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REPUTATION CASE HISTORY:

CHERYL THE SAMBA LADY

Written by Rick Archer, July 2007

This story serves as testimony to how 'blogs' can shape the course of a person's life. 

This 2004 tale goes right to the heart of our discourse on Reputation.

My story covers the brief four-month career of a former SSQQ instructor named Cheryl.

This is a long story, but I assure you it has a very interesting ending that serves as an object lesson for everyone who has ever dealt with their past in Today's Google Age.

So be patient.


FORWARD - GOOGLE

The Thomas Friedman article in Chapter One of our Essays pointed out the major role Google plays in shaping the Reputations of today.

To quote: "The moment employers finish reading an attractive resume, they will Google the person next."

"The persistence of memory in electronic form makes second chances harder to come by," writes Seidman. "In the Information age, life has no chapters or closets; you can leave nothing behind and you have nowhere to hide your skeletons. Your past is your present."

After reading this story, I have little doubt that all of you will rush out and see what Google brings up when you put in your own name.  You might be surprised.  Very surprised.


The Strange Saga of the Mysterious Samba Lady

Based on her emails, I had a hunch before I even met Cheryl that she was one of a kind.  Maybe it was her unusual email moniker: UCSomeOneSpecial

When we finally did meet,
I could see that Cheryl possessed many talents. Cheryl was highly intelligent, full of energy and radiated concern for each student.  She expressed herself well and was media-savvy. 

Cheryl was also unabashedly sexy in the way performers have to be, especially the ones who parade around half-naked.


I soon came to realize that Cheryl was the dance equivalent of a "Diva". There was Cheryl's way and there was Cheryl's way.  Cheryl was used to being the Star and apparently didn't always accept that the rules applied to her too.  Indeed, during Cheryl's brief stay here at the studio, she broke more rules than any other instructor in our 30 year history.

Most of our disagreements revolved around scheduling.  From the very start, Scheduling was a big issue for Cheryl.  She was a busy lady.  For one thing, she performed at night in a band.  Teaching until 6:30 pm would cut down on her time to prepare for performing later on.  She had a son, age 15, who required attention.  She had a committed relationship with her steady boyfriend.   In addition to being a mother, a dance teacher and a nightclub performer, Cheryl had some sort of medical career, although I think it was on hold for the time I knew her. She said she was a doctor, but that threw me for a loop.  What was a doctor doing teaching exercise classes and singing in nightclubs?  Cheryl was always something of a mystery to me. 

One thing I could tell from the start was that Cheryl was ambitious.  She was always thinking of new courses to teach and she loved to pick my brain for ideas.  Cheryl was also the most prolific email writer I have ever met.  I imagine she spent a couple hours a day in correspondence.  Cheryl sent me more emails in three months (66) than any other instructor sent me for the entire year. In the process, Cheryl drove me slightly crazy because I spent a lot of my own time responding to her emails.

However, one legacy of our plentiful email exchange is that I have a well-documented story. Please note I have taken the liberty of omitting most of the emails and reducing extraneous material from those I did print.  Rest assured that the content I preserved is the truth and nothing but the truth.
 

JULY 2004: THE STORY BEGINS WITH AN EMAIL FROM CHERYL

-----Original Message-----
From: Cheryl
Sent: Sunday, July 11, 2004 11:00 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Samba

Mr. Archer,

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cheryl. I am an entertainer recently relocating from the San Francisco Bay area, where I was an avid dance performer in the community. I was associated with the xxx Dance Company.  I was a regular performer at Canto do Brasil as a sambista and performed in the renowned Carnival San Francisco, as well. I have been here in Houston for two weeks now. I am currently performing locally as a backup vocalist to the xxxx Band.

I was given a paper advertising dance instruction at your school and recommended that I contact you about the possibility of teaching Samba classes there. Could you please let me know it this is something that you would be interested in. Samba is an exciting dance form and a great form of fun, aerobic exercise.

I would like to begin teaching classes locally as soon as possible. Please let me know by what fee structure you pay your dance instructors and when you would have slot availability for such a class.

Usually I teach the class for 1.5 hours. I am not available to teach Friday evenings, as those are reserved for performances. I would prefer to teach Tuesday and/or Thursday evenings and/or Saturday morning.

MY REPLY

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Monday, July 12, 2004 11:30 AM
To: Cheryl
Subject: RE: Samba

Hi Cheryl,

Your request is well off the beaten path for my studio, but I am intrigued.

I have several comments and concerns.

First, Samba has always been a huge black hole here at the studio. It is a difficult, exhausting dance with very few possibilities for practical use. For example, if someone takes a Salsa class, they have several clubs to attend, but if someone takes a Samba class, their chances of using the dance are few and far between in Houston TX.

Cheryl and I continued to exchange emails and eventually met.  Despite a promising beginning, Scheduling was a headache from the get-go.  Cheryl wanted to teach in the morning or early afternoon, but my studio's Saturday activities had a long tradition of being held from 4:30-6:30 pm.  If  Cheryl wanted her Samba class to succeed at SSQQ, she would need to find a way to adapt to our schedule.


