RECORD STORE TALES Part 203: Staff Meetings
I used to enjoy staff meetings. When we were a small chain, we’d gather all the employees up after work at one of the larger locations. If memory serves (and Lord knows we’re talking about 18 years ago now), the boss even brought a case of beer to the first one. We’d go over ideas, improvements, problems, shoot the shit, it was informal and it was great! It was one of the only times we’d have everybody together in one room.
As we expanded, that became impractical. We started having meetings with just the managers. These were a bit more serious in nature, sometimes heated, but we held them at a restaurant. The boss would pay for everybody’s beer and food, which was really cool. We’d have a good time, it was for social purposes as well as practical. We usually held these “Manager’s Meetings” in the closest East Side Mario’s. Decent, not the greatest food in the world, but I liked it.
It’s a shame this wasn’t the 1980’s. Then we could have had the meetings at a place like Mother’s Pizza! Mother’s Pizza was the best pizza place in town. I went there for every birthday. It was co-owned by Ernie Whitt, the catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. Later on, Cito Gaston bought in as well. Mother’s. Now that was a pizza.*
Ahem. Sorry. I tend to lose my train of thought when I talk about food.
We’d mess with each other. I remember my boss had one pen that he just loved. Loved it. Freaked out when he misplaced it. He’d run around the store yelling “WHERE MY PEN!” in a funny voice. So somebody sneakily stole his pen just before the staff meeting.
We went to Mario’s for the meet. Upon arrival, he complained a bit about misplacing his pen, but got on to business. A short while later, one of the store managers was casually writing with it, nonchalant. His pen. His precious…waiting for him to notice it in someone else’s hands.
Suddenly, he saw. He pointed. “MY PEN! MY PEN! YOU HAVE MY PEN!” he yelled in that funny voice again. Kids at the table next to us stared, wondering who this guy was!
Yeah, those were good times. But as George Harrison said, all things must pass. I’ve talked before about “The Great Change”, when CD sales started to slump. Budgets got tighter, things got more serious. Staff meetings were moved to a stuffy boardroom in the back of one of our stores. We started receiving extensive emails with the “minutes” from the meeting, the mind-numbing minutiae. This was a long way from beer and pizza. The atmosphere was dour and the meetings sometimes dragged on for 2 hours.
After the meetings, I’d sometimes shoot the shit with one or two of the other store managers.
“What was that?” I would say. “I could have said all that in one email!”
“Was there anything said in that meeting that couldn’t have been covered in one email?” someone asked rhetorically.
It was at one of these staff meetings that Joe dubbed me with the nickname Señor Spielbergo because of my thick beard. But in the later days, that was one of the few moments of levity. For me these meetings were just a stagnant waste of time. Hours upon hours of time that I’ll never get back.
* I hear they opened a new Mother’s Pizza in Hamilton. Maybe, for future record store kids, the dream of a staff meeting at Mother’s Pizza is alive again? I hope so.
NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…