I am rarely transfixed during a meeting. It usually takes me all my time to stay alert.
I was once put on report in a sixth form Politics class for falling asleep during a dull monologue by a teacher with wispy, nicotine-coloured hair. I thought the punishment was unfair and suggested that many members of the House of Lords nod off with impunity during debates – that gained nothing but an additional detention. Ever since that formal caution and the ignominy/infamy created by the pool of drool beside my face on the desk, I have been able to find something to focus on to maintain my attention. Usually a detail of someone’s dress is enough or, perhaps, some eye-catching nasal hair. If there is nothing of visual note I occupy my mind with a test of mental agility – usually with a theme from popular culture.
At a meeting recently I managed to simultaneously look interested in what was being said while listing possible words to use in a word replacement game invented by Sandy some years ago during a game of poker. Sandy had trouble maintaining anything approaching a ‘poker face’ and preferred instead to try and distract his opponents. He usually only succeeded in distracting himself. His most memorable distraction attempt featured Smiths songs and the word ‘anus’:
‘This Night has opened my anus’ or
‘This anus has opened my eyes’
‘How soon is anus?’
‘This charming anus’ etc….
I was surprised then the other day to find what was actually being said to be of interest.
Not the content – there wasn’t any.
It was the shameless repetition of a single word that struck me and I even began a five bar gate record of how many times it was used by the same person. The meeting was only an hour long and I counted 6 uses of the same word (a colleague claimed that she clocked 7).
The favourite word of the person without an idea to speak of was: ‘notion’.