Since last week’s “Littlest Angel” was a little on the sappy side (a little sap is sweet and good for the soul—no?), this week it’s a-hole time, again…continuing with a-hole bosses and do nice or a-holes finish first?
My senior year of high school I started the baseball season as a pitcher. Unfortunately one night, while helping my mom with the dishes, I, playfully, tweaked her with the dish towel. As I attempted escape by running through the doorway to the living room, Mother in hot pursuit, I caught my baby toe on my right (push-off-the-rubber foot) on the door jam. While falling, screaming, onto the orange shag carpet, my mother leapt on me pounding me (playfully) with her fists. It took me awhile to convince her my screaming had nothing to do with her fists. The toe, when I finally could peruse it, was sticking out at a 90 degree angle from my foot. Broken quite completely and efficiently.
So much for my high school pitching career. I wanted my own car (currently trying to date on only a Cushman Super Eagle scooter), so a job seemed necessary. A girl I knew had a friend who worked at a women’s shoe store specializing in popular, inexpensive shoes for the younger set. She said they were looking for part time sales guys. I had never paid much attention to women’s feet, but was willing to learn considering the parts above the feet were garnering more and more of my attention. I applied and got the job. Brought a friend along and they hired him, too.
This job became a defining event for both of us for two reasons. First is we discovered the power of commissions. Minimum wage then was $1.05. My friend kept track and figured we were making around $10 an hour. He became a salesman out of college and ended up managing a national sales force. I became a teacher, which if you taught you’d know is sales. I then became a financial planner where you certainly have to sell yourself.
The other defining event was: it introduced me to prejudice. My referring friend’s friend at the shoe store was gorgeous: jet black hair, olive skin, bright green eyes, and, usually, seductive bright red lipstick. And Jewish we discovered. I was currently attached and loyal to the lady that became my wife nine months down the road, but my friend was not. He became obsessed with wanting a date with beautiful green-eyes. Except she told him her parents would not let her date a gentile. We weren’t even sure what a “gentile” was. I figured just an excuse…until I talked to her. I mean I grew up hearing about prejudice against blacks. But when you grow up playing sports black guys aren’t even black…they’re just your team mates…and friends. You rely on them and they rely on you. But some kind of a barrier between Jews and a couple white Irish guys? We had never heard of this. How were we supposed to know she was even Jewish? We didn’t get it. Still don’t. They never had a date.
My friend and I eventually found out we were the only gentiles working in the store. No matter to us. We were even the top salesmen in the store, so the mgr liked us anyway-- $$, I guess the reason. I hadn’t noticed but apparently the assistant (yes another ‘assistant’) mgr hated us. He got the front section which was advantageous proximity-wise, but he still under-performed us. He knew his shoes but had no personality and didn’t understand women…among other things. And, although I was oblivious to it, he hated us for it.
So, one day I’m in the back ‘running’ shoes. Before anyone could go out on the floor to sell, they had to shift shoes on the shelves to fit in new sizes and styles. Of course my friend and I, since we always sold more than the ‘guarantee,’ are working for free while running. So, I was getting the running done quickly to get out on the floor, when Pete, another sales guy, comes in the back to get shoes for a customer. I go “How’d you get on the floor without running?” He shrugs and says the assistant (the main mgr had left for the day) told him it was getting busy, so stay on the floor. I go “No f-ing way” and head out to the floor, thinking Pete’s not all that upstanding, either. When I head in the back to get shoes for a young lady customer, the a-hole assistant stops me and tries to grab the shoes out of my hand saying I had to stay in the back. I don’t even grace him with a reply and try to walk around him. He grabs me and gives me a little shove. Having played football and hockey, the shove doesn’t affect me much, but when I shove him back, not terribly aggressively, the wuss falls against the wall and knocks a bunch of shit over. I don’t see him for a while and then don’t even think about it getting busy with customers. I figure no problem with the mgr because anybody can see the unfairness of the situation.
But, alas, next time I work the mgr calls me in and says sorry, he has to fire me, the regional mgr had called him. Since I figured out immediately what the assistant had done, I didn’t even argue, just thought: “Screw it. Take this job and shove it.”
Why was the assistant an a-hole…unfair, if nothing else? It did turn out he was the regional manager’s pretty worthless son-in-law. So, was this another case of insecurity? He couldn’t handle a part time kid out-performing him? I hadn’t even known it at the time, but Pete was also Jewish. Was this actually my first brush with prejudice? Was Pete allowed the privilege to not run shoes because he was also Jewish? Regardless, the assistant, I heard, died about a month later…so he certainly didn’t finish first. Pete became an attorney and ended up behind bars for something like misappropriating clients’ funds…not the most upstanding attribute.
Do “The chickens always come home to roost?”