Brian sat with the other forty-five hostages, trying desperately to make sense of what he was hearing; hoping to find a pattern in the steady stream of gibberish pouring from the captor’s ever smiling mouth. Brian scanned the room for some sign of recognition in the eyes of the other captives who lined the four white walls, and realized that most had simply given up. They sat resigned and hopeless…hostage.
For a moment, Brian suspended his effort to interpret what his captor was saying, and focused on his face. His smile was devoid of feeling and without humanity. It spread grimly across his coffee stained teeth. And although he smiled, his eyes were dead… lifeless.
Recognition’s dawning was so gradual that it was hardly perceptible. At first it was a word, repeated throughout the endless discourse. A word in which the captor appeared to be…appeared to be what? Proud of? Was the captor proud of his word? He polished it with his voice as a prized ruby or emerald. Eventually, it seemed as if whole phrases might be making sense, but just when he thought he might grasp their meaning and relevance, they would dissolve into obscurity. No, it was only single words that truly registered in Brian’s mind. They were persuasive words, without meaning yes, but persuasive; and steadily repeated throughout the captor’s seemingly mindless rambling.
He spoke of “alignment” and “impact” and “transparency”, and “synergy”. This was the word he was most proud of. Synergy. That and “win-win”. The words swirled energetically around the room at first, but ultimately fell to the floor empty.
Brian carefully considered his quandary. Could he escape? Could he somehow persuade his captor to make a halt to his madness? He wondered why exactly they were all there, and what the captor’s motives might be; motives for holding forty-five adults hostage in a corporate boardroom. But his demands were clear enough. They were to listen to each word that was spoken no matter how absurd or incomprehensible.
Then the pace of his words began to slow. Could it he be that he is running out of words? And rather than building his presentation to a meaningful climax, the captor’s talking dwindled, his words as stale as his smile, until there was nothing left to do but open up the floor for questions. But what do you ask of a madman? Some stood and offered token questions perhaps hoping to ingratiate themselves to the captor, while the rest sat in painful silence; praying for mercy.
The crisis ended as innocuously as it began. Brian and the other hostages were released except those who were asked to “go offline” with their questions. The relief in the room was palpable as, one by one, each returned to their cubicles; some stopping to chat, some stepping into the restroom for much needed assuagement. The captor, satisfied, returned to his corporate office on the east coast to gather more words and plan more meetings. It was over, and work…true work…could resume.