My Life

10 Soul-Damaging Things That Always Happen When I’m Trying to Impress My Boss at a Regional Meeting

This one has clearly been yanked from the archives, as I’ve been retired for several years now. Those of you who have toiled in the corporate world should recognize an item or two. Enjoy.

1. I hit the fail-blog when trying to arrive at the meeting place on time.

  I can leave my hotel three days early for the festivities and I still miss the starting buzzer. Something random and absurd always happens, like a sanitation strike or a runaway elephant blocking the road. Of course, everybody else hears about the driving debacle in plenty of time to take an alternate route, getting there early enough to visit with the rest of the participants and become best friends, thereby marking me as the lone outcast before I even get there.

2. I can’t gracefully enter the conference room.

Nope, I’ve got to clatter in the door after the moderator is well into his opening remarks, proceed to trip over a pocket of air, stagger into the bagel table, nearly upend the sloshing coffee urn, send packets of sweetener skittering across the floor, and then finish with a flourish by losing control of my briefcase at just the right moment that it hits the end of the conference table and bounces back into my gut, knocking the wind out of me. In the ensuing stunned silence, I do not receive any high scores from the Olympic judges.

3. I will lower my ass into the loudest chair known to mankind.

  There is always that unruly pack of unoccupied office chairs, shoved over in a corner because people have already gone through them and picked out the good ones. Try as I might to find the most well-behaved of the lot, I will end up selecting the one that squeaks like people have been having career-advancement sex on it since 1972. And as I try to sit perfectly still and not make annoying noises, the height-adjustment lever will snap off and the whole contraption will plummet to the floor so that my knees are above my head.

4. I will be seated too far away from any known electrical outlets.

  And my laptop will have roughly three minutes left on the battery. The laptop that has 47 spreadsheets that I really need to share with everyone else or the meeting might screech to a halt, with people having flown from surrounding states for nothing. The unit will fire up long enough to tell me that it is dying. And then it does.

5. I will have a small mental breakdown during Introductions.

  As we go around the table, everyone else will have fascinating job titles, exciting careers that have garnered Nobel prizes, and a charming personal anecdote to share that has the crowd showering them with laughter and adoration. When it’s my turn, my suddenly dried-out mouth will barely be able to choke out my name, I’ll be unable to remember the official designation of my current position or who I report to or what office I work in, and my pitiful, meandering, pointless job description will make three people cry about the shame I must be experiencing. Later, one of them will discreetly hand me a check so that I can seek therapy. Off the clock, off course.

6. I will have no idea where my glasses are.

  They will be suddenly and mysteriously AWOL, despite having worn them mere minutes ago when I did a belly flop on the bagel table. I do my best not to cause even more of a ruckus as I get frustrated and re-check each and every pocket in my briefcase. (Despite my stealthy but frantic maneuvers, the incessant zipping and unzipping will cause the surrounding people to give me glares indicating that I’d best cease and desist or they will stab me with their cream-cheese-crusted plastic knives.)

  Just as I give up the search and hope that I can wing my way through the mess, the moderator will ask me to review the slide on the overhead and fully explain how we can resolve Critical Issue #3. I can’t read a word on the screen, never mind the numbers, and I’m not sure if the things in front of the screen are people or potted plants.

7. I will have a life-threatening coughing fit.

  At some point during the proceedings, probably right when the topic is “how your job performance affects your compensation”, I will get one of those inexplicable throat tickles that come out of nowhere. I will stupidly try to remedy the situation with a simple throat-clearing, which quickly escalates into a full-on round of hacking and choking, complete with the horror of uncontrolled spittle flying out of my mouth and across the conference table, landing in parts unknown.

  Naturally, there won’t be a handy bottle of water anywhere around me because the on-timers drank all that up waiting for my tardy ass to get there. So, the only recourse is to stagger out of the room and collapse in a nearby stairwell because I have no idea where the bathrooms might be, having missed orientation and donuts. No one will bother to check on me for hours, until a surprised janitor knocks me on the noggin with his aggressive mophead whilst humming a tune from “Les Misérables”.