AUGUST 2004

EMAIL FROM CHERYL RE SCHEDULING

-----Original Message-----
From: Cheryl
Sent: Monday, August 02, 2004 10:37 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Re: Samba classes

I think an afternoon classes in September would be good. I think the class should only be from 4:30-6:00pm however, because the workout is pretty energy consuming and they will be pretty well maxxed out by 6:00pm.

If it will fit into the schedule, I would rather do 4-5:30pm. That allows them time to get home, shower and get on with any evening plans they may have as well.  You let me know what will work with your schedule though.

Would you wish to start on September 5?  Can you please outline for me your usual compensation for your instructors?

As I think about it, the last class in September should be a two hour class, because that is the class where I will do a short, costumed samba demonstration for them. Anyway, for the time being, until I hear further from you, I have blocked time from 4-6:30 on each Saturday of my September calendar, as well as 7-9 on Sep 11.

I told her that the times for group classes were traditionally held from 4:30 to 6:30 on Saturdays.  If you notice in the letter above, she ignored those times and suggested three other time combinations instead. 

I left it up to Cheryl to take it or leave it.  She decided to take it... for the time being.

Hi Rick,

O.K. 4:30-6:30 it is then. The 4:30 time slot is fine, but please only schedule from 4:30-6:00 pm. 1-1/2 hours is a long enough time for a samba class-two hours and they will be out on the floor (and I along with them ).

Terms are low for me, but then this ain't San Francisco and I am the new kid on the block, so they are acceptable.

Saturdays are now blocked on my schedule in September.

SEPTEMBER 2004

September was kind of a blur for me.  I had a good reason - I was getting married at the end of the month plus Marla and I were taking 120 people on a Caribbean Cruise aboard the Rhapsody

Cheryl did indeed begin teaching Samba on Saturdays for us.  Thanks to her scintillating performance at the August Beach Ball Party, the interest in her class was very high.

Cheryl's first class had 30 people sign up.  The energy was high and the potential for big things seemed promising.  Samba had taken the studio by storm!

OCTOBER 2004

October was a tough month for me.  Upon my return from the cruise, I was totally emotionally exhausted from the wedding and subsequent cruise.  All I wanted to do was go on automatic pilot for a while. I had enough energy to show up and teach at the studio each night, but that was about it.

Cheryl and I always seemed to have poor timing.  October was the perfect example of our poor timing. Smack dab into the middle of my exhaustion came Hurricane Cheryl.  Cheryl was just a whirl of energy throughout October. Every day it seemed like there was one, two, sometimes three emails from Cheryl asking questions and making suggestions.

  • For example, Cheryl contacted me about teaching a Freestyle class (she called it 'Club Dancing').  As the result of her initiative, Cheryl took a month off from Samba to teach Freestyle instead. Her first October Freestyle class had 15 people. 
     
  • Then she contacted me about teaching Sambaerobics.  Then she contacted me about teaching Smooth Moves to Smooth Grooves.  Then she began teaching private lessons at the studio during the day.  Then she asked if she could teach Hip Hop, Salsa and R&B dancing. 
     
  • Cheryl said she would like to help me teach Ballroom on Mondays if she could bring her 15-year old son along. I said okay as long as her son promised to participate in the class.  She said he would.
     
  • Cheryl asked me if I wanted to hire her boyfriend's band to play for the Halloween Party.  I asked her what kind of music he played... smooth jazz...but they can play any kind of music. I said I would keep them in mind for future dates.  Then she asked if I would like her to perform the Samba at our party. Sure. 
     
  • Cheryl asked me if I would mind if she contacted the entertainment section of the Houston Chronicle to see if they would be interested in doing a story on Samba at SSQQ.  She figured the publicity would do us both good.  She also suggested she would contact one of the news channels.
     

  • Then she contacted me about having her boyfriend take dance lessons at the studio at no charge. I said okay.  Her boyfriend eventually ended up in the same class as her son on Mondays.
     

  • Next Cheryl asked me if she could put a link back to the Samba promotional page on the SSQQ website from her own web page on the gigmasters site (always the self-promoter).  I said okay.
     

  • Cheryl wanted to know if I wanted her to perform at the Halloween Party.  I said the party was pretty busy, but thanks for offering. Then she offered her boyfriend's band to perform at the party. I said this party really didn't need a band.  Then she offered to help decorate. That offer I accepted.
     

  • Cheryl asked when the studio would be available on Saturdays for her Samba group to come in early for rehearsals.  She was preparing them to become a performing group.  It was about this time that I came to the conclusion that Cheryl was wearing me out.

The most important email of the month came in mid-October shortly after I returned from my cruise.

OCTOBER  EMAIL FROM CHERYL

-----Original Message-----
From: Cheryl
Sent: Friday, October 15, 2004 12:10 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Samba

Rick,

Looking at the November schedule, I see that samba is still listing at 4:30-6:30. Again I would like to try to move that class to earlier in the day, even 2:30-4:30 would be better. The students all agreed that it is such a high energy class that they would like to get a chance to go home, relax, SHOWER, before taking it to the streets....or the studio again in the evening to strut their newly acquired skills. Their preferred times were 10:30-12:30 and 12:30-2:30 or 11-1.

Also, we are coming into peak performance season and most Friday and Saturday nights will be booked with band gigs, some of which are in the Woodlands or downtown. Many start as early as 6pm, which means a 5pm set time and usually no later than a 6pm set time.

