(photo snapped at the Ottawa International Animation Festival by Fran Kraus)
When it comes to relationships in this biz I try to rely on my “spidey” sense, which is that little gut feeling that something is wrong. You can tell a lot about people based on how they follow through on a plan or how they handle themselves in a situation.
The first time I realized this I was working as a shift manager at a Pizza Hut when I was 17 years old. I had just come off three years working for McDonalds where I had worked up to the same position, so when I was hired at Pizza Hut they quickly bumped me up to the management position after a couple of weeks. They gave me a manager’s uniform, nametag, and made me the only manager on duty for most of my shifts. The woman who hired me, the head manager of the store, seemed very nice at first. Then, I noticed that the raise I was promised (that went along with my increased responsibilities) never materialized. Time dragged on but the head manager explained that the payroll situation was being resolved and promised there would be a retroactive check to account for the owed monies.
As much as I held out faith that I would be paid, the point of no return was three months later when my patience ran out. I was determined to have it out with her one day, but she was working up a step ladder, cleaning out an air filter with a rag. I asked her if we could discuss the money issue when she was done and she said, “No, we can talk about it now.” And, she proceeded to keep cleaning, never once looking back down at me while we talked about my missing raise. Plus, the discussion was in public. Any employee walking by could have heard us talking. The message in her attitude was so clear at this moment that it convinced me I was never getting the money that was owed me. I quit that day with no regrets.
Years later, when I began directing at Blue’s Clues, became president of ASIFA-East, and first started to build a reputation for myself in the larger industry beyond NYC, I attended the Ottawa International Animation Festival where a Hollywood bigwig took an interest in me and asked me to breakfast the next morning.
“I want to discuss your career and an opportunity for you,” he said.
The next morning we met at the agreed restaurant and as soon as we walked in, the Hollywood guy spotted a more important industry person than me and invited him to eat with us. Needless to say, the discussion about my career never took place and the supposed opportunity wasn’t brought up either. While that was disappointing, I was grateful that the Hollywood guy showed his colors so quickly. Here was someone I didn’t need to waste my time with.
I make a lot of mistakes, but I’m grateful for any moments of clarity where I had the sense to listen to my gut and avoid trouble or larger disappointments. I think everyone can better learn to listen to that inner voice that warns us to steer clear of some one or some thing. We're gonna get older either way, so we might as well also get wiser.