As I fell into a Nyquil induced sleep, there wouldn’t be any need for counting sheep. Needless to say I feel a little better. My sweet slumber took me away to a place where things used to make sense, and I felt safe. I saw old friends, completed unfinished business, and looked into the future. If you were a fan of the Soprano’s, this is when Tony would awaken with the answers needed to guide his business. For me, it was a trip back to finding my way. For what it’s worth with my psychology background, this is usually a dream that brings about change and the need to find yourself.
I’ve never hidden the fact I was a parking lot kid. I was young, and it was one of the best starting points to deal with the public. Think about it, you were the first person patrons would come into contact. If it was positive, you might make a few bucks in tips and begin the process of customer service. I learned quite a bit standing in the blistering heat, and frigid cold. Players would pull up and we would direct them to park in the lot, send them to valet, or hustle up and find a curbside spot to make some money. When I first started we used to send more to valet, but that ended quickly when I watched the guys break up big money each night. This taught me to be friendly, helpful, and always have about 20 of the best spots in the house. Funny thing, I used to be one of the greatest guys in the world when I used to send gift-wrapped cars to valet, now I’m pulling an attitude acting like a jerk. I didn’t feel any different, I guess it must be in their noggin not mine.
But when I asked the track crew clear away 30 yards of gravelly mud, in a blink of an eye we had a small lot perfectly suited for 20 or so cars to park close to the doors. For a case of beer every summer, they would clear the lot and bring me signage. That case turned into a barrel, and during the slow months of summer they would take care of us. I learned two lessons. He who goes the extra mile gets the honey, and it’s better to please yourself than bust your ass trying to keep others in the dough. I was once asked directly by a valet guy why I changed. “You know, if we would have worked together, and you would have cut me in on the cash nothing would have changed. But not the case. You felt it was all yours, and when I sprung the idea on my boss he loved it. – He didn’t care as long as their were no complaints, as all he wanted to do was play the races. This was my first lesson. “Work with others if at all possible, but if they’re not willing to share in the process. Take care of yourself.”
I came back and was promoted to parking manager. Most would have kept up and escalated the money process. But, for me this was not my plan. I brought the groups together to share the monies every night. The patrons were extremely happy and harmony replaced the ill feelings. The entire group worked together so well I was promoted to work inside in the admissions department. I had double duty, but this was no worry for a college kid. It seemed my efforts had caught the attention of the upper management. I just showed up, worked hard, and treated everyone fair. Always a mantra watching my Dad paint houses on the side. He was a helluva’ painter, but never charged top dollar. He enjoyed painting for older folks who could use the break, and it was good therapy. “Treat others fairly and give them your best.” It was about this time I was making my next jump up the ladder. There were plenty who were in my corner, and there were some who held grudges. No worries, it will all work out in the end. I can’t control how others feel, I can only control my attitude and thoughts.
My next jump was unexpected. I volunteered to work a closing shift so a manager could go out with his wife. I didn’t care, it was easy work and I enjoyed playing the races and talking with the people. I was summoned to the president’s office and was asked if I had the skills for a newly created job. It entailed handicapping, educate the public about racing, and handling the on-air TV duties and a radio show. I guess you could say I couldn’t have painted a better picture. I was given a huge office, dressed in coat and tie, and became one of the main voices for the track. I had just gotten married and my life was taking off. The boss asked that I tell no others, and the job would begin in two weeks. “Just report to your new office on that day, and I’ll put out a press release.” Talk about the perfect job! If I lived to be a 100-years-old, I couldn’t ask for better. Over time, I was included in bigger meetings, and started travelling to Las Vegas for direction from the “mother ship.” Life was so sweet I could taste it. We had a huge customer service meeting in one of the big wigs office in Vegas.
He had his feet on his desk and looked very comfy. Our staff from the top down started talking about how we were unprepared and our product was poor. We should be ashamed of what we were doing, and we bow to the throne for advice from the prophets. The man didn’t budge, and his same comfy look was all over his body. He sat up and crossed his arms and looked over the room of four. “So, it’s all crap, huh? You want to fix your broken ship?” He went around the room one-by one, and each nodded and reiterated with a small quip of how bad we were. I watched each manager do the same, and it came to me. Did I want to follow suit? Were these my feelings? If I didn’t agree, it would be a long three days, and there would be hell when we got home. So what’s a man to do? I’ve always liked gambling, and I was about to make my biggest bet to date. I was about to bet on myself. “I disagree. We’re not crap, and what were doing is not all wrong. If that were the case, we wouldn’t be sitting here looking to the future. We just need direction how to take our game to the next level and better serve patrons.” You could have heard a pin drop, and our president looked over his shoulder with glance that could kill. I thought I was done right there, and all my hard work was through. But what a run it has been.
About that time he stood up from his comfy desk and asked, “How long have you been with the track? Where did you start?” I thought I was dead, but answered, “I started in the parking lot as a young man.” – ” Hell, I started as a stick man at the craps table in college!” – The air seemed to drop ten degrees as his smiling face looked at me and asked “where do you want to take it?”
My boss was laughing and said, “Eddie ran parking, and about three other jobs at once. He is our go-to-man.” – “Ed, how do you want to reward the players? Your call, and don’t hold back.” I replied, “How about bringing our best 100 players to Vegas? Let’s bring out tracked and proven players, and turn them into patrons at your properties. We’re just starting, and this should get the ball rolling quickly.” “Perfect, here is my card, and my assistant will line up the plane and accommodations. You take care of your end, and we’ll get this party started. How about lunch gang?” As we walked down to the posh private room, my boss looked over at me and whispered, ” That could have went south, and was one hell of a gamble. Great job, Eddie.”
We ate, and they were whisked away to number crunching meetings. I was invited downtown to meet with their biggest hosts talking about how to reel in the big whales. For the many times I’ve been to Vegas, that was my biggest winning day. That night we were on the 52nd floor of a hot night club having dinner. All four of us were drinking from a 5 gallon smoking drink with three foot long straws. It felt a long way from the parking lot, but it was the basic philosophy I used that garnered us respect instead of pity. My boss was a man possessed eloquent speaking skills and uttered a line that would have fit into any mafia movie. “Here is to the future, kids. This is just the beginning, and the sky is the limit.” As I sipped my three foot straw, I thought back to the parking lot. Treating others fairly, not worrying about the naysayers, and every once in a awhile take a calculated shot at the brass ring. We were all happy and the future looked bright, and for a long time it was. Over time, competition and falling revenue knocked our rising star out of the sky. Nothing lasts forever, and even the Mona Lisa is falling apart. Don’t worry about getting there or you’ll forget to enjoy the journey. Treating people right never goes out of style, and once in awhile take a shot. No matter the outcome, you’ll be glad you were there.