If you’re still lucky enough to have a job, especially one of the office variety, then no doubt you will have had to endure those sorts of training courses which have been deemed as “essential” for all staff. You know the sort I mean: data protection, financial regulations, health and safety; generic courses full of worthy-but-dull legal speak which merely serve to wash the employer’s hands clean of any liability should an employee do something wrong, stupid or naughty and get caught in the process.
I had the misfortune to sit through another one of these courses on a recent Tuesday afternoon. You can instantly tell when you are in the midst of one, because they share the same characteristics:
- Einstein’s theory of relativity is confirmed, by the manner in which time grinds to a halt. The clock in the training room, which is always large and prominently featured, takes great pride in displaying how long a single second can be drawn out.
- Other employees, the vast majority of whom you have never seen before and almost certainly never will again, turn up expressly for the purpose of engaging the trainer in long-winded, drawn out conversations about minute aspects of the subject which are only relevant to their area of work, thereby prolonging the agonising dullness of the course for everybody else.
- You take far greater interest in your fingernails than is normal.
- You start to envy the freedom of nature through the window, which will invariably show smug-looking birds flying around in the air in a deliberate attempt to taunt you.
- You begin to daydream…
This last one is a serious weakness of mine, something I am particularly susceptible to when the course in question is becoming bogged down in legalese jargon or has succumbed to ‘death by Powerpoint’. The upside to this is that I can amuse myself with fantasies of some never-to-be world where I have become impossibly successful or dashing. I shan’t bore you with the details, but these moments do help stimulate other thoughts. For instance:
- Who would I cast as a new Ghostbuster in the upcoming sequel…?
- Who should direct a new Alien film…?
- What might make a good title for a new Indiana Jones movie…?
- Which essential, must-have dvds are missing from my collection…?
- How much would a new surround sound system cost…?
Alas, the problem with modern training courses is that one is not allowed to fall ever deeper in to these private thoughts, because all courses must now include some element of interactivity and, God help us, “role-play”. Role-play: one of my most dreaded words. Suddenly you’re thrust in to the centre of the room and forced to make an idiot of yourself, desperately trying to marshal whatever thoughts you can recall from the course so far, hoping that someone else will be just as bad or possibly even worse than you at whatever exercise you’ve been asked to do. It’s quite a shock to those of us who are more of the “sit-quietly-in-the-corner” ilk.
Eventually, after what seems like an eternity, freedom is granted and you make your way merrily back to the office, grateful to do something as uninteresting as checking emails. The problem is that the private thoughts tend to stay longer with me than the contents of the course, the latter usually managing to quietly sneak out of my brain that very same evening. Still, even if the course failed to linger for very long, at least I have a better idea of who should play the new Ghostbusters.