bullying

#565: The Price We Gotta Pay

GETTING MORE TALE #565: The Price We Gotta Pay
(And All the Games We Gotta Play)

I was reminded of this story recently, when J from Resurrection Songs asked about pricing schemes for new release albums.

We had a pricing schedule, created by the manager that I have called “The Bully” in these pages.  I’m sure she did a fantastic job of purchasing, pricing and stocking goods.  She was horrible at managing people, and never should have been in any position of power over others.

The pricing schedule was pretty simple.  Any time we’d get a shipment of brand new stock, there would be an invoice packed with it showing our cost on each title.  The Bully made up a pricing schedule based on cost, so we could price incoming items easily.  For example, if the cost of the item fell between $10.40 and $11.60 (plus shipping), our sell price might have been $13.99.  (That’s not an actual pricing scheme, that’s just an example of how it worked.)  This way, all of our stores would have consistent pricing across the board.  That was important.  It also made it easy for us to price things on our own without having to ask for too much direction.

The pricing scheme was created and implemented during one of the periods when The Bully was no longer speaking to me.  Who knows why anymore.  A manager who stops speaking to her direct reports is the very definition of unprofessional.

I came in one Tuesday afternoon, which is when the brand new stock arrived.  Remember New Release Tuesdays?  I began pricing the new releases using the pricing scheme she made.  Suddenly she broke her silence and started going at me.

“You’re pricing these all wrong!” she yelled.  Unfortunately nobody was in the store to witness the exchange, so you’ll just have to believe me.  I looked down at the paper in front of me.  “But this is the price right here on the new pricing schedule.” I looked at it again to make sure I wasn’t wrong.  I wasn’t.

She paused and yelled again.  “Forget about that!!”  Then she stormed into the back office, slammed the door and stopped speaking to me again.  No witnesses, no apology either.  An updated pricing schedule was issued shortly after.  I never reported this behavior.  As discussed in a prior chapter, I had brought up her abuse before and didn’t see any changes.  I just sucked it up until I couldn’t anymore.

Some may doubt these stories, which is understandable, but I’m the guy with the journals.  I’ll never forget the way I was treated by one very unprofessional jerk.

 

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#403: Bully

This is an incredibly difficult, but very important story to write.  I did a draft back in November…put it in a drawer and didn’t want to see it again.  Even now I don’t want to look at it. 

There’s stuff in here that people don’t know, because I haven’t discussed it.

It’s clear to me now that finishing the original Record Store Tales without this chapter was a big mistake.  It should have been in there, to explain how things went from “point A” to “point B”.  Any questions left lingering after that ending should now be answered.

SCUT FARCAS

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#403: Bully

Bullying is a huge issue today.  Every week it seems we’re seeing kids kill themselves, because their bullies are everywhere.  They don’t disappear.  They’re online, they’re in the classroom, and they’re on the job.  I tend to think that everybody has been bullied somewhat, so my story is no more important than yours.  I’ve been criticized for talking about some of my experiences publicly.  One or two people might not even believe me that these events happened.

Tough.

The experiences are mine.  I don’t want them buried.  I want somebody to draw some kind of strength or inspiration from them.  That’s how I have chosen to turn a negative into a positive.  If you don’t like it, I invite you to read something else today.

Grade school was tough.  Teachers turned a blind eye.  One teacher specifically teamed me up with my bully in gym class.  This kid had been picking on me straight from grade 2.  I don’t remember anymore what started it.  I probably tattled on him for talking in class, but who knows now.  He focused on me like a laser beam, right from grade 2 up.  I could not shake this kid.  He was always there, picking on me, through grade school.  My 7th grade teacher, knowing all this, decided to team us up in gym.  God knows what she was thinking.  Did she assume that because we had to throw a ball back and forth, we’d suddenly become friends?  Bonding over ball throwing?   I hated that teacher.   I hated that bully.  That guy was so persistent, that once we hit highschool, he skipped his own gym class and attended mine, just to continue.  My highschool gym teacher was so out of it he didn’t even realize he had an extra student.

What got me through these things?  Music.

I saw a guy like Dee Snider take a stand against his own bullies.  They called him a “sick mother fucker”.  He turned it around and showed them he didn’t care.  “Yes, I am a sick mother fucker.  Thank you very much.”  Later on, Twisted Sister even named their fan club the Sick Mother Fuckin’ Friends of Twisted Sister.  SMF’s for short.  He took something negative, robbed it of its power, and created something positive from it.

Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, and especially Kiss had lyrics about not letting these guys bother you.  I took them to heart, and listened to the music day and night.  The fact that not one kid in my school liked Kiss, Twisted Sister, or Motley Crue only made me that much more fanatic.  “If the others don’t like these groups, and I don’t want to be like them, then this music is meant for me.”

Around grade 9, the bullying finally stopped.  I made it through the rest of my school life without incident.  The bullies had dropped out of school.  Or switched schools.  The truth is I don’t know what happened to them, I was just glad to be rid of them.

My love for my music never died.  It grew stronger as I became more obsessed.  Music eventually lead me to the Record Store where, unfortunately, after time, bullying began again.

It happened again in 2000.  I remember 2000 quite clearly.  There were two or three separate incidents in 2000.  One event is permanently emblazoned in my memory, never fading, always vivid as it was 15 years ago.

One person in the organization, who happened to also be my supervisor, had been working for weeks and months on our master CD pricing catalogue.   [Some of us refer to this person as “She Who Shall Not Be Named”.]  Shortly after the CD master had been completed, I was buying some CDs from a customer.  I will never forget they were Roch Voisine discs.  For some reason Roch was not in our CD master catalogue.  I couldn’t find him under “V” or even “R”.  The owner was in my store that day, so I asked him.

“Hey, I can’t find Roch Voisine in the CD master.  It’s supposed to be done now right?”

“I’m not sure,” he responded.  “Why don’t you phone her [She Who Shall Not Be Named] and find out?”

I called and asked the question to her, my direct supervisor.  She somehow took this as an insult and me trying to undermine her seniority.  “You’re just mad that your precious Steve Vai isn’t in the CD master!” she shouted at me.  I’ll never forget the words, “your precious Steve Vai.”  It underlined things that were wrong about this person being in authority:  she was making it personal.

During this rant, I was told that I was trying to sabotage her position in front of the big owner.  When this person eventually arrived at my store, she walked past me at the counter, scowled and told me that I was “so dead for this.”

What?  So dead for what?  What did I do?  I noticed Roch Voisine was not in our master list.  My boss asked me to find out why.  So I did.  I was accused of this “sabotage”, and had the Steve Vai comment thrown at me, and then told I was “so dead”?  I was absolutely floored.

She stopped speaking to me for two weeks straight.  My direct supervisor, working almost daily in the same location as me, completely ignoring me, for two weeks.   The tension could be cut with a knife.  One customer, witnessing the tension and action of my supervisor one day, said “I can’t believe they treat you like that at work.”  I developed a nervous twitch in my left eye that would not go away for months.  My sleep was disturbed nightly.  I was a tense, stressed out disaster on a daily basis at work.  Then two weeks later it blew over, as if nothing had happened.   The supervisor was once again friendly as pie.  I think that is one reason why some don’t believe me that these events happened.  Not everybody got to see that side of her.  Some did.  I remember them.  Lyne, who couldn’t hack it anymore and bailed to work at HMV.  They knew what I was going through, because they went through something similar with the same person.

Another thing about being bullied – victims sometimes protect their bullies.  Sometimes they don’t tattle.  They pretend everything is fine.  They do this to avoid more retribution, to regain favour of the bully, and to hide embarrassment at being bullied in the first place.  I know because that’s what I did.  I did bring it up to the owner once, and he asked me if I wanted him to speak to her about it.  I reacted in terror.  “No!  Then I’m afraid it will get worse!”  So nothing happened.

Then it happened again…and again.  Repeating  the same pattern of bullying at work.  The worst was not being spoken to for weeks on end by my supervisor.  The next time it happened, it lasted three weeks.  I’d be asked by the owner, “Mike, why didn’t you get this done?”  Because nobody told me to do it.

The second time was worse because it was personal.  It had nothing at all to do with work.  This supervisor had an acrimonious split with her fiancé, who also worked within the company.  I knew them both.  I won’t go into any details on this, because the people involved probably don’t want to be reminded of this epic shitstorm.  In fact one of my bully’s friends emailed me three years ago when I first started publishing Record Store Tales, hoping I had no plans for writing about that very shitstorm.  He said he was losing sleep over the thought.  I told him I was not going to talk about it, because it had nothing to do with me, and I still have respect for some of the people involved.  Suffice to say – there was a relationship that ended within the store, and even though it shouldn’t have, it affected the store.  And me.

