For the last 10 years I have tended bar at the same place. For the last 16 months I have been slowly forced to accept things that have been removed from my control. It started with a lack of space behind the bar, to which my cries for help were answered by "just make it work". I did. Next, my right-hand-tender was fired so I was left to pick up the slack. I asked for more help and was told "......". A replacement was finally hired 8 months later. When something would break behind the bar I would ask to have it replaced. Nothing ever came. No repairs were ever made. I was asked to add more juice than liquor to my own drink recipes. I did as I was told. Eventually the owners selected another member of the team (not a bartender) to create the drink recipes. I went along with this as well. For the last 16 months the entire place has been in a state of constant change. I did what I was told to do until I was forced to do as I saw fit, until I was forced to answer for things I knew nothing about. I had become the face for a business that was falling apart.
As all of these things were happening as the business was beginning to slow. Some blamed the economy, others the ever changing face of the restaurant. It didn't matter much to me, I was still making money. I was still having a good time. I was, I mean it. I was enjoying myself right up until I heard that the owners most recent idea to bring about the positive change included bringing in another bartender (from another of their restaurants) to "help increase the bar business". This would have been alright had they just sat me down and told me, but I heard it from the other tender. He was the one who told me about the shift. So when I finally saw the schedule and he was indeed scheduled to work one of my nights I popped. I had seen it all. Ten years and this is what I get? My shifts taken away from me? Why don't you just come over to the house and take my kids food off their goddamn plates? I was furious. I was sad. I was speechless.
I left there that day thinking about a lot of things, but mostly about moving forward. I thought about the race and the Almanzo project. I thought about what I had learned in ten years. I thought about the reality of bringing home some money to buy food and pay bills. I sat in a park and looked at my bike and I thought. A lot.
I went home that night and shaved and cut my hair and decided that I would go out and get a new job the next day. I woke up, pulled out the nice dress shirt and the nice dress shoes and I went down the street to another restaurant and introduced myself. I was invited to sit down and talk for a bit and by the end of the conversation I had landed myself another "drink pouring" position. I was ecstatic. I was pleased as could be.
The next step was to turn in my notice as I wouldn't be starting at the new place until the 18th of this month. I walked into my bosses office, shaking with fear and nervousness. I sat down and asked for a moment of his time and began to speak. I told him that I had been there for a long time, ten years, and that I unfortunately had to turn in my two week notice. He asked something about me having had enough. I replied with my thanks and appreciation for the past ten years. He countered with some small thank you and proceeded to ask about the remainder of my time. I suggested that I work my upcoming scheduled shifts and he said, "I don't like lame ducks, so I think it would be better if you would just be done". The shaking stopped. The fear left my body immediately behind the nervousness and I concluded our conversation with a thank you and a handshake. I left that office with a smile.
I knew since the remodel that things were not as organized as they had been for the previous 8 years. I knew that eventually I would no longer be able to continue to work in an environment that left no room for order. I was hesitant to leave because I had put in so many years of my life. Ten years is no small task, but when I had no choice left, but to stay or go the answer was made clear in the emptiness of my bosses face. With no question as to why I was leaving and no efforts to try and convince me otherwise it was clear that this man has no thought for the people that work under him and no concern for the efforts they put forth. No real compassion for those that feed his children before they feed their own. I wish this gentleman all the luck in the world and I hope that his business succeeds and his family prospers, but I am afraid of the results should he continue to operate under such disorganization and chaos. There are still people there that would go to any length to help his place survive, but they must be recognized. They must be appreciated.
So why do I write all of this? Why here, on the Almanzo blog? The answer is simple. This is what I love. This project, born from my own two hands is a big part of why I get up everyday and while I would love to spend my hours working on this I must part from it from time to time and work for someone else. Someone else who can pay my bills. Someone else who can fund my dream, the Almanzo. I write this story here to get it off my chest. To put in words what I have felt for so long. The working population deserves to be treated with respect and dignity and the stories of those who are not deserve to be told. I am certain that running a business is a difficult task with plenty of stress and plenty of worry, in fact I know this because I am pretty sure that running a free bicycle race is almost identical.
If I have learned anything in the ten years that I spent working behind that bar, it is how to treat people. All people. More importantly than that though, I have learned how not to treat people. I have learned how not to run a business or a race. I have learned how not to make my money. I have learned how not to be a superior and I have learned how not to be a co-worker and a friend. These lessons are priceless and I thank all those that took the time to teach. I really appreciate it.
So, here I am without a job for two weeks and stuck in front of my computer. Spending the days with the kids and the nights on the bike. These are good times and I intend not to waste them, but alas, I have no extra money. No money to continue to market the 2010 race. No money to maintain the website and the blog. No extra money at all. I have paid for every penny of the Almanzo (with the exceptionof the patches this year) and loved every minute of it. I wouldn't want it any other way, but to say that I haven't thought about it would make me a liar. I have thought about starting a USCF gravel road stage race that would generate enough income for me to work fulltime on this stuff. I have thought about starting another race similar to the Almanzo and charging an entry fee. I have thought about it all and at the end I cannot commit to any one idea and still look at myself in the mirror. I like to ride my bikes just as much as you do and I would never want to keep anyone from doing so by charging to ride in an event like the Almanzo. This stuff ought to be free! For everyone.
So here is my plan. I used a survey to determine the pace of the Gentlemen's Ride and it worked wonders. I have created another survey to determine whether or not the creation of a Paypal Donation button would take away from the spirit of the Almanzo. I am not looking to get rich through the contributions, but rather to have a little support as I attempt to make this event one of the greatest of its kind. That said, here is the survey: