Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Committee Meeting

All names, characteristics and locations have been changed to protect the innocent.

This is how I spent my Tuesday night.

The Main Players

Mrs Dulcie Ogmore-Pritchard - Dowager Pensioner from Dingly - dressed in a floral Dolina dress, (ill-fitting) and constantly adjusting her squealing hearing aid and sipping marsala from a coke bottle. Always to be addressed as Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard.

Bebe Polkinghorne - Jobbing radio actress, dressed in understated Melbourne black, pony-slim legs crossed at the upper thigh.

Anthony "Soaked-up Tony " Bartholemew - lugubrious Treasurer, known for eye rolling, long monotone speeches and his stash of Captain Morgan in the library stacks.

Frau Helene Gudmundsdottir - Well coiffed doyenne of the Williamstown business community.

Dorothy "Dotty" Fields - Grandmother, Collingwood cheer squad founding member - Secretary. Keeps a collection of other teams supporter's hubcaps in her garage.

Geoffrey Carruthers - Long suffering Chairman. Voice of Reason. Stoic in the face of adversity. Was born to be an ombudsman.

Jonquil Curruthers - Geoffrey's mother. Archetypal Good Grandmother persona. Also stoic in the face of adversity. Libran.

Hyacinth Montrose - Jonquil's sister - a slightly more wizened, slightly harder version of Jonquil with a rapier wit similar to her sisters

Myfanwy Jones - silent widow under a grey bob. Likes to knit - a lot. Doesn't say boo to a goose.

And there is me, Pandora Behr, 43-year-old, long distance running, word nerd. The youngest in the room by fifteen years easily. Wet behind the ears. Literally. The humidity of the last few days has been killing me. Not helping matters the night before, due to the heat and humidity, I'd had about three hours sleep. After a long day at work, getting home to down a protein shake and then take off to this meeting, I was exhausted.

The Location: A drafty church hall type arrangement complete with lino floor and formica tables in Richmond.

The Event: The Annual General Meeting of the Mixed Elks Property Committee

This rag tag bunch have decided attend the Annual General Meeting of the Mixed Elks Property Committee. Some have to be there - like me.

Some are there because they want to be there. Maybe their medication has run out.

I've spoken in this blog about my participation in freemasonry. I love my allegiance to the Masonic cause. I love the masonic values and everything that freemasonry provides me with. I love that most of what I gleaned about freemasonry from Happy Days and The Flintstones has turned out to be on the mark - truly it has - right down to the funny handshakes.

A part of being a freemason is accepting that part of life is service. Service to your lodge. Service to your family. Service to the community. Service to humanity.

And part of duty of service to the lodge is getting roped into the Mixed Elks Property Association Committee.

And part of me wonders if this service element of the Masons is a crock of shit. And a lot of me wonders how being roped into the Property Assocation aligns with the service to humanity aspect of freemasonry.

I freely admit to not liking committees. Like meetings and any other gathering where alleged democracy is required, all codes of ethics, morals and values tend to go out the window as soon as you step into the room where a meeting or committee is convened.

And the nutters come out. I think there is something about a committee that ensures that there is at least one barking mad eejit to rock the boat. Just as you need a junkie on the tram after ten p.m. or a male school teacher who wears long socks, sandals and a short sleeved shirt to teach Physics - there has to be at last one complete fuckwit. It wouldn't be a committee if it wasn't.

Bring back oligarchy I say! Plato was right some three thousand years ago when he said that this was the only way to go. Rule by the sane. Rule by the trusted - none of these Polder decisions and constant arguing and half measures that democracy provides where compromises are made and nobody is happy. Rule by the intelligent, informed and not-that-barking-mad elite, I say!

Heaven help me - last night. Oh my. It's four hours of my life I'm never going to get back. And a decision which I know I'm going to regret got made. As of 10.32 p.m. last night, I'm now the Mixed Elks Property Association Treasurer. Voted in uncontested.

I must have been pond scum in a former life.

For most of the meeting I was listening and putting myself in my happy place, which mostly consisted of fantasising about a lanky but wonderfully muscled Swedish actor in some compromising positions. I also started my weekly shopping list, thought about how I can take out the tannoy and the annoying easy listening music at work, pondered how I'm going to train for and get to the New York Marathon next year

I'm not sure what bugged me more. Whether it be Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard talking loudly into her mobile phone after the meeting had started - continuing to do this at the meeting table throughout the meeting. It might have been Frau Gudmansdottir and Bebe Polkinghorne questioning every line on the Treasurers report - not just once, but five times over. Maybe it was that when I was expecting to be home at 9.30 and in bed by ten they were still arguing about the semantics of the word "Subs" that was found in a footnote in the addendum to the President's Report, again, for the fifth time of the evening.

Please remember that this was the first Mixed Elks Property Association meeting I'd been to - my Mixed Elks Lodge voted (read guilted) me into a three year stint on the committee at the last meeting - see, I get a lot of flack for not staying for supper. Thankfully, these meetings are only held once every three months.

By ten to ten, the time had come to find a new Property Committee President. The current Executive Committee - Geoffrey, Dotty and Tony the Soak stepped away from the top formica table. I went and sat next to Jonquil - my allie, voice of reason and grandmother substitute - though at 80, she's only just ten years older than my own mum.

"Enjoying yourself, Pand?" she asked.
"Do you want me to be tactful or truthful?"
"I think I'd rather have root canal surgery without anaesthetic than be here."
"I feel your pain."
"Is it always like this?" I asked her.
"Half the time. The other half of the time the agitators stay away. These people are passionate."
"Don't they have anything better to do?"
Jonquil sighed. "Probably not."

The election of the new president was run - I ran it. They gave me a gavel - ah, the power. Fifteen minutes later - after discussing semantics with Frau Gudmansdottir and Bebe Polkinghorne about how their Elks lodge couldn't put up members as they hadn't voted them in, I was installed as treasurer and Geoffrey and Dotty were back as President and Secretary.

Another hour of pointless discussion about the auditor's report, the meeting was closed.

So traumatised from this meeting I went home and downed a very large single malt.

How do I feel about being the treasurer of the Mixed Elks Property Committee Incorporated? A little ambivalent. Somebody has to do it. See to me, it's running a spreadsheet, banking a few cheques and sending the odd stroppy letter - how hard can it be? I'm also wondering which one of my CPA friends I might be able to bribe into auditing our books for a barter - I knew enough CPAs to coerce them into a few hours work - well I think I do. Throw in a massage - amazing what a good massage can be bartered for. I have a few other barterable skills, but I'm not sure that they're quite right for bartering the Mixed Elks Property Committee Books for - I have my standards,.

Still you have to wonder...

Just what is it about committees that make you want to club half of the members like baby seals!

Days without ice cream - 17
Bred out way back in the years
When God was a boy


Kath Lockett said...

Yup, yup..... found myself recognising your set of characters from a few community association meetings I've attended in my time. We never seemed to finish anywhere near the time stated on the agenda but once I got one of the more pompous members to shut up when he got distracted by the bowl of scorched almonds I'd deliberately brought in!

Best of luck in your new role as Treasurer and in presenting your monthly 'report' at the next meeting!

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

There is no way I would allow myself to be on another committee. I was on the Sports and Social Club Committee at work for a year - after a week I wanted to be voted off but the buggers said "You have to stay for a year".

I hated it and I nearly committed GBH several times.

Never again - never never never ever ...