Seminar Life: The 10 characters found in a lecture hall

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:

The notetaker

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.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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40 Responses to Seminar Life: The 10 characters found in a lecture hall

  1. Mary Smith says:

    Great observation. You forgot the hard-of-hearing who ALWAYS sits in the back row and complains they can’t hear the speaker but refuses to move to one of the empty seats in the front row.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. These may be adults…but they show up early and often in every educational setting. Your skill of observation…so sadly accurate. ❤️ Funny stuff.

    Like

  3. A brilliant piece of people watching.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ha ha! Particularly liked “Generation Wet” and wrong seminar man. You have almost – almost! – got me missing seminars.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. lorilschafer says:

    Hey, I think I know all those guys 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. People watching with a passion. It’s great isn’t it? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ritu says:

    Oh I do love people watching!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. People watching and people judging seem to go hand in hand don’t they – a wonderful collection Geoff! And I’ve been that last one too :- D

    Like

  9. jan says:

    Hahaha! I have to admit I’m generally a Getaway Driver. However I’m generally there with the Persistent Questioner and so I have to wait it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Allie P. says:

    I’m one of those notetaker types mainly because I retain information more easily by writing it with my own hand than reading someone else’s print-outs, but I have been that poor sap once who realized only too late that they were in the wrong room.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. willowdot21 says:

    Been there and survived Geoff! What about the noisy late entrance…none of those ?? My best offering … The Hubby was doing interviews for one of the candidates was so nervous when he left he left via entering a cupboard! There was a stunned silence while the poor guy realised what he had done and hubby and other panel members wondered how to react. The candidate reappeared red faced and hubby jumped up shook his had and ushered him out the correct door! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Al Lane says:

    Recognise all of these… also, the overly keen person who keeps interrupting to ask questions, every 30 seconds… the bag rummager… the person talking to their neighbour throughout in what they *think* is a whisper… the fidget on the squeaky chair… I think you should attend more seminars and report back 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Anabel Marsh says:

    I’m a note taker, I confess, it helps me concentrate. Otherwise, my attention wanders who knows where.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ha ha ha. Yup, Yes. Aha. You’re a born observer.
    Which is less exciting? Attending the wrong seminar or getting on the wrong bus? o_O

    Like

  15. Rachel says:

    I love people watching. It’s amazing what others do and you have to wonder who is watching you and what they’re thinking. I especially love going to the grocery store, passing by the same people in and out each isle, and listening to their conversations or even just seeing what’s in their shopping cart. Humans are interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh, my goodness. Are we going to get one of these posts after the Bloggers Bash? People watching is one of my favourite hobbies.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Blog Round-Up: January 2017 – Rachel Poli

  18. Brilliant laugh, and great observations. I’ll be looking out for these sorts in my lecture today. I particularly loved quip, “the league of the unwell”!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Pingback: Conferences #poems #poetry | TanGental

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