When I was growing up in a small farming community in the west of Ireland there weren’t many options for a teenager on a Saturday night. The nearest town was five miles away, and all too often a Saturday night meant a trip to its only night club, Cleo’s. One of those fine night venues of the 1980’s where, on a summer’s night the sweat actually condensed on the ceiling and fell in drops on the unsuspecting patron. It was a place where violence was not unknown, as local lore would have it “Cleo’s night spot where court cases begin”.
To minimise the violence the owner employed a team of “bouncers”. Large men in suits whose job was to get hold of any violent miscreants and get them out of the premises and clear of the area. Not quite the Barbary Coast but it was tough nonetheless.
Back then I wondered what would make a man, for the bouncers were all men, want to stand around a sweaty nightclub, or out the cold waiting for trouble. There is no doubt there were some of the bouncers who relished the opportunity to give a misbehaving patron a few sly digs on their way to the exit. However, there were others who were visibly uncomfortable with the job. One, we’ll call him Mike, was friendly with the patrons and appeared to be a pleasant and capable person. I remember feeling sick to my stomach when I heard that a group of characters from the nearest city had lured him outside the club one night, into an alleyway, and left him lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood. Revenge no doubt for one of their number being thrown out at some point.
Who would chose such a life? While some might relish “working the door”, men such as Mike clearly did not. Were there no other options open to him? Once down that career road it would seem harder to get back to a path a person would find more attractive. Clearly Mike was not on a path of his choosing. Where had the breaking point come? Had he ever given thought to where he wanted to be in career terms? Had he ever known where he wanted to get to? Had circumstances gone against him. Had he made some inadvisable choices? Whatever the reason, he was clearly now on a path that he would not have chosen and which was not making him happy. Whilst “happenstance” plays a part in career outcomes, if you have no plan you will surely end up somewhere else, which may be more or less desirable to you.