The Coordination Meeting

How was your business meeting? Just blah-mazing . . .

“The contours along the north elevation would be six inches below finish floor blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.”

The voices blur into babble as you struggle to maintain concentration. The words have long lost their meaning and become just a drone of sounds, almost like the wind around the door of the Uber ride that you took to this office hours ago. Your thoughts focus on a word or two here or there, and then your mind drifts away into a dull consciousness.

“Blah blah blah … soil test … blah blah blah … subsoil … blah blah blah … site drainage … blah blah … geotechnical report.”

Only the client and two of your consultants still seem engaged in discussion about something that you’ve lost the point of long ago. You can tell that many of the others around the table are tiring as well. Some just stare into the screens of their laptops, and others are look toward the conference room windows at the growing evening darkness. Only a couple of the “meetingeers” glance up at the discussion and back to their keyboards, appearing to be typing notes. But you suspect that they are faking interest and actually checking their email — again!

Your project manager had promised you that this would be a junket. You were assured that after the flight and a short but effective project coordination meeting, the two of you would have a quick dinner in a bistro near the ocean and then catch the early flight home. Well, the flight in the morning was uneventful, although you couldn’t imagine getting up much earlier without taking a tackle box and a fishing pole.

“Blah blah blah … beam deflection … blah blah blah … joist hangers … blah blah blah …  floor slab.”

Of course, there was no time for breakfast, except for some sort of packaged cracker, or maybe it was a cookie, and a foam cup of lukewarm coffee on the flight. You knew there was a time when airlines offered TV dinner-like meals. You remember your father talking about how the flight attendant would push a cart by your seat and pass out little trays with small portions of an entrée and side vegetables. You recall how he would laugh and say that it tasted a lot like green cardboard, yellow cardboard, and brown cardboard. Of course, today you were lucky to get that mystery cracker with any sort of drink on an airline.

 “Blah blah blah … air handler… blah blah blah … reheat … blah blah blah … fan coil.”

As with the airlines, the increasing costs of almost everything has caused most companies to be more careful about expenses. But there were times in the past when a meeting host might provide some morning refreshment. It could be bagels and cream cheese on the East Coast, yogurt and brand muffins on the West Coast, mostly doughnuts in the Midwest, and egg and sausage burritos with hot sauce in the Southwest. Occasionally those little hot dogs baked in biscuit dough were served. You’d sometimes heard them called kolaches, which from your experience was Polish, or maybe Czechoslovakian, for, “This’ll give you heartburn.” This morning, your host had provided only a pot of coffee and some logo-branded coffee cups on the conference room credenza.

Blah blah … beam interference … blah blah blah … columns … blah blah blah … roof penetration … blah blah blah … rooftop units.”

Working lunches have never been considered an opportunity by a host office to expand the culinary experience of the meetingeers. No matter what part of the country you meet in, working lunches usually consist of sandwiches. Mostly chicken or tuna salad on white bread, possibly smoked ham or turkey on wheat, occasionally a club sandwich on sourdough. Also, lunch always includes the obligatory canned soda, personal-size bag of chips and a packaged cookie, with your meeting agenda serving as the placemat. Today you successfully talked the host’s project secretary out of a Rice Crispy treat, although it was a true test of your negotiation skills. But you know that triumph comes with a price, so you’ll have to watch this consultant’s invoices to see if the treat appears as a reimbursable.

“Blah blah … floor plans … blah blah blah … door schedule … blah blah blah … finishes … blah blah blah … specs.”

Your hopes for a dinner along the beach have long since died. You can tell by your project manager’s grimace that he, too, has given up hope. Images of honey roasted peanuts and a luke-cool soda on tonight’s last flight home have replaced your dreams of salmon with black bean soup and a dessert of tiramisu. You promise yourself that the next project coordination meeting held in your office will end at a decent hour and be celebrated over an early dinner in a nice restaurant with witty conversation and heartfelt toasts to the success of this and future projects.

“Blah … action list … blah … distribution … blah … drawings … blah … project manual … blah.”

But, finally, mercifully, the pace of the discussion slows, and it appears the meeting is finally drawing to a quiet close. You notice your project manager inconspicuously closing his laptop and collecting his notes and papers. His face shows a faint expression of relief. Despite the long and tiring day, a sense of satisfaction settles over you as you mentally chalk up one more project coordination meeting without tense arguments over major design issues and a list of requested changes that will add hours to the already tight schedule.

Now, as your client sums up her final thoughts, you know that short of a final controversy, you are just minutes away from a quick cab ride to the airport.

“Blah blah errors and omissions and the architect’s guarantee of a 100% complete set of contact documents!”

“Well, crap!’ you sigh.

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