pleasure island.

After what seemed like a million trips to Las Vegas, San Francisco, and San Diego, I took a business trip to magical Orlando, to attend a trade show.  Given the degree of dissatisfaction I had with my job and my coworkers, I wished up and down that I had some indie rock friends in Florida, but that just wasn’t the case.  I was going to have to spend the week with my boss and my other coworkers.

What’s worse was that I was attending a relatively new show, and the company didn’t want to spend a whole lot of cash on support personnel.  So I was the support personnel – I had to fly down early and get the booth set up, and then I was at everyone’s beck and call for the week.  The company’s VP of Marketing – a guy I didn’t particularly like because I knew he felt I was out of my league in my position and he thus was pretty condescending – was planning to attend the show to see whether it was worth expanding for the following year.  Aside from that, it was me and the wireless guys.

I arrived in Florida uneventfully and meandered down to the convention center (or wherever the show was; it was 15 years ago, I can’t recall).  Setup went smoothly; there was very little work I could do because union workers were employed to do shows in most states.  Even doing something as simple as changing a light bulb or watering a plant needed to be done by union personnel, so all I could do was stand and watch while everyone around me unpacked and set up the booth.

The next day my coworkers arrived.  For most of the day they had meetings, leaving me alone to man the booth.  The VP of Marketing arrived to find me alone and said “What are you doing here?”

“Manning the booth,” I responded.

“But what if a customer comes?  Where’s everybody else?”

“I would imagine they’re all in meetings.  If a customer comes, I’ll talk to them. I know more about these products than everyone else, anyway.”

He went off in a huff.

That night, on my own, I contemplated going to Disney.  I didn’t, though, because I couldn’t imagine my first trip to Disney being alone and miserable.  So I went back to my room and ordered a really expensive dinner and a six pack of beer.

Day 3 was a nightmare.

I spent the day, once again, in the booth, on my feet, bored to tears and exhausted.  At the end of the show that day, I was (finally) invited to go out to dinner with some clients and coworkers.  I went back to the room and freshened up, and then met everyone down in the hotel lobby.

We all crammed into a van that one of them had rented, and drove to a place called the Crab House.

Okay.  I don’t eat seafood often.  I don’t like the taste.  And with Sandy being allergic to shellfish and my mom not being much of a seafood person either, I never learned how to eat a crab.  I have no idea – still – and I’m nearly 40.  So when everyone started ordering boatloads of crab, I had no idea what to do.

What was worse was that they were ordering for the table, so nobody had an individual dinner.

Eventually I decided that the abuse I was going to take for ordering something not seafood wouldn’t be as bad as the abuse I’d take for not knowing how to eat a crab.  So I flagged down the waitress and said “Can you bring me a burger?”

“A burger?!” one of the guys yelped.  “You’re at the fucking Crab House.”

“I know,” I responded, “I just don’t like seafood.”

“Try it,” he said.  “You’ll like it.”

I had no desire to try it.  And when they delivered the crabs to the table and the guys started tearing off legs and hammering the shells with the wooden hammers they gave you, I was reminded of the Turkey Leg Guy from Lollapalooza, which disgusted me beyond belief.

One of the guys farted.  Right there, at the dinner table, in a restaurant.  And everyone laughed.

What the fuck am I doing here? I wondered.

By the time my burger came, everyone else was done eating.  I scarfed it down amidst the abuse, and then learned that we were all going to Pleasure Island to drink.  

I wanted nothing more than to go back to the hotel, but I had crammed into the rented van with everyone else, so I was in it for the long haul.

We got to Pleasure Island and immediately ordered drinks.  I ordered a beer, and took some abuse for not having something with hard alcohol in it, so I ordered a shot of Southern Comfort.  Then, I caught some shit for drinking something as gross as Southern Comfort, so I ordered a shot of vodka.  And then drank the beer.

My stomach was still churning from the Crab House, and the quick shots of three different kinds of alcohol didn’t do it much good.  A few of the guys decided they wanted to smoke a cigar, something I couldn’t bear to do with my stomach doing backflips.   I excused myself and found a men’s room.  And when I came out of the men’s room, there was no sign of anyone.

They were all gone.

They had fucking left me.

I wandered into the bar, looking, but found nobody.  I walked back outside and looked in all directions – they couldn’t have possibly gone that far in the time it took me to piss.  But I couldn’t find any of them.

I didn’t have my cellphone with me.  My cellphone was huge – a big, old, Ericsson phone that was bigger than even the biggest cordless phones of today.  I didn’t have a case or a holster for it, because it would literally pull my pants down if I tried to wear it that way.  It was a great phone – better than most of the pieces of shit you find today, durable as hell with outstanding reception, but it was also difficult to lug around.  Figuring I’d be out with all the people I would need to call anyway, I left the phone in my room.

So I was fucking stranded.

