While traveling recently, I had occasion to stay with a friend who works from the sun-drenched comfort of his cozy living room, which almost made me miss my former employment. More specifically, only one stellar aspect of my former employment: the conference call.
When I first was assigned to handle conference calls that frequently ran most or all of the day, in which I had minimal if any participation, I diligently sat listening, feeling mildly subversive because I was still home, in my bathrobe, while working! And then came the day that it occurred to me to take a shower, and my whole world changed. For whatever reason, it hadn’t previously dawned on me that no one could see me or know what I was doing. From then, it was on. I used long telephone conferences as great opportunities to catch up on housekeeping, laundry, and small projects; I went jogging (the chatter being not nearly as motivating as rock and roll, but at least equivalent to trance music); I cooked dinner and stocked the freezer. I was ultraproductive! I was responsible! I was still paying attention to whether anyone uttered the magic words (the name of my client), but 99% of the time, it was equally likely that unicorns would pop through the gate and begin grazing on the terrace.
Aaaaand then a friend messaged me that he was in the neighborhood…was I home, by chance? Could he drop by?
And with that, conference calls became inextricably linked in my neanderbrain with sex. The sheer turn-on of getting off while on “mute” listening to product specifications of boilers manufactured in the 1950s was like a gateway drug. Every conference call I took from home after that I tried to arrange a nooner. Every conference call I took in my office involved sexting from my mobile while the hard line was on speaker.
Apparently I am out of the norm here. Upon asking other people what they do on conference calls they don’t need to be participatory in, their responses have most commonly been:
- “Other work! I can double-bill!” — unethical, and, frankly, just no fun. Really, guys?
- “Facebook.” Yeah, okay, I do love the book of faces. I’ve sext-messaged on it during plenty of…. oh. Just stalking your exes, huh?
- “Cleaning my office.” NO!!! Truly epic calls are about getting dirty!
- “Making dinner!” …and all that other useful crap I used to do before I leveled up.
Digging a little deeper, I uncovered some better responses:
- “Manscaping.” I can only hope you’re doing this only during the at-home conference calls. But I thank you for your grooming efforts — you’ll be ready for Friday’s 1 p.m. call, right? <wink>
- “Browsing porn online.” A step in the right direction! Also something I hope you’re doing only from your personal computer. Your employer’s interest in crusher porn may or may not match your own (although everyone can agree on pony play, right? Get your bridles ready!!) and that conversation with HR is going to be awkward… Not to mention that your secretary, who can totally see you through your door window, now has job security (and a fabulous list of Christmas presents she can’t buy you).
Now, of course, there are certainly things to consider when taking your conferencing to the next level. The mute button is essential. Don’t leave the phone anywhere where you have even the slightest chance of whacking it back into audibility, unless your conference call involves planning details for Exxxotica 2015 or you manufacture pleasure swings…then you can just call it “hands-on research and/or product testing.” A wireless headset with its own mute button is useful, particularly when the conference call is privileged, but then again, the beauty of speakerphone is that both parties are illicitly involved in what feels dangerous and anti-authoritarian. All bets are off, of course, if your partner in coitus is a coworker, which also would open up a much broader schedule of potential in-office mischief (unless you work in an office with a “knock and enter” policy, which thankfully I realized my last was before even considering anything that could result in seriously detrimental consequences with myself or anyone else….).
Since you may need to periodically interject some sort of commentary into the call, it’s wisest to, at the beginning, feign a little hoarseness (perhaps a sneeze or two, if you can muster it), and apologize that you have been ill. This will help smooth over any gasping or shortness of breath which may occur when you must un-mute and volunteer an opinion, while your partner is licking the back of your knees or riding you like a mechanical bull.
Knowing or estimating your conference call time limitations can also be an excellent challenge for the secondary events, e.g., “This call will be approximately 15-20 minutes. So how about you just take off your pants?” or “We’ve got at least an hour scheduled, and my division isn’t up for 45 minutes…we are clear for full-on fucking, to the sweet strains of Korean men jabbering. The accent change back to continental will serve as a two-minute warning — GO!” God bless multinational conferencing.
Of course, once I started boning my way through the boring, I also started imagining what all the rest of the silent listeners were doing, which made for some nauseating daydreams about what my colleagues do in their wine cellars and with their collections of stuffed birds. I suspect they were probably doing responsible things, based on my informal friend-poll, but it’s vastly more fun to imagine them full-on harnessed, swinging like the evil boss in 9 to 5, detailing the technical issues of their server platforms or explaining the history of asbestos literature in between episodes of moaning like a cat in heat.
I certainly hope that if they haven’t before, they’ll try it in the future. And I rue the day when videoconferencing changes everything.