billiards: ruining the moment since forever

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Power, Pollution and the Internet
“A yearlong examination by The New York Times has revealed that this foundation of the information industry is sharply at odds with its image of sleek efficiency and environmental friendliness.”
the first article in a series

 

 

billiards: ruining the moment since forever
too much knowledge is sometimes a sad thing

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Last Friday, my coworkers and I attended a motivational speaker’s seminar. Attendance was, ironically, mandatory. We were required to be inspired, ha.

The speaker was a very energetic caricature of a man. He spent hours telling stories about himself. I, personally, did not get very much out of this first session (there were two). I could see, though, that his approach would probably work for most of the people who attended his seminars. It’s just that I’m not the kind of person who likes buzzwords like “Eager-Meter” and “Inte-Great”. I don’t like being talked to like a child. I also don’t like people who insist that I RAISE MY ENERGY LEVEL TO A 10!!!! THAT I BE EXTREMELY HAPPY ALL THE F#CKING TIME!!! BECAUSE IT’S NOT ENOUGH FOR ME TO BE WILLING TO COME TO WORK, I HAVE TO BE PSYCHOTICALLY EAGER TO COME TO WORK OR ELSE I’M NOT DOING ENOUGH!!

Yeah.

F#ck that carnival huckster sh#t.

At one point, he asked, “What if I told you, ‘EVERYONE should be a leader?!'” My response: “Too many clowns, not enough circus.” Seriously, if we all ascribed to his beliefs, elections would be a complete nightmare. Imagine 350 million people running for president! I tried to remember that the speaker’s ideas and approach were not bad, they were simply Not For Me. I struggled to stay interested in his buzzwords and Really Obvious Ideas, but it was a losing battle. The good part was, we would have lunch between the sessions. I had nice thoughts about lunch.

THWAP!

That was the sound of the speaker tossing a wooden board on the table. Whoa. I woke up a bit. According to the speaker, by the end of the second motivational session, we would all be able to break a one-inch thick board like it was a piece of paper. WTF? EVERYONE would be required to break a board. Double WTF?

Uh, no.

I had a f#cking tournament the next day, a long, grueling marathon of a f#cking tournament with a grueling format and there was NO WAY I was going to risk breaking my goddam hands the day before. A murmur rippled through the crowd (there weren’t very many of us) as we left for lunch.

 

During lunch, the discussion was about The Board. More than a few expressed apprehension. The speaker said the boards were solid wood and not pre-weakened in any way. I thought about it and said that there had to be a gimmick. The speaker couldn’t possibly do this at all his events, risking the hands of people with abandon, unless it was practically guaranteed that anyone could break those boards.* My idea did not seem to reassure anyone.

 

We made it through another hour and a half of the speaker’s QVC-worthy enthusiasm after lunch. Then, it was board-breaking time. I was wondering how I would handle this. I could not decline since it was mandatory for all of us as a team-building exercise. (I don’t know how that works, either — building a team by breaking boards.) However, my hands were injured enough as they were (after lugging a couple hundred pounds of sound equipment by hand the day before for this very event), and my arm muscles were currently as strong as melting Jell-O.

Being a pool player, all I could think about was what kind of wood could it be? Maple? Ouch. Oak? Ugly-ass grain for a cue, still ouch. Ash?! Oh hell no — that’s a definite ouch. Amboyna burl? That would be ideal as it is weak, but obviously too expensive. Ebony? Nice glossy surface — and ouch. Snakewood? Purpleheart? Ivory? Reconstituted turquoise? Delrin? Linen phenolic? Micarta? Ivorine III? My mind does have a tendency to wander.

The boards were passed out.

 

The boards were wood, all right, but they were very, very lightweight. Almost as light as balsa. I found out after the event via some Intarweb snoopery they were pine — very, very weak pine. My coworker sniffed hers and said, “Wow. Even IKEA wouldn’t use wood this cheap.” The speaker continued being his hyper self and guaranteed that we would all feel an emotional high like we’d never felt before when we broke our boards. Okay.

We broke our boards, surrounded all the while by a ring of coworkers chanting encouragment. Some people burst into tears. There was a lot of hugging. There was a lot of cheerleading. I hated it all. It was an annoying spectacle. Like parents cheering a toddler on for taking a sh#t.

 

When asked later why I had little to no reaction when I miraculously broke my board (as if I could never have done it without being inspired by the speaker), I answered that, due to my “hobby”, I had slightly more knowledge about wood than the average person and I knew the board we broke was a very weak wood and therefore, not truly any sort of actual impressive physical accomplishment. I did qualify my observation, though, by saying I understood breaking the board was a symbolic thing and the quality of wood involved was unimportant.

And my coworker, how did she feel about breaking the board? “Oh, I’m with her. My family works in construction.”

 

And that’s how billiards ruined what should have been the most inspirational moment of my life, EVER.

*After more Intarweb snoopery, I found that the speaker had been sued by someone who injured their hand attempting to break a board. The plaintiff said she did not want to break the board but was forced into doing it by the speaker and a ring of chanting coworkers. She suffered nerve damage to her hand. She did not win her case as it turned out the speaker has his client companies sign an ironclad contract regarding possible injury.

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12 Replies to “billiards: ruining the moment since forever”

  1. As someone who has witnessed events like this and, occasionally, even been called upon to deliver them (yep, I’ve gotten to play that dillwad up at the front a couple of times) I’ve been laughing for several minutes.

    What really blows is how much money this clown probably rakes in. Probably enough to sponsor several TAR matches and buy all the participants new cues. Yeah, stupid money. (One company I was with paid a guy $31,000 for two days of this crap. He was so bad, we ended up cutting it short.) I was always on salary so never got to share in the riches.

    But what really had me laughing was “Like parents cheering a toddler on for taking a sh#t.” You’ve captured it perfectly. Well done.

    You should see my shtick where I get people to shove a straw completely through a potato. It’s awe inspiring!

    1. The guy did get paid a good amount for four hours. I wasn’t privy to how much, but I was told it was a few thousand — and that is after we received some special discount. Sigh. He reminded me of an over-the-top televangelist. It was all very… hokey.

      Question regarding straw through potato: Is the potato fried and can I eat it afterwards?

      1. Ha! I knew you’d ask that! Nope it’s raw and hard as a rock. It could easily be cooked afterwards, although it would have a neat hole right through it. 🙂

    1. 🙂

      “Children cannot be fooled by empty praise and condescending encouragement.” Children cannot be fooled — but apparently they grow up, forget, and then pay people like this guy lots of money to remind them (or not).

  2. Funny story. I had thought about the “injury to hand” angle earlier, and it seems obvious that the guy would have anticipated potential lawsuits and prepared for that. Please let us know as you have in the past about your next pool tournament experience(s). Thanks

  3. You captured it so well. I was always one of the ones wondering how many people could actually be buying that sh*t and how many just pretended to due to peer pressure. My collective memories of so much reality always get in the way of those endless rainbows and life altering moments of enraptured joy.

    1. I think the majority of people buy into this kind of stuff. I’m not sure why. Escape from reality? I don’t mind reality — I just try to find a way to deal with it. Slapping a smiley face sticker over a bullet wound doesn’t do much. :-p

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