Man, you guys came up with some absolutely fabulous stories. I have been laughing my butt off reading them all, and I love every one! But Lauren was the closest to right. A dear friend of mine had an absolutely appalling February (I keep telling her March is bound to be better) that was riddled with illness, death and the emergency room, usually on someone’s birthday to boot. It got to the point that her stories were getting hard to believe, so I had to go up there to check and see if, in fact, Justin Timberlake had showed up to take her dancing, and that was why she was telling me these outlandish stories cancelling our plans to get together.
Sadly, Mr. Timberlake was not there when I arrived, and all of my friend’s stories were totally true. I had actually suspected as much, and this was why I jumped in the car to go make sure she wasn’t working herself to death teaching spinning classes just after leaving the hospital. I figured the odds were decent that she’d let me push her out of the way and take over her classes, and that ultimately, she might even forgive me for doing so, and so might her students.
I did, as is traditional, totally trash her shop. Perhaps someday she’ll forgive me for that too. After all, she is a kind and forgiving friend.
While I’m racking up the things for which I’ll need my pal’s forgiveness, I’ll add one more. See, here’s the thing. What a lot of folks don’t realize is that fiber businesses — all of them — are teeny, tiny microbusinesses. They’re usually a business owner, who wears all of the hats, and an assortment of part-time employees, many of whom are family and friends. Although there are a handful of larger operations in the fiber world, a really big operation might have a total of 20 employees. Dudes, I have waited tables at tiny restaurants with more employees (and bigger earnings and shorter hours for the owners).
Tiny businesses can be fragile things. They depend on one or two people whose lives are entirely consumed by the operation. You don’t get sick days; if you’re sick and can’t work, your business is shut down. Since you’re working round the clock to keep things going and make things grow, you’re usually doing lots of different things. A fiber shop owner has to handle all the standard stuff like customer service and sales, plus inventory, shipping, receiving, order management, product development, marketing, making decisions about what to carry or not carry, scheduling classes, teaching classes, planning and running events, advertising, human resources, taking care of the physical plant, being a janitor and maintenance person, keeping the books, if you can think of it (and probably if you can’t), it has to happen. It’s a helluva workload, and you have to manage all of it while making sure you’ve got an inviting place for folks to come and spend their time. It’s not for the faint of heart.
When you’re the one person constantly in charge of making all of that happen, and you have a bad day, or a day when you can’t work, it could spell disaster. Death in the family? Your only choice may well be to close the shop unexpectedly for a while, and leave, worrying the whole time not only about your bereavement but about what would happen if someone came to the shop for the first time, found it closed, got upset, and then made the rounds of the usual online scenes saying “Man, I went to that shop and it was closed even though the hours on the web site said it should have been open. What a ripoff. Nobody should go there.” As unlikely as that may sound, I have seen that happen. Or what if you have to cancel or reschedule classes? You know you have students who are counting on you being there and making things happen for them. You don’t have the choice to close, cancel, or reschedule.
So the one thing I could think of to do for my friend was to try to take a day or so worth of such worries off her shoulders — something that only a spinning teacher could do. And something she’d be happy to do for a friend who, if the tables were turned, would be the first person here to give me a bit of her time.
Here’s to March. February’s fired. For such a short month, it sure does seem to drag sometimes.