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Creek Running North
December 18, 2005
Interior, day. A small, airless room with no windows. One wall is entirely taken up by a bookshelf, on which are piled so many stacks of yellowing paper, so unstable and close to tottering that it is clear no one has read any of the books for a very long time. Four mis-matched office task chairs surround an old oak table. Two of the chairs squeak incessantly. One chair is occupied by a banker's box full of paper, the lid slightly askew. The other three are occupied by Garcin, Estelle, and Inez.
GARCIN: [wearily] We have been at this a very long time.
ESTELLE: It's important to give the matter a full airing.
GARCIN: I agree. But we've gotten nowhere. We agreed at the beginning of the meeting to give this final agenda item ten minutes. An hour has passed, and I'm beginning to fear we'll be here forever.
INEZ: You've got no right to inflict the sight of your fear on me.
ESTELLE: Inez, I hear your reluctance, but I don't understand it. When we spoke before this meeting, you were wholly in favor of the idea.
INEZ: And I still am.
GARCIN: Then why…
INEZ: One can support an idea, yet object to the heavy-handed way in which it is imposed.
INEZ: We are here two women and one man.
GARCIN: And so…
ESTELLE: I see.
INEZ: And so, Garcin, why is it that you, the man, are assigned control of this meeting?
GARCIN: But we rotate meeting facilitation! You ran the last meeting, Inez.
ESTELLE: And yet…
INEZ: But who imposed that arbitrary system?
GARCIN: We did, the three of us. We agreed to it after a full day of discussion.
INEZ: And who facilitated that meeting? You, Garcin.
GARCIN: Because you asked me to. Estelle was on the roster to chair that meeting, and was late. You asked me to, Inez.
ESTELLE: I had another meeting.
INEZ: And yet I had reservations about that arbitrary system of facilitation, Garcin, and I kept them to myself for fear of ridicule. What use is a Procrustean "fairness" when it means one third of our meetings are ruled by a patriarchal hand? Estelle, you must agree with me on this.
ESTELLE: I can't put myself in your skin. You must decide for yourself.
GARCIN: Inez, you are becoming hysterical. If I cut discussion short it is merely for efficiency's sake. We each of us want out of this room.
GARCIN: We're chasing after each other, round and round in a vicious circle, like the horses on a merry-go-round. That's part of their plan, of course… Drop it, Inez. Open your hands and let go of everything.
INEZ: [sighing] Never mind. I drop my objection. If Estelle is on your side, I won't block consensus. So carry on, Mr. Garcin, and try to be honest with yourself for once.
ESTELLE: Should we force Inez to support a decision she abhors?
INEZ: Have it your own way. I'm the weaker party, one against two.
[Cell phone rings.]
ESTELLE: I need to take this.
GARCIN: Can I just check in with you, Inez? I sense you're feeling some frustration with the way I'm running this meeting.
INEZ: One can only take so much anger from a facilitator.
ESTELLE: I'm running late. I'm still in my meeting with Garcin and Inez.
GARCIN: Angry? I'm not at all angry.
INEZ: Your anger colors every suggestion, each of your attempts to choke off discussion.
ESTELLE: Yes, that's fine, we can revisit that topic when I get there.
GARCIN: I feel no anger, but frustration. We always seem to come to agreement on ninety-five percent of a matter, and then your feeling female trivia sabotage our progress.
INEZ: And there we have it. It's just as I thought. The misogyny is revealed. You cannot dismantle the master's house by using the master's tools. Yes, we agree on the substance, but what is a good decision arrived at by oppressive means?
GARCIN: A good decision.
ESTELLE: We're going to have to revisit that in light of Garcin's revisions to the Mission Statement.
GARCIN: That's absurd. I don't hate women. Do you know, I used to be mad about women? And some were fond of me. So we may as well stop posing. Why trouble about politeness, and decorum, and the rest of it? We're between ourselves.
ESTELLE: OK, Ciao. [hangs up]
INEZ: The worst oppression is familiar.
ESTELLE: I'm sorry. Could you rehash what the two of you were discussing while I was offline?