There was a show in town that I had attended one Saturday night.  My supervisor also attended it, along with several staff members.  After the gig, I said goodnight and told everyone that I was heading home, see you all Monday.

On the way home, I realized that it was her ex-fiance’s birthday, and that he was celebrating at a bar that was on my way.  So I stopped in to wish him a happy birthday, and resumed my trek home.

On Monday, my supervisor confronted me about it!  “You told me you were going home, but you lied to me!  I found out you went to see him after the show!  I don’t care if you see him!   Don’t ever lie to me!  If you ever lie to me again you are dead!”

I denied having lied to anyone, but she was on a roll.  I was in tears when she was done.  I knew that I was going to be treated to more weeks of silence and bullying, and it had nothing to do with work at all.  It had to do with someone who was in a position of power, who was not able to keep her work and personal lives separate.   Although the first bullying incident nearly destroyed me, the second one was worse, and I knew that there was no way I was ever going to shake this person as long as we both worked for the same company.   I tried to out-last her, but she out-lasted me and I quit first.  I broke the cycle by removing myself from it.

Someone once asked me, “Was it bullying, or just somebody being an asshole repeatedly?”  It sure felt like bullying to me, although it took me years to admit it to myself.  The pattern of protecting the bully and pretending everything was normal continued for six years, out of fear.   It was like grade school all over again.  It felt exactly the same.  I consider myself a survivor.  I made it through.  I had to quit the store to do it, but I did it.

After leaving, I began to put the pieces together.  That what I had experienced wasn’t “normal” like some seemed to think it was.  Calling it something else didn’t change the fact that this person was a total bully.  My bully.  And like most bullies, she was good at wearing two faces.  That’s why, I guess, some of her friends today choose not to believe me that it sucked as bad as it did.  Just because she was nice 50% of the time didn’t negate the stuff they didn’t see.  A bully can still be mean to you part of the time, even if they bring chocolates to work and act nice the rest of the time.  It was an experience that drove me close to the point of nervous breakdown (or beyond), and nobody is going to tell me that it didn’t happen, or that it wasn’t as bad as it was.

It did happen.  It made me a stronger person today.

I’m grateful that artists such as Paul Stanley and Dee Snider went through something like what I went through, and survived to sing about it.  Now it’s my turn to tell you about it.  Somewhere out there, I hope there’s a kid who decides not to take any more shit from their bully.  Break the cycle.

I have disabled comments for this chapter. I want the story to stand on its own, and I don’t want to talk about “She Who Shall Not Be Named” any more.  Thank you.

#353: Hotter Than Hell

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#353: Hotter Than Hell

Grade 8 was a shitty year. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of that shitty school.  I had it up to here [holds hand right below chin] with the bullies and teachers.  I had a fight with a bully at the beginning of the year, which at least kept that one off my case for the rest of it.  That was also the year I got mono!  The only thing that really helped get me through was rock and roll, and especially Kiss.  Way back in Part 3 of Record Store Tales, I acquired Hotter Than Hell on LP, in very bad condition.  I almost immediately traded it away for a bunch of other records and swag, but not before dubbing a copy on a terrible Scotch blank tape.  As explained in great detail  in Part 3, I grew to love Hotter Than Hell despite its flaws.  Sonically, it was arguably Kiss’ worst album.  I was listening to a scratched LP via a 120 minute Scotch tape that was prone to stretch and warble.  I had Kiss’ worst sounding album on the worst sounding format!  Yet something about it kept drawing me back.

Sound issues aside, there’s no denying Hotter Than Hell is a powerful record.  Perennial Kiss klassics such as “Got to Choose”, “Hotter Than Hell”, “Parasite”, and “Let Me Go, Rock and Roll” can be found right here.  It also has one of Peter Criss’ best tunes (albeit written by Paul Stanley) called “Mainline”.  I found myself immediately hooked on Peter’s raspy voice.  I surmised that “Mainline” wasn’t a hit, since it neither appeared on Alive! nor Double Platinum.  I couldn’t figure out why.  “If Kiss have songs this good that never became hits,” I reasoned, “the rest of their albums must also be pretty good.”

Right after “Mainline” was another amazing song that I fell for: “Coming Home”.  This Stanley ode to the road was chosen many years later as the opening track for Kiss’ MTV Unplugged.  Back then, to me it was another classic that should have been a hit.  The nucleus of the album became four key songs that I could not get enough of:  “Coming Home”, “Mainline”, “Hotter Than Hell” and “Got to Choose”.  Later on, “All the Way” expanded that list to five.

