popularity contest

Two hours after being appointed Location Manager of the New York Best Kiteboarding Lesson Center (no additional compensation, just the glory!), it became painfully clear to me that I didn’t actually want to BE a Location Manager. It was a lot more fun bossing people around and yelling at them when you didn’t have the authority to do so. It’s one thing to complain about the two-hour lunch breaks people liked to take; it was another thing trying to make sure the people didn’t take them. I wasn’t just the co-worker with a valid point anymore; I was now the bad guy (and not a very nice bad guy:  kind of a mean bad guy.)

Fortunately, I didn’t have to do this for very long. A week after my appointment, we decided to close New York for the season. It was just too cold. The Center didn’t have central heating, and despite the best efforts of R2D2 to heat the main area, it just wasn’t enough. While our individual offices were warm due to the little heaters we had underneath our desks, trips to the kitchen to get lunch were mad dashes against the clock before your fingers went numb. We were like convicts in solitary confinement, banned to our own individual islands in Siberia, unable to come out until spring.

IMG_6178 (Small)

I packed up my jeep and headed back to Florida.

The Florida Office also had a Location Manager, named Tyler, and ever since my appointment, Tyler seemed to have turned the whole Location Manager thing into a popularity contest that he – and he alone – was determined to win. I was still on the Florida Office distribution list and was aware of every one of Tyler’s socialistic attempts to win the favor of his constituents by providing them soup-kitchen-like sustenance on a regular basis.  If it wasn’t his wife’s warm, homemade brownies, it was: “Guess what, everyone! I’m so great! I mean, great news! I entered a raffle at Chipotle with my business card and won, so it’s free lunch for all! Join me in the conference room at 1PM!” People were eating it up, and there was no way I could compete with him on that level.

Whatever he was doing was clearly working: unpopular decisions seemed to go over much better on a full and subsidized stomach. Fine. I had a lot to learn, but it didn’t have to be a contest. Under his tutelage, I’d return to the Lesson Center in April a new kind of Location Manager, ready to be loved by all.  The next time we spoke on the phone,  we joked about how great it would be to have two Location Managers in the same place at once, and decided that our first act together as Location Managers ruling from the same office would be the purchase of crowns, robes, scepters, and – of course – a royal chalice from which we would both drink while making joint decrees. It was going to be great.

My first day back in the Florida office, however, I fire up Microsoft Office, all ready to face the day with a newly-turned leaf, and this is the email I find, from Tyler, to the entire Florida Office:

From: Tyler [mailto:tbarnes@bestkiteboarding.com]
Sent: Friday, December 05, 2008 8:58 AM
Subject: Bages in the ‘kitchen’…

… are up for grabs, unless your name is Stacey Fonas.

If your name is Stacey Fonas, and you’re looking for food … well … too bad.

Enjoy, everyone!

 What? This wasn’t robes, and crowns, and royal chalices. This wasn’t an unstoppable team of Location Managers. This was somebody throwing down the gauntlet.

Fine. I’ve stolen Christmas presents from orphans before; I certainly wasn’t above hijacking bagels from Tyler.  I march out to the microwave, grab the bagels (not “bages,” Tyler, “bagels”), take them into my office and set them up on my filing cabinet. I arrange the cream cheese, napkins, and knives into neat little Martha-Stewart-like piles, and then launch out the following email:

From: Stacey [mailto:stacey@bestkiteboarding.com]
Sent: Friday, December 05, 2008 9:04 AM
To: ‘fl-office’;
Subject: RE: Bages in the ‘kitchen’…

Hey, everyone ..

There are bagels in my office, if anyone’s hungry!



A few minutes later, Joel, the shipping manager, comes in, loads up a bagel, and thanks me sincerely.

It is a beautiful moment.



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