Meetings Anonymous

Donald Shephard

Hello. My name is Donald. I am an addict. I am a grossly underpaid and overworked petty bureaucrat and I am addicted to meetings. I have been addicted to meetings since 1971, 27 years now. I expect to get a gold watch very soon.

I know I cannot go to just one meeting without craving for more. That is why I joined this group of MA - Meeting-aholics Anonymous - a 12-step program to help me become a recovering meeting-holic.

I first realized that I was addicted to meetings when I started scheduling two meetings at the same time - just in case one was cancelled or postponed. That way I was sure to have another meeting to fall back on and I would never have time to do any real work.

I found that I could extend meetings by various ruses. Many people use crutch words to extend the length of their speaking time. For er example herumph I could you know, I could, make this like sentence er much OK much er shorter without, as it were you know OK all these crutch words.

Then there is the steak and kidney pudding approach to extending meetings. Steak and kidney pudding is a poor person's way of extending the flavor of a little meat by wrapping it in a huge wad of suet pudding. I found that I could extend a meeting by interjecting a series of irrelevant questions to distract a speaker into a veritable suet pudding of digressions. My personal favorite is the question, "What about Johnny Appleseed?" It works well in most situations.

There is a law for most situations also. Parkinson's Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted for it. Donald's corollary states that a meeting will expand to overflow the time allotted for it. Thus, if you need a five minute meeting, schedule it for half an hour and it will last a full hour. Another corollary is, "Junk expands to fill the garage space allotted for it." But, I see I am digressing. Back to meeting addiction.

An old supervisor of mine had a handy habit of allowing meetings to run well into the lunch hour with, I suppose, the hope of getting more work out of us poor serfs. I have honed this skill so that I can extend morning meetings until 11:45 which means I am sure to be late for postprandial meetings. Rushing in late, I ask the chair to recap the agenda discussions which have occurred in my absence. This further delays the meeting. It also means that all previous topics are rehashed with even more heat than the first time around. People say things like, "But what you said was..." and "What I actually said was..." and "What I heard you say was..." These are symptoms of a meeting of meeting-holics.

All these methods, then, are ways to extend meetings morning, noon, and night leaving you little time to actually produce any real work. Your family rarely sees you. You lose your job for lack of production. You end up in the gutter. You are on the slippery slope to a lonely death in Hoboken. When you recognize these symptoms in yourself, you have taken the first step on the road to recovery.

I regret to inform you that the first meeting of MA has been postponed due to scheduling difficulties. We hope to make a fresh start in the New Year. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a meeting to go to.

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