Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Elusive Superstar

Many workplaces have their employees of the week, month and year. At Six Flags Over Mid-America we have Service Superstars, those who perform at the proverbial mark way above the level. But in many ways, just like in many other workplaces, it's just another popularity contest cloaked as an incentive to work harder.

I learn the truth after a few weeks. And an incident in May 1991 further convinces me, just as I'm beginning my second summer in the Games section.

It starts after I get a coin box key meant for Skee-Ball accidentally stuck in a basketball-toss machine while trying to give a guest a free play for a lost coin. I get some guff about it, which I expect, but what gets me is the attitude of a supervisor, promoted to that rank out of foreperson: "Well, no Service Superstar for you."

He's probably playing with me. He probably knows I'm thinking about it because he's just asked me a few minutes earlier whether I got one last year. He and another sup were trying to figure it out, since the slate starts clean every season. Or maybe that's what they want me to believe. I can't trust anybody anymore. Nonetheless, I buy into the hunch that I might be getting it. Boy, am I young and gullible.

Yet in all this, the ironic twist is that the act was committed in the name of serving the guest. The guest had accidentally put his money into a machine that had no ball -- and was not marked "Out Of Order," either. I tried to fix the problem by giving him a free play. Yes, a key got stuck, but not out of malice. The Skee-Ball key works on the crane machine and Boom Ball, so maybe it should work on the hoops game too. One can't fault my logic.

And then come times when I want to help the guest, but regulations throw up a block. Many times a guest will win a stuffed animal but want it in a different color that what we have in stock behind the stand. They'll see the color they want with the numerous animals tacked up on the wall (known as "flash" in Six-Flags-speak), but I can't get it down for them. I need a foreperson's permission to do that because first, it will leave a gap they have to fill again with more plush. Second, they have to recount the plush on the wall again if you take something down, which they don't like to do. Third, much of the plush is dirty, dusty and deformed due to hanging on the wall for an extended period of time.

Guests don't buy this logic, and they shouldn't. You're there to serve them, not make excuses why you can't. Still, I have to explain all of this to them, because often a foreperson isn't around, and they often don't give permission to raid the wall.

"It's something you and I both have to live with," I tell one guest. Sometimes I can appease them by letting them trade in a big stuffed animal for several smaller ones, something I can do without anybody's permission.

I would never earn Service Superstar through four summers of Six Flags. No special luncheon. No letter of praise from the bosses. No gold engraved nametag.

If only I had a relationship with GOD during those years. I would've remembered Hebrews 6:10: "GOD is not unjust; HE will not forget your work and the love you have shown HIM as you have helped HIS people and continue to help them."

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