8. I will get caught not paying attention at some point.

  I can spend the entire day listening carefully and taking copious notes, but that one moment when I very briefly wonder if I should get a tattoo of a barcode on the back of my head will be the exact moment that a vice-president asks me for my opinion of what was just stated. (At least I think it’s him, I can’t really see anybody on that side of the room. It might be the janitor, who got a very impressive promotion and joined our staff after performing CPR on me in the stairwell.)

9. I will get something in my crotch.

  This never fails, ever. I always manage to get a shame-inducing stain on my pants at some point during the meeting. And the real kicker is that I never remember being a participant in the creation of these stains. Knowing that I have this issue, I will avoid all provided snacks on the little table, I’ll skip lunch and just read in my car, and I stay away from water fountains (a notorious source of unexpected wetness).

  Yet, usually about mid-afternoon, I’ll look down, and right there in my crotch will be some melted chocolate or a splash of salsa or some organic vinaigrette. Two seconds after this discovery, I will be asked to step up to the whiteboard and draw a diagram of the new inventory system. (Try drawing and talking when you’ve got your privates mashed against the wall or hidden behind a briefcase that you clearly don’t need to be carrying. Fun times.)

10. I will not get out of the meeting early.

  The rest of my co-workers get to attend “all-day” regional meetings that actually end about 2PM, with everybody running off to use their expense accounts at the local bar. I will get that one facilitator who loves her job and can’t wait to solve the entire world’s problems with sticky notes and a flow chart. We will be there way past 5PM, while we debate the merits of four proposals that won’t change a damn thing about how we do business, my laptop continues to be dead, and my crotch dries into a crackling crust of obnoxious humiliation. And then my throat starts to tickle…

As mentioned, previously published, long enough ago that I probably scribbled the original on a Big Chief tablet. Modified somewhat for this latest share, but not enough to reduce the shame…

57 replies »

  1. I know exactly what you are talking about! Scrambling and late, squeaky chair, dead laptop – I have experienced them all, so you definitely have company in your state of humiliation. One time, on top of being late amid other assorted mishaps, I came down with some sort of flu and was nursing a nasty headache and body aches. Everyone thought I was hungover. Yikes.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Everyone can expect to hit a surprise roadblock in meetings, here and there, but I almost ALWAYS managed to find one, as if there was some mystical, karmic target on my back. (“Do not let this one succeed,” deemed the gods. “Ever”.)

      Speaking of hangovers, I will admit to attending one or ten important meetings in such a state. But this was WAY back in the day when “regional meetings” really meant “excessive drinking with a few pointless conference sessions tucked in here and there”. So, of course I showed up all bleary-eyed. But so did everyone else… 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  2. #5! I remember sitting in a meeting during the “let’s go around the table and introduce ourselves”, desperately trying to remember the clever name I’d chosen for my new consulting company (Barb Taub, Inc).

    Liked by 2 people

    • I remember one critical meeting near the end of my career when an actual Verizon VP showed up at the shindig. (This was very rare, as they usually never left the Ivory Tower at global headquarters.) We were doing the “round the room” thing, with the expectation that we were to share about our entire career with the company: everywhere we’ve worked and what we did there. Naturally, I was initially horrified.

      But when the focus was on me, I somehow managed to launch and smoothly went into great detail concerning my trajectory, even throwing in amusing anecdotes that had all the fellow long-timers nodding their heads and smiling. (Even the VP was enjoying it, motioning for me to keep going when I glanced at him, fearing that I was stealing his show.)

      Then, suddenly, my brain emptied out completely, nowhere near the end of my saga. So, I went with honesty, which is generally best: “I’m sorry, my mind just went completely blank and I can’t remember what I did the last seven years of my career, so we’ll just say that I did something right because I’m still here.”

      The roundelay moved on and I quietly died inside… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was infamous for daydreaming in meetings. When suddenly roused by a question, I would reply, “Could you repeat that, please?” Of course the question would be something like, “Could you please stop snoring?”

