There are so few opportunities for me to hone my wall-eyed stare that I’m amazed how readily I’m able to pull it off. I can go from mild enthusiasm to ambivalent disinterest to near catatonic dissociation in the time it takes for a man in a suit to set up his PowerPoint presentation. And, while in many situations my behavior would be deemed dismissive at best, in a business meeting the ability to completely disengage from reality is a survival technique.
Of course, the achievement of such a state should not suggest the complete arrest of mental activity. To the contrary, I’ve had some of my most enlightening philosophical epiphanies while in a state of high inattention, not to mention anthropological, and socio-political insights. Take the matter of archetypes, for example. I’ve found that a good meeting will summon an impressively broad range of them. As a passive voyeur, I see them all.
Edward is at the helm, clearly the alpha specimen. “Look, guys,” he says, “we all know that this is what we’re trying to do. This here,” and he points to one of the schematics, “This can go. This can go. This can go. If we’re going to cut this shit, now’s the time to do it. I mean…” And he holds his hands out, and everyone else in the meeting room nods like the matter is obvious.
After a moment of silent consideration, Neal basically repeats what Edward just said, only twice as fast and while gesticulating and interspersing other random words into the spiel. If someone should attempt to clarify, Neal’s eyes will become unfocussed and his voice will raise in volume until said party returns to silence, thus establishing that he’s already clarifying.
Leighton makes a sardonic comment, and becomes aloof just in time to avoid responding emotionally to his own comment.
Pavel is all about the big picture, and starts with, “So what we’re all basically saying-” but then Edward says, “Look, guys, I mean I think it’s clear that we know this, and it’s obvious.” Everyone is silent.
Edward points to the schematic, “This, no one knows what this means, so it goes. This too, and this too.” He then shrugs, and if you don’t get that then you just haven’t been paying attention.
Neal is interested in backing up and asking the meta question, only in a chipmunk-like rapid fire, so that he can counter Edward’s assertions while weaving them into newly-formed concessions.
Leighton chuffs and leans back in his chair–the top of his head is now very close to the wall behind him.
Pavel attempts to reiterate what Edward said, but Edward is shaking his head with a resignation final enough make HR issue him severance pay.
Neal shakes his head too, only twice as fast.
Belatedly they all reach a dramatic stall, and turn to regard me. I say, “Wasn’t Mitch supposed to be here too?” Because to me this just isn’t yet enough of a fucking circus.