Every week, I have a status meeting with my monk. For each trimester, and then the summer, we set a day and time, and he shows up promptly at my office door, sometimes a few minutes early. His teaching schedule changes throughout the year, so we have to adjust. I do not mind in the slightest. I would meet with him whenever he likes, because our status meetings are typically a lot of fun.
He comes in, makes sure the door is unlocked (it’s a safety issue, and Catholic priests can’t be too careful these days), closes it, and then plops down on the red couch near my desk. I can tell by the way he plops if he’s harried, sad, energized, or feeling goofy. If he’s one of the first two, I try to convert him to one of the second two by the time he leaves approximately 15 minutes later. Most of the time I can’t. Sometimes I am successful. Depends on what’s troubling him that particular day. Thankfully, he’s not often harried or sad. Nearly always, though, we end up laughing together and I learn something new.
Today, per usual, we started out all business-like and professional before devolving into goofiness. He wanted to know why I didn’t have the overhead fluorescent lights on. I explained that it was dark and dreary outside, and that the lights were just too bright today. He pointed out that my weak little desk lamp was throwing very little light, and I agreed, and we discussed getting a floor lamp and then where said floor lamp would be plugged in. My office is pretty decently sized, but the outlets are terribly spaced. There are two right near my desk, which sounds appropriate except that one is nearly obscured by the file cabinet (which means it’s totally obscured when a drawer is opened, so the things that get plugged in there are things that can be easily unplugged and re-plugged, so not, say, a desktop computer) and the other is two feet away, so most everything around the office must be routed to that one crammed two-foot location. I have gotten creative with power strips. There is one other outlet, on the far side from my desk, between the window and the meeting table. Also not convenient for cords. Or floor lamps.
Then he decided I needed a portable fireplace, the electric kind that flicker and glow and make popping and crackling sounds, and that don’t need a vent. We then proceeded to place the imaginary portable fireplace in the office, once again constrained by the outlet locations. I expressed a desire for an actual wood-burning fireplace, so that location was discussed.
We spend more time on crap like this than actual work. Because we’re just that efficient with the work stuff.
As I’m sitting there laughing at his thoughts on the viability of venting a wood-burning fireplace out my office window, he stopped suddenly.
“Wait. Go on the Internet.”
I knew immediately what he was thinking and tried to blow him off. He was having none of it.
“Go! Get on the Internet! Google ‘fireplace video.’”
Because he’s my boss, I am compelled to do these things. Once, he had me google “his nibs.” Don’t ask. Google it yourself.
I found a series of links for fireplace videos, and he pointed to the first one.
“There. Click that. Now make it full screen.”
And suddenly, my 21” monitor became a crackling fireplace, right there in my office. I looked at him, laughing, and saw that he was quite pleased with himself for fixing the whole fireplace issue that easily. I tried to explain that although the video is lovely (it is, truly), I actually rely on that monitor to get work done. He waved his hand, pointing to the small screen on the laptop sitting next to it.
“Use that one.”
Then I tried to explain that I was pretty sure that the IT director might have an issue with using the external monitor I requested for streaming fireplace videos, which only caused him to punch the IT director’s extension on my desk phone and order him to my office.
I knew exactly what that poor director was thinking. When the headmaster summons you like that, it’s usually not good. He showed up about eight seconds later, clutching his notebook and a pen, with a look of pain on his face that telegraphed, “Oh God, what now?”
My monk look pleased. With sparkling eyes and a sly grin, he waved the director around to our side of the desk.
Now there were three of us laughing, which was perfect timing for my marketing specialist to drop by. It was quickly becoming crowded around my little 21” fireplace.
The monk left and we continued chatting, and then he came bustling back in, thrusting a blanket at me.
“Here, you need this!”
Before I knew it, I was tucked snugly into my office chair with a maroon blanket emblazoned with University of Chicago, and a pillow from the couch crammed behind my head. He looked pleased again. I asked him if he was intentionally torpedoing my productivity, threw the blanket back to him, and waved him out of my office.
I’m willing to bet most professionals’ status meetings went nothing like this today.
For what it’s worth, that fireplace video is pretty awesome. I ended up leaving it on, running in the background, for nearly the entire day. I think I felt warmer for having it on (psychosomatic, yeah yeah), and the crackling and popping noises were soothing. At one point you can hear a train whistle in the distance. I highly recommend.
I also recommend…this site that runs coffee house noises in the background while you work.
Or…this site that offers Kmart Muzak from the 80s and 90s.
I love the Internet. And monks.