Those tunes kept me going.  If I was having a rotten day at school, I could hum “Coming Home” to myself and feel better.  For a French assignment, we had to record an introductory paragraph about ourselves, approximately 30-60 seconds long.  We were allowed to do this with music in the background.  I chose the opening riff to “Got to Choose” for mine. First chord — then, “Je m’appelle Michèle…” I talked for the instrumental part, and was finished before the opening line of the song. But I kept the tape running for a moment longer before I did a fade-out: “Baby, you know I heard the neighbors say…” Just so I could work a little bit of Kiss into my French class. I was probably the only one who noticed.

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The bullies picked on me pretty hard in grade 8.  I was assigned “flag duty”, which meant I was the guy who had to put the flag up every morning.  Drawing attention to myself was never a fun thing in grade 8, and I had to do it every morning.  Walking down the hall to the coughs of “Fag Boy” — a clever name derived from “Flag Boy” — was a daily torment.  They also liked to make fun of my boots, which today would have been cooler than hell, since they were vintage, but then just added to misery.  Thursdays were wood shop class, which meant a bus ride to another school downtown.  That bus ride was without a doubt the worst part of each week.  I was prone to getting sick on Thursdays, for some reason….

When I got mono (for real) I missed most of the end of grade 8, but not before being shamed in front of the entire class by my teacher.  “Shame on you!” she said, because I picked the wrong school.  We all had to choose which highschool we wanted to go to.  We were usually expected to choose the Catholic school, but there was no way in hell I was doing that.  You couldn’t have dragged me along with those kids, believe me.  There was just no way.   I chose Grand River Collegiate, which was closer.  Plus my best friend Bob, who was two years older than me, went to that school.  It would be cool to see him every day at lunch time.  We never had any classes together for obvious reasons, but we conspired to get lockers side by side once.  We had a great time in highschool.  Those were the golden years!

Certainly better than grade 8.  I’ve never told all of these stories publicly before.  It is what it is, and all is certainly forgiven now.  The interesting thing is how these experiences collided to really galvanize my love of that Hotter Than Hell album.  Listening to it today still brings back memories of gym class, waiting for it to finally end, humming “Coming Home” to myself.  And that, friends, is why such a terrible sounding record is so important to me!

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#330: A Journey of Journaling (RSTs MkII: Getting More Tale)

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RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale

#330: A Journey of Journaling 

Just because I left my old job at the Record Store didn’t mean I stopped journaling. It did slow down, but it’s interesting to review them today, having just completed the Record Store Tales. It’s fascinating to me how positive they are (in general) compared to the ones only 18 months prior. It’s also interesting how even over a year after leaving that place, certain people continued to terrify me. Even though the person I’ll call “the office bully” had no power over me anymore, I was still in the grips in fear at the mere thought. I’m seeing journal entries about this person haunting my thoughts over a year after my last encounter, and I’m reading words like “terror”. I didn’t realize how I’d been affected by the whole thing.  I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  It took years for me to really put it all together, and I’m still doing that.

My journals after the store are pretty bland by comparison to the ones before. There are still some pretty funny ones, such as a review of the movie Transformers (2007) that is so stupidly positive that there is no way I will post it here, not even for comedic value! I would simply lose all credibility, so forget it.  I remember dragging Jen out to see that stupid thing.

Of the journals I’ve re-discovered, one in particular jumped out at me as a great one to post first.

I won’t share the whole thing in its entirety as it includes a private email, but the first paragraph is pretty cool.  I had made a video on Youtube back then regarding the passing of Mark St. John.  I don’t have the video anymore, but it was pretty heartfelt and apparently others must have got that out of the video as well.  This journal preserved an email that I received from a cousin of Mark:

Date: 2007/04/07 05:17

I just got the most amazing email in regards to my youtube video (below) [now gone] about Mark St. John of Kiss:

“Thank you so much for your tribute to Mark. He was my cousin. Mom called to tell me the bad news. She said Aunt Terry said to look him up online to see all the posts etc. on different sites. It was really cool of you to make your RIP video. [content edited] Thanks again for what you said….he will be greatly missed.”

Stuff like that video, I just threw it together. It was a first take with no edits. But apparently it really touched Mark’s cousin.  This was yet another stepping stone in my realization that I should be online, talking about music.  I think that was a good decision.