Monday, May 17, 2010

Power Point

Sunday Night Baseball: What do I need to hear about Bob Uecker? I want to hear about the baseball.

Blackening the screen, I return to writing about Les Misérables. One day last week I was trying to read one of the most exciting sections of one of the most exciting series of scenes and chapters ever written, while at work, when suddenly one of the conditions of my employment as outlined in my job description required me to leave my desk and go down to the building lobby to greet and escort some people from a foreign company upstairs to a meeting room. Previously I'd booked the meeting and the room; but when on my way to the elevator I stopped to check that the room was empty, I found it occupied. I looked through the window in the door and saw sitting around the table a bunch of guys I recognized as working here; two I knew their names. Immediately I judged this meeeting to be of no further importance and opened the door and gave them five more minutes, since it would take me that long to get back with "my" meeting's participants.

The guests waiting at the security desk downstairs proved to be three very nice Canadians (all Canadians are so nice), two men and a woman, who run a mining company in Canada, accompanied by the broker from a Canadian firm who was escorting them through their day of meetings with fund managers whom they hoped to persuade to buy their stock. If the manager buys and the company strikes gold (in this case, literally) then the value of the fund will rise with the value of the shares, putting more money into the pensions and retirement accounts whose own managers, in turn, have invested in the fund. I was about to write that brokers have a hard job; in fact all these jobs are hard, much harder than mine. But they pay very much better and I assume, having chosen mine, that they too were willingly chosen--I don't begrudge, and I usually like, the higher wage earners I meet every day. Every other person I bring upstairs for a meeting makes unimaginable magnitudes more than I do of money; so, I make other things. I'm like Marius, living poor to leave more room for contemplation--don't you see?

Anyway, back upstairs with the Canadians I've told them to dawdle in the "washrooms" in case the room still isn't vacant and in fact it's not. I end up parking them just outside, on and around a nearby credenza, and I open the door again. I see these guys I recognize, again, right by the door is one guy who's in some kind of charge here, seated around the table in shirtsleeves with their hands--there must have been six or seven even of these guys--identically holding their heads from behind in interlocked fingers, making their elbows like wings, happy as kids full of sunshine and hamburger; and then the one guy I haven't seen before, he's wearing a suit, he's standing and giving a financial product software demonstration from a laptop and projector on the pull-down screen. And he is very far from being finished. With smooth haste he continues to enumerate the range and speed of features for processes he's still only halfway through listing. The presentation, clearly, is timed to suffer fewer interruptions than it had that afternoon: the shirtsleeves I recognize burned this guy's gasoline very fiercely, cruising among show-offy digressions while he stood there for over an hour in his suit. I've got the door wide open at this point and the Canadians are widening (not rolling!) their kind eyes at the unstoppable torrent of technical jargon that's reaching us, so much like one of their nation's own numerous natural wonders I imagine. At last the shirtsleeves seem to have taken their fill and they come lumbering out in the style of their leader, a heavy lumberer, leaving ungracious tramp-marks all over the tail end of the guy's presentation while he's left to unplug his equipment; I offered but he didn't want help. Nor could I tell him that I thought he was the true professional in the room and that with the advantages of a top-tier degree and influential family connections he'd no doubt have been sitting where they were. Indeed, this would have been no sort of compliment. And I wanted to get back to my reading.

Men at work: no wonder there's so much written about them. There really is a lot of action there.

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