Last week sometime was National Boss’s Day, which set me to thinking about some of the people for whom I’ve worked in the past. Most were actually quite wonderful people; a couple of them were pricks, but most, whether good or bad, are memorable. When I was quite young, I worked for an import/export firm, quietly tapping away on a 10-key adding machine back in my own little office, pretty sure the guy who owned the place didn’t even know my name (he didn’t – or, if he did, he could never remember it.) Besides, his secretary’s name was also Jody, so, whenever he blasted into the showroom yelling, “GODDAMN IT, JODY!!!” I would instantly jump up, bashing my legs against my desk and, thus, kept a permanent bruise across my fat little thighs right above my knees. He was never yelling at me, but you wouldn’t have known it by watching me react.
When I worked for a Johnson & Johnson company in the early 1970’s, my boss was a great guy with terrific dimples and his name was Max Odom. He was kind and thoughtful, slow to anger and easy to make laugh, a gentleman and a gentle man, and that made going to work each day a delightful thing.
After that, rock ‘n roll radio got into my blood and I worked for 5 years at KZEW-FM in Dallas, I had a number of great bosses there. John Dew was the Station Manager when I arrived, a good guy with the know-how to get things done, those “things” being the brain-child of The Zoo’s own creative genius, Ira “Eye” Lipson. If Eye was the driver of the Merry Prankster’s Bus, John figured out how to get the bus financed. I loved working at that station where creative juices got to flow down the hallways, where nothing really seemed too insane to try, where I could cha-cha around the studio when Jon Dillon played Carly Simon’s YOU BELONG TO ME, or Mark Christopher and I could lock ourselves in the production room and create promos or crazy commercials that made all of Dallas and Ft. Worth sit up and take notice.
After John Dew left, Ivan Braiker came on board as the new Station Manager. Ivan loved us and we loved him. He understood business, but he also understood creativity and never made us sacrifice one for the sake of the other. We played killer music all day long but, more than that, we were all bonded by a singular notion, which was to do some good in the world and cleverly disguise it as work. That’s what we did at The Zoo. What a time. For those of us who worked there during that era, the 1970’s, it was our Camelot. And, for that, I give thanks to Ira Lipson, Ivan Braiker, John Dew, Kenny Rundel, Mark Christopher, Mark Addy, Gary Shaw, Jon Dillon, Mike Taylor, John Baker, Michael Brown, John LaBella, Diana Marquis, Syd Meredith, Charley Jones, Sally Francis, Sharla Taylor, Beetle, Rick Ferguson, John Rody, Wally Campbell, Jim Stansell, Chuck Moshontz, Dave Lee Austin, Bill Harrison, Mike Ceferatti, The Amazing Beesley Sisters, and anyone I’ve left out. All of you were my bosses – and my teachers – in one way or another, and I thank you for that.
I hold that time and place so dear, and I suppose there are not many jobs I could have had in my life where I could have gotten to listen to great music all day, write and produce as much crazy stuff as I wanted to – actually get a paycheck for it – and, still, at the end of each day feel like I’d done some good in the world. I am lucky. And, I have some wonderful bosses to thank for that.
I worked at SEARS when I was in college, back shortly after the earth cooled, and I had a terrific boss named Jeanne Barnes. I’ll tell you why. I worked in Ladies Ready to Wear but, on this one day, Mrs. Barnes had asked me to fill in at the Children’s Clothing Dept., which was right next to ours. There was a sale going on and, without realizing what I’d done (because I was too busy talking) I over-charged a woman for some little kid’s underpants she’d bought for her daughter. I failed to ring up the ON SALE price and had charged her the regular price and didn’t see what I’d done until after the woman had already left the department. Well. The rule was: IF YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE IN THE DEPARTMENT, DO NOT LEAVE THE DEPARTMENT UNTIL YOU HAVE SOMEONE THERE TO COVER FOR YOU. But, what could I do?? I didn’t want that lady to think I was a crook – or – that SEARS was a crooked store. I grabbed five bucks out of my wallet, stashed my purse, locked the register, and took off running. I ran across the store, vaulted down the escalator, screeched through the rest of the store and out the front door where I just happened to catch that lady in her car before she turned onto Jefferson Blvd. “I charged you too much,” I gasped, “I’m really sorry. I think this will cover it.” And I tossed my five dollar bill into her car. Then I chugged back up to the Children’s Clothing Dept., found my boss, and, between wheezing gasps for air, explained to her what had happened. Mrs. Barnes pulled out her wallet and handed me a five dollar bill. “Walk with me,” she said, draping her arm over my shoulder. We walked to the escalator, over which was an enormous sign that read: THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT. It was our motto back then; I hope it still is. “See that sign?” she asked. I nodded, because, at that point, I still could not speak without sounding like a bagpipe. “That woman will never forget what you did,” Mrs. Barnes said, and she looked me right in the eye, touching my heart with her hand, “And, neither will you.” She was right. I don’t know about that customer but, as for me, clearly, I have never forgotten it.
I am a good worker, conscientious and thorough. But, I am a terrible boss, and I should know, because I’ve been my own boss for the past 35 years. I have difficulty delegating, compounded by the fact that, since I am in business by myself, for myself, there is actually nobody else to delegate TO. Oh well. The good part is that I don’t have to answer to anyone or explain just what I was doing in that part of town when the muffler fell off. The bad part is that it makes the Christmas parties almost achingly dull. And, giving myself a raise? That’s the hardest thing of all – like doing Gestalt Therapy.
I am easy to work for, I gotta say that, though, because nobody understands as well as my boss how it feels when there’s a story cranking in my head that needs to be told. She understands that sometimes the best thing to do is just sit down and write the thing. I’ll whimper and look pitiful like an old dog. She’ll roll her eyes, let out an almost-disgusted sigh and say, “Okay, okay, just take the day off.” And, so, I do. I love my boss.