Posted January 8th, 2011
I once mentioned to Bart, my hands-down favorite fellow coworker, that I am a rock star. I wasn’t kidding around; I was being serious. Being rooted in logic and reason, he of course went into immediate argument mode, disputing my claim with piles of tangible evidence that proves his contradiction to be sound. He was being literal and I understand that. No, as Bart pointed out, I am not a successful performer with millions of dollars nor am I a celebrated talent with legions of adoring fans. And no, I am not a heralded axe man with racks of Gibson Les Paul guitars piled in the back of my black and gold colored tour bus and I am certainly not a bestselling artist with racks of multiple Grammy awards piled in the trophy room of my rock star mansion.
Yes, I do work at a bike shop and yes I am lousy at playing guitar and even worse at playing bass. And it is true that, not counting my lovely wife, I have zero adoring fans. My rock star mansion may currently be a humble abode and my tour bus may be a blue and rust colored Subaru, but that doesn’t matter. I am still a rock star. I’m just not a real rock star.
Maybe Bart could wrap his head around the idea if I had said that I’m a different type of rock star. I am an unknown rock star, and I am not alone. There are two other unknown rock stars—Crash Davis and Bash Baker—who also work at the shop. And the three of us are in an unknown rock band.
Any retail junkie who has ever attended a sales seminar and lived to tell about it has probably sat through the “Be a Rock Star” motivational speech. The motivational speaker is referring to another type of a rock star, the sales floor chart topper if you like, who welcomes customers within 20 seconds or 20 feet from walking in the door, who tactfully suggests and successfully sells custom insoles with every footwear purchase, and who embraces boring tasks that everyone else avoids, like making a compelling display for inner tubes or Presta valve adapters. Every shop needs these types of rock stars, and we have them in our ranks, but this is not the kind of rock star that I claim to be. (Although if the boss asks, please tell him that I am that type, too).
Most of us who work at the shop have a lot in common and we do a lot of activities together outside of work. We ride bikes together and then we drink beers together. We ski mountains together and then we drink beers together. When we’re not playing in the great outdoors, we go to the Three Penny Taproom together and then we drink beers while complaining about being broke together. We are coworkers, but we are also good friends, which is one of the things that I appreciate most about my job.
And then there are a few of us, the unknown rock stars, who do something else, something a little different together, something that doesn’t involve exercise or high speeds or anything having to do with the products that we sell or the active, outdoor lifestyle we promote. Once a week, usually on Thursday nights, Crash and Bash and I set up in the basement of the bike shop and rock out together. Crash plays the drums, Bash sings and plays the guitar, and I play the bass, and we all drink beers. For a few hours, nothing else in the world matters. No, we don’t have a record deal. No, we don’t a gig lined up. No, we don’t have a name, but when we’re playing music in the basement of the bike shop and we turn up the volume of our amplifiers enough to drown out the boiler, and I manage to play a few correct notes in a row, there is a magical feeling that only rock stars like us get to experience. The feeling is so intense, that I would break into real rock star poses and throw my arm in the air and jump up and down if I wasn’t worried about knocking over Frank’s repair stand.
This magical feeling carries over to the next day and stays with us. This is important, because even though there is no other job we’d rather be doing, work at the shop can at times be challenging, like when a customer wants to return long underwear because after a day of snowshoeing, they weren’t breathable enough. It can be stressful, like when you realize that you have more high-end racing poles in stock than you can realistically sell in a year, or three years for that matter. And it can be monotonous, like when you check the time and it’s a half hour earlier than when you checked it a half hour ago. All these things can grind you down, but when you’re an unknown rock star, you can strike a power chord in your brain and the challenges, stress, and monotony of the daily grind become a bit easier to deal with.
To all the unknown rock stars out there, keep rocking and rolling. To all the sales floor chart toppers out there, keep selling and restocking. And to all the real rock stars out there, look out. As soon as I learn how to play better and we come up with a name, we’re coming after your Grammys.