Meeting Of The Mindless

After I started this blog I was pretty surprised to find out that not a lot of other military folks blog. A lot of military spouses do, but not the folks wearing the Garanimals outfits with weapons. As a result, I’ve fielded questions several times about exactly what I do in the Army. This is surprisingly difficult to answer, really, because I have to describe something using words that mainly don’t exist outside of the Army for a job performed in the Army. Sort of like asking a space alien what it’s like to be a space alien.

The good news here is that I’m not attempting to answer that question here today. What I will say about my current position is that I spend way too much time in meetings. I hate meetings. You’ve already read about my intense revulsion and hatred of Power Point, so it should come as no epic surprise that I equally despise meetings. Meetings often have Power Point, which only makes the pain climb more exponentially. I also include conferences, tele-conferences, conventions, and other silliness in the same category of hatred as meetings.

At my level of seniority and rank, I come out at the upper-middle management tier equivalent for you all who sport button-downs and neckties or snappy business suits. Or skirts. This means that I largely get paid to think and communicate. In some ways this is just awesome because being paid to have opinions and talk is a lot like getting paid to… blog. However, one painful feature of any hierarchical organization – military or corporate – is the necessity to get together and talk. I do this more than I need to.

There is an old joke in the Army. When you get promoted to Major, they take your mouth away. Then when you get promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, they also take your brain away. Finally, when you make full Colonel, they give you your mouth back. Sadly this joke contains a lot more truth than it ought to. My boss is thankfully an exception (that’s not ass-covering there) but I have to interact with all manner of folks every day that probably fit exactly within this joke’s model.

I like to at least think that I don’t fall into that category, though opinion may vary on this. The old saying about keeping your mouth shut and letting people wonder about your retardedness versus opening it and confirming it is something I have tried to keep in mind, so sitting around air-drying my soup cooler isn’t anything I prefer to engage in. Because of this, sitting in a room full of people who prefer dry teeth and confirmed fuckwithood is the equivalent to wiping my ass with steel wool.

We are all products of our experience, I have long thought, and clearly I worked for some folks early on who took the same dim view of meetings. There is always work to be done, particularly in the Army. The kind of work you can ignore as long as you like, but it sits there waiting for you like a turd in the grass. To extend that analogy, it does little good to sit in the house talking about scooping up the dogshit in the yard when just going and doing it is more effective. Especially knowing that the dog doesn’t attend meetings and is free to keep piling it on out there for your poopscooping pleasure.

Some things are good to talk about, without question. If you’re going to head over to Terry Taliban’s house and drop in for a say-hey and change his mind (with a 7.62mm), it’s a good thing to make sure you’re all on the same sheet of music before you knock on the door. The painful meetings, the ones that leave me wishing for pliers to yank out my fingernails, or contemplating jamming my pen into my eye socket, are not this type. Interestingly, they happen far outside of danger, and are really only mental masturbation sessions designed to give one or a few people the warm, happy feeling that they’re doing something.

Someone let me know when the meeting kicks off. I have to go find my leg holster.

57 Responses to “Meeting Of The Mindless”

  1. There are few things more frustrating than meetings led by people who let things meander more than the old guy wearing the football helmet who wanders the streets. Meetings, like most things, are pretty simple when you break them down to what they are intended to accomplish. Sadly, most people who run them fail to realize this and you end up with a room of people whose collective minds are on anything other than the topic at hand.

  2. Boobs always help pass the time, in meetings or not; I’m a big fan. Good post though, sadly oh so true. I think the spate of new technology available to the REMFs over the past decade has increased the amount of information available to us all at the click of a mouse. All that info has to be compiled and processed and then briefed, at great length. What happened to the days when the mission was accomplished, or it wasn’t, and that was the briefing?

    BTW, I’m a military blogger. That is if you Army guys consider the Air Force part of the military.

  3. You DO realize that the people running the meetings are probably thinking about boobs too, right? Meeting of the mindless indeed…

  4. savorthefolly Says:

    One of my favorite things about blog world is it’s like travel – I get to go places and see inside the minds and experiences of people I wouldn’t otherwise interact with on a regular basis. My life just plain doesn’t or at least rarely intersect with military life any more – with your blogs I get a view inside that life I couldn’t otherwise access.

  5. I am a bureaucrat, and we too have a fixation with meetings. I work with people whose only social life is through said meetings. I Wish I could designate a surrogate to attend for me. Honestly, it would have NO impact on the outcome.

  6. Thanks for the old army joke . . . priceless. πŸ˜€

  7. John Erickson Says:

    I have had the misfortune to be in business meetings (where higher ups mouth moronities about “leveraging synergies” and crap like that) and in meetings about punting down the door and blasting what you find inside (even if it was with blanks). I always preferred the latter – to the point that I’d often think about holding one of those “shoot first and the heck with questions” meetings DURING the business-babble meetings.
    I had many a co-worker VERY worried. And I liked it that way. πŸ˜‰

    • You just get down with your bad self, John.

      • John Erickson Says:

        Maybe one of these days, I’ll tell you about the co-worker, who accused me of being somebody to come back with an AK and shoot up the place. Off the top of my head, I laid out in disturbing detail how I would mine and booby-trap the building – right down to materials choices and debate on best time of day. He never looked at me the same way again! πŸ˜€

        • I see I’m not alone, then.

          • John Erickson Says:

            Nothing weirds out the mundanes more than a graphic description of a military maneuver. A high school buddy and I ended up in the principal’s office one time, brought by the janitor – all because we wanted detailed plans of the building to build a war game scenario around. Fortunately, this long pre-dated Columbine…..

          • John, you have issues but I kinda like you.

  8. Dude, I am so with you on this. Too many of our meetings are swirl sessions … you know, the “decision by committee” crap? A lot of them don’t like me much since I don’t tolerate asshattery well and have been known to put my foot down and decide for them. Either that, or I just leave the meeting because they’re wasting my time (and yes, I do state that).

  9. […] about this subject, notably since I dove into the vat of Hateorade when I critiqued PowerPoint and meetings in general. However, yesterday I had the opportunity to suffer through the unvarnished terror of one […]

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