“Let’s Vote on Whether to Vote”

Here’s another madcap satire on time management. You should try to run an effective meetings by following NONE of the practices in this wacky story, where everything goes awry.

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Felicia Fetherstonhaugh was not looking forward to the meeting. It was for the Pennies for Penelope the Penguin Committee. Something deep inside warned her that, just like last week’s meeting, this one would run with the all of the finesse of a drunken cyclist doing figure eights on a skating rink. While blindfolded. But Felicia had committed to her community group’s newest project, and she didn’t want to back out.

She arrived at chairman Sydney Hackenberger’s house at the designated 6:15 p.m. start time. No one else had showed up yet. She waited impatiently, while reading an old, dog-eared copy of the National Enquirer. Apparently, Elvis had kidnapped some aliens and was teaching them to play guitar.

At 6:30 p.m. Sydney proclaimed that the turnout was quite good. Besides Felicia, the turnout consisted of Sydney, his wife Blossom, who was in the kitchen burning popcorn, his four-year-old daughter, who kept trying to give Felicia an unwanted manicure, and Sydney’s dog Rumbledork. While waiting for more people to arrive,Sidney proudly announced that this would be a special meeting. Special because not one but two types of coffee would be served. Then he reviewed the project’s purpose: to raise money for Penelope, a trained penguin at the local zoo who had hurt a flipper during a recent performance.

At 6:45 p.m. Anthony Slobodsky and his girlfriend, Ignazia Grunwald, arrived. They had been held up on the highway after a truck filled with fluorescent ping-pong balls had spilled its load. At 7:10 p.m. Gerald McGuckin appeared. He claimed to be early because, according to his notes, the meeting was to start at 7:15 p.m. For the next fifteen minutes, the committee members munched on cold, burnt popcorn while trying to decide on a date for the following meeting.

When the proceedings finally started, Felicia askedS ydneyfor an agenda. “Agenda?”Sydney answered. “Yeah, well, I’ve got it all in my head, so we don’t really need one.” A heated discussion then ensued on what to discuss first; the fund-raising event, which was to be a sleep-a-thon, or the wrap-up party for the volunteers.

Felicia asked to review the minutes from the previous meeting. After much fruitless scrounging around, Gerald remembered that the minutes had been lost down a sewer grate on the way to a post-meeting rendezvous at a local bar. Felicia suggested that they look at the minutes from the prior meeting to that. After another flurry of searching, Gerald found them scribbled on the inside back cover of a slightly ragged and thoroughly trashy spy novel. The good news was that the minutes contained the name of a potential sponsor. The bad news was that Gerald couldn’t  tell which of the hastily scrawled names referred to the sponsor and which referred to the dental hygienist whom he had been flirting with in the bar.

The discussions continued, though without Gerald. Exhausted from all of his scrounging, he had taken to idly surfing the news on his IPad. Suddenly, he slapped his hand to his forehead in astonishment and jumped to his feet. “Oh my god, guess what? This is astonishing. Incredible!” he exclaimed with all of the profundity associated with the announcement of an imminent nuclear attack. “Penelope has recovered from her wound!”

“Well, then, I guess we should disband the committee,” announced Felicia.

“No way!” retorted Sydney. “Our committee was promised money to get this going and we’re going to spend all of it.”

Felicia interjected, “I thought the purpose of the project was to raise money.”

“Sure, but you have to spend money to raise money,” responded Sydney. “Postage, letterhead, a web page, the planning party, the after party, gifts for each of the donors, an embossed plaque for the penguin house…” The list went on.

The group spent the next twenty minutes deciding what to order for dinner. When pizza was chosen, they debated what size, what toppings and even what outlet to order from.  Sydney instituted strict parliamentary procedure. Motions were followed by amendments, revisions, counterarguments, points of order and points of privilege. As the committee debated how to extricate itself from a tangled web of procedural mish mash, Anthony made a definitive proposal. “I suggest we vote on whether to take a vote.” They ordered chicken.

Dinner was followed by a prolonged round of vociferous squabbling and silly name calling, Felicia interjected, “We’re spending an awful lot of time on this, and we’re not really getting anywhere. We have an idea, but no goals, no plans and no commitments.” She suggested some techniques to improve the meeting dynamics, including starting on time, sticking to the agenda, appointing a chairperson and preventing the dog from barfing on anyone.

As a result, the following meeting ran much more smoothly. The sleep-a-thon would be held in the city’s main square on a Saturday night in November. Television coverage would publicize the event in between periods during a hockey broadcast. Participants would sleep on inflatable rubber mattresses, floating on a large, portable swimming pool. With new-age music playing in the background and Penelope swimming around the sleeping bodies, it would be hailed as a 21st century Esther Williams extravaganza. Or an 18th century cesspool.

But troublesome questions remained. Would participants be allowed breaks, or would continuous sleeping be required? Would couples be allowed? What if the water in the swimming pool froze?

And the most troublesome question of all: What would happen to the proceeds of the event now that Penelope had healed? When the subject arose,Sydney stood and proudly addressed the assembled multitude of four.

“I’ve decided to continue with another zoological undertaking. As of now, we will now embark with energy, gusto, enthusiasm and other synonyms to raise money for a new cause: Dollars for Dentures for Delores the Donkey!”

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