The big boss seemed to be exuding benevolence of the highest order as he took in his staff members seated in front of him in the conference room. He often prided himself of knowing every member of his office team on first name basis, and always listened to their views or problems in a very friendly way. Recently he initiated an office procedure to improve overall quality of performance and operations. True to his nature, before implementing this procedure he wanted to know how everyone felt about it. He wanted free and frank opinions and also meaningful suggestions. So he called for this particular meeting. Although I was the latest addition to the team I had to gather all bits of useful information about my new boss.
Again, true as always to his nature he never wanted to make it a predictable affair with members standing up and speaking in monotonous serial order-one by one row wise. Instead, he decided who would speak at what time. He would announce names at random and s/he would speak accordingly. Therefore, in actual practice it happened like that one in the very first row would give his/her opinion first and someone in the last or middle rows would be asked to speak next. The benevolent boss also asked his team members to be wary of repetitions-should avoid points chosen by earlier speakers.
Quite an unusual procedure to discuss an office procedure, I mused sitting in the first row and in direct eye contact with the big boss. Although I figured rather high in the office hierarchy the onus thus did not naturally fall upon me to start. It worked rather well. Not knowing exactly when their turn to speak would come people prepared their points faster keeping themselves in readiness and making adjustments to avoid repetitions.
Tea and snacks kept on coming in rounds as the discussion went on without any time constraint. It was important and so time should not be a factor, the boss announced in the beginning. We happily waited for our turns seeping tea and munching cakes and savoring sweets.
Suddenly in the solemn and intent atmosphere I heard a noise. I immediately deciphered it to be a loud burp and tried to focus quickly on the rather unwelcome source of origin. I traced it to an elderly person who was yet to speak and was feasting on the freebies. However, by that time his action concluded depriving me of the intrinsic charms associated with belching. I always enjoyed such acts which unfailingly entailed an assortment of expressions or contortions. Some would do it full mouthed and loud opening out as if to relish every bit of it; others would skew the parted lips either to the left or the right while not at all trying to suppress the noise; someone would kill the noise and release the air smoothly with some movement of the neck, jaw and mouth while most others with fashion and etiquette would always hide the action with left or right palm involving the bare minimum of facial contortions.
I thought the big boss would definitely react to it irritably. However, nothing happened of that sort and proceedings went on. In fact nobody in the assembly displayed any reaction.
And lo! It happened again. Loud and clear. This time somewhere from a row behind me and I missed the action and the source entirely. I only managed to see a lady on the other side of the row looking askance at the source seeming to say, “God! Could it be really you… ?”
The big boss displayed no emotion this time too. And the proceedings went on smoothly.
We came to the end of the session finally. The big boss was satisfied and happy getting mostly what he expected to get. The last round of tea was served. And then it happened.