I wandered around from place to place, looking for people from my party.  I didn’t want to take a cab back to the hotel, because I was worried that they’d be looking for me and it would have been rude of me to just split.  I didn’t want to go to the parking lot and find the van for the same reason.  So I just wandered around Pleasure Island.

Wikipedia says that they don’t do this anymore, but they used to celebrate New Year’s Eve every night at midnight on Pleasure Island, with a fireworks display.  During the fireworks, I finally bumped into one of the guys.

“Where the fuck have you been?” I asked.

“Just wandering around, drinking and having a good time,” he responded.

“Where is everyone else?”

“Over there.”  He pointed.  I looked and saw everyone else, standing around in a circle, watching the fireworks.  My boss was gone – he had taken a cab back to the hotel.  Everyone else was absolutely hammered.

We stayed there a while longer, and then I drove everyone back to the hotel.  It had to be 2AM when I went to sleep, pissed off at the world.

The next morning, I got up and went back to the show.  My boss was the only one there – everyone else was sleeping it off.

“Come on, sit down,” he said.

I sat down at the small conference table in the middle of our booth.

“I want to talk to you,” he began.


“I’ve been thinking about it, and discussing it with Mike,” he said.  Mike was the VP of Marketing, the condescending guy.  “We’ve decided that we’re going to get you some help.”

I felt like a million pounds had been taken off my back, all at once.  “Really?” 

“Really,” he said.  Then he was silent for a split second, just enough for me to quickly understand that there was something wicked coming.  “It’ll be good for you.”

“What will?” I asked.

“We’re going to move you out of the cellular department and into the marketing department,” he said.

“Wait,” I began. “How does that help me?”

“It just makes sense,” he said.  “All the product managers for the other divisions work in the marketing department.  All of them except you.  I don’t have time to teach you anything, I’m too busy.  We’re doing you a disservice.”

“You’re doing me a disservice so now I’m going to have to report to Mike?” I asked.  “That guy hates me.”

“Well, no,” my boss continued.  “You’re not going to report to Mike.  That’s what I mean about getting you help.”

I stiffened.  I could see it coming.

“We hired a Senior Product Manager for the cellular division.  You’ll report to her, and she’ll report to Mike.”

I just stared.

“She’s got great experience, you could learn a ton from her.”

“This is not what I asked for,” I said.  “I don’t need another boss.  I need an assistant.”

With that, Mike walked over and sat down.  “Hey, guys!” he said, jovially.  I glared.

“I was just telling Al about the new Senior Product Manager,” my boss said.

“It’s a great thing,” Mike said.  “You’ll learn a ton from her.  A lot of the problems that you think are insurmountable, she’ll have an answer for.”

“You guys don’t understand,” I tried to explain.  “I don’t think any problems are insurmountable.  I built this product line.  No way could you bring in somebody else who knows more than me about this stuff.  What I need is an assistant.  Somebody who can help me by taking care of the grunt work.”

I was arguing as if there was some way that my resistance would cause them to change their mind.

“That’s the thing,” Mike said.  “You shouldn’t be doing the grunt work.  A product manager doesn’t do that stuff – running around the factory, making samples.  The new Senior Product Manager can teach you how to say no.”

I felt my blood beginning to boil.  “Say no?” I said.  “You’re forgetting that my boss – the guy who hired me – is the guy making me run into the factory to make samples.  I’m going to say no to him?”

“He can’t make you do that anymore,” Mike said, as my boss smiled across the table.  “You’re in my department now.”

“I don’t get it,” I pleaded with my boss.  “Didn’t I do a good job?”

“You did a great job,” he said.  “But the structure of the cellular department needs to be more like the structure of the rest of the company.”

“Okay,” I said.  “So if I did a great job, and the structure needs to look like the rest of the company, make me the Senior Product Manager and hire someone under me?”

“You don’t have enough experience,” Mike said.  

My boss chimed in.  “You’re really more of a Junior Product Manager.”

I lost it.  “Junior Product Manager?!  Look at my business card – does it say Junior anywhere?  I earned this job.  Through my performance.  I’ve worked my ass off here, building this product line with you.  Now I’m a Junior Product Manager?  Now you’re demoting me?”

“This is not a demotion,” Mike said.  “You’re still the Product Manager.  We’re just bringing in somebody above you who can teach you how to be a better Product Manager.  Your job is going to be the exact same thing it is now.”

“No, it isn’t,” I said.  “I’m going to do all grunt work, and no high-level stuff.  I won’t be meeting with customers anymore.  I won’t be responsible for new product decisions.  I’ll be doing paperwork and analysis all day, just like the other product managers do.  I’ve been doing this stuff since I got here, and suddenly I’m not going to do it anymore.”

They were both quiet.

“Thanks for the help,” I said to my ex-boss, and got up and walked away.

~ by Al on July 10, 2009.

One Response to “pleasure island.”

  1. fuck The Man

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