Last week, I heard that Ontario Place, a recreational park started in 1971, was closing. This saddens me because two eras of my life were closely linked to this attraction. I worked there for two summers while in university and visited every summer as our boys were growing up.
|1981 – I’m second from the right
I worked with 10 guys in the boutiques department, pricing and delivering merchandise to the stores on site. The warehouse was the first ‘man cave’ I had seen. It was located in the maintenance compound away from the public so we were free to talk, laugh, and play music all day long. The grounds included an open-air forum where musical acts played nightly. As a staff member, I got to see many diverse bands for free, including Blondie, The Spinners and Gato Barbieri. With 500 young people on staff, the parties were great, too.
One winter I also worked in the Cinesphere, which was the first permanent Imax theatre. My first paid public speaking job was welcoming people to the show and proclaiming the benefits of Imax technology – my first sales pitch. I remember the lights were so bright that I couldn’t see the audience.
Nostalgia for Ontario Place came early. In my late twenties my friend Dan, a fellow OP warehouse worker, and I planted a time capsule on site that we buried under a pine tree we bought for the occasion. It was our toast to a great place that sparked our great friendship.
|2004 – Charlie and Sam
As soon as our boys could walk we took them to Ontario Place. They loved the water park and rides just like the kids I saw while working there. I also smiled at staff members, knowing the fun summers they were having.
My most recent memory of Ontario Place was last week when I ran by the front entrance. It still looked great.
So what does this have to do with writing a book on change management? First, there is loss with change and you have to acknowledge it. Second, usually there are good reasons for making big organizational changes. Ontario Place has been operated with a 20 million dollar deficit for years and the provincial government could no longer justify the cost, which I support.Third, a picture of a better future is important to help people deal with their losses. A task force has been set up to look at options for the site. Without a clear picture of the future, the only thing known is the loss. This I do not support.
I told my son Sam that I was late writing this week’s post, and I had to stay up late to do it. He replied, “If you weren’t you, would you read your blog?” My first response was, “The personal ones, where I show a part of me.” Then I added, “Since I’m into change management, I would read all of them but only enjoy the personal ones.” Sam gave me a look that only a teenager can give: “Are you crazy?” or “What are you doing?” – more like “Are you crazy?” I decided to change my topic to something more interesting.
It was very cold on Sunday (-13 C/8.6 F) when I reluctantly headed out for a 20 mile run. The thought of running for 3.5 hours outside was not “interesting.” Once I got started my mood improved and it was fun waving at the sprinkling of fellow frozen runners along Lake Ontario.
As I passed the half-way mark my mind wandered. I thought wouldn’t it be great to find a wallet on the trail. Four minutes later, right before my eyes, was a huge wallet on the path. I couldn’t believe it. I picked it up and opened it. Everything looked in place: credit cards and I.D. were in their side slots, money and receipts were in the back compartment, and a picture of a loved one was behind the protective plastic cover. I looked around, saw no one, and put it in my pocket.
As I ran home I wondered who had lost it, how he had lost it, and what he was doing now? “Was there any foul play?” my over-active mind wondered. Once home I looked through the contents to find a phone number or email address by which I could contact him. I found an address but no other information. His number was not listed so I was stuck. Taking a closer look I found a yacht club membership. I called the club and eventually they got in touch with him.
That evening he came to our home to retrieve his wallet. We talked for a few minutes, which told me more about him than his wallet. Later on, I looked through my wallet and realized it was similar to his (except for the yacht club membership). It could have been anyone’s wallet.
This theme of identity and personal expression has been raised about my writing. My readers and editor have counselled that I need to create more of a personal narrative so that my book will be more reflective of me and be more interesting. I am now making edits. You never know where you will find inspiration – even a wallet or a perceptive question from my interesting son.