Thoughts by Richard Bleil
At the drive-in theater where I (happily) work, there’s a little spot near the bathroom that always has a pile of bird excrement. It’s on a smooth concrete and is very difficult (and disgusting) to get rid of with a mop or broom. So, I thought to myself, we need a scraper of some kind.
I really don’t want to kneel (especially with my bad knees) to try to scrape it up, and it seems that, since the concrete is smooth rather than textured, a scraper would cause no damage (and the concrete won’t damage the scraper). On a trip to my favorite building supply store to get what I need to repair this portion of the wall in my house, I looked for a scraper and found one that would work. So, I grabbed it, and brought it with me the next time I went to the theater. And it worked like a charm.
When I pointed out that I had purchased it for the theater, my boss asked me how much he owes me for it. “Nothing,” I said. “I don’t expect you to pay for this kind of thing,” he replied. “It’s fine,” I said, “this is my drive-in.”
He didn’t really respond to that (no, didn’t seem concerned about it either). I was surprised, honestly, that he didn’t ask me to elaborate, but I will here.
When I taught chemistry had had student workers helping me with the lab, my favorite assistants were the ones who took ownership. They thought of the lab, the stockroom and equipment as their own. Yes, they did what I had asked them to do, but ownership gave them a sense of pride and encouraged them to work harder. If they saw something that they thought could be cleaned, improved, re-organized or what have you, they took the initiative to do it, and never did any of them do anything that I thought didn’t work. When they pointed out what they had done, it always did seem to be for the better.
My bosses, Jeff and Jen, built the drive-in. They run it, they are in charge, they profit from it, and it is theirs in every sense of the word. But I have taken ownership as well. I’m proud to be working there, I’m proud to keep it clean at the end of my shift, I’m proud to do what I can to help things move smoothly to the best of my ability. Jeff never suggested this scraper, and never asked me to buy it so, by all rights, he owes me nothing for it. It was my brainstorm, and my initiative, and if he didn’t want me to use it, then it would be his right to tell me he didn’t want it there. Otherwise, I’m happy to have come up with the idea, and to supply the scraper. It’s just my contribution.
At the end of my shift, usually approaching midnight when I am tired and ready to leave, it is my responsibility to clean the men’s room. Let’s face it, men are disgusting, but, interestingly enough, the sinks never need cleaning which is kind of revolting in its own right. But the curious thing about taking ownership myself is that it helps even with this chore. Let’s be real about this; I’m a man, and as such I am not very good at cleaning. If Jeff and Jen saw my bathrooms, they would simply throw up, and leave without saying a word, but in the drive-in men’s room, I take a certain pride in cleaning, and this pride helps me to complete this distasteful task more quickly and easily than without. The first thing I usually do is wipe off and dry the faucets because it is so quick and easy, and the result is simply beautiful with the gleaming chrome. It’s a very fast and satisfying victory, and is in itself an encouragement to continue on to the rest of the bathroom.
And it’s all because of ownership. It’s simply a mindset that, yes, this is my drive-in as well. The bathrooms, the way people feel when they leave my ticket booth is a reflection on my theater, and myself. Interestingly, I frequently get questions, as I work at the ticket booth or cleaning the men’s room, if I am the owner. I guess it’s my charming ways. And on occasion, Jeff does tell me of somebody who had something nice to say about me, as bizarre as that may be. I certainly didn’t get so many compliments when I taught!