When humans want to blame someone else for their mistakes, they have something called a meeting. This is a coming together of several people with the sole aim of converting all the interested parties into distinctly uninterested parties. Through a process of muddled arguments, the airing of bitter grudges, and vain attempts to settle old scores, humans with contradictory opinions are eventually unified in an overwhelming sense of communal apathy.

If this all sounds pointless and confusing, it’s worth reflecting that the word meeting has no direct translation in any Gloabon language. On a side note, the Andelian translation of the word is blood feud, but then that’s their translation for pretty much everything involving more than one person. Indeed, the Andelian Blood Feud Championships apparently feature over six hundred different types of event, and these championships are the only major galactic sporting event in which the score of any given contest is generally lower than the death toll among the competitors. Fortunately, the championship is only held every seven hundred and fifty years, mainly to give the population time to recover.

But once again, my expert knowledge of the galaxy has tempted me to digress. Back to the subject of meetings, and no yawning at the back.

By long tradition, human meetings begin their tedious business just before the last person arrives. This is done in order to single out one member of the group and identify them as an initial target for general disapproval. In the spirit of never giving a sucker an even break, the participants are briefly drawn together in their shared sense of superiority, secure in the knowledge that no matter how bad the meeting may be, at least they’re better off than the poor unfortunate who arrived late.

Meetings sometimes have a list of topics for discussion, known as the agenda, and for some reason, this is roundly ignored in favor of a more free-ranging discussion, probably because this gives more opportunity for the scoring of points. Points are awarded on an arbitrary basis, but the main factors taken into account are:

  • Loudness of voice
  • Boldness of tone when stating unsupported conclusions
  • Ability to express contradictory views on the same topic
  • Enthusiasm for provoking arguments at all costs
  • Tendency to stretch any single topic beyond all reasonable endurance
  • The blurring of fact, opinion, hearsay, conjecture, rumor, and snippets of gossip gleaned while at the water cooler.

Bonus points are awarded for successfully steering any meeting onto any one of the following areas:

  • Parking spaces
  • The tea and coffee fund
  • Subjects covered in previous meetings
  • The Christmas party.

During the meeting, points are calculated silently in the minds of each participant and never shared. This may seem nonconstructive, but it has the overwhelming advantage of allowing each participant to feel that at any given time, they are the clear winners.

When the agenda has been exhausted by the participants (or vice versa) the meeting judders into a gray area of doom known as AOB or Any Other Business. This is a vicious free for all in which contestants, sorry, I mean participants, scramble over each other in a verbal bid for superiority, desperately trying to grab a few more points before the meeting ends. At this point, a special bonus is available, and huge credit is given to any participant who can deliver a peculiar kind of coup de grâce. This prize is awarded to the participant who can deliver a summing up in such a way as to circumvent any further discussion, while at the same time, reducing all the issues to a small number of statements. For maximum effect, these statements must cunningly revert the state of play to exactly what it was at the outset, effectively rendering the entire process useless and unnecessary.

At this point, the participants silently marvel at the verbal dexterity of the winner while silently cursing their own inability to deliver the final blow. Nursing their battered pride, the losers retire to lick their wounds and to reflect on the length of time they’ve just wasted. But even as they begin work on their strategies for the future, the winner of the meeting is being taken aside and ceremoniously fired. Because if there’s one thing all humans agree on, it’s that any person who can successfully manipulate a meeting in order to build up a power base, must be stopped. Naturally, there’s a certain amount of wastage in this process, but most agree that this is a price worth paying. Those who insist on dominating meetings for their own ends generally leave the worlds of business and commerce, and turn instead to politics. This is an unfortunate side-effect of the internecine struggle that is the meeting, but there is nothing anyone can do about it. Of course, humans could simply agree to abandon the whole sorry process for once and for all, but although this is attempted from time to time, it never gets past the subcommittee stage.

And now I must leave you. I’m taking a few of my erstwhile colleagues from The Gamulon on a field trip to a local council meeting. I’m sure that my friends will be horrified and fascinated in equal measure, but I’ve attended several of these meetings and frankly, I’m over any initial interest I may once have felt. So I must go and stock up on stimulants or I’ll be sound asleep before the meeting gets past the ritual humiliation known as the hunt for the minutes from the last meeting also known as the lost email scenario.

Until next time, be at peace my friends, and if you’re ever called to take part in a meeting, remember to take something small and solid. The glass in those fire alarm switches is trickier to break than you might think.

MYSABFL,

R.

You may comment below, but any foolishness may well result in you receiving a visit from a member of the Earth Liaison Unit. You have been warned. Thank you.

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