Just like this time last year, it was another scorching July day. I made my way to the upscale burger joint where the two other regional managers and I met every year to go over the annual budget. I wouldn’t go if I were paying, but it was the company’s card. Nothing was too expensive. 

I showed up 10 minutes early to ensure we could get a good table and mentally prepare myself for the meeting, but of course, Jim decided to come early too. 

Jim is what most people commonly refer to as a “tool.” I don’t dislike him because of his personality, which is why most people seemed to struggle to get along with him. It was his jokes. His jokes had about the same comedic effect as a crying baby on an airplane or a radio that got stuck on one song for a long car ride — you find it funny only if you hear about it from someone else. 

Jim waved me down and ushered me over to our table. The meeting hadn’t begun and I was already looking forward to the end. I did my best to slow my approach in the hopes that our third party member would arrive before it was just him and me at the table. I let out an audible sigh of relief when I saw Michelle walk in. My salvation from the small talk was here.

“Well, it seems like it’s time to tee this thing off!” Jim exclaimed, motioning as if he were swinging through a shot.  

“I asked last time. They don’t serve tea here,” Michelle coldly replied, ignoring the goofy grin and swinging gesture from Jim’s direction. She took her seat and fished color-coded binders from her purse. Before Jim could explain the intricacies of his golf pun, our server interrupted to take our order. The meeting had officially begun. 

Michelle didn’t share many of her personal opinions with us, but I could tell that if anyone despised these meetings more than I, it’d be her. I needed to get the ball rolling. ”Let’s start by talking about the highest budget items. Jim, how’re things looking in your department?” 

“They’re doing great, I’ve started referring to them as ‘My Eagles.’” Michelle and I shot a glance at each other as Jim waited for one of us to respond.

“Your Eagles?” Her response was void of any human emotion. 

“Yeah because they’re always coming in BELOW PAR!” Michelle took a slow drink of water and stared ahead. I adjusted my silverware unnecessarily. “Like below par? Golf? It’s a good thing!” Another swinging motion from Jim and another disapproving glance passed between Michelle and me. We knew it was going to be another long meeting. I hoped that by mixing things up, it would throw him off. 

“Right then. Maybe we should start with the lower budget items then. What about the security guards we hired. Are they justifying the costs?” I asked.

Jim apparently already policed this area of his budget because he was the first to respond. “Definitely need to keep my guy. My office is located in the more rundown area of town, or as I like to call it — the CABBAGE patch!” 

He laughed to himself. I imagined Cabbage Patch dolls stealing office supplies. Michelle sprouted a few grey hairs. I saw her twisting her napkin under the table. 

Before she had a chance to respond — and before he had a chance to try to explain — the server thankfully brought our food. Michelle and I decided to forgo eating now and push through to discuss a majority of the points while Jim scarfed down his burger. We finished in record time, and with the check on the table, there was only one thing left to do: leave. 

But Jim wouldn’t let this happen without a few words. 

“We finished fast! I’d be willing to bet we just set a new record! We really DROVE it home!” I couldn’t tell if it was the comment or the third fake golf swing that ensued the pun that broke Michelle, but she wasn’t letting this one go. 

“You sit here year after year, meeting after meeting, saying nothing but golf puns,” she hissed. “I had to start reading golf literature just so I could begin to understand your emails and memos. You know what? I’ve got one for you, Jim. What’s the difference between you and a stymied ball?”

“What?” Jim said, looking genuinely intrigued. 

“I can justify wasting time on the stymied ball,” Michelle said and then promptly stormed out, leaving Jim with no window to respond. 

I turned to Jim, unsure of what to do. He, of course, filled the silence for me. 

“Looks like this meeting needs a mulligan,” I said hoping for uproarious laughter. 

He stared at me dumbfounded and said, “What does that mean?”

I quit immediately.