There’s Always Plan B

In high school and college, I had a lot of thought-provoking discussions about the future with my friends. We talked about where we were in our lives, where we were going, or how the path we were currently on didn’t really match up with where we wanted to be.

Frequently, these discussions ended up depressing us. We talked openly and honestly to one another about our plans for the future, and suddenly we experienced a daunting feeling of helplessness. As the conversation progressed we identified more and more obstacles blocking our path. What stressed us out even more was the amount of time that was required for overcoming these obstacles.

The conversations never accomplished much. We talked in circles often. We said a lot of things that everyone listening already knew. Ultimately, we arrived at the same, fairly obvious conclusion: Life ain’t easy. Once everyone had had their say, we’d sit in silence for a while — practically paralyzed by the overwhelming feelings of fear and uncertainty.

It was during these times that I lightened the mood with my signature one-liner: “Well, there’s always Plan B.”

Plan B: The “Backup Plan.” The thing to do when all else failed. The mere suggestion a hopeful alternative in a long, depressing conversation about the future sparked everyone’s interest:

“What’s Plan B?” they’d ask.

“I could be a bouncer,” I’d say — trying to keep a straight face.

They’d laugh. The idea of Shaun Boyd muscling troublemakers out of a club or bar was simply preposterous. I’ve never been in a fight in my life: I’m scrawny and non-confrontational. Consequently, I’m an absolute pushover. Anyone who knew me understood that my alleged “Plan B” was a ridiculous idea — which made it funny.

What’s even funnier is after years of using this line, always imagining it as an impossibility, I actually worked the door to a bar last night.

To clear up any possible misunderstandings, I’ll immediately say: No, this is not my new job. It was a one-time thing that just sort of happened.

The Scenario: Cassie and I were invited by our friend Sarah to a benefit concert. The charitable cause was “Gift of Life,” a Michigan-based organ and tissue donation program. Sarah recently lost her older brother Jason — a good guy and registered organ donor. When he passed, some of his organs were used to save the lives of others. Sarah arranged this concert and fund raiser to be held last night — on what would have been Jason’s 30th birthday.

We arrived early at Sarah’s request. She had been promoting the concert for over a month and was expecting a huge turnout. Consequently, she needed some help with all that needed to be done.

At the time, the bar was relatively tame. A few regulars were at the bar, chatting up the bartender. The first of the three bands was on-stage, setting up their equipment. The caterers were upstairs, setting up the buffet. We spotted Sarah speaking with someone (later identified as the bar owner) and made our presence known.

“What can we do?” Cassie asked.

Cassie was assigned to the merchandise/donation table. Sarah explained that her friend Xania, although not there yet, already claimed the duty of running the 50/50 raffle. She looked at me and asked “Hey Shaun, do you mind running the door?”

She gestured towards the “We I.D.” podium. It had been outfitted with a cash box and a homemade sign that read “$7 entry fee – All Proceeds go to the Gift of Life Michigan.”

I smiled. A chance to experience the impossible career path I had been joking about since high school had suddenly fallen into my lap. “Sure. I’ll run the door,” I said. Sarah led me over and quickly explained what I needed to do.

It seemed simple enough. Ask everyone that comes in if they’re here for the concert. If they are, then ask if they need tickets. If they already have tickets, let them through. If they need tickets, ask if they have tickets on hold or if they need to buy some. In the cases where someone is not here for the concert, explain that the $7 entry fee is for a fund raiser and invite them inside.

I familiarized myself with how the bills in the cash box were organized, pulled up a chair from a nearby table, and then proceeded to stare out the door while I waited for someone to come through it. While I was waiting, I went over the imaginary “flow chart” that had assembled in my mind and mentally rehearsed the questions I needed to ask.

“Are you here for the concert?” I finally asked an older couple.

“Yes, we’re Jay’s parents.”

Although I had been unprepared for this response, I reacted instinctually.

“I’m really sorry for your loss,” I said.

“Thank you,” the mother responded as they passed, “and thanks for your help tonight.”

The next group was a young couple who immediately drew out their driver’s licenses. When I asked if they were here for the concert they said “No.” When I explained that a fund raiser was going on and that it cost $7 to enter, they simply turned and left.

The first band kicked off the start of the concert, and for the next hour or more, everybody who entered the bar already had their tickets or had tickets on hold. Finally, someone arrived who answered “No” to my “here for the concert?” question, giving me an opportunity to try a different approach:

“Tonight we’re having a fund raiser for Gift of Life, an organ donation program here in Michigan. We’ve got three bands playing, and there’s food being catered upstairs. The food and entertainment is free — but we’re asking for a minimum donation of $7 from everyone here tonight.”

The man nodded, pulled out his wallet, handed me a $10 bill, and said “Keep the change.” I said thank you as I handed him his ticket and directed him towards the information table and encouraged him to help himself to the food upstairs.

Of course, not everyone was as generous as this man. I had one of the bar’s regulars try and slip past me, and when I stopped him, he got a bit loud: “I’m a regular here!” he shouted over the music. “Get Jackie, she’ll vouch for me!” I didn’t even know who Jackie was so I just let him by.

As the night went on the amount of people coming in slowed down. The caterers brought me a plate of food and for the most part, I just sat and people-watched while the bands played their sets. When the 50/50 drawing happened at midnight, the person who won was kind enough to donate their half to the cause.

When the concert was over and everyone had gone home, we pooled our totals from the different tables. The combined amount from the door, the donations/merchandise table, and the raffle totaled nearly $1600. It felt good to participate in a fund raiser for a good cause, and those who were left gave Sarah a round of applause for putting the whole thing together.

During the drive home, I thought about what an unusual role I took on in order to help out. Of course, I wasn’t a “bouncer” by definition — but I believe working the door to a bar is the next closest thing. It felt so surreal was because I was doing something that I had long considered impossible. I never expected I would find myself in a position to even attempt such a thing under normal circumstances, and yet there I was. The chance presented itself to me, and I gave it a go despite my lack of experience.

Have you ever done something that was so “out of character” you felt surprised that you did it?

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One Response to “There’s Always Plan B”

#1 Bridget on 01, Mar, 2008 at 12:19 pm

What a timely post! I too have taken on a fundraising effort this year for a 60km marathon to raise funds for Breast cancer research here in Alberta, and the part of your post that stood out to me the most was where you changed your approach talking about the fundraising event and people started giving donations rather than walking away! That’s a very powerful thing! Having a Plan B is a really valuable thing that can keep you going. Like it’s said: if you’ve tried something a thousand times in efforts to be successful, you haven’t failed, you’ve only discovered a thousand ways that didn’t work this time around! Be bold and try new and creative things! Thanx for the reminder!

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