I sat in a seminar today. Run by some cheery people from Companies House who look after all limited companies set up in England and Wales they took new directors through their liabilities and responsibilities in a clear and confident manner. But actually they weren’t the interesting people in the IBIS conference centre. No, it was the seminar attendees who included the following:
At the outset the speaker told us her talk would be sent to us. Yet a man three rows in front of me and to my right has spent the last hour writing furiously. Maybe he’s writing the next great novel set in a dry seminar room… He writes left handed, with that hooked way dragging his pen across the paper. What would happen if his pen broke? Is this his way to stay awake.
The telephone obsessive
Ok the seminar is free and the heating is on but even so why come if Candy Crush is more important that hearing about the fines for late filing of your confirmation statement – the company house Jonnie said they collected a staggering £92 million in late filing fines last year, all going to that jolly nice Mr Hammond at the Treasury to waste on some vanity project like Brexit or joke writers for Boris. To be fair Candy Crush has more of a frisson and edge than the speaker but maybe that’s just her mellifluous Welshness calming me…. zzzzz
The telephone incompetent
‘Please turn off your mobile devices or put them on silent’ says the speaker, but there’s always someone who fails. 45 minutes in and Shirley Bassey starts belting out ‘Goldfinger’. Like the reverse of a stone’s impact rippling out across a pond so the audience turns to focus on the miscreant who is desperately trying to stop his/her phone before giving in and hissing, ‘This really isn’t a great time, mum’ as he/she heads for the exit.
The sloth/new parent/narcoleptic
Ok so this could be me but I do wonder who has has best mastered the art of the camouflaged power nap? The reverently bowed head hiding a snooze, or the chin resting on palm creating a sense of focused concentration to disguise 40 winks. One man has stopped rubbing his temples with the zeal of a cramp victim attacking his knotted calf so either he is spark out or the migraine induced from grappling with the rules on ‘persons with significant control’ has ended.
The hydration fetishist
Ok, hands up, this us one of my bugbears but why do people under say 35 have to drink water quite so obsessively? When I was their age plastic bottles held urine samples not over priced water. Now with some health nazi having convinced Generation Wet that they must ingest 5 litres every 20 minutes the woman next to me has replaced her whole body weight with H2O in the last hour. Which might not have mattered apart from the fact she clearly can’t breathe through her nose meaning each speaker’s words are filtered through a rumbling grumble much like listening to a herd of unmilked cows trying to get into the milking parlour from about half a mile away and over a hill.
The Persistent Cougher
Britons were once described as a nation of shop keepers. These days it’s the league of the unwell. Gather a group of, say, 20 plus people, and at least one will cough, all the bloody time. I had a friend whose heart valve issue manifested itself initially in a cough so I’m coy about being too snotty (sorry, had to do that) about the man two rows behind me but, in all honesty WILL YOU GET ON AND EXPIRE PLEASE…
The Getaway Driver
We are indoors, the heating is on and while the hall we are in is large veering towards cavernous, it doesn’t support its own micro climate. So what is it with the outdoor coat, the fleecy hat and the gloves? That and the fact he hasn’t stopped clutching his briefcase throughout the last 90 minutes. I can only surmise that a heist of some kind is planned, or a kidnap maybe. I’m keeping my eyes peeled anyway.
The Face Fidget
I’m used to sitting next to women who tease their hair throughout a seminar, redoing hair bands and untangling knots happily while taking notes and replying to emails. But here we have a male equivalent, whose hands haven’t left some part of his face throughout. It’s grisly, it’s gruesome but it is utterly compelling. He has stroked then tugged his beard, toggled and squidged his nose, undergone some painful looking ear origami, mined both ears and nostrils for whatever gold can be found within and currently is checking his teeth for spinach/plaque/decay. I suppose if this was a whole day session he might move on to a full body health and stress test but we finish in an hour so I think I’ll avoid having to watch him check his reproductive areas for various cancers.
The Zealous Questioner versus the Incompetent Questioner
I’m not sure which is worse: the man in the front row whose hand is faster on the trigger than Wyatt Earp and whose questions are on repeat or the man over near the exit, next to the getaway driver, who has tried to frame his question but so far hasn’t mastered the concept of a sentence. Now he is probably shy, English may not be his first, or even top ten language but as a member of an audience with limited time to me he is just as irritating as the guy hogging the Questioner. On balance it’s the former because no one can interrupt him. The other guy is just being ignored. I suppose he’ll probably get the question out 20 minutes after everyone has left.
And finally: The Man Who Realises He Is In The Wrong Seminar 30 Minutes After It Starts
He alone is worth the entrance money. The confidence with which he settles in his seat; the confusion; the hurried checking of his phone; the dawning realisation he shouldn’t be here; the crisis of confidence; the surreptitious packing of his bag; the scanning for the best exit to minimise his exposure as an utter twat; the humiliation as he clutches coat, bag and phone apologising to all those in his row as he squeezes past, wondering why he didn’t sit in that aisle seat… yes that was me only I stayed: embarrassment has always been the rock that anchors me to reality.