Part 2: A Crappy Boss, A Boardwalk Empire, and Me.
Since I am now a world (in)famous photographer, I have to say — I contribute my success to two things:
3) being early for everything
4) sourrounding myself with great people
5) not being cheap.
OK! Those are five things. But they really are why I am successful. And by successful, I really mean happy.
But we all start somewhere. And for me, it was when I worked for the World’s Crappiest Boss that I really started to learn how to ….
How to travel. And, more importantly, how not to travel.
How to train a team. And, more importantly, how not to train a team.
How to plan an event. And… you get the idea.
The wind blew cold down the boardwalk of Ocean City, MD. The annual festival, “Springfest”, is held every year when the calendar dictates it’s spring, but the weather decides to hit you in the face with ice, rain, sleet, and maybe even fire.
When the beach is cold, it’s really cold. The wind whips off the Atlantic Ocean, a wall of sting that tears your eyes and makes you want to amputate your face.
I forgot what fake name I came up with for my old boss — the world’s crappiest boss — and since I am no longer in a generous mood, I will call him by his real name.
Peter loved coffee. And, in his empire, he even owned a coffee roasting company. So, being the brilliant entrepreneur that he was (and he was very smart, just not a good boss), he decided to open a coffee tent on the board walk for Springfest.
And, he decided, I would “manage” it. (By managing it, he really meant I would work in it for 12 hours per day, and he would make all the decisions.)
Further, he purchased a huge espresso machine, which he set up under a tent, and hired a barista to run the thing.
Let’s start at the beginning. The tent? It was one of those blue tents you erect in your back yard to protect your dog from the heat. Fifteen years ago, you bought them at Walmart, they erected onto four flimsy aluminum poles, had no sides, and provided basic shelter from overhead sun. They tied to the ground using tent stakes, which almost always blew out in a 2 mph wind. Total cost? About $12.
Did I mention the Espresso tent was being erected on a board walk? Therfore, no stakes. So, Peter tied all four poles to cinder blocks.
The wind screamed off the ocean. The blue “tent” pulled itself up in the air, threatening to tumble down the boardwalk like Cirq Du Soleil circus performers on crack. I held the thing by one flimsy leg, calling on my Trac Phone, “Peter! Bring more cinder blocks!” At one point, the thing picked me up off my feet, and I nearly parasailed down the boardwalk. A new postcard in the making: A beautiful drizzly day, look, mom, that man’s parasailing! Why’s it all blue and not rainbow colored?
But the luxurious tent and the foul weather wasn’t the biggest problem.
The biggest problem was the barista not showing up.
No barista. No espresso. No coffee.
Time ticked by. Still no barista. A line started to form of shivering festival goers, demanding cappuccinos, espressos, lattes, skinny half caf mochas, whatever.
Finally, I decided I better take action. I did the only logical thing: I called the 800 number on the side of the espresso machine.
“Hi, Um, How do you use this thing?”
“Well… my boss bought one of your machines, the person who was supposed to operate it was just in a severe car accident, a bus flipped over on his convertible, and he was rushed to Shock Trauma. But what that means is I’m here, I have a line of people who want fancy dancy drinks, and I have no idea how to use this hissy thing with steam coming out of it.”
Now, a few things were going through my head:
1) enlist sympathy of 800 operator by making up a tragic accident.
2) make it so unbelievable that they would believe it.
3) Hope I wasn’t calling India where they may not be familiar with Shock Trauma.
And, it worked. I received the fastest lesson on how to be a barista on record. It was like on The Matrix when Neo learns Judo via brain implant.
“Now,” I said to the first shivering customer, “what can I make you?”
“Hmmmmm…..let’s see…..hmmmmm……I’ll have a double soy latte no foam half caf light whip.”
“Sure,” I said. With that I made the only drink I knew how to make, a cappuccino. SHHHHHHHHHHH SHHHHHHHHHHH SHHHHHHHHHHH went the steam. I turned my back, frothing and flouncing the milk. I dumped a half pound of chocolate on the foamy top, and handed it over.
“OMG this is so good! Is it supposed to have chocolate? Is it diet?”
“Oh, yes!” I said, “I am a professional.” NEXT.
“What can I get you?”
They ordered another foofy drink, I made another cappuccino, and handed it over.
“OMG this is so good! Is this caf free?”
“Of course!” I swore. I had no idea. I figured if they were doing dog flips and staring at the ceiling come night it wouldn’t be my problem.
And, with that, I limped through the night. Between the wind, the cold, the rain that decided to fall from time to time, it was probably the most miserable I’ve ever been. But I got through it. And the rest of the freaking weekend, too — though I never, ever went back to Springfest.
In fact, while I live 20 minutes from Ocean City, I avoid it like the plague. I’d rather have a root canal than go there — which is ironic, since my dentist is in Ocean City, and that’s about the only time I visit.
And, I never stand in line at Starbucks, behind someone ordering a foofy drink, that I don’t think….
I wonder what you are really getting?
This is why my Starbucks order is:
“Tall black coffee, please. Thank you. Here’s a $10. Keep the change.”