The other day I read that President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, aged 92, often falls asleep in meetings.  I wasn’t in the least surprised.  A combination of age, warm weather, long, boring meetings seems to me to make sleep inevitable.  It would be newsworthy if he managed to stay awake!

I am not yet 92 but I have a tendency to fall asleep in concert halls, theatres and cinemas.  I start off determined to stay awake but a combination of relief that I’m in the right place at the right time, the lights going down, being trapped in a comfortable seat with nothing to do except listen and watch, lovely music …… and before I know it, I’ve gone.  My wife is brilliant (and much practiced) at prodding me.

However, even when I was younger inactivity used to send me to sleep.  I acquired the habit at my secondary school where we played sports every afternoon and, after a hot bath, had two hours of lessons from 4.30 – 6.30.  Exhausted from the afternoon’s exertions, pink from the hot bath, boring teachers rabbiting on……….and I wasn’t the only one who fell asleep.

Fast forward 20 years or so when large organisations used to pay me fees to observe hapless managers having meetings and then run feedback sessions designed to help the participants decide on improvements.  I have spent hours of my life sitting behind handy rubber plants observing management meetings. 

Sometimes the meetings were gripping, with a juicy problem to solve and/or with heated arguments between protagonists with irreconcilable vested interests.  Meetings like this had me on full alert, on the edge of my chair, taking copious notes. 

But, alas, more often than not, the meetings I observed were unremarkable and utterly tedious; too much information, too much rubber stamping, not enough cut and thrust.  I know boredom is a choice but these meetings made choosing to stay awake well neigh impossible.  A warm room, voices droning on, seen it all before ……..yep, I was a goner. 

Falling asleep when you’ve paid to go to an event is a waste of money.  Falling asleep when someone is paying you to stay awake and produce insightful feedback is, well, embarrassing.   Once an unkind manager spotted me dozing off and photographed me, chin on chest.  Thank goodness social media hadn’t yet been invented.   I’d surely have been defrocked!

The funny thing is, I usually got away with it.  I used to blame the participants for having such a deadly dull meeting that it sent me to sleep.  Sometimes they even apologised!

A clear case of attack being the best form of defence.   



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