I spent eight hours today at an HR compliance seminar — sounds like a doozy, right? But this was the most bizzarre, completely awesome HR seminar I’ve ever been to (and, sadly, I’ve been to many). It began innocuously enough: a hotel meeting room with a name like “Sierra” or “Diamond” or “Martinique” or some other stripper-esque nomenclature, roughly 90 middle-aged women in their finest Chico’s and Talbot’s ensembles and a tired buffet of rock-hard croissants and lukewarm coffee. I grabbed a spot in the back corner of the room, hoping to do some covert reading and avoid any thrilling conversations (Oh, wow! We use Mercer as our TPA, too! Aren’t their out-of-scope fees outrageous? I know, I know — but their call center is local — no damn Indians — and that’s all you can ask for these days, right? Hahahahaha!).
The murmurs from the various HR ladies died down as a man entered the room — which is unusual in and of itself, since HR as a business unit is so heavily pink-collar — and shuffled to the front, taking a seat on a barstool and facing the audience. He looked somewhat haggard, with tired eyes and a slightly humped back. His shirt was unbuttoned one button too far, revealing the pasty, hairless chest beneath. His hair was ruffled carelessly. He eyed us all wearily.
The man introduced himself as the seminar leader, mentioning in his opening that he had just come from Phoenix and would be going to Philadelphia tonight, where there were “six lousy bastards who signed up for this thing; at least I’ve got a good turnout from you people.” I stared at him, my attention piqued suddenly by the utterance of the words “lousy bastard” at an otherwise normal seminar, and I wasn’t alone. There was some nervous chirping and tittering throughout the crowd as people looked around at each other as if seeking confirmation of what they just heard. I put my book down, curious as to what our leader would say next. I was not disappointed.
He rambled on: “I — personally — hate employees; they’re idiots. I don’t even know why I’m in this business. Don’t act like you don’t hate them, too. Hell, I wake up every morning wondering how I even got here in the first place. Who hired me? I’m not even wearing underwear today. Don’t look — just take my word for it — and I’ve got a terrible case of diarrhea from the steroids I’m taking for this allergic reaction I had to a bee sting. I just violated my own HIPAA — I’ll be doing that all day, so just prepare yourselves. Oh, and you can fill out one of those evaluation forms if you want to, but at the end of the day, I don’t really care about what you have to say.”
After this insightful introduction, he went on to perform a one-man five-minute skit on what he called “the general ignorance of the average employee.” He was amazing and darkly brilliant — the Lewis Black of HR seminars — but was also clearly disturbed and/or deeply burned out. It was a trainwreck and I was enraptured. More delicious tidbits followed, as I scribbled furiously on my legal pad to capture all of the verbal insanity:
“There’s no such thing as a violation unless you get caught. Right? Right.”
“What did I say? USE IT OR LOSE IT, FUCKER! Why is that so goddamned hard for you to understand?”
“I hate California; no, I don’t want a goddamn granola bar and get that fucking yogurt away from me.”
“Why are you staring at me? Did I say too much? Show too many body parts?”
“I popped one of my wife’s Valium’s earlier, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much of anything.”
“Let’s use my son Dave as an example. Dave is a loser. He lives in sin with his loser girlfriend, Jamie. I’ve told them both that they’re going to hell, but they won’t listen to me.”
“I mean, someone had to be drunk when they wrote this manual. I swear to God, look at this crap!”
I could not make this stuff up if I tried; I’m not that smart or funny. The guy was clearly off his rocker. But the even crazier part was that I actually learned something at what I thought was going to be a worthless seminar. No, it was not that mentally unbalanced people need to take their lithium… I actually learned a couple of new things about compliance, since his insanity kept me focused on the topic at hand, no matter how many times he strayed into delirium. Am I thrilled that I learned even more filler about a topic I could really care less about? No, not really. But the day was far more interesting that sitting in the office I’m currently sharing with a temp while he listens to GWAR on his computer, answering inane questions from employees that I too — personally — hate.
Now…the fact that I lost my parking ticket and had to fake-cry at the front desk of the hotel to be let out of the parking garage or the fact that I paid $16.95 for a wedge salad at the hotel’s resaturant for lunch — not so interesting and definitely stories for another day.