    Liked by 2 people

    • Geoff: I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I was distracted by the most insignificant of details. Me: “What’s up with that stain on the wall over there?” Moderator: “Brian, we’re waiting for your answer.” Me: “I’m sorry. Where am I?”

      Wassaic: I also once loved working remotely, but that was many moons ago, before retirement. Now? The paychecks are working remotely and there none to be found anywhere near me… 😉


    • Oh my, so many wretched examples to choose from, but we’ll go with this teaser: During my senior year in high school, my prom date and I, dressed in our rented finery, were in my car at the busiest intersection in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, trying to turn left, when the engine died. And it could not be resuscitated. Mayhem ensued….

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Excellent, Brian…I could most readily relate to #4, the mental breakdown in introductions.
    I mentally alternated between too much and too little information so when my time came, I barely remembered my name. Sad, but true.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hear ya. Despite my disdain for public speaking, in whatever form, I somehow managed to rise in the ranks at Verizon to the point where I was always in situations where I had to do so. No wonder I’m on medication to this day…

      Liked by 1 person

      • I enjoyed public speaking in large groups as long as I had thoroughly prepared my remarks – nothing as horrible as tell us your name and a little bit about yourself in a corporate meeting, though, oh no.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh that’s the ticket. Now you’ve brought up every reason I tried to climb the corporate ladder above peon and into an office out of cubeland. There’s an Elvis Costello song somewhere in there I think off of Oliver’s Army. Anyway that never protected me from being the only person on the planet earth to take her pills the afternoon of the biggest sales awards in all the land when I worked for a huge Silicon Valley conglomerate that was right before the bubble broke into a million tiny bubbles that all reconstituted eventually into one big bubble again like bubbles like to do. So I was at Crisco Systems’s sales awards and I found out I was the first non sales person to have ever won a sales award. I had no idea until I got there. I stupidly opted out of black – I was becoming known as the female Johnny cash so as a joke I wore all cream white. Silk blouse, perfectly fitting slacks, Jimmy Choo slides (I hadn’t figured on climbing the stairs). Back to taking the handful of medication and the white outfit. I grabbed the pill bottle I had thrown together with enough of my meds and a few of my now ex husbands Cialis or whatever the equivalent equipment foisting pill was at the time and I took one accidentally along with my meds. Four pills went sliding down my gullet now time to do my makeup. I’m nice and early and can even make it to the reception to schmooze and butt kids along with everyone else. As I am setting my foundation with an expensive and probably unnecessary 120 dollar Chanel spritz – but my makeup looked gorgeous when the Nordstrom makeup artist did it I had to have it all! But I am no good at lip liner or liners of any kind “look mommy doesn’t baby look pretty now?” Would be my interior running commentary each time I smudged an eye for dramatic effect. But all of a sudden with all this internal dialogue going through my mind, me wondering if the white is really a good choice because I’ll get Dijon vinegarette on my blouse a silky shimmery silk cream blouse that was so expensive I’m still embarrassed for buying it not even in a “rack” kind of discount place but the real Saks. So embarrassing. Anyway I turned red as a tomato from the Cialis or whatever it was he had been taking to feign attraction at the time we’d just come back from a cruise with my entire family and some extended in-law type family to Alaska. Well I looked like a bloody little baby seal white and freshly clubbed. No matter how many coats of foundation no matter how much powder or unnecessary setting spray NOPE. Not one facial feature could stop filling with blood long enough to not look like I was at once embarrassed and surprised and I was in white so it was offset like a chocolate stain on the kaki crotch of a spread sheet toting pitiful company meeting dude who always trips over the entire bagel table ruining it for everyone but who I always take pity on and bring water to while he’s choking up an entire To-Go’s Turkey club in the hallway. I was always the one who would’ve shared an embarrassment story and sat next to that guy cause he was usually the funniest and would eventually wind up somehow working for me in my department. So there I am in laughable white my ears now so so red they looked like sliced beets I’m not kidding. The viagra had nowhere to go but up. Push the blood up was its charge. Thank god for Valium. Took an extra just to keep my anxiety to a minimum. And worse, I’d eaten the stupid spinach salad before going to get my first non sales person sales award. The crowd gives me a standing ovation I have no idea why 5000 people are standing, half expecting paparazzi to trip over themselves but no, I have a red face under blonde hair over a blonde outfit and my teeth now have green spinach in them and on the stage is Johnny C and the SVPs and they all shake hands and kiss my cheek and at the end I get a photo taken with the famously very kind John and the SVP of WW Sales and there I am Misses Tomato Head resplendent with Greenery in her teeth who has just enough foresight to give a quick tongue over on the newly capped pearly whites and boom! There’s the food I’ve been smiling and shaking hands with showing all across a stage and I give the worlds worst smile like this one 😬forgetting to shut my mouth and I have an award placed around my neck and lift my head to have john on one side and SVP on the other and I’m now blinded by the flash forgetting I’m wearing new Jimmy choo slides I miss the first of three stairs down from the stage and damage my meniscus in my knee and am thankfully brushed away to an urgent care. That’s the most embarrassing corporate story and I have the photographic evidence to prove it too!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. And the typo for ass kiss did nothing to help the flow here but you get thee butt kiss drift…why does autocorrect always work the first three times. Can’t it bloody learn I have a potty mouth and move along?

