Kingdome Profundus by Alvin Gregory
The transition from Summer to Autumn brings us all back to, you guessed it … Football. Football. Football. It's everywhere … Pee Wee football, junior high football, high school football, college football, pro football, Canadian football (go Lions), fantasy football, video football. Yikes! Enough already.
But for me, I get immersed in sentimental warmth when thinking back on the days I was employed to sell programs and souvenirs at Seattle's iconic Kingdome. Yes, I was much younger but then … so was the 'dome and the team it housed. I was hired by the contractor that provided concessions for all Seahawks home games. As such, I was required to report two hours prior to kick off. What a scene! Had I not been required to show up so early, I would have never experienced what amounted to quite a show.
People everywhere … some just milling around soaking up the pregame excitement, some hopping from bar to bar, horns honking as parking space availability began to diminish, and some contributing to the ambiance. On every corner a political pitch or religious rant, a guy in a chair blasting away on a tuba, street performers juggling and entertaining groups of laughing and cheering fans … and everywhere the delicious smells of hot dogs (cream cheese, really?), popcorn, pretzels … you name it. The place was rocking with excitement.
Upon reporting to an office, I was introduced to, what became my mentor, Francis 'Yogi' Bear. Yogi was, with all due respect, quite a bit older and larger than I was. He was a veteran of the souvenir business and was introduced as the lead of a three-person team (another 'rookie' comprised our team). Right away, I knew the experience would be as much fun as it was interesting. Yogi had us laughing from genesis on … serious business made fun. Most importantly, I instantly felt his encouragement and support.
Upon receiving our bank (starting funds used to make change), we pushed a cart loaded with all sorts of goodies to our second level location. Yogi explained that the first and third level locations were manic crazy due to the sheer volume of fans located therein. However, our second level location was ideal due to the fact that it housed season ticket holders who took a more casual approach to souvenir shopping.
Following an amazing crash course on 'flashing' merchandise to maximize sales, Yogi announced that it was time for the rookies to head to our assigned entrances to sell programs to fans coming into the game. Both of us were given a box of programs and a compartmentalized apron intended to hold and segregate cash and coins of various denominations. Yogi suggested we stand back to back, boxes between our legs, bills faced and always in the same order (ones backed by fives) and always place anything over five in an apron pocket for quick retrieval.
It was amazing … the fans came in droves and I have never had to think and work as fast since. Those programs were gone in no time.
Upon our return to the souvenir stand, Yogi congratulated us on our fine work by giving us more programs and sending us out into the stands to sell! sell! sell! Yes, we walked all over the place hawking our product … alongside of such notables as the iconic Bill the Beer Man and the guy tossing peanuts to anyone brave enough to indicate a need. What a scene … who cares about the game in progress … the real show was in the stands.
Upon return, Yogi showed us some presentation and sales techniques too secret to share, but all the time making a friend out of every customer that stopped by (the real secret I came to realize).
Five minutes before the end of the game, Yogi told us it was time for the 'blow out'. We two rookies were again given any and all programs that hadn't been sold and dispatched to our assigned gate. I'm thinking we are being 'played' by Yogi because who's going to buy a program for a game that is history! I couldn't believe it … those programs sold at a furious pace (illustrating what I knew).
We returned to a very pleased Yogi Bear who announced that we would be welcomed back as a permanent member of his team. We passed the test and were no longer rookies … we were members of the exclusive Yogi team.
Sadly, Yogi is not with us anymore, but what he taught me figured hugely in my transition and approach to interpersonal relations for the rest of my life.