Tomorrow will be a day of empty pleasantries.
8 hours in a small conference room with my entire department (6 people: 5 women; 1 man--me--), working on the same task--together.
This meeting happens twice a year. We all know it is coming; in my calendar I mark it by coloring in the entire square pure black, because that is what the entire day will feel like--a slow, agonizing death.
The work we have to accomplish is tedious and relatively meaningless, and within two hours my eyes will start to glaze over and I'll start trying to make images out of the uneven layers of flat white paint on the walls.
The boss will start out the meeting with a review of procedures and the peace offering of cinnamon buns that turn into a thick paste in your mouth and coffee that tastes like cigarette ashes. Then, she will vanish not to be seen again until near the end of the day.
Left to our own devices is dangerous, indeed; because, you see, we all hate each other. Empty conversations about children will ensue during down times of the process, and my eyes will glaze over some more--being unmarried and childless keeps me silent during these vapid pleasantries.
These conversations take on the tone of a scene from Jane Austen where the women sit around at a dinner party or during a ball and fling shrouded barbs at one another:
"Miss Featherstone, it is a courageous woman, indeed, to wear such a nonconventional frock to this dinner party. Even at your advanced age, you set a fine example for the young ladies assembled here this night."
"Why, thank you, Mrs. Sheraton. I only hope when I have been married as long as you, and have procreated so plentifully, I can be as delightful and well-preserved while still having the time to keep abreast of current fashion trends and attending to the developing decorum of our young ladies in town."
In my mental meanderings, I hope for one day when we walk into the conference room and the large table and chairs are simply gone--replaced by an old-fashion buffet with 6 bottles of wine and about 100 wine glasses. After a few swigs of breakfast Merlot (hey, it's happy hour somewhere, right?), the conversation will take a drastic veer off course:
"Miss Featherstone, I can't believe you would dress like a dime-a-dance trollop for work. Do you have no dignity? You aren't 18 any more, dear, and all the young girls around the building just look at you and laugh--honestly, set a better example."
And with that, she'll take a satisfying gulp of her Merlot. Miss Featherstone, however, is unfazed.
"Why, thank you, Mrs Sheraton. I'm so willing to take advice from a washed up old hag who can't keep her legs closed, who has a baseball team's worth of children, and who dresses as if she still lives in Walnut Grove on Little House on the Prairie. As if you, of anyone, should be giving any fashion advice."
And to punctuate the point, she'll hurl a wine glass across the room at the wall. The shattering and tinkling sound of shards cascading to the floor will send shivers of joy down my spine--thus explaining the need for 100 wine glasses, because this will just be the beginning.
It would probably be a really good thing for the entire department to release a lot of this bottled up frustration and hatred, but, alas, this is not going to happen any time soon.
So, as I sit staring off into space during the 8 hours of torture, I will smile as I picture splatters of wine--like ruptured paint balls--decorating those sterile, white walls. That should get me through the day, and to celebrate, I think I'll have a glass of wine before bed.