    Liked by 3 people

    • At least you didn’t -or couldn’t- go pale and faint. (The only award I ever received was $30 bucks in my farewell card. I guess the boss hadn’t opened the card my close coterie of co-workers had bought and signed, otherwise the six fives would have slickly gone into his ‘petty cash/Cocktails fund’. Cheap bastard.)

      Liked by 2 people

    • This had me manic with laughter, so I don’t even know where to start with any type of coherent and cohesive response. But I do know this: I want to share this story, proper, on Bonnywood. If you’ll allow, I’d like to fashion your narrative into a therapy session with Dr. Brian. I’ll hold off on doing so until I get your blessing, but I’m really invested in the concept and I hope you bless with me with a Chanel-scented assent…

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Ten reasons to leave the whoreperate world. I’ve only got one that comes close: Ever turned up to the designated venue at Wilsons Road Waltham when it’s at Wilsons Road Woolston? Miles away. When I said close…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, I know all about the snafus with misdirected directions. There was the time a co-worker and I landed in Tampa, late, and it took us three hours to find the hotel that was 30 minutes from the airport. Or the time in Boulder (also a late-night landing, alone this time) when I headed the wrong direction on a major freeway and made it to the hotel at roughly dawn. Or the time we all left in our cars at the SAME TIME from our office in Irving, Tx and I somehow got to Austin two hours later than everyone else and one hour after the meeting started. Or the time when…

      Well, you get the picture…

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve pulled over to cry in Dallas. Trying to navigate my way pre in car navigation from Love Field to Yum brands and then onto Richardson of the Bush Tollway (of course it’s a tollway, ffs) pulling over again in the parking lot and again having a really good long, late day cry missing my flight home to Houston and realizing I had to call Cisco’s excellent emergency after hours travel agency and getting a room that I couldn’t find until it was nearly time for my flight back to Houston at 7 am. It was on Southworst so there’s about 18,000,000 flights back and forth daily. Yet out of sheer frustration as night fell and I could see the Cisco offices only decide I’d had it and slept in the rental in the parking lot getting lost again and again missing exit after bloody exit on the freeway that’s also a nice river during flooding – and it was raining. I don’t know if you recall my Barry Switzer story on one of your posts but just another reason to like Austin and San Antonio way better. Fogo de Ciao and Lawry’s aside. Especially since I don’t eat beef anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m glad my “corporation” was regional to Southern California. HQ moved from L.A. after the riots to calm, quiet Orange County… all within driving distance.

