Of seminar irritants


by Richard Balenzi

At every seminar they will be participants who will drive you nuts. A Lawyers seminar I attended recently was no exception. Here is introducing;

The Constant Interrupter

Jean Pierre (not real name) was clearly in love with his own voice and convinced that we felt the same way too. Dressed in a crisp white shirt, green tie and brown corduroy suit, he was quite a sight to behold. Something about him suggested he was the restless type.

According to the seminar program there were many topics to cover within a very short time. When the seminar began, the tall distinguished-looking British Trainer advised that it would be necessary to go through each topic really fast in order to cover as many as possible. This advice did not seem to register with Jean Pierre who proceeded to derail our progress with a barrage of pointless questions and comments. Initially we thought that he genuinely sought clarifications. We were soon disabused of this notion by his first set of questions which all began with “Isn’t it true that…”, “Wouldn’t I be correct to assume that….”, “Don’t you think it would be better…” It became apparent that Jean Pierre knew the answers to his questions. He just wanted the Trainer to confirm that his hypotheses were correct. And whenever the Trainer agreed with his assertions, Jean Pierre would smile like a child who had just won a race on school sports’ day while the rest of us gritted our teeth in unison.

As the seminar progressed, he became bolder, from interrupting the Trainer at an average rate of twice every hour in the morning session, he was interrupting the Trainer at an average rate of about four times every hour in the afternoon session. Not surprisingly, we were only able to cover half of the topics by the end of the seminar. On more than one occasion I caught myself fantasizing about shoving him towards a speeding car after the seminar.

During most of the interruptions, the Trainer was the picture of restraint. In fact at first he welcomed Jean Pierre’s remarks/questions and invited him to ask/comment more. But as the seminar progressed, the Trainer took to chewing the plastic cover of his Bic pen in frustration whenever Jean Pierre interrupted his flow. The final straw for the hapless Trainer was during his concluding remarks when Jean Pierre interjected once more, this time to share with us his personal experiences as a lawyer. For a few seconds the Trainers’ lips twisted in a manner that suggested that a dog had just peed up his leg. Being the consummate professional, the Trainer quickly recomposed himself and adorned a plastic smile during the remaining bit of Jean Pierre’s monologue.

The mmmming lady

Meanwhile my friend had the misfortune of seating next to a serious-looking bespectacled forty-something female lawyer (lets call her Rosette) who kept on making some ‘mmmm’ sound after almost every remark the Trainer made. My friend deduced that like many of us Rwandans this was her way of politely informing all who were within earshot that she fully understood and concurred with whatever the Trainer was saying. The fact that Rosette appeared to comprehend what the Trainer was saying impressed my friend because Rosette was French speaking and the seminar was being conducted in English. With time her mmmms became longer and louder. My friend figured the longer, louder mmmms to mean that Rosette’s mind was increasingly finding itself in total agreement with the Trainer’s suppositions.

According to my friend, during the discussion on Capital markets, Rosette’s mmmms reached fever pitch only posing briefly between mmmms in order to catch her breath. He was thus quite perplexed when at the end of the discussion she asked him to translate for her the words ‘Capital Markets’ into French!


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