Guest Post: “Yes, you were at this meeting” Al Stewart

Al Stewart

OPINION | Al Stewart

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

We all arrived in our cars that morning, much the same as we always did. We parked in the car park and wandered in the main door. I had done this many times before, but this morning I thought I would take a step back and have a real look at what was going on.

People milled around in the foyer outside the entrance. Most of them were fairly well dressed and polite as they made room for others at the main door. The staff members were well dressed, not overly dressed, but dressed in a kind of uniform to show they were running things. They were polite as they directed us to our seats. Those of us who were regulars had no trouble finding one. A few new people needed help working out where to sit. We let the staff help the new people – after all that’s their job.

There was some muzak playing for a while and then after a short delay one of the staff members appeared out the front and apologised that we would be a bit late getting started due to a technical glitch. People sat in silence mostly, some read the literature in front of them and others mumbled to the person beside them, if they knew them already.

Was this just another time of going through the routine?

Then there was some more music and one of the staff members stood up at the front and was speaking to everyone about some really important stuff – matters of life and death. At least, they said it was a matter of life-and-death importance, it was hard to tell that was the case; the staff member didn’t seem too emotionally involved or enthusiastic about the message. As I looked around, only a few people were listening and I figured they were the brand-new people. Most old-timers didn’t seem to be listening at all. They fiddled with their leaflets, stared at the floor or looked out the windows if they had a good seat.

After what seemed like a long time, we could finally get out of the uncomfortable straight-backed seats and walk around. Then there was morning tea on offer; tea or coffee in plastic cups and a couple of biscuits. At the end of it all, relieved, we politely filed out the main door. As we left, the staff members spoke to every person politely, said goodbye and thanked him or her for coming.

As I watched this little interaction, I wondered if the staff members or the people really meant it, or were they just being polite to one another?

Was this just another time of going through the routine?

As I left the inner confines and made it out the front door, I had the overwhelming feeling (which I usually have): I’m glad to be out of there. As I walked out into the fresh air again, the last words I heard were “Thank you for flying Qantas.” But of course, it’s obvious I was talking about an airline flight – what other sort of meeting could I have been describing?


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