Exactly the reverse was true when I worked in Chicago, where I was employed as an internal auditor in a pharmaceutical company. I can already hear you not laughing.
This maverick is not much for meetings. But, in a giant company, meetings are basically all that anyone ever does, so I spent my days staring at the floor or at a boil on someone's nose. I was often lost in deep, dark thoughts, although outwardly I was all charm and grace, since such things matter.
One meeting was about sales. Hours into it, some dimwit said, out of the blue: "We haven't heard from Crombie yet. What do you think?" I had been thinking how high a pile their bodies would have made if I threw them out of the window, one after the other, so I cleverly replied: "Huh?"
"Our sales situation," the fellow said, through gritted teeth.
"Ah," I replied, standing up. "Gentlemen, the matter is clear. We make contraceptives and laxatives, do we not?"
"Well, then," I said, "our sales will always remain strong. We have the customer coming and going." Complete silence ensued. I didn't get invited back to any more of those meetings.
Another day, another meeting. I had by then perfected the art of sleeping with my eyes open, a key skill for those wanting to make it to the very top. It's not R.E.M. sleep, or your eyeballs would be dashing about in their sockets and you'd be rumbled. But a few hours of meeting-induced nap can be most refreshing, allowing you to emerge invigorated.
I forget what the topic was, not surprisingly, since I was dreaming about having an affair with the vice president in charge of cosmetics; what a babe! Sure enough, some twerp noticed that I hadn't said a word and asked my opinion. A pal sitting next to me kicked me in the shins, a prearranged signal that I should concentrate.
"Yes," I said, "I have something incisive and important to contribute," a little opener I had practiced before the meeting began, intended to give me time to guess what the subject had been. Unfortunately, I had no idea what they were talking about.
"Uh, you'll have to forgive me," I said. "I really haven't been the same since I stopped using heroin a few weeks ago." This was before stand-up comedy had been invented, and, in context, it was an absolute thigh-slapper. No one laughed.
For the record: I've never taken heroin and I think it's a very bad idea. It involves needles, for God's sake, and I'd rather attend a three-day meeting twice a week than ever voluntarily stick a needle into myself.
After the meeting, my manager took me to one side and told me to enroll immediately in the corporate wellness program. "Because of my sense of humor?" I asked. "No, because you're a junkie," he replied.
"It was a joke," I said. "I've never done heroin. I hate needles. Ask my dentist."
"You're in denial," the manager said, "but the rehab program will help you out."
Luckily, he forgot all about it, but I learned a valuable lesson: Don't go to meetings.
ROGER CROMBIE is a Bermuda-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®.
April 15, 2009
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