A few weekends ago, I was supposed to attend a conference with a group of classmates. For the semester we had been working on a project for a local nonprofit, and we were to present our project at the conference and get a consultation on implementing our project in the real world.
Due to other obligations, I couldn’t make the conference, but I agreed to FaceTime into the meeting when we met with the consultant. So at 3 PM on a Saturday, my friend FaceTimed me. “Katie” propped up her iPad so that I could see only her, but hear everyone.
We started with introductions and then moved to our project. Since I had spearheaded a lot of it, my classmates asked me to lead the introduction. I asked Katie to pull up our PowerPoint on her laptop, which she did.
I began narrating. The consultant nodded and asked minimal questions. Soon he and one of my classmates off-camera were in a discussion. I stared at Katie and made faces. She texted my phone, “When you can only see me.”
I replied, “Lol it’s funny.”
Someone off-camera asked something, but I didn’t recognize their voice.
“Who asked that question?” I texted her.
When I didn’t get a response, and she was too busy looking down the table, I pulled out my bowl of cereal. Because I hadn’t eaten lunch and I could not wait an hour to eat. I would pass out on camera.
Katie must have seen my question. She abruptly adjusted her iPad so the consultant was in full view of the camera. I sat on my bed clutching a bowl of cereal. I quickly put it down.
“When I start eating and you put the speaker on camera,” I texted her.
“What do you think about this structure?” I asked aloud for the consultant.
“It looks solid. Chris will have great insight on this,” the consultant replied. “He’s overseen a lot of projects similar to this. I’ll have to connect you all after this.”
“So why aren’t we talking to Chris?” I texted Katie. “Go get Chris.”
Consultant: “So what is the community like in your city?”
“So where headquarters are, it’s very urban,” a classmate answered. “But the Richmond area itself is pretty suburban.” They continued to describe the area and why our project would suit the community’s needs.
Consultant: “Have you thought about A?”
Me: “Yeah, we considered that in our proposal, and Katie, can you click to the next slide? That’s why we included B.”
Consultant: “What about C? C can really affect things. At my old institution, we had that same problem and [ad-libs].”
Classmate: “Where was your old institution?”
Consultant: “Midwest. Pretty rural. Not a high population.”
Me to myself, “So not Richmond…”
The consultant went on: “So I think you should address C. And D and E. And maybe F. And have you thought about H? And let’s not forget about G.”
I had the distinct feeling our consultant had not listened to a thing we said and had just come with a hole puncher. He didn’t care if he was hole punching titanium steel or paper as long as he was hole punching.
Katie texted me as much: “He is bothering me. I’m about to go off.”
I replied, “Shut him down.”
I replied again, “He won’t kill the idea.”
I waited a moment.
The consultant now described his old institution and how he used to work in student government at a Midwestern university. “And I did that for 35 years. We always kept M in mind.”
I texted Katie, “Who the hell does student government for 35 years?” Sent. “Who?!” Sent again.
And then she replied:
“It comes up on my computer.”
I stared at my phone. Into the camera. Confused. And then it dawned on me. We were using her Macbook to show the slides.
MY TEXTS WERE ROLLING ACROSS THE SCREEN IN THE ROOM.
“Lol,” she added. “I’m so done.”
I stared at my previously sent texts:
“Shut him down”
“He won’t kill the idea”
“Who the hell does student government for 35 years?”
You’re joking, Katie.
I texted, involuntarily, “Omg.” Sent. “Stop.” Sent.
“Don’t respond ha,” Katie replied, and we made eye contact in the camera.
Involuntarily, I sent, “Katie omg.”
I sat stricken through the rest of the call. I walked him through the rest of our slides. And I listened as he critiqued. All the time aware he – and the rest of my classmates (who were thinking what I thought, but still!) – had seen my verbal diatribe where I instructed my classmate to “shut him down” and challenged his resume.
As we wrapped up, Katie shut her laptop. I hadn’t sent her anymore texts, but now I sent, “Katie omg.”
“Omg I can’t,” she replied.
“Did he see them all?!”
“He definitely saw the last few.”
The consultant ended the session: “It was nice meeting with you all. I hope this was as insightful to you all as it was to me.”
Me: “It was great talking to you too.”
I don’t think I’ll ever text again.