Minimizing to the Max
Being an adult is no fun, thought Grace Turpin. You have to do so many boring things. The current thing fogging her mind until eyelids drooped was a mandatory seminar.
Her training was titled Minimizing to the Max: How to Be Successful in Every Area of Life. At least this one is only four hours long, Grace thought. She shuddered when she recalled the weekend retreat the office had attended two months ago.
To appear she was paying attention, she flipped through a forty-two page manual. Its last two pages contained more acronyms than Grace remembered seeing in any manual, even the 241 pages of her desk manual at her office titled Policy, Procedures, and State, Federal, and International Regulations.
At least she put these acronyms down in alphabetical order, Grace thought as she began to read them:
AIM: Allocating your IM to others
BIM: Bearing IM fatigue
CIM: Cleansing you IM
A shadow spreading across her manual until overhead lighting no longer illuminated it slowly lifted Grace’s head until her eyes met the instructor’s. Glancing sideways in both directions told Grace she was the center of attention now. Her co-workers were shaking heads, smiling, or stifling laughter. The biggest jerk, Ian, covered his mouth with one hand and pointed with the other as his body convulsed with silent glee.
Until this point, the instructor had smiled and sometimes joked with her pupils. But now her bubbly demeanor soured. Champagne bubbles became molten lava flowing downward on top of Grace.
“Perhaps you feel accomplished enough about today’s subject matter to take my place?” she asked.
Beginning in second grade, Grace had learned to use deference when any adult scolded her. Above all else, let the offended ones save face by making them believe they were in total control. So Grace lied.
“No, ma’am,” Grace answered. “Honestly, I wouldn’t even know where to start on such a complicated subject.”
“Exactly, young lady.”
From a distance, Grace had thought the instructor old enough to be her mother. But at less than a foot away, she appeared ancient enough to be her grandmother. Not even my Grandma Jezebel has crow’s feet that huge, Grace thought as she focused on the lines radiating outward from the corners of the instructor’s eyes. They seemed to undulate as blood pulsed from heart to head.
When the instructor’s hand reached toward the table at which Grace and two others sat, Grace slouched down in her padded chair because the movement reminded her of hands from long ago grabbing her, shaking her, extending forefingers to wag in her face.
Instead, this hand landed on her manual and caressed it.
Now, the instructor’s voice went from a grizzly bear’s growl to a dove’s cooing. “We simply must save the best for last, dear,” she said as she flipped the manual’s pages backward to the subject matter she had been expounding before this rebel interrupted her train of thought. “You can’t have your dessert until first you have eaten all of your meat, potatoes, and veggies.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’m terribly sorry.”
The instructor’s smile revealed teeth so white surrounded by bright red lipstick that Grace pictured a Christmastime candy cane or barbershop’s revolving red and white stripes. She let out a shallow breath as the instructor walked back to her command post of podium and computerized overhead projector.
“That was close,” the one seated to Grace’s right whispered. “I’ve seen her take off people’s heads at other seminars. They don’t call her the Queen of Hearts for nothing. Welcome to Alice in Wonderland.”
By the time of a twenty-minute break, Grace shuffled zombie-like to the hotel’s bistro for her favorite comfort food, carbs washed down by caffeine. Ian plopped into the chair across from her.
“Better go easy on the coffee, Grace, or you’ll be disrupting our class-time by having to get up to use the bathroom,” he said. “You always did have a tiny bladder.”
“Why don’t you go pick your nose like you’re always doing at work?” Grace asked.
The office peacemaker walked to their small table to intervene and remained standing to focus their attention on her. “Isn’t this just wonderful?” she asked. “It’s so refreshing and relaxing to get away from our phones and computers for the whole afternoon.”
Ian glanced up from his smartphone. “Oh, that reminds me,” he said as he stood. “I need to be somewhere by 5:30. The only way I’ll make it through all of the rush hour traffic is if The Wicked Witch of the West lets us out of here early. If you behave, Grace, maybe she will.” He searched for new victims to at worst, irritate or at best, try and impress.
Grace sighed to try and remove the latest expectation dumped on her. Only Ricki the peacemaker made no such demands of Grace, so she pointed at the empty chair and asked, “Care to join me?”
“So, what do you think is really going on with our branch?’ Ricki asked. “Do you think that they’re going to shut us down? If they do, maybe they’ll let us transfer to openings in other states. I’m sort of tired of all the hurricanes and snow we get here, anyway.”
