Saturday, October 31, 2009

How sharper than a serpent`s tooth

posted Tue, 02 Nov 2004

Here is my dilemma. I have been given two free tickets to the Norah Jones concert in the new basketball arena.

The new arena into which I swore I would never set foot.

The $250 million basketball arena my city just built with my money. The one they built without asking me if I wanted a basketball arena. The one they built without a referendum.

The arena they built because we had to have it to get a major league basketball team here. We had to have the team so that big companies would move here to improve the quality of life for everyone. As if pro sports is the one thing that everyone cares about. As if the really bad schools here – still under federal mandate, I believe (i.e., forced crosstown bussing) – aren’t what keep big business away. As if bad schools and a poorly-educated workforce aren’t issues to any potential employer.

But I digress. I swore I would never set foot into this arena, which had its grand opening a few weeks ago.

It was not going to be hard for me to stick to my guns on this issue. I don’t care about pro sports. I don’t care about Square Bob Sponge Pants on Ice, or whatever that kids’ show is. If I want to hear live music, there is Harpo’s band or other excellent local bands. There is no reason for me to attend a concert in a basketball arena (which probably has lousy acoustics anyhow).

But then my boss was allotted two tickets to the Norah Jones concert. My company has a luxury box at the new arena. (Don’t even get me started on using shareholder money this way.) The company wants to use their Norah Jones tickets for employee recognition, which is very nice of them, and I am indeed flattered that my boss and his boss chose me from a team of about 15 persons to receive their allotment of tickets.

But I swore I would never set foot in the arena.

This morning, my boss bounded into my office. “I wanted to tell you before you got the email! They asked who should get the tickets for our team and we told them you! You’ve been doing such a great job and I thought you should get some recognition for it. I love Norah Jones! I wish I could go! Have you ever been in a luxury box at a sports arena? It’s really nice!”

I’m listening to him, thinking, Omigosh. After I read the email (which I did get before my boss arrived in my office), I had fully intended to decline the tickets. Not only am I not a big Norah Jones fan – she’s good, but it’s not like she’s Eric Clapton or Dire Straits – but the concert is on a work night. It won’t even start until 8:00 and that’s the warm-up band. Who knows when Norah will start? All this really means for me is a late night and a really crappy day the next day at work because I will be completely wiped out.

He continues to talk happily. “If Harpo can’t go with you, may I have the other ticket? I really like Norah Jones. I love her music. I’d really like to see the concert.” I wonder how I could graciously give him both tickets – “Take both, Boss – take your wife. Really. Make an evening of it.”

But he is so pleased that he has given me this gift. I don’t dare turn it down. I would be an ingrate. It would not be a good career move. It’s really easy to stand on principle when nothing is at stake.

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