Huela loathed the pound button on her desk phone. Pressing pound was like using a time machine to go the a 1970s craft fair in a sparsely populated area of Ohio. She could be doing anything else with her time, but instead opts of her own free will to be bored out of her mind. Her one thrill is hoping the automated voice will, just this once, call the pound key the hashtag button.
“Hi, this is Huela,” she said. These are the last words she speak until meeting’s end. She pressed mute and proceeded to listen to other callers chirp in, say their names, and zone out as well.
She wondered how long the half hour call is actually going to take; how much of this could have been covered in an email. She sings a Katy Perry tune to pass the time until “we give everyone a chance to dial in.”
Silence fills the phone line for ten minutes before the host remembers the call is happening still and calls the meeting to order.
Her first conference call was so exciting. “I’m doing business!” she screeched in her cubicle as she hit the pound key. It was still called a pound key back then. Now she used conference calls to catch up on emails.
“Let’s circle back to that,” a voice said from the phone.
Huela had no idea what was being circled back to, but knew the term well enough. Whatever was being ‘circled back to’ just died in committee. Somewhere a few states away a project manager was screaming.
Huela’s email inbox was oddly empty for a Monday afternoon. When she finished her responses and the conference call was still going on, she returned to singing Top 40 hits to pass the time. Her ears were tuned to buzzwords like her department or her name, but in four years of calls she had never been asked for anything. Her role was department liason, taking information from the meeting back to her teammates for dissemination. She forwarded the meeting notes to her coworkers, which were sent to her via email from the conference call coordinator, Paul, who had the fun job of making notes and handing them out to call participants.
Huela thought that maybe tradition was the only reason conference calls still existed. Maybe no one got around to telling certain higher-ups about G-Chat or Dropbox. Or middle managers. Either way, Monday afternoons were dedicated to calls that make no sense.
The call continued into the forty-fifth minute.
“Ughhhhhh,” Huela cried out to her office walls. “Let’s workshop a way out of this miserable meeting!” She began tapping her forehead against the desk.
“Well, that appears to be all for today folks. Thanks for calling in,” the phone voice said. A series of beeps followed, callers dropping off as they realized the meeting had ended.
She too ended the call and went to open her office door where she heard a most unfamiliar sound in her office; giggling.
“Huela,” said one of the laughing people from the IT support team, “we’ll have to check your phone. I think your mute button is broken.”
She get the blood flee her face, replaced by dread and embarrassment. She really hoped no one heard her rendition of Hot Line Bling.
“I’d appreciate that, thank you.” She closed her office door and wondered if she would ever leave.