I hate meetings, I do. The meetings to which I am invited involve sitting around looking at charts while technicians and engineers shout numbers at one another. It sounds like an auction house for the clinically insane.
“What’s the differential?” asks engineer one.
Technician two answers, “Fifteen-thousandths.”
“With a spec of?” asks engineer two.
Technician one consults a notepad and answers, “Ten.”
That’s the standard conversational fare in these types of meetings. How engineers keep from going mad is beyond me. These vocational get-togethers remind me of the tea party scene from Alice in Wonderland. One day, in the middle of one of these meetings, I may stand up and yell, “Change places!”
The numbers we say, yell, or occasionally whisper are usually some measurement that will decide things like quality, reliability, and safety; you know, things that are only important if one cares about profit, productivity, and the security of appendages — minor things, really.
Today’s meeting is in room 107. We are scheduled to review the efficiency data of some newly acquired test equipment. I am about halfway there when I receive a text message. It’s from my wife. Perhaps someone is sick and I can leave work, avoiding this meeting altogether. I tap the little red text bubble. What does that say? “FUCK CANADA!”?
What does that mean? FUCK CANADA! My face screws up, taking on the appearance of a toddler asked to perform a proof using mathematical induction. “Fuck Canada?” I repeat the phrase to myself several times, but cannot make sense of it. The meeting is about to start.
FUCK CANADA! Who hates Canada? Did someone show up at my door in a hockey jersey and try and force-feed my wife some poutine?
I find 107 and take a seat in the back of the small conference room. Some engineers are already jockeying for control of the meeting, but I don’t care. I am too busy trying to decipher my wife’s cryptic text.
She occasionally does this, throws me these little inside jokes knowing I won’t get them until later. Between my co-workers and my wife, I may yet go mad. Perhaps I am somewhere on the other side of the looking glass.
FUCK CANADA! I wonder if we have run out of pure maple syrup? She does love maple syrup. That seems a reasonable explanation; hunger is known to make people say strange and hurtful things.
My pondering ends abruptly when someone directs a question at me. I reflexively blurt out “ten thousandths,” even though I haven’t the faintest idea of the question asked. I should explain myself, apologize for not paying attention, and give a proper answer. But embarrassment gets the best of me. I do nothing. When I return to my desk, I will check all the measurements for which I was responsible. If they are all within tolerance, then no harm can come from the answer I gave–regardless of its accuracy.
FUCK CANADA! Perhaps she tried to use a Canadian coin in vending machine. That always pisses me off.
The meeting ends and I immediately text my wife “???”—no response. I wait a few minutes, then call, only to get her voicemail. FUCK CANADA!? It gnaws at the strange places of my mind. At my desk, I whisper softly to myself, “Fuck Canada” over and over. I hope the repetition may provide some insight into the motivation for such a contemptuous remark regarding our overly-apologetic neighbors to the north. Is it an irrational hatred of Tim Hortons? Did someone pronounce it “aboot”? Is our T.V. stuck on the CBC?
I call again after lunch — voicemail. I open some spreadsheets. I will drown out the madness with work. I fill in each cell with the words “Fuck Canada!” and add a question mark. I rub the bridge of my nose with my thumb and index finger. I close my eyes. I see my wife standing in our front yard with a flaming Canadian flag in her hand. Similar images race through my head until the workday ends.
I hope the drive home will bring comfort. It does not. It does, however, occur to me that she may have been cut off by a Canadian. We do occasionally get tourists driving from Manitoba or Saskatchewan in this part of Minnesota.
“Fuck Canada!” “Fuck Canada!” “Fuck Canada!” I can’t stop saying it. With each utterance, I bang my palm on the steering wheel. Fifteen more minutes and I am home.
I reach my driveway and get out of my car. I say “Fuck Canada” in rhythm with every snow-crunching footfall. That’s it, I think, it’s the weather. My wife hates winter. This arctic chill must have dropped down from the north.
I burst through the front door. My wife is in the living room bent over an end table. Next to her is an old atlas. In her hand, a container of Mod Podge. She is cutting pages out of the atlas, then pasting them onto the end table.
“FUCK CANADA!?” I say.
“What?” she replies.
“Your text? ‘Fuck Canada!’” I repeat.
“Oh, I found this project on Pinterest and decided to use these old atlas pages to decorate the end table.” She delicately places a page on the table. “I saw the map for Canada and thought the shape was boring,” she says before giggling and giving one last “Fuck Canada.”
That’s all it was. She felt Canada’s shape too boring for her project. Don’t worry, Canada, unshapely maiden of the north, you have a wonderful personality, I think, trying to rid myself of this Pinterest-induced psychosis.
I am staring out the kitchen window hoping to catch a glimpse of a white rabbit, when it occurs to me that I never checked to make sure all the measurements were within tolerance.
“Ten-thousandths,” I whisper.
It has started again. Ten-thousandths, ten-thousandths, ten-thousandths — it’s in my head now. I hate meetings, I do.
J.D. Moberg is a Minnesota, soon to be Southern California, based writer who focuses on the humor in everyday life.