Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Shut the F Up, Dennis

I attended a seminar for work today.  I wasn't exactly thrilled about the prospect, but realize they are sometimes necessary and I didn't really mind getting out of the office for a day.  Best case scenario I could sit in the back and daydream for seven hours.  I was disappointed upon arriving as I realized there were only three of us and the instructor there and going unnoticed would be impossible.

At 9:00, Kurt (our instructor) got us started.  We made small talk for a while, introduced ourselves and Kurt set the outline for the day, finishing with this bit of good news: "Officially, I say the seminar is over at 4:00, but yesterday I had a group of 24 people and we were done by 2:30.  So, I'll let you guys dictate the pace but we should be wrapped up pretty early today."  Tom, Rebecca (my classmates) and I shot each other conspiratorial grins, flipped open our workbooks and we were off.  Things were flowing at a great pace and I was planning my agenda for an unexpected afternoon off.  Then, at exactly 9:36 AM, Dennis happened.

The warning signs came early.  Dennis burst into the room wearing a leather coat (unzipped), a red and blue denim shirt (right side red, left side blue, divided at the buttons) and a giant (seriously, giant) belt buckle.  Like a dog looking to take a dump, he examined four empty tables before settling on one to sit at.  Once he finally was seated, Kurt welcomed him, introduced himself and casually asked if he was stuck in traffic.  Dennis replied "Nope".  Pause.  Pause.  Uncomfortable silence.  Pause.  Finally, Kurt realized no explanation of the tardiness was forthcoming and began speaking again.  It was the only time all day Dennis was short for words.

We were on page four of our workbook when Dennis arrived.  I was finding the class interesting, the instructor a nice guy and the pace just to my liking.  One hour after Dennis arrived, we were still on page four.  Kurt could not say four sentences before Dennis would interject with a question.  It's ok to ask questions.  After all, that is what these seminars are for.  What Dennis was asking, however, were the most idiotic, mundane, banal questions that Kurt and everyone else in the room assumed Dennis was joking the first few times.  And, in the rare case that Dennis couldn't think of a question, he would interrupt anyways.  At one point he halted Kurt and said, "There is a guy I worked with, who was unemployed before we hired him.  We hired him on the 15th and by the 21st, he quit and was unemployed again."  Pause.  Pause.  Kurt, who by now had learned to not pause quite so long, asked "Is that why you are taking this class today?  You are filling in for the duties he was performing?".  Dennis replied, "No.  I just can't understand how some people will just quit a job before even having another one."  On page six of my workbook is the following scribble:  STFU Dennis

This continued until nearly noon, when Kurt started talking about taking a break for a bit so that people could stretch their legs, have a bite to eat and we would reconvene in 30 minutes.  This was good news as the conference room had a pitcher of water on each table, and as I was alone at my table I made it my personal mission to empty the thing.  I was getting ready to make my exit when Dennis blurted out, "Before we break, can I ask a couple of quick questions?"  Page eight of my workbook has this at the bottom:  D, STFU!

After lunch, Dennis remembered that he had brought his phone with.  He began furiously snapping pictures of the power point presentation on the screen, which - not coincidentally - was exactly the same as the pages of our workbook.  He snapped so many pictures that his battery became drained.  No worries, as Dennis had brought his charger.  Rather than plug his phone into the outlet next to his chair, however, Dennis decided to plug it into the power strip with the projector in the front of the room.  Over the course of the next two hours, class was brought to a screeching halt no less than four times as Dennis would get up, walk to the front of the room, stand directly in front of Kurt and check his phone.  Finally satisfied it had charged sufficiently, he brought it back to his table with him and proceeded to make a phone call.  He didn't leave, he didn't apologize and I'm quite sure he didn't notice that class had - once again - stopped for him.  Ten minutes later, Dennis received a phone call.  His side of the conversation was this:  "Hi.  I can't talk.  I'm in the middle of a conference."  Yet that is exactly what you were doing, Dennis.  You were talking.  In the middle of a fucking conference.  On page 17 of my workbook is this:  DENNIS, SHUT THE FUCK UP!

Finally, at 3:55 Kurt began wrapping things up.  My dreams of a half day were crushed, but I still had a jump start on the rest of my day, even considering a longer than normal commute.  When Kurt asked the standard, "Does anyone have any questions?" that all good instructors are required to do before dismissing you, Rebecca, Tom and I quickly looked at the floor and avoided eye contact, as is the only sane thing to do in that situation.  Dennis, however, began rambling once more.  I couldn't take it.  I stood up, grabbed my coat, shook Kurt's hand, said thanks and hightailed it.  Following my lead, Tom and Rebecca made it out as well (I'm pretty sure I am their hero).  Poor Kurt, however, had no escape.  He may still be there.

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