The Union Meeting, part 1

Martin stood on the platform, hunched into his scarf, hat pulled down over his ears and hands stuffed hard into his pockets, His vintage leather jacket wasn’t enough to keep the freezing wind out and he’d forgotten his gloves.

The train was late. As it finally arrived into the station, there was a surge forward. Martin hadn’t been standing in quite the right place on the platform. He found himself at the back of the group trying to board the middle carriage.

There were never any seats at this station anyway. He consoled himself slightly with the thought that being last on meant that he would have the doors to lean on, rather than having to try to stay upright in the crush of people in between the doors, out of reach of anything to hang on to. God, he hated the train.

Trouble was, he lived too close to work. If he was further away, he’d get a seat. He’d seriously considered getting a train in the opposite direction, then boarding his train into the city from a station where seats were still available. But it would have tripled the cost and doubled the time.

So twenty-five minutes like a sardine it was, not counting the time on the freezing platform, and five minutes walk from station to office.

He wished he could still drive in. Twenty minutes door to door. It wasn’t really the time it took. It was the discomfort. The drive had been his thinking time. But he was going to stick to the boycott.

He tried to ignore the noise and jostling around him. He needed to prepare himself for the meeting later that day. Get his main points in order. He only had one chance to win people over.

Chris knocked on Carol’s door.


Carol didn’t look up. “I’ll just press send.” She pressed a couple of buttons and switched the computer to screensaver mode. “OK. Let’s go.”

She took her coat from the hook behind the door.

“Aren’t you going to shut the computer down? Green Impact and all that?”

Carol looked hard at him. “You know how long these old ones take to boot up again. I’ll take the stairs instead of the lift, will that do?”

Chris smirked. “Just pointing it out.”

They both laughed.

Carol looked guilty. “We shouldn’t make fun. It is important.”

“I know, but Hazel takes it so seriously. I can’t help myself.”

They left the building and crossed the park to the Art building.

“OK. We’re just going to listen. See what they have to say.” Chris sounded as though he was trying to convince himself.

“I feel really nervous. Why is that? We’re members. We can go to any meeting we like.”

They found the right room and went in. A few people were already sitting around a table in the centre of the room. Chris and Carol nodded at them and chose seats in a second row which was arranged around the main table. The people who were already in the inner circle glanced at each other, but didn’t say anything.

Chris looked at Carol and raised an eyebrow. “Very welcoming” he mouthed at her.

A couple more people came in and sat at the main table. Nobody said anything. Chris leaned over to Carol. “The suspense is killing me.” he whispered.

A couple of people in front of them turned their heads at the sound. Chris looked back at them and smiled broadly. They turned back.

Finally, one of the people at the table looked ostentatiously at his watch and cleared his throat. “Brothers and sisters, let’s make a start. Suki can’t be here today, so I’m taking the chair.”

There was a shuffling of papers.

He looked at Carol and Chris. “Welcome to our new,er, members.” Everyone turned to stare. They waved gently.

“Not so new, actually” said Chris. “I’ve been a member for twenty years.”

“Well, welcome to the meeting. I don’t think we’ve seen you before. I’m Martin Shepherd, Branch Deputy Chair.”

“Hello.” Chris waved gently again.

Martin continued. “We’ve got a lot to get through. Any apologies?”

A small woman next to him was taking notes. “No.”

“OK, thanks, Holly. Right, minutes of last meeting. How’s the boycott going?”

Holly picked a sheet from the file in front of her. “We’ve been monitoring the car park a couple of times a week. At 10am Tuesday, there were no empty places. 10am Friday, 3 places. 10 am the following Monday, 5 places.”

A man to her left spoke up. “Doesn’t sound as though we’re doing too well. Is anyone…”

Martin interrupted him. “Remember, with the new car park policy there shouldn’t be ANY spare places. I think we’re getting through to people.”

Chris cleared his throat. “Sorry, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”

Martin stared incredulously at him. “I thought you said you were a union member?”

“Well, yes, but….” Chris tailed off. He almost never read the numerous hectoring emails the branch sent round. But it seemed rude to admit it.

Martin spoke very slowly. “Union members should be boycotting the university car park since charges were implemented.”

“Oh, I always get the bus anyway,” Chris said “That’s probably why I didn’t make the connection. Sorry. Do carry on.”

“Most kind of you.”

Chris beamed in response to Martin’s sarcastic tone. Carol elbowed him.

“Right, brothers. And sisters. We need to get the information about the boycott out a bit further.”

“I guess it’s not always that easy for people. Some people have to drop their kids off on the way to work, or whatever.” Holly offered this, and then looked back down at her notes.

Martin shook his head. “We need to have solidarity, brothers and sisters. We have to be prepared for a bit of inconvenience. Think about the bus boycott in Alabama after Rosa Parks took her stand.”

There were murmurs of assent. Chris seemed to be having a coughing fit. Carol elbowed him again.

Martin looked hard at them, then continued. “OK, so we’ll have another push on the boycott. Right, item 2. I’m going to hand over to Holly for this one, as it concerns me.”

Continued here…

What are your union meetings like? Do leave a comment…

Wading Through Treacle fictionalises the stuff in HE which you couldn’t make up. You can follow @wadingtreacle on Twitter, or like the Wading Through Treacle page on Facebookto be informed of updates, or click on ‘follow’ at the bottom of this screen to register for updates from Wading Through Treacle. Feel free to send Wading Treacle accounts of daft things which could be fictionalised by email, too:

All characters are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental, unless it says otherwise (Times Higher journalists or government ministers, for instance).

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One thought on “The Union Meeting, part 1

  1. Pingback: The Union Meeting, Part 2 | Wading through Treacle

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