Grace shoved the plate holding the remaining half of her cream-filled croissant across the table to the one employee of their company she considered a friend. “Maybe they’ll do what they euphemistically call a reorg and lay a bunch of us off. If they do that, I hope Ian is at the top of their list.”
She nodded at a nearby table where Ian was doing his imitation of John Travolta. A gifted mimic, Ian could imitate any celebrity from movies, television, music, or politics. “Then he could go into show business instead of real estate. Wouldn’t it be great to change the channel every time his creepy face showed up on it?”
* * *
After the break ended, the instructor pasted a smile back on her face. Her re-applied, expensive makeup highlighted it. Perfectly brushed graying hair served as a crown.
Just two more years of this crap and I can finally retire, she thought as she fiddled with the control that flashed the visuals of her presentation onto the sixteen by twenty-foot screen behind her. At least the manager for this group said he will show me some properties this weekend. If I downsize enough then my retirement income just might turn out to be enough that…
Her train of thought fizzled when the last seat in the small auditorium was filled by Ian. “Thank you, class, for being so prompt.” She glanced at her watch. “If we all stay on task for the rest of this afternoon, perhaps we shall finish up a little early.”
As she turned to see if the correct image filled the screen, Ian pumped his fists high above his head. His swaying body became like a trained seal’s, his hands its flippers as he pretended to clap.
“Now, who remembers our definition of Internal Mechanism?” the instructor asked.
“The IM is like your soul,” answered a twenty-two year old real estate agent. “You know, the inner part of you that motivates you to do things, to see the world in a certain way.”
“Excellent. That was a very good paraphrase.” The instructor pressed the handheld control and her five sentence definition of Internal Mechanism reappeared on the screen.
For the next hour, she dissected what she claimed every human being came equipped with at birth. She peeled the IM’s layers as if peeling a plump onion, occasional tears flowing down her cheeks whenever she felt inspired by her own words. Example after example of those great and small who had accomplished fantastic things once they had tapped into their IMs. Finally, she introduced them to the list of acronyms Grace had discovered hours earlier.
After reciting the list slowly and then at a rapid fire pace, she ordered her apprentices to their feet.
“You will now receive your mantra,” she intoned the words as if she were a high priestess of a New Age Cult. “May it serve you well.”
She aimed a laser pointer at the first acronym and waved her free hand as if conducting her magnum opus. Her pupils responded as one:
AIM: Allocating your IM to others
BIM: Bearing IM fatigue
CIM: Cleansing your IM
DIM: Diminishing your IM’s enemies
EIM: Eliminating IM guilt
FIM: Feeling your IM
GIM: Grateful for your restored IMur trafficearly. afternon,eekend. If I downsize enough then my retirement just might…-foot screeen tire, she thought as she fiddled with the control that flashed the visuals
HIM: Healing others with your restored IM
IIM: Imaging your revived IM
JIM: Jump starting your comatose IM
KIM: Keeping your IM healthy
LIM: Liking your IM
MIM: Maintaining you IM
NIM: Notating your IM by keeping a daily journal
OIM: Occupying your IM 24/7
PIM: Peace with your IM
QIM: Quitting IM negativity
RIM: Reorganizing your IM
SIM: Stimulating your IM
TIM: Talking to your IM
UIM: Understanding your IM
VIM: Vitalizing your IM
WIM: Wondering about your IM’s growth
XIM: X-raying your IM
YIM: Yearning for the IM of your youth
ZZZIM: Resting your IM with lots of Z’s (sleep)
“Thank you for your attention today,” the instructor said. “I hope you will minimize to the max by no longer stressing out and worrying but instead cut away the negativity that surrounds all of us by tapping into your internal mechanisms daily.”
An hour later, Grace Turpin stumbled into her studio apartment. After feeding her cocker spaniel, huge Maine Coon and skinny Siamese cats, she collapsed onto her couch and used a well-worn remote control to turn on her sixty-inch TV.
She smiled when nothing appeared on the screen to remind her of work or work related seminars.
“At least Ian hasn’t quit his day job yet and become a full-time clown on TV instead yet,” she told her animals.
Exhausted, Grace ignored her twenty-four pound cat as he went to the plastic trash can and ate the French fries leftover from the fast food meal she had eaten during her drive home. Her smaller nine-pound cat jumped onto the kitchen table and knocked over the remaining cup of soda. Then she lapped up the pool of sugary, caffeinated liquid.
Within thirty seconds, Fran was ZZZing her IM with a two-hour nap.