The other thing is that I want to bring in live drummers for my 3rd and/or 4th class to give the students a feel of what real Bahia/Rio style samba feels like. Even playing softly, those drummers will overpower the concurrent classes. If we are in the studio before the other classes start, we won't disturb anybody. Besides, we laugh A LOT in that class! If you haven't heard about the Mr. Hiney, I'm sure you will soon enough!

RICK'S ANSWER:

"OK, Cheryl,

Well, all your points are legitimate concerns. Now hear my side of the story.

1. I would have to pay my registration people extra to come in two hours earlier at 2:30 for the first and second week of class. That would have to come out of your salary.
2. I would have to redesign my web site to accommodate the only class that doesn't start at 4:30. Then I would have to redesign my web site to delete your class when it isn't offered.
3. I would have to redesign the On Line registration page to accommodate a class offered at a different time or simply not allow pre-registration for your class.
4. I would have to redesign my printed schedule to accommodate the one class that doesn't start at 4:30.  Then I would have to redesign my printed schedule to delete your class when it isn't offered.

This is an awful lot of work and added expense, Cheryl.  Is it really that important?"


On October 20, she emailed me to let me know when her boyfriend's band was about to play again somewhere in Houston and that I should come see them. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Cheryl
Sent: Wednesday, October 20, 2004 11:04 AM
To: dozens of email addresses
Subject: The Band

I forgot to tell you all that this is the band that I perform with. Come on out and you'll have a great time!  You can even show off some of those new found dance skills in a smaller, more personal setting. Bring a friend!

I assumed that she was still trying to get me to hire the band.  That's when I noticed some of the email addresses.  My eyes grew wide.  Some of those email addresses were familiar.  It appeared that Cheryl had gotten the email address of every SSQQ student from her September and October classes, then included those addresses in this email promoting her boyfriend's upcoming gig.

I was pretty angry. I had specifically told Cheryl not to collect emails from students.  It has been my experience that every time an instructor collects emails, it is to promote themselves in some way. 

However, I never found the time to sit down and have a talk with Cheryl about the emails.  The studio was about to be thrown into crisis mode.  November was Titanic Month for SSQQ.

NOVEMBER 2004

In early November, my former wife Judy quit the studio without any notice.  I will avoid listing the details as Judy remains sensitive to this day about this subject.  However I believe I am legally permitted to say her sudden departure was a critical blow to the studio.  Judy had been running the studio for the past 14 years.  Her loss was enormous.  There were emergencies everywhere that needed to be handled. 

I had to push my increasing concerns about Cheryl to the background while I put out fires - finding five new teachers, training Marla to do registration and handle bookkeeping, plus finding someone to supervise the studio on a daily basis.  So many problems!  What a headache!  But Cheryl was in no mood to be ignored.

-----Original Message-----
From: Cheryl
Sent: Wednesday, November 03, 2004 2:37 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: samba etc

Rick
A few things:

1) Christopher wanted me to tell you that it wasn't your class on Monday that was the problem. His feet got wet before he came in and because the studio was cold, they became cold and began to hurt. It wasn't that he didn't want to dance, but rather that he was just miserable.
2) I am going to be coming into the studio on Saturdays or Sunday afternoons this month to rehearse the samba group, if it is o.k. with you. I think we discussed it before, but I don't remember what you said the studio fee would be for rehearsal time. Some of the girls are coming from Baytown, so we will probably rehearse for two hours at a time. I have the key to room 6 and we need a large space to move, so that will work out fine.
3) I wanted to make sure again that it is o.k. with you that I put a link back to the samba page of your site from my web page on the gigmasters site
4) Just wanted to tell you that I had a ball at the Halloween party! My boyfriend had a great time in spite of himself...and was relieved to discover that dancing is not fatal!  Now if I can just keep him coming to classes.....


-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Thursday, November 04, 2004 12:31 PM
To: Cheryl
Subject: RE: samba etc

Much to reply to and not much time so here goes:

1) Christopher is welcome in my class anytime, but I expect him to want to participate. No more sitting. It is terrible for the mood of the class to see him and you fussing and fretting.
2) I will make you a deal on the rehearsing. How about if you and I trade out your helping with my Monday night Ballroom class for the use of Room 6 on Saturday mornings for your group??
3) I do not mind a link from your site, but I do very much appreciate that you keep me informed of all the things that you are up to. You have many gifts and much energy and you are always several steps ahead of me. I need to know what you are up to so I can make sure your activities don't interfere with that of the other people who use the studio from time to time.
 

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

From this point on, our relationship deteriorated rapidly. For starters, her November Samba class had dwindled to 12 students.  Cheryl's first Samba class had 30 people in September, but her students soon discovered her Samba was so energetic that she wore people out.  My original suspicion that Cheryl had overestimated Houston's interest in Samba was being confirmed.

Cheryl was disappointed.  Trying to pump up the volume, Cheryl sent out this promotional email to her email list which had now grown to 30 names.

From: Cheryl
Sent: Wednesday, November 03, 2004 3:18 AM
To: dozens of email addresses
Cc: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Welcome to Samba

Wow! What can I say? What a great group!  I am really looking forward to working with you all further this session. It is seldom that we get a group that is so well balanced! A few of you may need to work a little bit harder than some of the others, but overall, it is well-balanced and everybody will be able to keep up, even as we move at a faster pace.

