So what's with the yelling in the title of the post?
Well, for all of its good points, this meeting had one basic problem, and that was time management. First off, it was a scheduled 4-hour meeting. This was twice as long as it really needed to be. At the outside this training could've used 3 hours and still had time to spare. And nonetheless, the presenters managed to run behind schedule, telling us lots and lots and lots of anecdotal stories that, while nice, were mostly superfluous.
This, in turn, resulted in The Way Things Went Wrong(tm). It happened when the lead presenter said, "Okay, in about 10 minutes we'll break for lunch.... and can we make this a working lunch?"
This pissed me off. A lot. Enough that it surprised even me. But on reflection, I realized that this stepped all over some of my most dearly-held bits of food ideology. If you've read here at all, you know that I am nothing if not a minefield of food ideology. And this guy just started hopscotching straight through that field.
What was my problem? Glad you asked!
I found this request--simple though it may have been--to be so incredibly insulting that I actually had trouble articulating the reasons why, there were so many of them.
- The presenters were incapable of maintaining a presentation schedule, and so the attendees were put-upon to fix the problem.
- It was insulting to the people who prepared the food for us--many of whom were in the room for the training--to force the room to essentially ignore the food they'd carefully prepared for us in favor of the continuous stream of lecture.
- It was insulting to the food itself, that we were being forced to not pay attention to in favor of the continuous stream of lecture.
- It was insulting to the participants, who needed a break from the continuous stream of lecture.
- It showed a complete disregard for the act of eating a meal in community, which I consider a very serious breech of etiquette. The midday meal was treated as nothing more than a minor inconvenience that could be easily run over by a continuous stream of lecture.
- It showed a complete disregard for the health of the participants, who were being encouraged (practically required) to eat our food mindlessly, without attention or care. We were not even given the option of actually enjoying our food.
And I think that at the end of the day, it was not just the presenters making this request, but the overall "Sure! No problem!" attitude of everyone else that got to me. That didn't really piss me off, it just made me sad. I don't think it even crossed anyone's mind that we were giving up anything by working straight through lunch. Even the people who cooked the food probably didn't taste it as they ate it, and probably also didn't notice that they didn't taste it. People wonder why we have such a weight problem in America (myself certainly not excepted here). Well, if the attitude of most Americans towards food resembles the attitudes of my co-workers, then it's pretty easy to see why. Food didn't warrant our attention. It wasn't worth it. Just shove it in your mouth while listening to horror stories about gangrenous infections at the safety lecture.
No prayers were said (and, I should note, I work at a Catholic Motherhouse). No comment on the flavor. No thought about how the food was grown, or harvested, or prepared. No gratefulness was felt for what was given to us.
I did my very level best to not pay a whit of attention to the lecture while eating. I will admit, I probably enjoyed the food more than I would ordinarily have, because I was so bloody-minded about eating it slowly and with attention. But I also missed out on a rare opportunity to chat with co-workers with whom I am rarely able to interact. I missed out on a little bit of a recharge, which left me feeling like I'd been hit by a semi by the end of the meeting. I missed what it usually my favorite part of my work-day--I missed my lunch. Maybe I'm spoiled. No, I'm certainly spoiled. But every day at my work, we sit down and eat in community. And no one works. No one even has to answer their phones, even if they ring. We eat. We talk. We find out about what's happening in each other's lives, and tell stories, and laugh. I could have done that with a whole new set of people today. But instead, we worked. Because, really, that's far more important, right?