Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Brilliance in the Face of Too Much Water

I just read the funniest admission in the New Yorker by George Meyer- “My Undoing." He talked about his deep love of conferences and his shameless chase of their hedonistic pleasure.

He admits, "Speedboats have been a lifelong diversion. Scotch, a serious problem. Yet no vice bedevils me like my one desperate fixation, my shameful ravening itch: I simply must attend conferences." For me? Kayaks, wine and board meetings.

I spent all day yesterday in a board meeting. I have to admit, I too, love a good meeting. I love the ideas, the vision, the ability to talk and have everyone listen. My kids never listen. And after Ben turned eleven, I became the stupidest human being on the earth.

In board meetings? I am heard.

I watched myself yesterday and took some notes. As much as I love listening, and participating, I realize there are some drawbacks to the all day board meeting that Meyer does not cover.

When meeting is called to begin at 8:30AM for breakfast and is the first speaker at 9 AM, you can be sure no one is going to arrive before 9:10AM and then they’re all going to grab, “quietly” something to eat.

And kiss everyone hello, shake hands… not at all distracting.

Allan, my kids dad and hero of organization, calls meetings at 9:03AM. Not 9:00, not 9:05 but 9:03. He’s a teacher and informs his students class will begin at that moment. He explained to me the “hour” is an approximation. 9:03 is not. Having been to,over 15 years, well over a 100 board meetings, I tend to agree.

A successful meting requires a few musts- a great leader, a strong but flexible agenda and protein. With no protein early in the morning, all good ideas are destined to crash. Carbs, sugar and caffeine alone all combine to leave every eyelid- even the speakers- at 10:15am to uncontrollably drop. No amount of water is going to help. You need protein. Period.

And no amount of protein is going to stop your need for the bathroom a full 45 minutes before there is a break. Doesn’t matter if the fate of the free world is being decided, if Condi Rice has to pee? I’m guessing she gets up and goes, regardless of the evil looks from her pal George.

Of course, being able to do that means you’ve come of age in the meeting world. Young, eager meeting goers wait till the facilitator says it’s time. Seasoned members simply get up and go. The only person who kept me in the room regardless of my need? Very famous lesbian activist.

What she had to say was worth crossing my legs. That she was newly single and took interest afterwards of my lunch selection in the buffet line? I wasn’t going anywhere except in the seat next to her, lest she need her water glass filled.

But I digress.

While there are musts for a meeting to be successful, there also things that need to be carefully monitored. No one can hog the floor for too long, the agenda timing must be kept, and no one should consume too much water. I found myself, a mere forty minutes into the meeting having consumed two cups of coffee, and three glasses of water. Why? Because it’s there. After leaving the abundance, I was shocked when boarding the train home to be offered a measly 4-ounce bottle of water. Good god, did they understand I had three hours to go? I need at least a half-gallon and a small rock to suck on to make it through.

During the meeting, I was surprised to find myself cracking my knuckles. I am 44 years old and I have never, ever in my life cracked my knuckles.

Who knew what joy it would bring.

In order to avoid the eyelid dropping at 10:15, I sent my wife a racy text message. There is nothing better, in my humble opinion, than getting an “I want to fuck you” message in the middle of a very serious debate about public policy.

Puts it all in perspective.

Between 10:30 and noon? The most productive conversation of the day occurs. Everyone is on, awake, and if the break was timed for 10:15am, relieved. It’s amazing. Ideas turn into program, consensus is reached and positive direction is not only believed in, it’s pursued with zeal.

After lunch, the mood shifts.

That’s where I disagree with Meyer. It’s not all joy. Sitting still makes my backache. By 3PM, I’m ready to for short, ten-minute conversations and am no longer capable of listening to lawyers or accountants. I eye the clock and start to drink lukewarm, old coffee from lunch in a desperate effort to rekindle the joy of the morning.

It never works. I only get impatient and start to fidget uncontrollably. My notes are unreadable. If the meeting chair decides to seriously consider parking lot items with fifteen minutes left in the day rather than let the group free early? I feign the need for the bathroom so I won't say anything that I will regret.

And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

There is something beautiful about finding brilliance even in the face of too much water.


Anonymous Laura said...

I have a short attention span. I give you credit for sitting thru that long!

Thank God for text messages!

7:23 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Uh oh, I was just told that text message comment did NOT pass the Weezie (my mother in law) meter.

Not even close.


9:52 AM  
Anonymous Laura said...

rofl....ahem....I mean BAD Sara

1:34 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home