Samba is a joyful, playful dance, so just relax and have fun with it. The technique will come with practice. Your main job is to begin feeling the rhythms. As you feel the samba, you will do the samba, but first you must feel it. Thank you for joining me and allowing me to share with you this wonderfully, exciting form of dance.

Contrary to my original plans, my scheduling is all over the place this session, so we will remain at the 4:30 to 6:30 time slot for all November sessions.
This means that for this session, we will probably not be able to bring the live drummers.

However, for subsequent sessions after November, we will be moving to the 2:30 time slot to accommodate for the drumming.
I will try to see if I can work it out to get drummers to play for at least a part of the session this Saturday- no promises due to short notice, as well as other classes present in the building during our regular time slot.


It was news to me that for 'subsequent sessions after November' that her class would be changing times.  Plus the growing number of email addresses caught my eye again.  We still had not crossed swords over the email address issue, but with Judy leaving, there were not enough hours in the day to fight every battle.

Right in the middle of putting out fires, I received an email from a student saying that Cheryl had announced to her class that she would conduct her class from 5-7 pm next week instead of the usual 4:30-6:30.  I shook my head in disgust.  Too bad she hadn't bothered to tell me about it.  Cheryl seemed to require full-time supervision and I was running out of patience.

I fired off this November 8th email:

Cheryl, I have received a complaint that you have scheduled a class to end at 7 pm on Saturday the 13th.  Did you overlook the fact that we have crash courses that night which start at 7?

Having your class run late creates 3 headaches:

1) Where are the incoming people supposed to park?  Your people are supposed to leave on time (6:30) so those spaces get vacated. 

2) Your class is held right in the middle of the room we use to register people.
 

3) Most important, what if all my instructors conducted their classes whenever they pleased without bothering to tell me?

As you know, we have already butted heads once over the time issue. I sent you a serious email explaining the need to keep to the schedule. That was once. This incident makes twice. The next time I get a complaint makes three times and then it becomes a big problem.

You are without a doubt the most unusual teacher I have ever run across. I think you have tremendous charisma.

I support your class, but not if your class becomes a pain.

CHERYL'S RESPONSE

-----Original Message-----
From: Cheryl
Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 2004 1:22 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: samba problems

Rick, You are unhappy. I am sorry. I did not mean to create a problem. It was just a
slight shift in the schedule so I didn't think it would create a problem. I have a performance that day which puts me in the Woodlands (one of our few daytime performances and it is a big one). I was trying to give myself a few extra minutes to rush back down here to make sure my students would not have to wait. Since it is a problem I will just arrange with Michael to take separate cars and I will leave the performance early to start at 4:30.

I will email my samba students to let them know that we will have to stick to the regular schedule.

We were not anticipating that most of those spaces will be vacated, because my students have been encouraged to stay and take the samba crash course, so they can experience yet another style of samba. The more they experience, the better they become as dancers, because they develop versatility that crosses into any form of dance that they may wish to attempt. 

RICK WROTE: Most important, what if all my instructors conducted their classes whenever they pleased?

Well, Rick, I do understand your point. I am not used to having such time constraints on my classes, because we always rented our studio time, so we could move them around anywhere there was open space if we needed to accommodate schedule changes and all students were agreeable. Also I usually taught classes in dance companies, so again we had a little more flexibility to accommodate the ever changing schedules inherent with performers. SSQQ is obviously a different kind of studio, so I'll try to operate in keeping with the way you function.

On that note, I do have to be out-of-town on November 20. Vicki is also out of town. Susan is unable to sub and doesn't feel comfortable enough with her skills to do so. My girls from Trinidad Tobago are a possibility, but they and the other students would prefer to skip that week and come on the 27th from 2:30-4:30. They all agreed they did not want a sub. Let me know if that arrangement would be o.k. Otherwise, I will just have one of the girls from the performance ensemble teach on the 20th.

Not trying to be a pain...just trying to make everything work out so that I can best serve my students.

Also, you indicated previously that the studio could be available for rehearsal space. I wish to rehearse on Saturday mornings or the early afternoon, right before the regular samba class. Will there be any problem with that?

 

RICK'S RESPONSE on November 10th

I have many problems to handle today.

∑ Your son is a likeable young man, but I will never stand for having a repeat of last night's situation.  Did you not read what I said in my last email?  "Christopher is welcome in my class anytime, but I expect him to want to participate. No more sitting. It is terrible for the mood of the class to see him and you fussing and fretting." 

I realize you love him dearly, but we cannot have a repeat of the past two weeks. He sits in the middle of my class talking on his cell phone!  You promised that he would participate.

∑ Your Samba class. Personally I think we need to sit down and talk about what you are trying to accomplish. I don't like the word "never" but I can't honestly see Samba as a big money-maker for the studio. Maybe we should restructure our understanding and simply let you rent space as you suggested.  

∑ You are a good freestyle teacher. I was very impressed when I watched your class. However I noticed how small the class was. It is very difficult to get a very large freestyle class, but if anyone can do it you probably can.

If you are seeing mixed messages from me, that is because I like you a lot but you also drive me crazy. Somehow I have a sneaking suspicion others have said the same thing about you in the past.

