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Suburban Island

Conference Calls Gone Bad
Monday, Jul. 07, 2003, 9:08 p.m.

QUESTION: Why did I pass up the cheesecake?

WHAT I LEARNED: Telephonic meetings can be tricky.

Even the simplest office meeting can be fraught with peril. Today was a perfect example of meeting calamity. My team met today, meaning some people showed up in person and some attended by telephone. I like telephonic attendance and usually opt for it if at all possible. Telephonic attendance means you can do your back weekly reports, write a few emails, or go through your pile of paperwork growing like a giant fungus on the side of the desk Ė all while listening to the important parts of the meeting. Telephonic attendance is definitely the way to go. The only flaw with it is that if you are not careful you can get a bit too distracting and find yourself on the receiving end of a question you didnít even pay attention to until your name was attached to the end of it. Oh yes, there are perils.

Hereís how it all started today. First, someone absconded with our conference room. Undaunted, the few of us that were stuck attending in person located another conference room that seemed to be emptying out. In the room when we arrived were 3 people and a cheesecake. In all fairness, they were there first and they did offer us a piece of the cheesecake, however, they did not take their box of cheesecake and scurry politely out of the room to take up their conversation at another location. They continued on a bit louder, the better to compensate for the chatter on our side of the room as those attending our meeting dutifully logged onto the conference call from near and far. At some point a team member arrived in person and planted himself at the far end of the table so that the beleaguered manager conducting the meeting had to talk across the table and over the cheesecake-meeting attendees heads in order to include this erstwhile teammate. Ah, the joys of management were beautifully encapsulated in that scene.

Afterwards my manager and I had to stay put and attend another telephonic conference. The cheesecake-eaters had thankfully departed. Another coworker had left a case of juice drinks on the floor in the meantime. Many heard and came to partake of the delicious juice assortment. The conference room had more traffic than an office water cooler on a big gossip day.

As the juice traffic subsided the second meeting geared up, providing even more entertainment than the first when one attendee started to breath so loudly into the phone that I began to think that someone had turned on a defective sound machine stuck on an endless loop of ocean roar. The steady even pace of this breathing, magnified as it was by the office speaker phone, had the effect of distracting the determined speaker and making some of us laugh so hard that the tears came. The breather never seemed to notice the noise that eminated from them, giving the feeling that as a sort of low-budget soundtrack was playing as a background to the entire call - not unlike a good rousing chorus of naptime snores.

Itís the little things that make office life tolerable.

DETAILS: Coffee: Perfect morning rush hour antidote + Listening to: speaker phone antics + Observing: roses in bloom + Thinking: Why is everyone drinking all my bottled water? + Weather: sudden rainstorms

Todayís Suburban Strategy: Picnic Across America.

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