Wednesday, February 22, 2017

My best birthday present

I celebrated a birthday a couple weeks ago (Oh, thanks, that's very sweet of you to say something. That's not the point of the post, but yeah, thanks, still.) I had a ton of people offer best wishes on Facebook, which is always nice. My favorite was this one, which showed up the day after;
"Happy Belated! I saw Graham about 3 weeks ago as we were saying that working at the Cinema was awesome because we genuinely liked everyone we worked with." - Sabrina Hamady
Some background: What now seems like about three lifetimes ago, I managed this little movie theater in Sarasota (seen above). I was hired because of my concessions background in sports while another guy was there to manage the projection booth. That didn't really work out and I ended up responsible for the whole operation fairly soon after the theater opened in 1993. We had three screens, with a total seating capacity of 346 people. We showed artsy, independent and foreign films and served fancy concession items like cappuccino and pastries along with the standard popcorn and soda, which really wasn't done in most movie theaters at the time. It was a small theater but we were always pretty busy, working long hours, so at times it could be a difficult job. Because of the exposure to culture, it should have been a rewarding and fulfilling experience for all involved, but it largely wasn't. That's because the owner of the place, Dick Morris, was the most miserable, temperamental and despotic person I ever had the misfortune of working for. He was the kind of sicko who got off on being hated and often went out of his way to make that happen. His only "friends" were people who had something to gain by kissing his ass or were afraid of him or both. Ultimately, I was neither which is how I eventually got fired (although, I guess a paycheck qualifies as something to be gained, albeit I'd argue that it was earned).
I mention all this for one reason: to justify my focused efforts to staff the place with good, intelligent, hard-working, creative, high-character people who could work together and maintain a pleasant disposition. Most of them were college kids from nearby schools, either the Ringling School of Art and Design or New College. I love surrounding myself with people like that so part of it was for my own comfort, but I sincerely wanted them to not only work as well as possible with each other but to actually enjoy the experience, so chemistry among the staff was always very important when I hired people. I rejected a lot of people who probably would have been okay movie theater employees for that reason.

Sabrina was one of those I did hire and it's extremely gratifying all these years later for her to take note of that. Sabrina went to Brown (Ivy League!) and is a very talented photographer. She referenced Graham Brice, who is now a musician with a wife and kids in Brooklyn. I haven't kept in touch with all of them, but of those I do keep tabs on, they're all doing well and seem happy. That's gratifying too. Not that a silly part-time job they had a long time ago or my role as their supervisor had anything at all to do with it, but it confirms my instincts about them as individuals when I hired them. I think so, anyway.

Anyway, that was nicer than a piece of cake.

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