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Scary stories to tell in the dark conference room

Cathy Reisenwitz

by Cathy Reisenwitz on October 29, 2019

This Halloween, let's talk about terrifying meetings

*Puts flashlight directly under chin*

Remember when you were a camper, sitting around the fire, telling scary stories? Middle school seemed like the scariest thing imaginable. It did get better, thank God. But that doesn’t mean adulthood can’t be scary too.

For an example of adulthood horror, look no further than offices. They’re lit by extremely unflattering fluorescent lights. Jerry is always microwaving something horrible-smelling in the kitchen. And the temperature is never, ever, ever comfortable.

But the scariest part of office life? The meetings. How are meetings scary? I’m so glad you asked.

*spooky laugh*

1. The Haunted Conference Room

Hauntings can happen anywhere. Old houses, obviously. Co-working spaces too, as it turns out.

And conference rooms.

You’ll be trying to schedule a meeting with your colleague, and can’t find a conference room to save your life. You finally get stuck booking the one that everyone hates. It’s far away, weirdly shaped, and has poor temperature control. But whatever. You walk by the other, better conference rooms, and no one is in them? Turns out they’re all booked by former co-workers who didn’t clear their calendars of recurring meetings before they left. Their ghosts are condemned to haunt these conference rooms forevermore.

2. Getting Ghosted

Dating is scary enough without the off-putting behavior called “ghosting.” You go back and forth a million times with someone to find a time to meet, you clear out space in your calendar, you make a reservation, and then… nothing.

No call, no email, no text. Just radio silence as you wait by yourself. Did they die? They must have died. You kind of hope they died.

You just got ghosted. Turns out this happens at least as much with meetings. Apparently, someone no-shows to more than a third of meetings.

3. Bloody Mary

According to legend, if you say her name three times in a mirror, Bloody Mary will appear. Who she is, no one knows. Some say she’s Mary, Queen of England. Sometimes she appears holding a dead baby. If you’re a Protestant and you see her, I’d advise you to run.

I’ve heard the same thing happens when you punch the wrong PIN number into a conference call incorrectly three times. Only instead of seeing a pale redhead, you hear this in your head until the end of time.

4. The Evil Eye

All around the world, for thousands of years parents have warned their children to beware the evil eye. You’ll see amulets offering protection from its malevolent gaze everywhere from the bazaars of Istanbul to the wrists of Kim Kardashian.

Woe unto any who end up in its gaze.

In the office, you can find an evil eye in most conference rooms. You can identify it by its red dot, and the way it moves to point itself at whoever dares speak. No matter what you do, it’s always watching.

5. Zombie Meetings

You can find them in theme parks, dilapidated Louisiana mansions, secret underground facilities, and Cambridge. They’re the undead. They walk (or lurch) around, usually looking the worse for wear, with one thing on (what’s left of) their minds: BRAAAAAAINS!

In meeting-land, undead meetings are recurring meetings that really should have been put out of their misery, but continue to happen because no one wants to be the one to blow off their heads with a shotgun.

6. Witch’s Brew

Unless you want to be turned into a frog, a witch isn’t to be trifled with. You can find her standing over a nasty-looking cauldron, with a broomstick over her door, with copious black cats scurrying about, wearing a tall, pointy hat.

The broomstick is to let people know she’s open for business. The cats chase away grain-eating mice. Instead of newt’s eyes and pig’s blood in her cauldron, she’ll be boiling wort. And the hat lets people know what she does for a living: brews beer. Turns out that for thousands of years women dominated beer-brewing. But when women started selling their beer, and becoming economically independent, fearful people changed the meanings of the signs of a thriving beer business to become signs of witchcraft.

As if patriarchy weren’t frightening enough, the office can offer its own assortment of disgusting concoctions. Like doenjang, a fermented soybean paste with that gives off a strong ammonia-like odor. Or lutefisk, a gelatinous mash made of drenching dried cod in lye said to smell, well, fishy. And if someone brings in durian, a fruit whose smell was compared to "completely rotten mushy onions,” woe unto your nose.

7. The Witching Hour

It’s that time of night when the boundary separating the worlds of the living and the dead is gauziest, and ghosts and ghouls are strongest. It’s when you’re most likely to see a spirit traverse between the two planes. And it’s when witches are at their most powerful. Many say it’s between 3 and 4 a.m.

The only thing you’re likely to see at the meeting witching hour, which is any time you’re in a meeting after 5 p.m. is angry faces.

I know what you did last meeting

If meeting prep is haunting you, or the weekly meeting is stalking you, peering through your windows on Sunday nights, it might be time to exorcise your calendar. Clockwise helps you get more Focus Time and make time for what matters.

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz

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