Beep. You’re the first to join the call.
Welcome to business as usual as it speeds toward the end of the decade. Companies have decentralized. Staffing is distributed. Conference calls are a daily aspect of your life. And it only takes a few of them to discover you’ll forever deal with a familiar cast of conference call characters. Their names may change, but everything else will be as predictable as the sunrise.
It’s 9:58 a.m. You’re on the call two minutes early because you’ve got things to get done, and you believe that being the first on a conference call sends a strong message that you mean business. The hold music is enough to make you scream, even just a couple minutes of it.
Then you scan the invitation list and realize that being forced to listen to 30 minutes of the hold music might be preferable. Why is that particular person even going to be on this call, anyway? They have nothing to … BEEP!
Frank the Philosopher has joined the call!
You know better but you do it anyway: You ask Frank how he’s doing. Frank is incapable of short, simple answers. “Fine, and you?” is not in his lexicon. Frank will now spend the next five minutes telling you about the insight he’s gotten into upper management based on a TED Talk he watched the day before.
The only plus to Frank’s soliloquy is that it will eat up the time you’ll spend waiting for the rest of the participants. And Frank’s nonstop delivery is marginally better than the music on hold. We’ve all dealt with a guy like Frank on a conference call.
Ian the Interrupter has joined the call!
You hit the mute button and chuckle. Oh, the irony. Frank the Philosopher gets cut off in mid sentence. Ian has a highly-inflated sense of self-importance and often a rotten sense of timing.
People who give him the benefit of the doubt say he’s not rude. He just thinks it’s his turn to say something. Once he starts, he doesn’t stop. He just keeps talking right over the top. When he’s on a conference call, you learn fast to yield to Ian. We’ve all dealt with a guy like Ian before. The only person who ever seems to put Ian in check is––
Donna the Dominatrix has joined the call!
And Donna is on a tear. It’s now four minutes past the official start time for the conference call and she’s demanding to know who’s on, and who’s missing. No one will ask the obvious. Hey, Donna. Glass houses! You’re upset because your time is precious, yet you’re late for the call yourself!
In some respects, you’re glad Donna’s on this call. She didn’t organize it, but she will take control. And honestly, the true conference call organizer has a habit of––
Steve the Silent Caller has joined the call!
You take a moment to check news headlines while Frank, Ian, and Donna struggle to get Steve to take his phone out of mute mode. Steve cannot leave mute alone. He must mute himself unless he is actually speaking. Except then he’s forgotten he’s muted himself. So he isn’t ever speaking even when he thinks he’s speaking.
Why does Steve do this thing with the mute button? No one is quite sure. Some believe it’s because Steve is two-timing you and actually talking to someone else on a different line. You don’t buy into this. You’ve worked closely with Steve on a couple projects. He’s not a multitasker. If there’s a viable reason it’s–––
Erica of the Eternal Echo has joined the call!
Well, there’s the start of a headache before lunch. Thank you once again, Erica. How is it possible? How can she produce those ear-piercing feedback noises? It’s like she crawls into her clothes dryer before getting on a conference call.
Donna the Dominatrix will have none of this. Even though Ian the Interrupter has cut off Frank the Philosopher from relaying for the third time his epiphany from the TED Talk, Donna talks over the top of both to demand that somebody from the IT department get to the bottom of Erica’s technical issues.
You briefly toy with the thought of reminding Donna that there’s no one representing IT on the call. But then…
A barking dog has joined the call!
Okay, the conference call software doesn’t announce this. No one else has joined the call. Which means that a current participant is obviously working from home today. Before anyone can comment, the barking is drowned out by … is that the sound of a vacuum cleaner?
And then Erica is apologizing while feedback and echoes make it sound as if she’s cloned herself and all 12 of them are on the call. It’s her [screech] dog and vacuum [screech] cleaner. She’s so sorry. She thought [screech] she––
Erica mercifully mutes her phone, and you imagine her shooing the cleaning lady and her dog from the room.
It’s now 17 minutes after the hour. What was this conference call supposed to be about? You mouse over to your email to refresh your memory. You realize the mistake even as you click your mouse. Oops. You just hung up on the conference call.
David the Disconnector has rejoined the call!
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