When I was 21 years old, I made a terrible mistake.

I had a job back then tending bar in a restaurant near UCLA. I was young, dumb and eager to be liked. The place was popular with students and our role was to sell them expensive drinks, only denying service if they were incredibly intoxicated. It was a giant party.

One night, a young guy came in and downed two Long Island Ice Teas. He was a big football frat-boy type and seemed to be having a great time. Shortly before the end of my shift, he ordered his third drink. “Are you driving?” I asked.

The guy waved his hand dismissively and gave me a king-of-the-world smile. “It’s cool,” he said.

“Seriously, you need to be careful.”

He stopped smiling. “I told you it’s cool.”

I poured the drink.

I saw him again on the way to my car after work. He was lying in the street next to a motorcycle that I assumed was his. People were crowded around and as I approached, I saw his leg was torn completely open, with a large piece of shinbone poking up toward the street light above us. He looked terrified. “What happened?” he kept asking.

I bent down and took his hand, trying not to cry. I waited until the ambulance came, and told him I was so sorry, but he was too confused to understand.

That night was a turning point for me as a bartender. After that, if someone said “it’s cool,” I thought of that shinbone and told them no, it wasn’t. I lost a lot of tips and angered my co-workers. The following year, I took a job in an office.

Fast forward more than two decades to the planning of the 2006 Pool & Spa News convention issue. Our theme this year is “Turning Points,” and how a particular event can affect the way you do business. Maybe you had a painful lesson like mine, where you were forced to see the consequences of a bad choice and it changed the way you do your job. Or maybe a personal tragedy or triumph altered your values, and those new ideals are reflected in your company today.

If you have a turning point — large or small — that left its footprint on your life and work, we want to hear about it. Feel free to share your experience by e-mailing me at the address below.

Erika Taylor
Erika Taylor