    Our manager did drag me along to a meeting in Chino once because I was the first Day Shift supervisor to arrive at work🤷🏼‍♀️

    Most of our meetings were management training stuff though… “Communication Styles in the Workplace” or whatever the latest fad was… Who Moved My Cheese, 7 Habits… blah, blah, blah

    I was already known to randomly fall over, so no one noticed when gravity fails happend😂

    Liked by 2 people

    • There was a time, mid-career, when I was travelling constantly all over the country, to the point that I sometimes had to sit down and think about where I was at the moment. On the plus side, I got to visit a lot of interesting places. (NOLA! Hawaii!) On the down side, I’m not a big fan of people, no matter where they might be. Suffice it to say that by the time I racked up 4 billion frequent flyer miles, I was so sick of travelling that most of those points expired before I ever got around to redeeming them. Such is life…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Umm…well, I don’t believe this would apply to me in any way. In EMS, you just show up to base, get your ambulance and take off. I guess the most embarrassing thing I ever did was sign my partners’ name to the paperwork for the run we just had. That was kind of like…falsifying an important medical record? Hell…I didn’t know.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Oh my Lucy! You mean to tell me that all this time you’ve been reading my stuff, you’ve had one headlight out? Yes, I was EMS in Charleston, S. C.
        I became a medic at 53. I got a job because a) I finished first in my class, b) I aced the clinicals and c) I didn’t look anywhere near my age.
        It was hard, sometimes fun and most often…sad. I will never forget some of my “runs.” One of my favorite “frequent flyers” died in the back of my truck. I had my finger on his pulse when his heart beat for the last time. He was a DNR, so all I could do was watch him leave.
        Probably one of the most interesting/harrowing/sad/urgent calls I had was…
        My shift started at 7:00 but I always showed up at 6:30 or so. One day I pulled into the station and had just gotten out of my car when the dispatcher opened the back door, threw some keys at me and said, “head to MUSC. 18:30.”
        “Hmm,” I thought. A bit confused, I said, “En route, 18:30.” Now it didn’t occur to me that I was alone until I had wrangled my truck onto I-26 in the middle of rush hour. We’re never supposed to travel alone. You know…things can happen. You could get robbed by someone looking for drugs, or maybe they just want to take a ride, or maybe the Devine Rapture. Who knows?
        Anyway, I had to push every car over to the right because we never give up the left lane. (That part was fun.) I had calmed down enough to wonder what the hell was going on. There couldn’t be a mass casualty. They were already at MUSC and if MUSC can’t fix you, you’re pretty much circling the drain.
        I waited outside for a few minutes until Bobby Jo showed up in her truck. She got out and said, “what the hell?”
        We went in and four doctors were running around and asked if we were there for them. I said, “sure.” I looked at Bobby Jo and asked “are we?”
        They asked if we wanted to watch “the harvest.” We said “sure.” So they told us to mask up and come on. The hospital was a bit afraid until I asked, “do you realize what we do…and see?” But by the time the head honcho approved, the harvest was over.
        So, here come these doctors, carrying red Igloo coolers. I think that’s when it hit me. Wow. They just cut someone up.
        My doctors were carrying the heart and lungs and Bobby Jos’ doctors were carrying the kidneys and liver.
        Anyway, we flew out to the truck and took off. As luck would have it, just as we got to the airport, a train was blocking our way. Now, these organs are only viable for between four to six hours and these doctors were flying to Philadelphia. They wanted to get out and hop between the trains, which is pretty illegal. They were sweating bullets.
        I called dispatch and told them I didn’t care how they did it, but that train had better start moving. A minute later, it moved enough for us to cross.
        Bobby Jo and I (as well as the doctors) were wet rags! We did the “whew” motion and were on our way…but not so fast.
        We were required to stay until the plane was completely out of sight…lest it crashed, because we would be in the perfect position to render aid.
        Like I said…it was sad but it was also hopeful. Someone had died and who knows how many other people might live because of their gift?

