In which Memory Lane turns out to be Brookline Avenue

Posted on: July 11, 2015

An interesting thing is that I tend to wake up earlier in the summer. Actually, that’s false on two counts: it’s not at all interesting, and I wake up early year-round, due to Oola’s solid understanding of breakfast-time that does not alter with the seasons. Although it does, somehow, take into account daylight savings time. But in summer, with the sun already being up and the apartment already being warm, I will *not* go back to sleep after feeding the kitten but instead get going on my day. And while it might make sense that this earlier start would lead to arriving earlier to work, what I instead do with that extra time is extend my commute. So that I get to work at the same time, but it takes much longer to get there.

I did briefly attempt to use the extra time to get myself a fancy coffee drink with the intention of sitting in the fancy coffee place and enjoying, but it turns out the early morning baristas are a slow moving bunch and any extra time I thought I’d had was whittled away as I waited in line. Instead of subjecting myself to such frustration early in the morning, I instead use the extra time to incorporate more walking into my day, but without having to call it exercise, which I would never do.

And so it was that, on Tuesday morning, I found myself at 6:45am on Newbury Street with a particular place to be but in no hurry to get there, and I thought to myself “Self, why don’t we check out the old work neighborhood?” Which, as is once again the case, is distressingly close to my new work neighborhood. I’d seen in passing that there have been a lot of changes on Brookline Avenue since last I passed that way, and actually walking down the street I experienced up close how many of the things I used to see every day gone. For one thing, the storefront with the green awning that stood empty for the entire 9 years I walked down that street is gone altogether, having been replaced either by something completely unmemorable or a Crossfit gym which, now that I’ve seen two of them, I guess are supposed to look like the unfinished and never-used home gym in your neighbor’s garage, circa 1987.

More notably, the office I worked in – on 3 different floors – has been extensively renovated, or at least it appears to be from the sidewalk; even in passing it no longer resembles its humble beginnings as a renovated parking garage. It was too early in the day for anyone to be entering or exiting the building, unless it’s maybe staffed entirely by Oompa-Loompas held captive by a new corporate overlord; either way, it looks like the sort of place where work could be done, rather than a temporary holding cell for aimlessly malevolent chaos.

The view across the street has changed considerably too. Gone is the entire building that housed a rotating selection of failed restaurants, replaced by something unmemorable or perhaps another Crossfit. The restaurants themselves were entirely unmemorable too, all except one: B.B. Wolf, which was not memorable because of the quality of the food – as a barbecue joint it was inhospitable to the vegetarians in our lunch crowd. We seldom ate there, but it did play host to a manager’s meeting where we discussed the planned upgrade to Windows NT, a meeting memorable not for its location but because it was at this meeting a tall and handsome colleague asked me what NT stood for; I wasn’t sure but supposed it could be New Technology. We agreed that made sense, even if we couldn’t quite figure out why either of us was invited to the meeting. Although it is interesting (but again, not really) to think I was with a single company from whatever preceded NT to whatever preceded Vista. And I am glad I wasn’t there for the Vista upgrade, if there was one, because if there was, I am certain it didn’t go smoothly.

Anyway. While handsomeness and the ephemeral of necessity of new technologies are always fun to think about, what makes B.B. Wolf truly memorable is an equally trivial but slightly more explosive staff interaction when the thoughts of the Admin Team, which I supervised, turned to the mystery of what B.B. Wolf might stand for.

This was an afternoon conversation, quite likely on a Friday, but definitely at the point where people begin to realize there’s more time left in the work day than they can possibly fill on their own. It may be hard to imagine such a thing now, but remember: this was in the time of Windows NT; not even Friendster had come along yet, meaning the only people you had to pass the time with during the day were those in your immediate vicinity. Unless you wanted to use the phone. Which could only make calls. And would have been corded, so you wouldn’t even have the privacy to talk with your friends about how much you didn’t want to talk to your coworkers.

So it was in these dark times that someone chanced to glance across the street and wonder aloud what the B.B. might stand for. I momentarily shared their wonder; as far as I recall, the minds behind B.B. Wolf never actually elaborated on what the double-b might mean anywhere on their menues, and while they’d probably use their website to explain the whole history of the name today (some places do just go on and ON), if they’d had a website back in the days of NT, they probably would have been some sort of short-lived yet brazen start-up instead of a short-lived barbecue restaurant of indeterminate brazenosity.

As I wondered, I recalled noticing a theme the few times I’d looked over their menu: pigs. 3 of them. Living in houses. Maybe under a constant threat of being blown down? Thus, I concluded, the B.B. must stand for Big Bad.

I did not immediately share this with my coworkers. As manager, you want to allow staff a certain amount of room to resolve issues on their own. Also, it’s important to recognize that a conversation happening in your presence is not necessarily an invitation to join in; this was their investigation, and, as manager, I didn’t want to cut it short. Particularly since the answer was so easy, the solution would be reached soon enough.

But it wasn’t. I do not remember every possible permutation they came up with for B.B., which is no doubt for the best, but I do remember they eventually settled on Bar Be. Like Bar Be Cue, but with a wolf. That makes sense, right?

It doesn’t. I mean, it’s not a completely terrible idea, by which I of course mean that I myself had briefly considered that B.B. was some kind of play on BarBecue, and had even gone so far as to fleetingly consider Bar-be-wolf might be it. Until I realized that, even for a startup, Bar-be-wolf makes no sense at all, and moved on to other possibilities before finally settling on what was undoubtedly the right answer because I turned out to be right about the NT thing.

The Admin Team, though, wasn’t moving on. Once Bar-Be-Wolf came up, they stopped considering other possibilities in favor of discussing among themselves how that had to be correct. In the surest sign they considered the matter resolved, they made motions toward getting back to work.

I was torn. As manager, it’s great to have a staff that can be productive without urging. As a human being, there is no greater frustration than people deciding to be wrong, particularly when their decision to be wrong makes them happy. What could I do? I’m sure I had other options, but in the end, I did this:


Before anything else, I am a human being. And, even in the days before the internet, it was important to let people know when they were acting like idiots, even if you had to do it in person.


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