THE STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMEL'S BACK

 

-----Original Message-----
From: Cheryl
Sent: Sunday, November 14, 2004 2:26 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Pay

Rick, I am available the entire month of December to teach an advanced samba class on Saturdays from 2:30 to 4:30pm if that is o.k.  My current students are demanding more samba!

Also, I have had numerous requests to move club freestyle dance from Mondays back to Saturdays. Many students are telling me they would like to do club dance, but just can't make Monday evening that early. I am available to do 10:30 to 12:30 and 12:30 to 2:30 time slots if you wish to make Saturdays a full day thing. If not, I'll just keep my 2:30-4:30 Samba classes. No stress....just trying to accommodate my own schedule
as well as the popular demand of the students.

Cheryl's response infuriated me.  I had written her a business email on November 10, but her Nov. 14 email above made no mention of it.  I did not appreciate being ignored on business matters. 

Therefore this new email put me in a very bad mood.

Cheryl's suggestions about the Freestyle class rubbed me the wrong way.  Her Monday class in November had all of 9 people in it.  And now she was getting numerous requests from many students telling her how Saturday had the vote of the people... all in time slots that did not work for the studio. 

... just
trying to accommodate my own schedule as well as the popular demand of the students...

What kind of moron did she take me for?  I would be stunned if she could produce two emails asking for Freestyle to move to Saturday.

Besides, where was I going to find a Registrar to drive to the studio at 10:30 am on a Saturday morning to register Cheryl's 10 Freestyle students? 

I had had it with Freestyle.  Many headaches, few students.

In addition, Cheryl was claiming her Samba students were demanding more Samba in a time slot I had already said was off-limits twice before.

I estimated Cheryl had perhaps 10 faithful Samba enthusiasts in her group at this point.  These people amounted to less than 1% of the studio's income.  After paying the Registrar and paying Cheryl her salary for an Advanced class, there would be essentially zero profit in offering the class.

Compounding the problem, in the four days between my November 10 email and Cheryl's November 14 response, I had received a verbal complaint from another instructor regarding drums. The instructor said that on a recent Saturday they were trying to conduct a private lesson in another room while the entire time someone in the Samba group was pounding on a drum. They said it was impossible to teach no matter what room they moved to.

This drum stuff was the last straw.  Many headaches, few students.

I had had it with Samba.  Samba was in no position to be demanding anything.
My attitude was that Freestyle and Samba combined were less than 1% of the studio's earnings, but 75% of the studio's headaches at a time when my patience was very thin. 

An old saying crossed my mind:
Don't let the tail wag the dog.


That's when I decided that Cheryl had seriously over-estimated her importance to the studio.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY                                                 

Big mistake.  I was mad.  And, sorry to say, I let my anger color my judgment.  This situation had boiled down to two people who weren't using to bending very much.

Cheryl was a once-in-a-lifetime talent.  I had never before met anyone with her kind of charisma.  Furthermore, Cheryl was not just a good teacher, but an incredible teacher. I could see that her students adored her.

Looking back, I think if I wasn't exhausted from scrambling to cover all the holes that Judy's departure had created a week earlier, this story would have had a much happier ending.  Cheryl was expendable to be sure, but at the same time she was also incredibly valuable. 

Okay, yes, Cheryl was a Diva. Make no mistake about that. And yes, she was high-maintenance.  So what if Cheryl was a pain in the butt sometimes? 

But at the same time, I also knew Cheryl was a woman with a big heart.  Her goals and mine were exactly the same - create energy and fun through dance.   

If I could just make her comfortable, Cheryl was definitely worth taking a chance on...  Yes, Samba was not the instant money maker she thought it was, but give it some time.  With her creativity and her ability for promotion, things would begin to click.  I envisioned all kinds of possibilities for dance performances, exercise classes and in Samba a very unique addition to our dance program.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have tried much harder to work it out.  But then hindsight is always 20-20, isn't it?

Instead, I over-reacted.  This is the letter I sent.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rick Archer
Sent: Sunday, November 14, 2004 10:11 AM
To: UCSomeoneSpecial
Subject: Problems at SSQQ

Cheryl,

This will be a very long letter for one simple reason - I want you to leave the studio and I want you to stay.

This ambivalence forces me to go into detail to explain my frustration and the spot you have put me in.

Here is part of your latest email to me:

"I am available the entire month of December to teach an advanced samba class on Saturdays from 2:30 to 4:30p if that is o.k. My current students are demanding more samba!

Also, I have had numerous requests to move club dance back to Saturdays. Many students are telling me they would like to do club dance, but just can't make Monday evening that early. I am available to do 10:30 to 12:30 and 12:30 to 2:30 time slots if you wish to make Saturdays a full day thing. If not, I'll just keep my 2:30-4:30 Samba classes.

No stress....just trying to accommodate my own schedule as well as the popular demand of the students."

Cheryl, I have to be direct with you.  Your latest email indicates your dance ambitions may be more complicated than I have the patience to handle. Your "Program" probably consists of a dozen people. My "Program" consists of 1,200 people, but you keep insisting I bend my program to fit your schedule.  This is a classic situation of "The Tail Trying to Wag the Dog".

In three short months I have discovered that "just trying to accommodate your own schedule" has meant one problem after another for me. I have already told you ONCE I don't have much spare time to deal with "your schedule." I have too much on my plate as it is.

