An Automated Conference Call Moderator Gets Real.
BY COLIN NISSAN
The host has not yet arrived, please continue to hold, your conference will begin momentarily. The sound of a beep will signal the host’s arrival. That same beep will act as a Pavlovian trigger catapulting your mind through the succession of terrible decisions that led you to this place, this job, this cubicle, that haircut, those pants.
Your host, of course, will be Tom. Tom Rogers. Tom, who begins all of his PowerPoint presentations with a Garfield comic. Tom, who despite ongoing attempts has yet to use the phrase “Circle the Wagons” properly. Tom, who teaches Judo in the evenings and refers to the office as his “Work Dojo.”
With Tom based in the West Coast office, you have not had much personal contact with him, but this in no way diminishes the vividness of your recurring daydream wherein you mount Tom’s back and claw his eyes out with the fangs of a staple remover.
Leslie will also be on the call. She always is. She will ask “Who just joined?” every time that little chime rings out, then personally welcome each new person and list the names of the others on the line. It is not Leslie’s job to do this, yet she does it. She does it for Tom. Why? Because Leslie is in love with Tom and has been for quite some time. She wants nothing more than to feel Tom’s clumsy hands on her clumsy breasts, to be propped up on that Xerox WorkCentre 5150 and have the 401k knocked right out of her.
There will be a phantom beep at some point during the call that will profoundly unnerve Leslie. “Who just joined?” she will ask. Silence. “Hello! Who just joined??” Silence again. “Announce yourself, dammit!” The call will never be quite the same for Leslie from that point forward.
The other participants will soon reveal themselves through a flourish of garbled introductions, some you will catch, others you will not. Either way, it doesn’t matter, introductions are for the living.
Doug-the-Bullhorn, whose volume will be inexplicably ten times louder than anyone else’s. No one will tell Doug this, of course. No one ever tells Doug this.
Kelly-the-Intermittent, who will call in remotely with her usual spotty cell service, then apologize saying that she has a full signal and can’t understand what’s wrong, while continuing to cut out as she explains this. Eventually, everyone will pretend to understand Kelly in an unspoken agreement to get her to stop talking.
Charles-the-Mouth-Breather from sales, whose phlegmy inhales and exhales will serve as a constant reminder of his, otherwise silent, poultry-necked presence on the call.
Richard-the-Deliberately-Late, who will show up mere seconds before the call’s final wrap-up, as he always does, and request a “quick recap” of what was discussed. There will be nothing quick about this recap, but Richard is a VP so everyone will sit through it while drawing penises with his name on them.
There will be others, many others. You’ll try desperately to digest a single word through the acronym-laden gibberish, while beginning to wonder what the point of all this is, and also why you didn’t feel that staple you just sent into your thigh. You usually do. You’ll wonder what your company even does. After six years, you have no idea what an information system is, do you? Maybe you should ask. Maybe that’s how this ends. You’ll imagine how poetic it would be to simply unmute yourself and say, “Sorry to interrupt, guys, but what’s an information system?”
Still, your mind will drift further, envisioning how much more tolerable this call would be if you could just slowly masturbate during it. So you do. You masturbate during it. And it’s beautiful. Masturbating, invisible within your three-walled fortress. Invisible… invisible… practically invisible.
Please continue to hold, your conference will begin shortly.
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