I moved from Europe to join
the English subsidiary of our company. On my
first morning, I chaired a marketing meeting.
That afternoon, I reviewed the minutes as typed
by my PA, Kylie. I was amazed and horrified. The
standard of English was appalling.
Few of the admin
staff are any better, particularly the younger
ones, concluded Jones from Finance as I
shared my concerns. We managers write our
own minutes and send them to the minute-takers as
if they were corrections of their drafts.
highlight the problem to the admin staff? I
gasped Jones. Theyd burst into tears
and be off with stress before you could say
illiteracy. He shook his head. Last
year, the Director tried to dismiss one due to
her poor standard of English.
The Union argued that
because of the carnage in the English education
system since the early eighties, it was simply
unreasonable to expect any employee under the age
of fifty to be literate.
There are literate
younger English people, I noted.
The Director tried
that argument, replied Jones. The
Union countered that there were always survivors
in any major disaster and cited residents of
Hiroshima who had lived through the atomic blast
in 1945. They argued that ordinary administrative
staff should be compared to the majority, not to
the lucky few who had somehow learned to read and
write. Jones again shook his head in
despair. Aspirations of literacy for all
instantaneously vaporised when progressive
teaching methods detonated.
I acquiesced to the
prevailing wisdom. On the positive side, I had to
concede that minute-takers tapping away on
laptops added an air of professionalism to
meetings, even if their output was gibberish. I
began to view them as I might coal effects on
electric fires or imitation marble surfacing on
kitchen worktops: Serving no objective function
but contributing a certain ambience.
I might have thought no
more about the minute-takers had I not discovered
my teenage son experiencing what I initially
assumed to be an epileptic seizure. He explained
that he was practising air guitar. It appeared
that there was much international interest in
pretending to play rock or heavy metal-style
electric guitar solos on non-existent instruments.
Indeed, I gathered there were international
competitions and even the annual Air Guitar World
It was thus I hit upon the
concept of air minuting. The administrative staff
at our company could bring their creativity to
stylish, simulated typing upon banks of virtual
laptops without shouldering the onerous burden of
assembling real letters into words, nor arranging
those words into coherent English sentences.
Kylie was a natural. Her
hands would flamboyantly dance across myriad
invisible keyboards and, at critical points in
meeting discussions, her toes could be observed
committing additional imaginary information into
an illusory cyberspace.
The rest is history.
Companies throughout England could finally cease
colluding with their kind, sensitive, well-meaning
but illiterate administrative staff in
perpetuating the myth that useful documents were
being generated. Instead, there could be genuine
corporate pride as their finest air minuters
carried company honour to national tournaments
perhaps even the National Air Minuting
I even confess to shedding
a tear as Kylie, despite her difficulty in
spelling her own name, climbed the podium to
accept her gold medal as National Air Minuting