        Liked by 3 people

        • First, now that you have me thinking about it, I do recall your EMS days. I’m going to offer the lame excuse that I was rushing through things the other night when I made my initial comment, and I clearly wasn’t focused. (But you are still spot-on in suggesting that I’m missing a headlight. Most people around me have thought such since I first shot out of the womb.)

          Second, and you’re going to think I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but this story that you have just shared is wonderful. There’s some humor, obviously, but what shines the most is your honesty and warm heart (don’t even pretend that you don’t have one), especially with the way you wrapped things up. I love good writing, and I’m so happy you took the time to share this with me. Thank you.

          Okay, third, let’s shake off the syrupy mess I just created, and focus on the Charleston angle. I’ve only been there once, but I absolutely loved it, so much so that it has remained ever since on my list of potential places to live once Partner finally retires and we can relocate wherever we want. In your mind, is it a viable option, or is it not all that great of a city?

          Actually, thinking again, I’m not sure where you live now. You might even still be there, and I should know that if I could actually remember all of your posts. My mind is crumbling on a daily basis. Sigh…

          Liked by 1 person

          • Ah..Charleston. It used to be (and still may be) voted the friendliest city in the US. Now, if you’re downtown…and it truly is downtown…after all, it is called the “low country”. It’s a tourist town, of course, so all the people offer all the delicious Southern hospitality you could ask for. Tourism is their bread and butter. Venture outside…and it’s an entirely different city…unless you live on a golf course or on one of the islands. My “first due” was in North Charleston, and there were some pretty rough neighborhoods there. We weren’t allowed to wear jewelry…except maybe our wedding band. It was okay with me. I had stopped wearing my band and diamond years before for some reason. Premonition maybe?
            Anyway, the people aren’t as friendly outside downtown. But there are some lovely places to see and live. Would I go back? Probably not. It’s too flat. I would miss the mountains.
            I do miss being EMS, though. I used to go home and write about some of my calls. I wanted to remember them, which wasn’t hard, considering my memory. I have a scrapbook with all of my tests, my certification congratulatory letter and the notes I wrote about my runs. I even have a piece of a police officers’ pants. Smile. Not what you’re thinking, probably. I thought that by remembering them by writing about them, they would always be remembered…even if only by a complete stranger who just happened to cross their path.

            Liked by 1 person

  10. The cough is the worst… tears form in the eyes and the throat closes until you finally decide to end it with one throat-tearing soul-exploding cough. But, that cough brings its friends. After forty-five seconds of hacking and choking, you open your eyes and no one is within ten feet of you… the meeting has stopped and YOU have become a legend…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, that coughing mess. I have a deep voice, which means my coughing is deep as well, so I sound like some pissed-off Krakken when I let loose, unlike those prim folks who release an indiscreet wisp (“eh eh” and then they’re done. My abusive bray can crack the foundation of a medium skyscraper, and that doesn’t always work in my favor…

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I don’t know what Rhonda Byrne’s law of attraction is, but it seems majority of us have experienced the opposite. Like the more we try to impress the universe makes it likely to happen. Like one day you think you will reach office on time, it starts raining like cats and dogs. Therefore its so important to have a understanding and liberal boss. Like a good boss is like a dream. A bad job with a good boss is so much better than a great job with a bad boss. What are your opinions? Which one would you rather pick?
    Let us know after reading our blog on this topic which you would be able to find on our site along with other great articles. Do check them out and let us know your thoughts on that.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Hi Angshita,

    I’m retired, so I don’t have to deal with bosses anymore, but I’ve worked in both situations (bad job/good boss, great job/bad boss) and there are positives and negatives to both experiences. In the end, it’s what you do about the situation that matters.

    Thanks for taking the time to make a comment!


    • I clearly have some negative karma that I’m working off from past lives, as I always managed to look like a complete nimrod in company meetings, despite my best intentions to be as professional as possible. The one thing that got me through? My sense of humor. It’s so much easier to find something funny about the situation rather than dwell on the not-good…

      Liked by 1 person

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