your body released your bowels totally. We didn’t want to spoil things by mentioning it. But Karen, who was sitting beside you, is going to be looking at you funny for a long time after this. Probably best to hang back so no one will see you waddle to the bathroom.
Something you may have noticed about business meetings is how long they last. Sure, on the schedule, it says the meeting only lasts an hour, and when you leave the room, all the clocks say you were only in there an hour, but it sure doesn’t feel like an hour passed. It feels like eons. Civilizations have crumbled into dust leaving nothing but Hostess products and super-intelligent raccoons to rule the Earth, all while you sat and listened to Spence drone on about internal customer satisfaction.
So why does time feel so strange? Is it just because you’re bored? Well, that’s part of it. But actually, there’s more to it. You’re familiar with singularities? A singularity is a black hole, an astronomical phenomenon that we don’t know a lot about. They contain great energy and suck everything in and destroy it. It has been theorized that even time would get sucked in, and therefore, if you could survive it, our experience of time near a singularity would be strange. It would move more slowly than time would move farther away. Business meetings contain a similar kind of negative energy. When that many executives get together in a room, it creates a kind of spiritual black hole. It’s not a literal one, so our bodies move at their usual pace, but our minds slow, relatively speaking. Days, even weeks can pass for us in our minds while only an hour passes in the outside world. The spiritual toll is immense. We are experiencing all of this time, and when we finally leave and snap back to reality, it can damage our brains. Our brains and our experience of time are somewhat elastic, but after being stretched and endangered so frequently, they can lose that elasticity and become permanently damaged. That’s when we take up golf, because golf is the only experience that moves as slowly as a business meeting. Our poor, damaged brains are seeking something close to what we’ve grown accustomed to.
It may take some time to recover from what you’ve experienced. You’re still alive, somehow. You may never be the same, but you can learn to live with what you’ve experienced. You’re stronger, now. You can face anything. Or, maybe you’re a broken shell of a thing flinching out its existence under your desk, like the rest of us. Regardless, the important thing is that you dick around for the rest of the day and ride out the clock. Someday, the UN will get its shit together and declare business meetings as the inhumane shit-shows they are. Probably, they’ll do some other stuff first, maybe do something about slavery or government kill squads. But business meetings are probably at least in the top ten. Until then, have a snack. Try not to think about Spence’s calves. Heal.