photo by Cassandra Mohr
As a gondola operator, I am a unique kind of business owner.
Like so many small business proprietors, I'm "head chef and bottle washer".
I don't have to worry about being fired, because...I'm the boss...or am I?
I do own the company, so I don't have to worry about some pompous guy
in a suit who signs my checks telling me to clean out my desk.
I don't have a board of directors to worry about.
There are no big investors who can decide one day that I'm doing this or that in the wrong way.
Sure, you can insert your best "my wife is the real boss" wisecrack here
(and it would be pretty spot-on in my case).
But at the end of the day, I have some great gondoliers and staff who I feel honored to have in my employ.
In following the chain of command, it may seem that I reside at the top,
but that would be a hasty determination.
You see, I DO have a boss.
From the first time I stepped on the back of a crescent-shaped boat,
I've always worked for someone.
The boss is the client.
For one hour, for one voyage,
I work for the person in my boat who booked the cruise.
In fact, when you look at it this way, in my twenty-plus years I've had thousands of one-hour bosses.
There are benefits and drawbacks to such an arrangement.
If I love my boss, I'm sad to see them go,
and hope they'll come back again some time.
If the boss is, well, not so wonderful,
I only have to deal with them for an hour.
Unlike the traditional structure,
I don't have a consistent boss - one who I can learn patterns from.
In fact I don't know what to expect with most cruises.
This makes the job an excellent training field for reading people.
Sometimes the boss is a middle-aged executive who wants his wife to have a memorable birthday. Other times my boss is a young guy with an engagement ring that's burning a hole in his pocket.
My boss may be a wife wanting to surprise her husband for their anniversary.
An NBA starter, newlyweds from out of town, an old woman and her grandchildren hoping to feed the ducks.
The list goes on and on.
Of course the payment arrangement is a bit different.
Yes, I do get a standard amount for the cruise, but my boss also tips.
I can tell how much my boss appreciates my work, based on his tip.
Of course I might also make some evaluations of my own about the boss,
based on how he tips.
At the end of the day, no matter who the boss is, I love my job.
Even if the boss is a complete jackass, I'd still rather work for him if the job only lasts an hour, and if it means that I get to row my gondola.