Earlier this month I found myself in $500 for Katy Perry tickets I never agreed to purchase and one of the most bizarre managerial situations of my career.
You might remember the Woodrow Wilson PTA recently went all out for the school’s Literacy Night, an evening dedicated to fun and the promotion of reading. The event also included a silent-auction component to raise funds for the school’s PTA.
My connection to Woodrow Wilson is I sometimes drive by it and my husband attended the elementary school about 35 years ago. My only knowledge of the Literacy Night was as an item on our news budget. Reporter David Dolmage wanted to attend as part of his coverage on the Newton school district.
As I was running errands that night, I received a text from Dave. He and school board member Robyn Friedman had apparently been discussing my participation in the silent auction. Thus began a long series of text from Dave in which he asked things like “You like Katy Perry, right?” and “$500 is OK right? They’re really good seats.”
I mostly rolled my eyes at the texts and told him to get back to work. Yet the barrage of Katy Perry texts would begin again early the next morning. This time he had perfectly timed backup via school board president Travis Padget.
“Wow! I just heard that you two were the big donors at the Woodrow PTA fundraiser last night. Makes me proud! Thank you for supporting our kids!”
I detected the text as a sham and told him as much, explaining I didn’t make such a purchase, and he’s totally the type of guy who would conspire to pull one over on me. Travis remained diligent, explaining Robyn had reported the donation to administration. Dave said he was going to avoid me and my wrath.
I began wondering about the reality of the tickets. Katy Perry is a great performer, and I knew she had an upcoming show in Des Moines. I hadn’t planned on attending, however, and in no way earmarked $500 for the show.
About this time my husband dropped by the office to bring me coffee because it’s the direct path to my heart. I explained the dilemma.
“I like Katy Perry,” he said. “Yeah I have one of her songs on my phone .. let’s see ... ‘Dark Horse’ featuring Juicy J — hey is Juicy J going to be there?”
He clearly wasn’t interested in forging a plan in which I tell Dave he can’t spend hundreds of dollars of our money.
This kind of thing isn’t detailed in our employee handbook. It’s just common courtesy, right? Don’t write your boss’s name in for a silent auction item because it’s a really bad idea. I grew concerned others would follow his lead and I’d be broke before noon. I set Dave’s punishment aside and refocused on getting to the bottom of this donation.
Dave made the claim that Robyn “said it was OK” and he figured I would “be happy to support the school district.” Robyn approving my donation was a weak link.
I sent her a message and asked: “What happened last night?” She launched into an explanation of the Literacy Night, how many people attended, how much was raised and what a great time it was. I had to be more direct.
“Robyn, am I in for $500 on Katy Perry tickets?”
There were words with my friend Travis and my evil reporter. Travis and I were able to talk it through and hug it out, just as Dave and I eventually did. I don’t usually hug reporters unless they are getting married, losing a loved one or totally blow my mind with their work. When I found out Dave is a self-described “Teddy Bear” and enjoys the opportunities when serious storytelling leads to a connection between two people and a hug, I could respect that. Putting this debacle to rest with a few laborious news assignments and a hug worked for me.
As for Katy Perry tickets, it doesn’t look like it’s in the stars for us. But if you find out Juicy J is performing as well, I might know someone interested in tickets.
Contact Abigail Pelzer at firstname.lastname@example.org