INEZ: We were just sidebarring. Let us proceed.
GARCIN: Yes, let's. As Inez has agreed to the proposal, we should declare the matter settled.
ESTELLE: Do you have your revisions of the Mission Statement?
GARCIN: They're almost done. I can have them by the end of day.
INEZ: That's what you said last week.
GARCIN: Last week I doused a hundred fires.
ESTELLE: It was fifty words.
GARCIN: And they're nearly done. I need but type them.
INEZ: And you said that last week as well.
ESTELLE: We can't implement this decision without the Mission Statement.
INEZ: And the week before.
GARCIN: I own the fact that I let it fall behind. I take responsibility for making sure it's done by the end of the day.
ESTELLE: We simply can't implement this decision without the Mission Statement.
GARCIN: You've made that clear.
INEZ: Why are we even having this discussion without the Mission Statement?
GARCIN: By the end of the day.
ESTELLE: Good, because we'll need it to implement this decision.
INEZ: We should rescind the decision until we have the Mission Statement.
GARCIN: The Mission Statement will reflect our discussion here. By the end of the day.
ESTELLE: Will it reflect the part of the discussion that took place while I was on the phone? I didn't have the chance to offer feedback.
INEZ: It was a sidebar.
GARCIN: It was a sidebar.
ESTELLE: I had no chance to offer feedback.
GARCIN: So it's agreed: the three of us will reconvene as a formal committee to draft a meeting facilitation policy.
INEZ: If we're in agreement, then, let us adjourn and reconvene.
GARCIN: I have two more short items we must discuss.
INEZ: Why didn't you put them on the agenda?
GARCIN: I lacked the opportunity.
INEZ: You wrote the agenda!
ESTELLE: I feel strong reservations about forcing Inez to agree with this decision. We should make sure her concerns have been aired to her satisfaction.
INEZ: They haven't been. They haven't been at all.
[cell phone rings]
ESTELLE: I need to take this.
[fade to black]
Posted by Chris Clarke at December 18, 2005 11:19 AM
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Man, they warned me about that stuff, but did I listen? NoooOOOooo.Posted by: Ron at December 18, 2005 02:50 PM
Chris, that might be the funniest thing I ever read. Or the most terrifying. It's hard to tell anymore.Posted by: alphabitch at December 18, 2005 03:17 PM
Vladimir and Estragon take a meeting, but neither one has Godot's proxy so nothing is settled...
I really haven't missed having meetings ever since I switched from full-time to freelance.Posted by: Orange at December 18, 2005 08:25 PM
I just got OUT of work. You're facilitating my PTSD or something.Posted by: Allison at December 18, 2005 10:01 PM
Ach, no! Never again.Posted by: dale at December 19, 2005 06:17 AM
I read this before I went to bed last night and had a nightmare about it (in which I was in this meeting and had to go somewhere vitally important but couldn't get out because they wouldn't stop and I couldn't leave without interrupting which was somehow very bad and then the whole thing morphed into something about cooking my parents for aliens). I blame you.Posted by: Stephanie at December 19, 2005 07:19 AM
assuming that this is some description of your work situation, i think you may have misdiagnosed yourself. (that ADD thing). putting it as tactfully as i am able, and trying my best to not offer insult to any actual co-workers, no wonder you feel crazy at times.
otherwise, it's a damn good piece of fiction. still no goopiness.Posted by: dread pirate roberts at December 19, 2005 08:43 AM
Meetings.....I laughed, but I could feel the tension creeping up the back of my neck the whole time I was reading--very good piece!Posted by: Pamela at December 19, 2005 09:38 AM
Brilliant. Satre would approve, I feel sure.Posted by: Charles at December 19, 2005 12:06 PM
ACK! Sartre.Posted by: Charles at December 19, 2005 12:07 PM
so now you're wire-tapping my work meetings???? what is the most sad about the exchange is that it happens everyday thousands of times, to more people than I can imagine. brilliant the way you have captured it!Posted by: Anne at December 20, 2005 10:19 AM