The Calgary Herald moved from this building, its custom-built home, in the 1940s. Stupid, stupid move. Greyhound moved in, and gave the building a dignified new purpose for another 30-odd years. I think Calgary stopped being one kind of city and started being another kind when they tore this down. It was the city's tallest building at the time of its demolition. Great call, Greyhound guys! You stabbed the city you called home in the heart and, in doing so, you hastened the demise of your whole, entire industry.
I worked at the head office of Greyhound Canada for six years. It's the brick monstrosity they built when they tore down the building pictured above. The ugly brick building had been intentionally located on the fringes of downtown so that urban undesirables would have trouble reaching it. The new building was disliked by most who worked there.
Everyone complained it wasn’t like the good old days, when the Greyhound was right downtown, in the old building. The architecture was magnificent, no doubt, but I never heard anyone say that’s what they missed. What people most remembered, and most missed, was all the smoking. Seasoned Greyhound hands were always describing to me the ash trays on all the managers’ desks, how they overflowed with butts. It was a hard transition for a lot of people.
Smoking all day at work is certainly never advisable in the interest of longevity and health; but I can think of no activity that gets you through a work day faster. That and rye. The old office abounded with desk drawer bottles. Towards the end of the day, managers started making that smoke sweeter. In the new building, all drinking was strictly forbidden. You could still smoke, but only downstairs in the cafeteria. A prominent Greyhound financial manager sat in a semi-dilapidated booth of a bus station all day, most days. He had a corner office on the executive floor. But, as it is written in the book of Luke, "What does it gain a man to gain the whole view of the foothills, if it cost him the ability to chain smoke, we are talking easy two-pack a workday habit?"
Leaving your office all day to smoke was a luxury not afforded the cubicle class. You could only smoke on your break. A lot of smokers got wise to the new routine. They realized that by choosing to eschew the elevator and take the three flights of stairs to the cafeteria to smoke and back, they’d be getting a twofer: addiction and exercise at the same time. I don’t care what you say, that is just smart. Probably, if you had let the clerks run the company none of what happened would have happened. But it did.
Greyhound Canada mismanaged itself out of existence. The building sits empty. Last one let go turn off the lights. Literally. It’s vaguely unsettling to think of that all that silence and nothingness inside the physical space where I spent forty hours of week, fifty weeks a year, along with hundreds of others for so many years. My 20s were lived here more than any other single location. I kind of feel sorry for that place—like, it never stood a chance. Any clerk could have told you these two things: 1) Moving your location away from your core customers because deep down inside you don’t like them is dumb. 2) Greyhound Air. What is even the matter with you people?-like, seriously, this cannot--I repeat, cannot--be your best thinking.
Top-down management can only work when the top has good ideas. The problem is that top-down management is itself such a completely bad idea that any group which adopts it cannot, by definition and certain laws of physics we should all try to remember to look up later, ever produce a good idea. Not the most powerful Detroit Diesel engines in the bus barn, you know what I’m saying?