As you might guess, I am in a crisis mode with the departure of Judy Archer who quit a week ago. Every spare minute goes to handling problems caused by her leaving. This is a very bad time to be asking me to make exceptions for you.

Simultaneously, you never bothered to respond to a very serious email I sent you last week. ("samba problems", Tue 11/09/2004 2:23 PM). That was a bad mistake. As a result of your failure to address my concerns in that email, I am now even more deeply worried than before that you only dance to the tune of your own drummer.

Unfortunately I don't have the time to handle our misunderstandings. I still haven't finished my story from the October cruise. I still have 15 pages of Halloween pictures to post. Furthermore this coming week is "Newsletter Week". Once a month I go into hibernation and work my butt off for several days writing a promotional email to advertise the upcoming semester. Furthermore I am having a new computer system installed this week to deal with the problem that we don't have any way to handle payroll due to the way Judy handled her departure. I am up to my neck in problems.

And since I don't have the time to solve our inability to get on the same page, I am afraid the safest solution is to simply shut down your classes for December.

For one thing, I am sick and tired of getting emails from your students and now you demanding they get "Club Dance" on Saturdays. I wrote one woman a nice, patient letter explaining why our contractual obligations with Leisure Learning forced us to offer the class on Mondays for one final month in December. Then I added that I would be offering it on Saturdays next year, but damn if she didn't ignore me completely and sent a second email demanding Saturday Club Dance again. Now here you are pestering me about the same thing! There seems to be a pattern emerging here of not hearing me the first time.

Consequently I have canceled your Monday Club Dance class in December. That solves this problem.

Nor do I think the studio needs an "advanced samba class" in December. This week I received a verbal complaint from another instructor. It seems one Saturday they were trying to conduct a private lesson in another room while the entire time someone with your Samba group was pounding on a drum or maybe the music was too loud. They said it drove them nuts no matter what room they moved to. Now when you add this to the complaint about how you shift the time of your class back and forth on Saturdays, that makes two different instructors who have complained about your samba class.

I do not have a building manager to supervise during the off-hours. Most studios - Barbara King for example - have someone available at all times because they make a living by renting out space. We don't rent out space to any outsiders.

Unfortunately, you operate like an outsider. Since we don't have anyone around to keep an eye on your class, you come and go as you please/do as you please. Don't you think the other instructors have a right to not worry about drums and weekly rotating samba schedules?

The moment my other instructors think I give you preferential treatment, I have an even bigger problem on my hands.

I do not want ONE MORE TEACHER fussing at me about "The Samba Lady". I have too many headaches as it is; therefore I am EXTREMELY reluctant to give you permission to do anything until I trust you more. Therefore I prefer that you not teach at the studio in December.

That said, I have received nothing but high praise for your work. As I have said repeatedly, you are charming, caring, intelligent, and charismatic. You are unbelievably talented. I think you would be very successful if you turned your mind to a career in dance.

I like you very much personally and I respect your immense talent. On the other hand, you seem to ignore everything I tell you unless it is something you want to hear. Plus your timing is unfortunate - after all the problems caused by Judy, my patience and tolerance for potential headaches is at an all-time low.

Using a sports metaphor, can you fit your talents into a team framework? That is the question I have. I don't have the energy to deal with the constant complications you bring to my studio much longer. At some point you either have to fit in or go.

As for the future, we both need to decide whether it is worth the effort to start over. You need to decide whether you wish to make the effort to adapt to the framework of this very busy place. I need to decide whether I have the guts to take a chance on you.

After I finish the December Newsletter, we can see if there is a way to pick up the pieces for January. Or maybe you are a little fed up too.

Wherever the dust falls, I hope you will know that I agree beyond a shadow of a doubt you are definitely someone special.


DECEMBER 2004

Several emails passed back and forth regarding the above letter.  After I calmed down a bit, on December 1, I decided to give it one more try to get Cheryl back on board for the January 2007 dance semester.

"Cheryl, If you think you can work within the restraints of a set time format, I am willing to try again in January."

Here is how Cheryl responded.  

"Rick, I'll have to get back to you on this to see what my scheduling constraints will be. I know we have a lot of band stuff coming up. I also just took a job at Ladies Workout Express, who incidentally may contact you as a reference to see if I really was a dance instructor there. Anyway, I don't know what the schedule there is yet. Then, if we stick to the schedule as it is set now, the music problem isn't going to go away- we have drums, even in our CD music. The sound of those drums carries and will continue to disturb other teachers with mellower music. I don't know. We can talk about it and see if we can make something work out. I just don't want it to be major stress for either one of us.

I like SSQQ. I think it is a neat place; however, I don't deal well with politics. It seems that I am causing too much consternation amongst your other instructors. I am not used to the tattletaling that is going on. I am a performer first and an instructor second. That seems to be in conflict with the Saturday scheduling. I respect that we have different agendas, so it is probably going to be better if I move the samba class to a different venue, so as to not create any further problems.

By the way, Rick, you said the following things to me in your emails:

"You are a blessing and a talent. .......and you have oodles of charm."

"Cheryl recently moved here from San Francisco and has more teaching charisma than any other instructor in memory. Currently she is teaching Samba and Club Dancing for us, but she can do it all. Cheryl is intelligent, personable, and boy can she dance!"

