We disagree with Palmer’s stance. His stance is quite disagreeable. It’s so disagreeable, in fact, that we sort of banish him from taking another. The way we see it, it’s not worth the risk. He’s already taken one disagreeable stance, so what’s the probability he’ll take another? High, we think. And another after that? Higher, likely. How do we banish Palmer from taking future stances? Well, we retro-fit a canine shock collar to fit his ego-swollen head. Discussions go a lot smoother after that.
“Despite popular convention,” I say, “I believe the fork should go on the side of the table corresponding to a person’s handedness. I.e. right-handers get their forks on the right, left-handers on the left.”
“Yes yes yes.”
“But how will we know a person’s handedness without a public disclosure of private information?” Ryon asks.
In unison, we all turn to Ryon.
“A simple pre-meal questionnaire,” I say. “Submitted alongside the patron’s reservation.”
“Was that even question-worthy, Ryon?”
After some discussion we decide that Ryon’s question was not question-worthy. In it was the implication that we had not thought our stance through, which of course we had, and how insulting of him to suggest otherwise. There is also the issue of tone. As in his tone had a sort of grating quality that negatively affected the overall mood of the group. We have no choice but to banish Ryon.
“The napkin should be folded in a neat little triangle atop the plate. To put the napkin underneath the silverware creates the opportunity for unnecessary clinkage, which, as we know, unnecessary clinkage should be avoided.”
“Really well thought through.”
“Love it,” Vivianne says.
It takes a second, but we realize Vivianne has responded with “love it” to two consecutive discussion topics. Through subtle facial gesturing we silently conclude that there is an implicit defiance in Vivianne’s laziness, a suggestion that behind the thin veil of her rote response she is considering some other stance, some alternate view of things. If left unchecked, this could lead to the manifestation of one of her silent and potentially dangerous views. To avoid all manner of future complications, we banish her too.
“Despite our prior attempts to accommodate handedness in the two-dimensional realm of cutlery, the three-dimensional realm of the water glass, if not set uniformly, will create a chaotic and unsightly tabletop scene. Given that nearly 85% of westerners are right handed, water glasses will go on the right-hand side.”
“I couldn’t be more onboard.”
“The attention to dimensionality is awe-inspiring.”
The three of us eye our banished brethren, as if to say, see, that’s what a productive discussion looks like. Then, noticing our brethren’s complete and utter compliance to their banishment, we realize we are missing out on an opportunity: if we were to preemptively wear our shock collars, there would be even more incentive to keep things cordial and forward-moving. Cal dons his first. Trish next. When it’s my turn, I remember that true leadership relies on the ability to think outside the box, and if we are all under the scrutiny of the collar, that ability might be lost. I volunteer to remain un-collared. Cal and Trish look nervously at one another, then nod obediently.
“Dessert will be served first. Then fish. Then salad. It’s very European, I think, to order the courses this way.”
No one speaks.
“Hello?” I ask.
Cal opens his mouth, closes it. It’s unclear whether or not Trish is breathing.
“Silence, I’ll have you know, is the destroyer of democracies. Cal and Trish, you are hereby banished.”
I go to my office, lock the door, lean back in my swivel chair and prop my feet on my desk. Boy is it nice to be alone with my thoughts. Boy it is nice to have a good productive think. And now, without my flawed team disrupting flow every two seconds, I’m able to envision tonight’s successes—my fawning staff, the effusive patrons, the lavish tips. I envision how pleased LeAnne will be when I come home and dispassionately explain that I took control and managed expectations and lead. Then I fully recline my chair, envision LeAnne groaning pleasurably, putting a hand against the wall, giving herself up to me right there in the entryway next to the—
A troubling whooshing sound.
The smell of well-done Ribeye?
I march back into the dining room where my team isn’t so much setting tables as they are setting things on fire. Palmer has repurposed his shock collar into some sort of neck-mounted flamethrower. Vivianne’s sharpening butter knives.
“Team!” I yell, but I can’t hear myself above the roar of the flamethrower. I eye Cal and Trish, silently plead, after all we’ve been through, but they slowly step back…
The double doors swing open. The influential patrons pour in. For a moment I consider that maybe I went too far, that maybe preemptively collaring Cal and Trish was the line, and I crossed it, but then I imagine LeAnne shoving me and hissing, “get away, get away you impressionable weakling.” I take a breath. I smooth my slacks. I assume an expression of total control then march up to the lead patron and whisper into his old man’s ear, “The wage workers demanded dental, which we obviously couldn’t provide, and this is how they’ve responded. Excuse my French, but they’re animals. The whole lot. If you will just pinch your noses and follow me, I’ll seat you on the terrace.”
I lead them out the window, up the zig-zagging fire escape ladder, and onto the terrace, which overlooks the city. The old man is impressed. He likes the way I circumnavigated my mutinous staff. He says the view’s not shabby, either. Then he asks me to join them for supper.
We dine on the terrace, warmed by flames.