Six Men

The minutes were being read and it felt like hours. The meeting place was different, but we were the same seven, therefore, nothing changed. We were the volunteer elected board of a non-profit called Alpacas Without Borders, an organization specializing in delivering alpacas to underprivileged families in first world countries. Why I was elected, I have no idea. First of all, I’m the only female in this male-dominated organization started by Philip Krueger fourteen years ago because, as he has said maybe two million times, “People like to say ‘I’m a cat person’ or ‘I’m a dog person.’ But me? I’m an alpaca man and proud of it!” (If I hear that one more time I might need to sweep his legs right out from under him.) Secondly, I don’t even like alpacas. They’re like undersized llamas the size of large dogs. I’d actually rather have a dog. I’m a dog person. Thirdly, it’s a volunteer position. I only chose to accept my election to this board because, being a young female executive, I felt it necessary to jump in wherever I could. That was a mistake.

The reason I was so bored at this particular moment of the minutes was that James, the board secretary, was reading a meticulously detailed account we had discussed at the last board meeting of the six of them talking about their trek to the store to look for an office television, so very important in the alpaca distribution world. I hadn’t gone on that expedition due to wanting to actually get some work done in my real job, Associate Account Manager at Fowler, Evans, & Mason Investments, Inc., located just south of Boston in Quincy. Not a bad job for a woman just out of university with a very fresh MBA. From what I picked up from their discussion, this is how I would paraphrase what happened:

The six of them walked into a Target store with the sole intention of purchasing a high definition flat-screen television, striding along with purpose, carrying resolve one often only sees in tasks of loftier, nobler ambitions. They would not have been fast, but probably moved quickly through the aisles that were completely irrelevant to their immediate purpose. Shoe section? At this point in time the only shoes that mattered were those that were attached to the twelve legs that propelled these men along. They could live the remainder of their lives with the shoes that were present and accounted for, and none other. Men’s clothing? Why bother at this point? Each of the six would be modestly covered with their “recreation” clothing and comfortable, not really even considering what was being worn at that moment. If asked a mere hour later what they were wearing then, without looking, they would be hard-pressed to squeeze those memories from their skulls. “I’m rather sure I was wearing jeans…or was I?” Only the television mission was pressing in upon them and needed resolution with utmost haste.

Could it have been the Phil’s desire that pushed them toward their immediate calling? Perhaps. He was the one who controlled the finances, therefore the perceived power holder. He would be slightly in front of the group physically and would be choosing the paths they all were taking. That’s what an alpaca man does. I suppose one could name him the alpha alpaca.

What about the oldest among them, who was also the newest? Ronald. He meandered along with the flow, what will be will be, let’s travel with the wind and see where it leads us. I believe he was in advertising until he retired a few years ago. I’m not sure why he’s here. He certainly loves alpacas.

What about Roger, the youngest? He was one who enjoyed the latest of all the technologies and the one who kept himself up to date. It seemed that he was subtly pressing his will onto Philip knowing that Philip did not want to appear that he was out of touch in the relatively new field of flat-screen televisions. He was still older than me by six years.

Then there was Carol, same age as our fearless leader. I’m not really sure why his parents named him Carol. Had they never heard Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” before naming him? I suppose the song had not yet been written. He was on the board because he was Philip’s frat brother when they attended Ball State University in Muncie back about thirty years earlier. Honestly I don’t think he could pick an alpaca out of a lineup.

Then there was Flip. An Iranian born in Reno, Nevada and named Flip because, when he was born, his parents were huge fans of Flip Wilson. So, that means his full name is Flip Mazandarani Bozorgmehr. Seriously. He is quite smart, earning a Ph.D. in physics from M.I.T. fifteen years ago. Given the choice his parents made for his name makes me curious how acquired said intelligence.

James, our secretary who was droning on and on, probably ambled along behind everyone, his limp, damp hands most likely in his pockets. He was about as assertive as a nun, never sharing his opinion about anything, saying yes or no to everything depending on how Philip felt. Milktoast is a word that comes to mind.

There they were, the six of them. They were a small platoon, a troop, a pack, on their mission that had been decided by one, but that felt ordained by the lot of them. They were meant to be here. And, as they rounded the corner and talked with the representative in the television department, they were told that this brand was not in stock. Bewilderment crossed faces. A new plan must be made, but right at the moment they were stymied. Minutes passed. The desire for lunch rumbled through the crew and they headed back out into the parking lot.

The process of telling that story was a thirty-minute grinding narrative that we had to now hear again in the tome being read entitled “The Minutes.” I looked around at this bunch and decided that enough was enough.

“I’m think I’m done,” said I, interrupting James, and rose from my seat.

“Wait,” replied Philip, “We haven’t finished.”

I paused for a moment, collecting my thoughts, and said to them, “No, what I mean is, I’m done with this board. I’m tired of all of this and don’t want to be a part of it.”

They stared at me as if I’d just told them I was made of cheese.

“What are you tired of?” stammered Roger, the young one on the television adventure.

“Too many things to mention, but at this point I realize I’m not a good fit. I rarely add input and when I do it’s usually shot down.”

Philip stood up to protest. Of course he was wearing a skimpy Speedo, I’m sure breaking a number of decency laws. I forgot to mention that he had moved the meeting to a large hot tub in his back yard. “What are you saying? We need you!” he managed to stammer out while dripping like a soaked sheepdog.

“Philip,” I said tiredly, “I really don’t contribute anything, and really the only reason I’m here is to try and belong to as many boards as I can to further my place as a female executive. You need to find someone who is enthusiastic about what you’re doing.”

They were stunned, their confused faces looking up at me while the steaming water bubbled around them.

“I don’t even like alpacas,” I added while turning and climbing out of the cauldron that was pruning all of us. “Thank you all anyway.”

I grabbed my towel and robe off of one of the lawn chairs and made my way to the car. I smile managed to come to my face as I realized that I had accomplished something by making my decision plain, though it was difficult, and following through. What’s next? I don’t know. I heard there was a shelter for women with acne looking for board members. Maybe there.

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