Rick, may I use these quotes on my website or would you please be so kind as to send another if you prefer? Thanks! Also do you mind if I use your name and the Studio name on the quote?"

I was flabbergasted by this letter.  Not only had Cheryl said she was quitting, she was asking me for help in getting her next job!  However, I wasn't angry.  In fact, I remember half-smiling at her moxie. This was no ordinary woman indeed.  Cheryl was definitely one of a kind. 


THE FINAL EMAIL

-----Original Message-----
From: UCSomeoneSpecial
Sent: Monday, December 27, 2004 10:31 PM
To:
40 EMAIL ADDRESSES COLLECTED AT SSQQ
Subject: Samba Classes!

Tired of the same old thing?
Want to spice up your New Year?

Learn to SAMBA with Cheryl!!!

Tighten your ABS! Increase your aerobic capacity!
Improve your coordination! Lose weight!
JUST COME HAVE FUN! All levels & all ages welcome!

Saturdays 12:30-1:30pm
Ladies Workout Express @ Woodlake Square

$15 per class or save $5 when you sign up for four classes!
$12 per class for LWE members!
Only $10 per class with New Membership!

When I saw Cheryl's Ladies Workout promotional email, I could not help but notice the size that Cheryl's email list had grown. 

Cheryl was using those names to create her new class somewhere else. This was exactly the reason I had a rule against teachers collecting email addresses.

I felt like Cheryl had just stepped on my head
in her scramble to climb to the next rung on her career ladder

What an unbelievable waste of time. 

But I wasn't really all that bitter.  Mostly I was disappointed.  Despite my frustrations with Cheryl, I liked her.  Face to face, she was as pleasant and as charming a person as I have ever met. 

Mostly I felt a lot of regret.  I knew I had acted rashly.  But having Judy quit was so devastating that I had no energy left for any other problems. I figured if I could just put things on hold, I could sort them out later.

When I wrote her in early December, I honestly believed that Cheryl and I could come to some sort of agreement. With just a little more patience, I could find a niche for Cheryl at the studio. For example, I was going to talk to Cheryl about moving her into Salsa. With her brains and charisma, I think Cheryl would have been a phenomenal Salsa instructor. 

But I didn't see any point in asking her to change her mind.  I accepted that Cheryl had moved on.  At that time I posted a shorter version of this same story in the January 2005 Newsletter.

After that last email, Cheryl disappeared from sight.  Once in a while an occasional email request for Samba would pop up in my In-Box.  And then I would think about her and smile... and frown.  It could have been good.  Cheryl was the teacher who got away. 

   


CHAPTER TWO: JUNE 2007 - AN EMAIL FROM CHERYL


To my surprise, three years later, this story developed a Second Chapter.

One night in May 2007, I was thinking about Cheryl.  Don't know why.  For the fun of it, I looked her up on the Internet and visited her MySpace page.  I smiled as I looked at the pictures and read her stories.  What a character!

One month later, completely out of the blue, Cheryl sent me an email. I grinned when I noticed her new email was longer than War and Peace

Same old Cheryl!

-----Original Message-----
From: Cheryl
Sent: Saturday, June 09, 2007 4:50 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: The Samba Lady

Greetings Rick Archer!  I hope all is well with you and SSQQ!  I have taken my dear sweet time to respond to the entry you put into your newsletter back in 2005, because I didnít want to give an emotional response.

I have to say now that at the time I first discovered it, I was extremely hurt and disappointed in you.  

I was questioned about it when a professional colleague googled my name after I applied for a position as one of the directors of a hospital program.

I had always kept my entertainment and medical careers separate by using one name for my stage career and another name for my medical career. You effectively ended that with the Strange Story of the Samba Lady. The two are now forever linked in cyberspace.

At this point in both careers, it no longer matters much, but at that point, I felt like it was devastating. Although I had many professional references, including army references that said that I was both a team player and a team builder,
that singular web entry that you posted cost me that job.

I know that was what it was, because they told me so, referencing that newsletter, they told me that they had chosen not to give me the job, because they were concerned about my ability to be a team player.

I cried for weeks over not getting that job, because I had spent many years of my life working hard in my medical career to have the background and experience to be ready for a job like that. As a minority, it is difficult to even be considered for a job at that level. Having the opportunity to be considered as a serious contender for such a job and then to be slapped down for something like a derogatory SSQQ newsletter was a serious slap in the face.
I actually considered suing you for defamation of character, as advised by my lawyer, but in the end decided to let it go, because I just plain liked you and what you were doing with SSQQ.

Many times, I thought about writing you to tell you how much you hurt me with that letter, but the letters always sounded too bitter. Eventually I just let it go and forgot about it.

Tonight, I stumbled across it again when I googled my name under Yahoo.com (
Rick's Note: Is it possible to Google yourself on Yahoo?).

It is buried pretty far back now
, as there have been many other things written about me since then, but when I came across it, I realized that the bitterness was gone. There is still some disappointment, not in what you wrote, but in the fact that you wrote it.

