Working in downtown revitalization is never boring. It’s challenging, frustrating,and exhilarating. It is my passion. It’s in my blood. I don’t know why. This is an “accidental” career. It wasn’t in my plans. It’s not what I ever thought I would be doing with my life, but it is my blessing. I have driven down the street and felt my chest fill up and my eyes begin to tear as I look at the changes that have occurred in the course of the short four years that I have been working in this area. I feel like a proud parent with each success. On the other hand, if a business fails or struggles, if there is a negative news article or a complaint about anything, I take it personally. Working in downtown revitalization often feels like being in love with an aloof, elusive lover. As much as I love my downtown, the bricks and mortar don’t give back. They stand firm and unmoving, always needing a little more love. No wonder there’s a very high rate of burnout and job turnover in my line of work.
Working with dozens of unique small business owners is always challenging. Listening to their individual needs, wants, and concerns, and then attempting to get them to all work together is often a monumental task. This past weekend, we held a major downtown event. It was our third year for this event, and each year we have grown and added new activities and promotions. What started out with two businesses coincidentally holding pre-holiday open houses has grown to dozens of business participating in a joint promotion. This event is our shining-star success story. It has become the largest downtown tax revenue generating weekend of the year. Yes, even larger than Black Friday.
The best thing about this event is the cooperation between the bars and restaurants and the retail establishments. We capture the retail trade early in the evening and then send them on their way to the food establishments. From the first year, we incorporated jazz music as a way to draw people through the doors of retail establishments. I called on friends in the local music community to help me out that first year, and now we have musicians clamoring for the available spots. The coolest thing is that you’ll find live music in unlikely locations. This year we organized over a dozen jazz combos to play in our retail locations.
Last week was incredibly busy as we prepared for the Friday night event. It was definitely a juggling act to organize all of the last-minute details. By 5:00 p.m. on Friday, things were in motion. As I walked from place to place taking pictures, I felt such pride and a sense of accomplishment. The stores were packed. People were smiling. People were BUYING. The business owners told me that they had been busy all day. This year, the two-hour evening open houses had grown to an all day celebration.
When I finally met up with staff and volunteers for a cocktail, I was satisfied that we’d had another successful year. To make things even better, I received a text from a friend who lives in my town. “We’re down here and this is great! Where are you?” I told her to come on over and join us. We all had a great time sampling martinis and had a fantastic dinner. Another year was under my belt, and the event had been a success.
Yesterday, like most mornings, I woke up, stretched, and reached for my phone. First I checked my emails. Nothing good. I checked Facebook. Nothing unusual. Then I checked my work emails. My office phone sends my voice mail to my email account when I am out of the office. This may be another reason for me to hate technology. There were several voice mail files in my inbox. I listened to them. They were mostly questions about the Saturday open houses, and I returned each call. (Do people think I LIVE in my office?) The last message I listened to had been sent at 12:37 a.m. I was curious about what that would be about. Who would leave a message at that time of day?
My heart sank as I listened. The person didn’t leave her name, but started in by telling me that I needed to “Get my act together.” She complained that the newspaper had said that the event began at 5:30, but she had been in an establishment that had begun serving hors d’oeuvres and wine at 4:00. Which was it? Couldn’t I even get my times straight? I needed to get my act together! She went on to tell me that the whole event was a letdown. Her town, a neighboring community, would have done a much better job. “Get your act together!” I was still laying in bed. I woke up thinking the event had been a success, and all it took was this one nasty woman’s phone call, and I felt like a failure.
Who does things like that? What is wrong with people? Who feels the need to lash out like that anonymously, to someone who has worked hard and actually cares about what they are doing, at someone who they don’t even know? That phone call ate at me all day. That phone call ruined my weekend.
The woman may not have left her name, but the file that came through to my inbox identified her phone number. I looked it up, so now I have her name. 🙂 Thankfully, it is not someone I know. There doesn’t appear to be a personal agenda. She is simply a really horrible, bitchy person. Yes, I know that I should let the matter go, but I can’t. Her words stung, and I am tired of stinging. I’m tired of mean people, and I’m tired of being treated as if I don’t have feelings by mean people. It has happened all too often this past year.
Once again…I am tired of mean people. I’m tired of people getting away with abominable behavior when they think no one is looking, when they think no one will find out, or call them on it. Yet again, I find the need to hold up a mirror for someone to see the reflection of their own bad behavior. I am tired of being a doormat.
On Monday, this lovely lady is going to be getting a call from me. If she has a complaint, I will be happy to calmly listen to what she has to say. This time, she isn’t going to get away with the safety of anonymously calling my office in the middle of the night. I will call her by name, and I will tell her my name in return. I will put a human face on the other end of that phone and that complaint.
I am taking off the KICK ME sign.