“Death Lips” by Renee Hughes

My work function had to quickly find a way to track project costs to comply with new government regulations without causing any programming work (no time to write a business case, much less get it approved, and no budget anyway–you know the drill). So another manager and I arranged a meeting with a higher-level district manager who could give us permission to hijack an existing tracking mechanism for our unique purpose, but she had thus far been stubbornly unreceptive and overall resistant.

One guy in our group had nicknamed her “Death Lips” since she wore super dark lipstick (and matching nail polish) which made her pallid skin look even more pale, sort of like a vampire. She also had the habit of ending conversations with her hands raised high in the air, palms out, ominously uttering “I’ve heard enough.” And thus a meeting would be over, hopes dashed, period.

But we knew her weakness–she couldn’t last much longer than an hour without a smoke break. Bless those who made our work venues smoke-free! So we proceeded through the first hour of our meeting at a snail’s pace, my co-worker and I taking turns explaining in excruciating detail all the avenues we had pursued to find an alternative to track projects another way, but kept coming back to the method she supervised. And of course for the first hour she said, “No, I . . . .” , but we never allowed her to finish a sentence, so she was unable to get to her meeting-ending mantra.

An hour passed and she was beginning to look desperate. After 75 minutes she started seriously fidgeting and her eyes kept darting to her watch. We persisted relentlessly and rarely let her speak a word. After 85 minutes she could barely sit still in her chair and acted like she would make a mad dash for an escape, but we had taken the chairs by the door thereby blocking her exit so she couldn’t bolt past us. After an hour and a half she declared unilaterally we could use her tracking method for our lousy project purposes–mission accomplished! And thus Death Lips released her stranglehold on the project tracking mechanism, free of charge.

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