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Worldwide Ace » For the Enjoyment of Others

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For the Enjoyment of Others

2 February, 2010 (12:19) | Work

“I heard the party was pretty great.”

“Yeah, people seemed to like it,” I replied, my sleep-deprived brain luckily sober enough to conjure up an honest remark.

“Did you have fun?”

“I don’t know.”

It’s almost depressing knowing that any joy I derived from the event came from a combination of the joy of others and the relief that it was finally over. After over a month of planning, of scrambling to find extra funding, gain prizes for a last minute raffle, and put on a show others could enjoy and I could take pride in, I simply didn’t have the time or energy to have fun myself. That isn’t to say that I didn’t have my moments or that the music, food and drink wasn’t fantastic (all of it was), but that’s simply how I felt about it.

When I first started at Eldora and the higher-ups asked for volunteers to help plan the Rookie Party (so called because it’s supposed to be planned and financed by the new hires) I figured it would be a fun and easy way to get know a bunch of people and perhaps get in a little better with the people upstairs.

SIDE NOTE: As a ski instructor, there’s rarely any guarantees that we’ll actually get to teach–and therefore get paid for the day–even if we’re scheduled. There’s a priority system that breaks down who gets the first shot at classes. First, they divide the full-time staff from the part-time, and with 250 total employees in the snowsports department alone, that’s a lot of part-timers. Then they split the veterans from the new hires, giving priority to those instructors who have been there the longest. After that, it’s a question of qualification, with instructors who are certified from PSIA getting the top spots and those who are level two or three being vaulted to the fore. The last criteria is how many hours you’ve worked so far. Finally, we, the instructors, get the choice of whether we want to work. Of course, on slower days, the chain doesn’t even reach the part-time, new hire, non-certified instructors, often leaving them high and dry. Luckily, most part-timers are there more for the skiing than for the work, often having other jobs or school responsibilities.

The first few weeks of planning seemed to go smoothly. I wasn’t the chief planner, and though I often felt like an intermediary between the two other rookies who had stepped up to the plate, it was hardly hard work and I certainly wasn’t stressing despite our disagreements. We didn’t agree on where we should have it, what night we should have it, or even how we were going to fully finance it. With 88 new hires each tossing in $10, it should’ve left us with nearly nine hundred dollars to use, but three weeks in to the planning process, we had less than half. In the end, only 52 rookies (two of which weren’t even really rookies) donated to the cause, with seven of them paying at the door to the party.

It’s All in the Details

The entertainment was easy to find as three instructor played in bands and all three were willing to play for free (or on the cheap, assuming we had money leftover). I figured I could call up my old place of employ and maybe get a DJ and the mobile unit from Boulder’s own Radio 1190 to fill in before and between bands. Due to the date, one of the bands wasn’t available, but the other two were more than happy to join us.  And knowing the awesome people up there are I was pretty sure we’d be able to supply the rest of the night’s fun simply from getting a bunch of us in the same room.

Location was the top priority, but our options were limited. For less than $1000, we couldn’t find a venue that would allow our own food and drink. We knew we could do food on the sly as Katie, one of our trio of planners, is a personal chef and caterer, which meant our best option was doing food ourselves (or rather having her do it through). Most restaurants would give us the venue virtually for free, but wanted $7-8 dollars a head for food, making them a poor option. It would’ve left us with no money to provide drinks.

It was then that I decided a raffle was in order. Before I had gotten even one donation, I dropped $50 out of pocket to print up 500 raffle tickets (carefully hobbled together with my mad photoshop skills). It should’ve been twice that, but the gentleman at Kinkos who helped me was an avid skier and a big fan of the resort. In retrospect, this was one of the stupidest ideas ever, as I should’ve gotten a couple of prizes before even thinking about printing them up. Luckily, as I spent the next 4 hours wandering central Boulder from the Hill down Pearl and back to my house, I collected nearly $300 dollars of awesome gift certificates and prizes from the many fine businesses around. I also got declined by several businesses who simply couldn’t afford to assist, which, given the economy and the fact that two other groups were also making the rounds that week, was understandable. It was truly impressive what an outpouring of good will people showed, though a couple places (like Foolish Craig’s) were absolute assholes about it, being rude and dismissive in their response. In the end, we had nearly 50 prizes donated and given away in the raffle, something which both amazed me and drove me nuts.

