I must share this wee story from my work day yesterday. I was going to write profound things about the Dalia Lama, but instead (or first, I should say) I have to share this experience. I’ve been doing contract work as a health consultant in a big oil and gas company and yesterday a group booked me to do a presentation about stress management at a large meeting. It was booked at short notice and I had had no time to prepare, but knew enough to know I’d be ok. The woman organising the meeting had emailed me in the morning and told me that the meeting started at 3pm and I needed to be there at 3:23 sharp! I emailed her back and joked that that was highly exact (thinking she’d made a typo) and she replied yes.
The building I work in is enormous and the elevator shafts are split into 3 so that in order to go from level 10, where I am, to level 22, where the meeting was, you have to take the elevator down to ground and then take a different one back up. So, at 3:15 I got up from my desk to go to make sure I’d get there early. I’d walked three steps from my desk when a siren went off and a woman’s voice, sweet as you like, came over the intercom saying; “This is an emergency fire drill.” Then the sirens started blaring and didn’t stop. SIGH.
It didn’t affect all floors, but of course my floor was affected. I went to go down the lift and a surly woman with an uncanny resemblance to the wicked witch of the East, wearing a bright yellow hard hat, told me she couldn’t possibly let me go down. I tried to persuade her, telling her that I had to give a presentation in exactly six minutes and as it was a drill, couldn’t she just let me go? She, and her silly hat, stood firm. SIGH.
I went back to my work area and milled around with everyone else from level 10. A friend saw me and said, “I thought you were doing a presentation st 3.23?!” She suggested I call the conference room where the meeting was being held to let them know I’d be late (why do I never think of doing something that entirely sensible in times like that?), so, despite the dirty looks from more people in silly hats (yes, they were multiplying and seemed to be revelling in my defeat), I sat back at my desk and looked up the phone number for the conference room the woman had put in the email. That’s when I discovered that there was no such room! She’d either made a typo (a bona fide one this time), or someone had up and stolen an entire conference room. SIGH.
No time to reflect on how to deal with this latest set-back, I was being chastised for being at my desk in the middle of a raging ‘fire’ by a girl in a hat that was ten sizes too big her her, and ushered down the emergency stairwell with 100 other people. I couldn’t run down the ten flights of stairs, that’s not allowed, so I trudged down them, one at a time, and stared as the hand on my watch ticked over 3:35. SIGH.
I finally made it out of the stairwell into the dazzling sunshine and turned to leg it back to the elevators when another big hat woman stopped and told me to stay with the group near the park for a head count. (Because of the raging fire, you see). I could contain myself no longer and told her my name, age, occupation, shoe size, deodorant brand, bra size, name of my dentist, mother, father, sister, third cousin and the name of my first cat and then told her I had to go. After she took down the name of my gynaecologist and grabbed one of my socks for proof of existence, she very reluctantly let me go. SIGH.
I ran to the elevator and raced up to level 22 to find the conference room that didn’t exist. As I turned the corner after getting out of the elevator, I heard loud and clear over the intercom; “Paging Simonne Michelle. Will Simonne Michelle please contact reception immediately?” This could only mean one of two things; either the folks in their meeting were wondering where the hell I was; or the woman who took my sock was, at that moment, being severely reprimanded by the Chief Emergency Drill Fire Inspector for representing someone by their sock and was demanding empirical proof that I hadn’t indeed burned to death. SIGH.
I called reception and luckily it was the first reason. Of course then I found out that the woman organising the meeting did get the room number wrong and I wasn’t even on the right floor! I made my way to correct room (only nearly half an hour later than 3:23) and flew in there, hot, sweaty, flustered and stressed to begin my presentation on stress management! SIGH.
I told a room crammed full of humourless engineers who’d been kept waiting for half an hour my ‘funny’ story and they just stared at me, stone-faced. So that’s when I told them a few truths: Stress is a state of mind that we choose to take on. I could choose to be stressed about having to walk down ten flights of stairs when I was already late for a meeting with very exacting time frames, or I could choose to laugh at the sheer timing of it all and give thanks that the building wasn’t indeed on fire. I quoted the Dalai Lama from the day before to them; Stress leaves no room for peace of mind. If a problem can be solved easily, then why worry about it? If a problem can’t be solved then there’s no point worrying about it.
I looked around the filled room with confidence and a winning smile… but they were still staring at me stone-faced wondering who on earth this hot, late, and decidedly weird woman was who was supposed to be teaching them about stress management. SIGH.
How does my story end? I made them stand up and do Brain Gym exercises to get them out of their engineer left-brainedness and into a more creative (and hopefully compassionate) frame of mind and then made them meditate! (I snuck out before I got them to open their eyes again… might as well try and be a bit mysterious as well as late, flustered, and weird!)