The Meeting 2.0

When the meeting ends, no one stands. Chatter starts immediately. Each person turns left or right, and recounts the pending acquisition, or the five-figure facility repair, or maybe a tidbit from their personal life—a steady din with words and phrases popping occasionally above the canopy. “…from the budget…” “…proxy voting…” “…home for spring break…”

No one turns towards him. His eyes focus on the pile before him. He arranges and sorts the papers, carefully stacking them in order with his presentation on top, conscious that no one has moved towards the door. He draws his phone from his back pocket, opening apps and swiping them away in rapid succession, looking for an excuse to linger, looking for purpose.

Despite his promise to himself, he’s the first to stand. He feels a dozen eyes glue to him and follow him from the room. He senses their pity, their disdain. His office sits directly across the hall, allowing him to monitor the others, to see when they leave. The collage of noise drops and organizes, unintelligible discussion, back and forth, Donna and two others. The meeting after the meeting has started. Something he should probably know.

He transposes new assignments to his to do list, texts his family “Heading home now, shortest board meeting ever,” and clicks the clock-out button on his screen. He kills his monitor and gathers the papers scattered across his desk, piling them by topic, allowing the maximum amount of wood to show under the mess. He flips his light switch and pulls the door, locking eyes for an instant with Rebecca who still stands by the meeting table, deep in conversation.

He walks down the hall, the voices growing faint. Aware that he’s still the only one to leave the meeting room, he steps out the door into the night.

~ ~ ~

This is a rewrite of something I posted a few weeks ago. In my nonfiction writing class, I was encouraged to recreate something already published with a different point of view and/or tense. If you’d like to see the evolution of the story, the original version is here:

As always, feel free to comment on the writing as well as the content. All feedback, positive or instructional, is welcome.

Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

24 thoughts on “The Meeting 2.0

  1. Yes, the third person worked for me. It actually increased my identification with the central character.
    Really interesting for me was that it evoked a memory of a research project that I did many years ago. I had permission to record a meeting but the meeting was abandoned when a clique objected. I then accidentally acquired a recording of the meeting of that core group when they stayed on to talk after the planned management meeting was abandoned. Identifying an inner core of power brokers in my group dynamics minor thesis ultimately led to the abandonment of a sham co-operative management model that was not working for the organisation. Also some staff quit.
    The gutsiness of the Dean at my University saved me from being booted out, that and my meticulous notes on every interaction with the organisation that had approved the project.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Third person writing is new to me. I went into it thinking it just wasn’t possible, but it ultimately made me see the scene more clearly. Your weird business thing sounds like something that would happen in a movie. Nothing interesting like that ever happens at the library.

      Liked by 2 people

        • One of the fall outs from that incident was that a very senior consultant quit. He asked if he could talk to me. He said this clique had operated under his nose for 15 years and he’d never known. He wanted to reassure me that I was right and that he now understood why he had such difficulty getting things done at work and to let me know he supported me 100%.
          I’d best not say anymore.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I have also, at various points, felt like an outsider in groups, but in this story (both versions) I am drawn to remembering my love of unexpectedly short board meetings.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I liked the first version better. It moved me more. I expected something to happen when he “locked eyes with Rebecca”. Maybe I wanted some lasting drama. I’ve enjoyed everyone else’s

    Liked by 2 people

    • Noted. The first version was written immediately after the event and that’s probably embedded in the mood. Sorry to lead you astray with the locking eyes part. It was meant to show awareness of friendship on the part of the protagonist. Love it when you comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Brilliant, Jeff. I love how you’ve written this in the third person this time (I remember the original very well as it stuck in my mind.) I think this is something new to you, isn’t it? I recall you saying you couldn’t do this or write fiction. You’ve done a great job with this. I always struggle with fiction, too, so have to do what you’ve done here; take a real-life situation, write it in the third person and change a few details to make the story interesting. You’ve achieved all these things in this piece. Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m not sure I’ve ever written *anything* in 3rd person before. I’m glad our teacher challenged us to do this. I’ve really gotten a lot out of this class. Last night was suppose to be the last class, but the teacher got covid. Not sure if we’ll make that up or not. I really want to find something else to add into my writing schedule so I can continue to grow.

      Liked by 2 people

      • What a shame the last class was cancelled, Jeff. I hope you find somewhere or something else to find ways to continue to grow. I think your writing is excellent anyway, and always look out for and enjoy your writing. Have you tried adult education classes if you have those over there? Possibly, evening classes as I’m guessing it would fit in with your work. I am fortunate with my writing course as the tutor runs class after class ongoing, with a few breaks in between. She really does help us to grow in our writing skills. I wish you luck in finding what you’re looking for.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. “Despite his promise to himself he’s the first to stand.” Like that, and would like to see you tease out more of that internal conflict. Maybe you could try to get into the character’s head more like that from the 3rd person limited omniscient view. Like have us see more of the world through that character, I always find that “camera angle” most interesting in 3rd person POV. Then we don’t know exactly what we can trust and that gets fun and interesting fast. But I like what you did hear and remember the first version really well, and liking that too. Cool experiment! Thanks for sharing Jeff.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This writing has been kicking around in my mind since I read them both. I think they stand together as a piece, two different views of the same moment but both relatable. As someone who sits in a lot of meetings I can definitely relate. Thanks for the thought provoking piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m invested in your main character and want to know more about him. You have a strong writing “voice” and describe the nuances of an office so well. As an office worker, I smiled at so much of this piece – the meetings, the war within ourselves to not leave first or to not make lasting eye contact with certain co-workers Haha. Loved this, Jeff.

    Liked by 1 person

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