Riding the Pine

As we rolled into the last week of planning, we finally found a venue and worked out what I thought was a great deal. My game of telephone with the establishment went from me to Matt (another instructor) to Callie (one of his friends who worked there) to Jodie (the business manager of Twisted Pine, an awesome local brewery). Twisted Pine used to have a couple taps at the bar at Eldora, but for some reason they had been dropped. I was told that they had asked to be put back on tap, but I was also informed this was probably not serious. Still, I promised to do what I could, which isn’t a whole lot, unfortunately. Hell, we couldn’t even get Eldora to donate anything to raffle. So what I heard was that we’d spend $200 to get the venue and they would throw in 50 free pints. Since we expected a good third of our department to show up, 50 pints wouldn’t have cut it, so I asked if we could buy a hundred more at a slight discount. The answer I got (still going through the telephone system) was we could get another 100 pints for $200 for a total of 150 pints and venue for $400.

Little did I know that the strange wending way in which the deal had been negotiated meant that a number of mixed signals had happened.

Firstly, the request to get on tap wasn’t just a request; it was part of the deal. Normally, Twisted Pine charges a $200 venue fee and then sells beers at four dollars a pint (three dollars during happy hour). In exchange for getting back on tap, they were waiving the venue fee. The extra hundred pints hadn’t actually been negotiated at all, leaving us far below what we were expected and what we had promised. Lastly, they weren’t actually available for the Saturday night we had planned to have the party.

With a week left, we quickly switched from Saturday to Sunday and knew that something strange was going on with the deal I thought we had. Because of this change, we lost one of the bands who had agreed to play. Rather than clarify with Twisted Pine, due to our hectic schedule, the X-Games pulling half our staff to Aspen, and the raffle taking most of my time and energy outside of work, I decided not to stress and hoped we’d be able to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.

It’s to Twisted Pine’s credit that Jodie was not only friendly and understanding, but they were gracious hosts and, with less than an hour to go til people arrived, were able to work things out with us. They waived the venue fee, charged us a little bit more for the beer we had promised the staff (3 dollars a pint for 150, meaning we payed 50 more than expected, but thanks to the raffle, we just barely had the cash), and still gave the happy hour pricing for beers beyond that. I can’t say enough about how great Twisted Pine was in accommodating us and dealing with the miscommunication we had.

I Cook, You Eat

Katie, meanwhile, had come in nearly $50 under budget on food, a credit to her and her catering business. On the Saturday prior to the party, Michelle (another instructor) and I had volunteered to help her prep, but due to the X-Games, Eldora called everyone it could in to work. We rushed off the mountain at the end of the day and called Katie as soon as we had cell service. Amazingly, she had already finished everything, cooking some amazing food for over a hundred people in just a single day.

That night, instead of being up late helping her cook, I enjoyed the opportunity to clean up, sleep, and relax. Of course, it didn’t happen. I got two hours of sleep before I was up and off to work again, leaving me haggard and wondering if I’d make it through the night. I kept reminding myself  that once the evening was over, I’d be free from the shackles of party planning regardless of whether it was a great shindig or an absolute bust.

I rushed home from work, skipping my normal ritual of manual labor tearing apart the smallest bunny hill, and went right to work putting the final touches on the raffle. Despite having jammed her car with pork tacos makings, grilled veggies (for those who kept kosher, vegetarian, vegan and otherwise), and a plethora of chips, salsa, and guac, Katie let me cram in to the backseat for the ride over. The menu had been announced earlier in the week, and though Katie had described it in detail, her words didn’t do the food justice. Everyone was stunned at just how amazing Katie’s cooking was. I like to think of myself as a good cook, but Katie proved that I still have a long way to go.

Breaking Up the Band

Just when I thought everything had finally worked out, Tyler (the drummer of Mustafar and our comrade on snow) informed me that he had a little hitch: their lead guitarist had quit that afternoon, turning their quartet into a trio.

