Room 101

“1984. You’re locked in a room with your greatest fear. Describe what’s in the room.”

So, dear WordPress, in this latest of ‘365 Days of Writing Prompts’, presumably you actually meant to ask ‘what’s in your Room 101?’

The original impact – and import – of the Orwellian Room 101 has been rather lost in recent years. If you don’t believe me, just have a look on the internet (other search engines are available). You’re well down the second page before there’s even a mention of the novel Nineteen Eighty Four. I was, however, interested to find that there are a lot of dance clubs called Room 101.

Well, that’s where I’d put them.

The BBC’s eponymous comedy programme is almost certainly more familiar to most people – at least in the UK – than Orwell’s dystopian vision. It’s certainly a lot more fun and, indeed, has become something of an institution. Rather like Desert Island Discs, I suspect that many people with no earthly chance of ever actually appearing on it have already drawn up their own lists. You know, just in case…

Well alright, since you asked, mine are:

  1. Parsnips
  2. Predictive tits text (especially the WordPress version that I don’t bloody know how to switch off).
  3. People who use words like ‘eponymous’ and ‘dystopian’ in the same sentence… Ah.

(I thought about adding David Moyes, but at the moment he’s giving me far too much enjoyment by staying just where he is.)

The difference between Orwell’s Room 101 and the BBC’s is significant. For the latter’s comedic purposes, the idea is to eliminate things that are just plain annoying – in a light-hearted way, of course. Incidentally, did you know that the first item ever to go into Room 101 in the series was ‘the French‘?

Just saying.

Orwell’s Room 101, though, was an entirely different, darker matter:

“You asked me once what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.”

For Winston Smith, the worst thing in the world was rats. I must say, that’s not something I would particularly care for, but I’ll tell you now what I would most hate to find in Room 101.

A meeting.

To be fair, some meetings were okay. When I was a sell-side analyst, meetings with clients could be quite stimulating, although that was the exception rather than the rule. Later, when I was the client, they were better. I was never aggressive or rude, like some of my own clients had been with me, but I can’t deny that there was an agreeable element of schadenfreude in watching others squirm – especially the ones I had previously been in competition with.

But while such external meetings could be passable, there was no real excuse I could ever find for internal meetings. It didn’t help that, as my level of seniority increased, so did my management responsibilities: and the inescapable companion to that was the requirement to attend more totally unproductive and pointless meetings.

There is a whole hierarchy to these things. You begin with one-on-one meetings with members of your team, then there are team meetings and then everyone comes together for departmental meetings. But on top of that, the management group has to have their own meetings, in order to discuss what came out of all the other meetings.

I swear this is true. At my last job, this entire process reached its apotheosis when I conveyed to my management group peers the feedback from a meeting I had had with my team. The message was that my team felt too much time was being taken up with departmental meetings (I could only agree).

And what was the upshot, you may ask? Well, isn’t it obvious? We had a departmental meeting to discuss why we were having so many meetings.

That larned ’em.


One thought on “Room 101

  1. Pingback: Don’t go there…or there…or there | theonlydeadheadinthehameau

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