Monday, October 19, 2015

Medieval Manor closing? Foresooth.

One of the things that I LEAST enjoyed during my full-time working career was participating in sales kick-offs.

Oh, it might seem like that it would be fun enough to get a week away from the office – often in someplace nominally fun like Bermuda or Las Vegas – where your only responsibility is to listen to a bunch of presentations that you can mostly tune out, give a couple of presentations that the folks in the audience can mostly tune out, and chat up some sales guys about how wonderful your marketing programs and/or the products you support are. But, but, but…
There was so much god-awful stuff you had to put up with.

Like cowering in your room while a passel of drunken sales guys marauded around the hotel wrapped in sheets, with jockey shorts on their heads. (I guess if you’re drunk enough jockey shorts look like a laurel wreathe in the same way that a sheet looks like a toga.) Not that the marauding was scary. It was the standing ashtrays they were using as battering rams against the doors of those boring deadheads who didn’t want to join in the revelry.

Or watching as the drunken company president pulled a lobby palm tree out of its planter.

Well, I could go on with the drunken hijinks, but then there wouldn’t be room for the non-drunken, daytime idiocy.

Like the day when I had to sit through a presentation of one company VP in which he droned on about the company’s financial outlook, and quoted the Thomas Hobbes bit about life being “nasty, brutish, and short.” I have to give this guy props for avoiding the usual tone of sales kick-off presos: snooze-inducing anodyne pronouncements or giddy, insane forecasts that would do the chirpiest of cheerleaders proud.

While his forecast wasn’t all that wild, I once heard a divisional VP say that we would plow through the market with “all the momentum of an entrenched juggernaut.” (The friend I was sitting next to leaned over and asked, “just how much momentum does something that’s entrenched have?”)

Sometimes at sales kick-offs, you got to hear famous (or famous-y) people: Mia Hamm of soccer fame (fairly boring). Father Guido Sarducci (at least he was fun.) Scott McNealy of Sun Micorsystems (boy, he was obnoxious).

Anyway, my experience at sales kick-offs is that they were invariably nasty, brutish, and way too long.

Sometimes, fortunately, they didn’t involve getting on a plane and flying someplace that was supposed to be fun. Sometimes – in times of fiscal restraint – the kick-offs were purely local.

Thus, I got to spend one hideous evening at Medieval Manor in the company of my then-company’s sales force.

The theme at Medieval Manor is you’re at a banquet back in the day, so you drink mead out of goblets and eat chicken with your hands. And you listen to a troubadour in a velvet jerkin strum a lute, or a fair maiden in a velvet gown trill “Greensleeves.” And you pretend – or don’t – that the ribald jester’s jokes are funny.

Oh, and the “king” sits at the head of the table and, if you have to get up and use the restroom – all that mead – you’re supposed to beg the king for permission, and it’s a laugh riot if he doesn’t let you go right away. I will say that these guys can size up an individual pretty darned quickly, as I learned when the king was about to light into me. I shot him a look and he backed right off. Good move, Sire.

I’m sure some people go in for entertainment like this, but I’m not one of them.

But there have been enough of them to keep Boston’s Medieval Manor
open for 43 years.

Time is running out, however, and the last troubadour strum will take place on New Year’s Eve.

Other than the king being smart enough not to include me in the permission-to-go revelry, the other thing I remember most clearly about my night at the Medieval Manor was the impromptu performance of the head of sales training. Half way through our oh-so-fun evening, he grabbed a giant baguette off of a table, held it between his legs, and began running around wagging it in the face of all the women. (Ah, the things you could get away with/had to put up with 30 odd years ago.)

Did I say that I really hated sales kick-offs?

Hadn’t thought of them in a while, but the announcement that the Medieval Manor was closing got me thinking. (First thought: they’re still open?)


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