“We’re still pretty tight,” he told me, “but I’m calling around to see if I can get someone to fill in.”

Despite the scramble, there wasn’t anyone available that he could find. As the band began to play, opening with Rocky Racoon, it sounded like they were missing a key piece. By the second or third song, they were right in the groove and sounding great. Knowing Tyler, I have to admit I wasn’t sure how great his band would be. Now, though, I know I shouldn’t have worried. Mustafar rocked, the crowd ate it up and things seemed golden.

Mike the Headless Chicken

There were only two things left to be covered: doorman and raffle.

The latter was easy, as I was thoroughly prepped at this point. I had a list of items, all the stubs, and plans on how to get it done. The former, however, left something to be desired. Tim and Kate, two of the supervisors who know most of staff, had told me they’d work the door, but as people began to show up, I was the only one there.

Having worked as a waiter and bartender before, I actually do know how to spot a fake ID. I had a list of those rookies who had paid, but I didn’t have a list of the rest of the rookies. We charged $5 a head for food for non-staff, and tried to collect money from the various rookies who hadn’t paid as they showed up. Joe, another supervisor, was nice enough to deliver a list of underage employees, making my life just a bit easier. Luckily, carding people wasn’t a worry, as all but one underager admitted it when I asked for ID (and the one who didn’t was on the list). I black-marked the hands of the kids who couldn’t drink, passed out two drink tickets to staff as they entered (underagers included), sold raffle tickets to those who still wanted some, and encouraged people to tip alongside their tickets.

For the first two and a half hours, I sat by the door checking off people as they came in and finding out who was who. I was sober, hungry, and stressed (not to mention cold when we moved the station outside). The Pine got so packed that we were nearly overflowing with people. Getting from the door to the back room where I was staging the raffle was a task worthy of Hercules. It certainly didn’t lessen the stress level.

SIDE NOTE: Two things happen to me when I’m stressed. First, I get this utter sense of calm: my blood pressure drops, my heart-rate slows, and I feel almost zen. It’s a surprsingly awesome physical reaction. The second is that I move a little faster, my hands shake more than normal (I’ve never had steady hands) and I have a tendency to bluntly bark orders if necessary. This latter portion is why several people said I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Aftermath

As eleven PM rolled around, the raffle was done, the band was breaking their stuff down, and people had begun to slip away. I had been busy cleaning the sinks in back, which had become clogged with the last bits of rice and beans, and trying to clear coats, bags and shwag off the tables. I had only had 2 hours of sleep in the last 32 hours and had to be up in 6 more to go back to work.

Everyone seemed to have a good time, but as I was leaving I realized I simply didn’t know if I had had fun.

The whole thing was work. The planning was work. The party itself was work. The cleanup was work. And though I had moments of drinking, eating, socializing and debauchery, I always had to be able to flip a switch back into work mode the instant I needed to deal with something.

I climbed on the bus, the sun still not up, my 7 hours of sleep in the last 41 hours hardly enough. I was one of only 2 instructors who had made the party to be catching the early Monday ride up to the mountain.

I’ve never felt the place so peaceful as it seemed that morning, the breeze calmly wafting as a light snow fell. The offices of the ski school were dark a half hour later than normal and my compadres who were there were tucked in quiet corners of the complex with cups of coffee and tired eyes.

I walked into the locker room, once again the first person working, the stakes for the flags tucked neatly in the bag over my shoulder.

“I heard the party was pretty great,” Aaron told me as I slipped on my jacket.

“Yeah, people seemed to like it,” I replied, my sleep-deprived brain luckily sober enough to conjure up an honest remark.

“Did you have fun?”

“I don’t know.” It was a truthful if uninspiring answer. “But everyone else seemed to. And that’s what matters most to me.”

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  • TheOldBear

    Wow! If we'd have know you were that good, we would have let you organize your own bar mitzvah!

  • AceHarmon

    A bar mitzvah celebrates a boy’s transition to adulthood. It takes many more years before he’s ready to transition from a man to a full-fledged party planner.