Are you im­por­tant?

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - Society - By BernArd SAlt ◖ mag­a­zine­feed­back@theaus­tralian.com.au ◗

Do you know any­one who is a mem­ber of the Very Im­por­tant Job Col­lec­tive? I am as­sum­ing that you do not be­long to this group be­cause, well, here you are leisurely read­ing an ad­mit­tedly riv­et­ing mag­a­zine when the true afi­ciona­dos of this col­lec­tive are en­gaged in back-to-back week­end meet­ings that in­vari­ably in­volve (hushed tones) the min­is­ter.

In the VIJC hi­er­ar­chy of high-pow­ered ac­tiv­i­ties noth­ing tops a meet­ing with – or, bet­ter still, a brief­ing to – a min­is­ter. And ev­ery time there is a meet­ing with a min­is­ter, mem­bers of the VIJC help­fully let ev­ery­one know, so that… well, I’m not quite sure why. I as­sume it’s a con­di­tion of mem­ber­ship.

Of course, cor­po­rates too have their peck­ing or­der and for them noth­ing com­pares with the c-suite shoul­der-rub, where c stands for chief, as in chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer and his or her di­rect re­ports. I have been to a num­ber of c-suite meet­ings (as a vis­i­tor) and there’s al­ways an un­hur­ried calm­ness, a po­lite­ness, a re­as­sur­ing quiet­ness to these places that seems at odds with the re­al­ity of life.

It’s not that mem­bers of the Very Im­por­tant Job Col­lec­tive are elit­ist – good heav­ens, no – just that they are so busy, in such de­mand, that they sim­ply do not have time to re­turn your phone calls, text mes­sages or emails. To do so would take, like, up to 20 sec­onds and that’s 20 sec­onds mem­bers of the VIJC do not have. In fact, so busy are mem­bers of the VIJC that they have to ra­tion their time. And thus the only peo­ple they seem to have time to re­spond to are other VIJC mem­bers. “I’m sorry but you re­ally aren’t im­por­tant enough to war­rant my at­ten­tion, un­less of course I ini­tially mis­un­der­stand the sig­nif­i­cance of your role and then I’ll be all over you.” At least, that’s the way it seems to non-mem­bers.

And if a mem­ber of the VIJC should be placed in the in­vid­i­ous po­si­tion of ac­tu­ally hav­ing to call you, here’s how it’s done. Mem­bers do not place the call them­selves. That would mean they are de­pen­dent upon you pick­ing up or, worse, you pick­ing up and say­ing that you don’t have time. Oh, the shame, the ig­nominy of hav­ing to fit in with an­other, lesser per­son’s sched­ule! Rather, they have “their peo­ple” set up the call, whereby the in­ter­me­di­ary calls and patches in his or her boss. That way the VIJC mem­ber isn’t left hang­ing be­cause, well, if you can’t see why that’s im­por­tant then you’re never go­ing to make it into the Col­lec­tive, are you?

Some­times mem­bers of the VIJC need to deal with peo­ple fur­ther down the hi­er­ar­chy in or­der to man­age their per­sonal lives. “I’m tied up with the min­is­ter, would you be a trea­sure and pick up the kids af­ter school? And mind them un­til I swing by at six? Look, if the min­is­ter drags on, it might be seven. In which case, would you be able to give them some din­ner – what­ever you’re hav­ing is fine, just so long as it’s gluten-free ve­gan and doesn’t con­tain nuts, they’ll eat any­thing.” Then comes the re­ward: “We must catch up. Let’s do lunch. I’ll have my peo­ple set up a time. I can show you pho­tos of our hol­i­day to Paris. You’ll love it… oops, sorry, that’s the min­is­ter on the other line. Gotta go. Bye. You’re a trea­sure!”

It’s not that mem­bers of the VIJC are self-cen­tred, it’s just that they are so busy, so suc­cess­ful, and so much re­ally does de­pend on them do­ing the im­pos­si­ble day-in, day-out, that the least ev­ery­one else can do is to help out here and there. Be­sides, you have such a re­laxed at­ti­tude to life that you’d prob­a­bly en­joy hav­ing a busy (read: im­por­tant) per­son in your life. Look, we re­ally must catch up be­fore Christ­mas. Bye.

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