|Reason #672: Why I had to get out of Retail
||[Aug. 21st, 2007|08:39 am]
|||||The sound of water falling from the sky...it's been so LONG!||]|
Sure, you work in retail long enough, in a store large enough, and it's just a matter of time until you and maybe a few selected co-workers draw up the Bell Tower List.
is the top three co-workers most likely to end their days in a bell tower with a high powered rifle. (If you're thinking "hey, that's not funny, considering..." do yourself a favor and stop reading my journal right now because everything's funny if you look at it right.)
Anyway. When you work in a food store of any size, making the list is easy. The strange hours, the less than thrilling pay, the type of work, all leads to an odd assortment of people.
One of my chief candidates had always been our seafood guy. He'd been regaling me for years with his latest conspiracy stories...how the FBI fabricated the stories of MLK's infidelities to discredit him...how George Washington was actually gay...Jimmy Carter had been brainwashed by the enemy into being a pacifist so that he would hand over the country without a fight...sure, now I'm curious about the details -- why would Washington being gay be such a big deal now? Who was the "enemy" again? If you're going to discredit MLK, wouldn't you pick something that got people a little more agitated?
But, frankly, the stories were always so ludicrous, that while I did, at the time, poke all sorts of holes in the logic, my head was so busy trying to keep from letting my id loose to holler "What kind of an idiot would believe that?" that I really didn't retain any of the fun details.
Which is a shame, really. But apparently I argued against this stuff convincingly enough and never let on that I thought this guy was a raving lunatic, because he used to say to me, as we wrapped up our discussion, minutes before opening with "Well, I don't think you've convinced me, but I respect you for discussing it with me."
Which really should have been my tip-off. And then I got promoted and now supervised him. Perhaps my patience started to wear thin and my "you are a huge expletive idiot" started to filter through. "Well, actually Jim, you've only got three people working in your department; you really don't NEED to do your schedules on the computer, you can probably keep doing them on paper with a pencil." (Back in the glory days, when all 12 department managers shared one PC and had to schedule time to use it.) And, "Jim, selling those tuna cuts below cost is sort of pointless, don't you think? Really, you don't think that had an effect on your profit margins? Enlighten me, then..." and "No, I don't have time to look at your evidence that JFK was both gay AND an alien. Really. I've got work to do."
But still, an uneasy truce. Until the day I was working with a customer, helping them solve some culinary problem and Jim storms up, covered in fish blood and scales and says "I've got to talk to you."
"Jim, I'm with a customer, I'll be with you in a minute."
"No, right now."
"Jim, if no one is in danger of dying and nothing is on fire, it can wait until I'm done." He crosses his arms, glares, and stands there. (Have I mentioned that he's a very big guy?
I don't remember what I was helping the customer with, but one look at angry Jim and the customer decided that whatever help I'd given him was sufficient, thanked me and left.
"So what was so expletive important that you decided to interrupt a customer?"
"Julio called you a bitch."
"You told him to go pull three cases of chickens up to the walk-in and as he walked away I heard him say 'what will the bitch want next?'"
"Well, that's disrespectful and you should allow it. He needs to be reprimanded."
"Look, Jim,if a customer didn't hear it, and I didn't hear it, I really don't care. Julio is a great employee, if he wants to piss and moan a little bit, that's fine."
Jim's voice has been getting louder and louder with each sentence and we are beginning to attract an audience. And I go to my standard fallback play, which is to diffuse tension with humor and good fellowship. "After all, Jim, I've worked very hard to become the bitch I am and like to think I'm good at it. It's nice to have someone recognize it."
Yeah, I know, what was I thinking? Conspiracy nuts are not known for their sense of humor...
At the top of his voice "YOU CAN'T ALLOW THAT KIND OF DISRESPECT!" Whoops, we've officially become a scene, which I do NOT allow on the salesfloor. Especially with the entire staff watching us and laying bets.
"Downstairs. Now" I hiss. With enough venom and clenched teeth to propel him toward the door. We get to the bottom of the stairs and I move into standard counseling mode -- clearly this is about more than just Julio calling me a bitch.
I try working it out -- Jim, I'm sorry but we're going to have to disagree on this; I'll ask Julio to watch his language, but I'm not going to write him up for something that I don't think is a big deal. He's in my department, not yours, so...
But now I'm starting to get a little on edge myself, because no matter what I say, Jim is just getting more and more agitated. And he's a very big guy. I've seen him sling around entire tunas effortlessly. And we're in a very small aisle in the stockroom, with sharp corners everywhere. And he IS on the top of my Bell Tower List. So, I give up and just try to diffuse the anger. "Jim, what is it that you'd like me to do? What can I do differently right now to fix this?"
And he stops and looks at me and hollers:
"I hate the very essence of your being!"
Well, what can you do with that?
The best I had was "Well, wow. You know there are a lot of ways I could change my behavior, but I'm afraid we're all stuck with the essence of my being, so you're just going to have to find a way to work around that, Jim." I was careful to look him straight in the eye with a strong posture (much like facing down an aggressive dog or pissed off bull -- who knew my childhood working with farm animals would prove so useful?) and he turned, threw up his arms and stomped off.
I will admit to walking directly back up to the kitchen and pouring myself a shot of some godawful rum we used in cooking. THEN it was funny. Really funny. Except the part about continuing to work with him. But it seemed to be like lancing a boil, because he was back to his old civil, yet crazy self. And thankfully, he moved on a couple of weeks later. Which resulted in a re-shuffling of the Bell Tower List, but there was no shortage of candidates.