Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Business Lunch

Business lunches are dangerous places to be. Most corporations know that the business lunch is no place to send a novice. Only hardened veterans of the rubber chicken circuit have what it takes to survive this culinary minefield.
Over the years, people who have climbed mountains, survived avalanches and paddled through piranha-infested waters have been reduced to quivering heaps of gelatin in the face of a business lunch. It is one thing to stare down a raging grizzly, but it is quite another to stand up and deliver a humorous speech at a business luncheon: the grizzly is dangerous, but the luncheon is suicidal.
This is because the business lunch has little to do with business and nothing to do with lunch, but everything to do with power. You may have invented a cure for cancer or repaired the hole in the ozone, but stand up to give your talk with a splotch of strawberry and rhubarb pie of your suit, and you are just so much carrion floating in the shark-infested waters of the corporate oceans.
As with all encounters with dangerous wildlife, the best way to survive a business lunch is to make no sudden moves, no loud noises, and no eye contact - business people consider staring a hostile gesture. Make an abrupt reach for a wine glass that results in a spill, or a loud, unexpected guffaw when nobody else is laughing, and you will find yourself slipping into oblivion while the other more successful and better adapted predators lick their chops, withdraw their claws, and order Cafe Latte.
The five most common mistakes made by neophyte business luncheon attendees are as follows:
• Eating with their mouth open - and that includes especially talking while eating, unless you are the CEO in which case talking and eating at the same time are considered evidence of prowess.
• Using the wrong utensils. Use the soupspoon to stir your coffee, and you may return to work to find your desk moved to the mailroom.
• Spilling anything. A single drop of tomato sauce on a white tablecloth can start the sharks circling.
• Speaking too much or too little. Only people with telepathic powers can know how much polite conversation is just right.
• Telling inappropriate jokes - and then being the only one who laughs.
• Having too much to drink. And if you think the fact that you are eating bread in an effort to soak up the alcohol won't be noticed, you're wrong. The only people who can get away with drinking too much at a business lunch are authors, artists and journalists, but then everybody knows they are not really business people anyway.
The pitfalls are everywhere, so those unfamiliar with the business lunch must be constantly on guard. When the nice man to your left leans over and suggests helpfully that you should try the Cajun chicken, is he really just being "helpful" or is he trying to remove you from the corporate food-chain by getting you to eat a dish that will cause you to break into a sauna-like sweat? And when that kindly woman to your right asks you if you would like red or white wine with your calamari, is she really giving you a choice, or is she trying to point out to the others that you have no idea if calamari is considered meat or fish, and selecting either wine will be a serious faux pas - a term, by the way, used by Roman gladiators to indicate someone who was about to be cast to the lions.
The only secure way to successfully navigate a business lunch is to eat and drink nothing, speak only when spoken to, and laugh (softly) only when the highest-ranking predator laughs. If you look really carefully at the other people at the table, you'll see that's exactly what they are doing, except, of course, for those uncouth few who were obviously invited by mistake, and who will never see the light of another business lunch again.
Bon appetit!

Monday, January 31, 2005

Documercials and Dramatoonaries

With the advent of anticipating government deregulation, the wild and wacky world of television is about to get a serious boost in its electronic arm.
Thanks to the wizardry of the fairy-folk, gnomes and sprites who work tirelessly in to bring us ever newer, more advanced and continually obsolete technology, it will soon be possible for Canadians to have access to more than 500 channels, and enjoy the same television technology as the Americans.
The benefits of this should be obvious. For one thing, re-runs of Green Acres - the best sitcom EVER - will finally find a channel of its own and get the recognition it deserves. But more importantly, we will no longer have to be satisfied with the current measly thirty or forty channels of infortainment, documercials and dramatoonaries that passes for Canadian television. With a 500+ channel television universe unfolding in our very own living rooms, the possibility for zoning out and tuning in will be limitless.
Of course, It’ll be impossible for Canadian production companies to grind out sufficient programming to fill all these channels. Fortunately, actual original programming won’t be necessary for many of the new channels since they will be so-called "specialty" channels.
A specialty channel is one that airs only a certain kind of programming. There is the comedy channel, for instance, which shows nothing but a steady steam of stand-up comedy acts - a kind of never-ending Seinfeld episode - a sort of entire network devoted to nothing. But what about an all-Disney channel feeding consumers a constant diet of Mickey Mouse entertainment; and several all sports channels devoted to ever lesser-known sports such as Shinty, where people could debate the virtue of the cork and worsted used in the game ball. Along with an all-violence channel and an all sex-sex channel, we might see a Happy Channel with news anchors Regis and Kathy Lee for people who are tired of all the bad news on television.
But that still leaves more than 500 channels unaccounted for. So what else would we like to see? How about a wallpaper channel? A regular feature of the wallpaper channel could be a marriage-counseling segment that would teach people how to hang paper without the aid of a divorce lawyer.
But possibly the most popular new concept would be a channel devoted exclusively to highlighting the lives of people who spend their time watching television. A viewer would be able to click on one of these channels and see someone, possibly even themselves, in the act of watching television.
The Viewer channel would let viewers see someone - let's call him Bob - sitting in his home, watching television. We watch him pick up the remote and change channels, go into the kitchen for a can of beer, eating microwave burritos and flossing his teeth. We will all be amazed at his ability to watch television for so long, and we will be kept glued to the set, wondering what will happen next. Will Bob get dressed today? Will he shower? Who is going to clean up that apartment? Does him mother know he lives like this? Can he possibly have a girl friend? What happened to the gerbil he had yesterday? The suspense! The cult following might eventually rival that of Dallas or Gilligan's Island.
The Viewer channel might even be the kind of thing that would pass for art and quality for a government grant, and it couldn't possibly be any worse than the bass-fishing channel, the all-compost network, or the 24-hour Gregorian Chant Music Network.
Is this a great time to be alive or what?
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