You see, I never spoke ill of you in anyway, not even immediately after I left. I did email my students and explain my departure. I did explain to them that I would still be available at other locations around town from time to time, but that my primary focus would be on performance. I encouraged them to continue taking classes at SSQQ, especially the samba class that you do offer, because it was a different style with which they should be familiar. A few showed up in workshops or classes that I occasionally taught around town. Most showed to see us perform at gigs, at some time or other. According to what I have been told, with the exception of two students, all of my students continued to take classes at SSQQ. One of those students did continue to take private lessons with me and she eventually was groomed for performance. She is no longer with me, but continues as a performer to this day. My understanding is that the other no longer takes dance at all, other than to shake what her mama gave her in the clubs (guess her club dance class paid off-LOL).

I have left Houston and moved back to California, but I come back to Houston to work in the medical profession once a month. I come back to Houston to perform about once every two or three months. Even though I am no longer here, I still refer my Houston contacts to SSQQ.

I have always treated SSQQ and Rick Archer with respect and wish that you had done the same for me. I have moved on professionally in both careers at this point in time. Although the newsletter is apparently permanently stamped in cyberspace, I donít think it will hurt me much anymore, but I wanted you to know that it did hurt me once very badly.
Be careful what you write Rick, as it can affect people in ways that you never imagined and never intended. I know that was not your intent at the time. You were aggravated with me, but you are not a mean person.

I again apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused you, but it was never my intent to hurt you in any way either. I continue to look back fondly at my time at SSQQ, in spite of the backbiting that occurred amongst the instructors. I still say you give the best darned Halloween Party out there!

By the way, just for the record, that incident with the drums on the Saturday never occurred. Your instructor overheard that I was going to have that class on the Saturday and bring the drummers. We ended up cancelling that, so we were never in the studio that day at all! That was pretty much the straw that made me not accept your offer to return. It wasnít you or your studio per se. It was the fact that I really didnít want to deal with the politics of instructors that would stoop to such a level to get me out of there. I didnít blame you for that either, because I knew that you were only responding to what you had been told. If the picture that was painted to you was askew, how could you possibly know that and be held accountable for it. You did what you saw best based on the facts that you had, not knowing that all of your facts were not always what they seemed.

Anyway, it IS water under the bridge now, just wanted to let you know. I do continue to follow the happenings at SSQQ and continue to be amused at all of the entertaining antics of Rick Archer. Keep up the good work my friend. You are a credit to the dance world by bringing the gift of dance to others who might not otherwise experience it!


May your feet be ever light on the dance floor and your dance shoes never pinch your feet!

Cheryl xxx, M.D.

p.s. If you have a myspace page, hit me back and Iíll add you to my friends list.

Wishing you always the best, Rick!


THE FINAL WORD ON CHERYL AND GOOGLE

In 2005 when I first wrote my original Newsletter about Cheryl, I had no idea how powerful - and dangerous - Google would become.  But we all know now.


QUOTE from the Thomas Friedman article):
 "For young people", writes Seidman, "this means understanding that your reputation in life is going to get set in stone so much earlier. More and more of what you say or do or write will end up as a digital fingerprint that never gets erased.

My generation got to screw up and none of those screw-ups appeared on our first job resumes, which we got to write. For the current young generation, much of what they say, do or write will be persevered on-line forever.
The moment employers finish reading an attractive resume, they will Google the person next."

POINT:  As you have read, my friend Cheryl has confirmed that Mr. Seidman's assertion is absolutely correct.

At the time when I wrote the original January 2005 story about Cheryl, I didn't give it a second thought.  It was simply a bittersweet story about a very interesting person. 

For the record, I deeply regret costing Cheryl the job she refers to.  That said, I think it would give her satisfaction knowing that at least her story now stands as a permanent testimony to the power of Google.

But Cheryl has taught us a second lesson as well. Please continue.

REHABILITATION

QUOTE from the Thomas Friedman article:  "In Michigan, Seidman writes, one hospital taught its doctors to apologize when they make mistakes."

POINT:  I am curious to know how many of the readers changed their point of view about Cheryl after reading her Saturday, June 09, 2007 Email posted above.

I definitely changed my opinion of Cheryl.  

The truth of the matter is that Cheryl employed a marvelous technique: A soft answer turneth away wrath.

Her letter was biblical in its effectiveness.   Cheryl simply asked me as nicely as possible to let bygones be bygones. 

What she had no way of knowing is that I completely rewrote her story after the email. 

I began to see Cheryl in a totally different light.  My point of view began to shift. As I re-read what I had said, one phrase after another began to move towards the positive.  I gave her the benefit of the doubt on several key issues... all because Cheryl wrote a nice letter. 

What a marvelous lesson in human relationships.

What Cheryl has taught us is a valuable lesson on "How" to rehabilitate your Reputation. 

 


Cheryl the Samba Lady provided us with two valuable insights.

First her story showed us the damage that Google can do to someone's Reputation and Career.

Second her story showed us how it is possible to rehabilitate your image if you do make a mistake.

These are powerful lessons indeed.

In our next Reputation Chapter, we learn even more about protecting our Reputations in the Google Age.


NEXT STORY: More About Google

Reputation Spin Harvest Moon Vesuvius SSQQ Victoria Alex Cheryl Google Politics Joe Paterno
SSQQ Front Page Parties/Calendar Jokes
SSQQ Information Schedule of Classes Writeups
SSQQ Archive Newsletter History of SSQQ