Thursday, November 30, 2006

Coworkers: Part 50 - Listening Center

   The Listening Center blew. Time - money - patience. My God, it was popular, though. And it brought in customers.
   Fresh faces plopped their asses daily and shoved a stack of CD's toward the hapless employee assigned to that post. There had to have been secret guidelines attached for Store Managers only, or The Boss displayed genius, because only the more agreeable, friendly employees were scheduled to work that area. He rarely worked it, neither did Stacey or myself. Others groused, but they were stuck. João, in particular, took personal offense.
   Everyone could relate.
   Blockbuster's slick television commercial showed happy, smiling customers bobbing their heads, grooving to the latest, greatest tunes. Energetic clerks bounced around on mini trampolines. The slogan was, The Power To Hear It All, which the marketing herd assumed translated as, You Hear It Here, You Gonna Buy It Here.
   Reality check.
   Folks sat down, dropped a CD onto the counter in front of the clerk. No word, no smile. Hey, monkey, serve me. Correction, if you were helping another customer, then Ole Stoneface would start rapping the CD on the counter. Louder and louder till the case cracked. We'd walk down to them ...
   "I don't like it. Only one good song." Then they clammed up and plunked another CD down, that they would never, ever purchase.
   The Power To Hear It All translated into Thank God, I Heard This Suckfest Before I Bought It. We were encouraged (ahem, ordered) to place discs in people's hands. Most shoppers redeposited them on the counter and moseyed away. Sometimes they lied, "I'll be back later." Think, next century. Usually, they hurried to a cheaper competitor. Or they simply consigned that "one rockin' tune" album to the "don't buy" garbage can.
   All the redesigned Sound Warehouse locations shared similar stories.
   Managers noted increased foot traffic, lots of foot traffic, only the new customers weren't buying.
   This was hour after hour, day after day, money losing, blood drain. We began to label Regulars who came in weekly, listened to the same CD, and never bought. It was their lunch break. Or they had a tough day behind their desk. Or their wife wouldn't let him buy music anymore. Waaaa.
   Maybe Blockbuster understood those Listening Centers would be Loss Centers. We doubted it. Visiting Block-Heads (Did I say that? How terrible.) corporate flunkies all scrolled dollar signs in their eyes. Their studies were solid, Loss Centers ... er ... Listening Centers would generate big time profits ... eventually.
   Why would any store level associates want to work the LC area? Two main reasons.
   One: A lot of coworkers despised cash register. They got bored, they feared they'd get shortchanged and get fired, they worried some thief was gonna shoot 'em dead. Whatever. They just didn't like it. Pat - Mandy, in particular, both would sooner set their hair on fire.
   Two: Playstack. Whoever was closest to the CD player got to reload a new disc when one finished. Previously, it was whoever was nearby or whoever was quickest. Lately, it seemed to be Mandy. Her taste in music was nursery school level. Mandy was a workhorse with product, yet she simply didn't know the underground, club raves, cool oldies, cult bands. She knew "radio." Stale radio, overplayed hits. Worst of all, she loaded the carousel unit with six discs and punched SPIRAL.
   SPIRAL meant Track 01 of CD One, Track 01 of CD Two, Track 01 of CD Three, etc ... SPIRAL was lazy, they wouldn't get sniped on for airing lame tunes. No one got the feel for an album. Customers made comments, employees complained. Half the crew wanted her fired. Inside a week, SPIRAL was banned.
   Except one stubborn employee didn't get the message. Again. A week of accidents and "sorry" went by. Then The Boss warned officially. SPIRAL meant losing work hours for the offender.
   Then and there, the practice was snuffed out permanently at our location. Praise the Lord.

   About this time, Ken and Tim hired on. No, this wasn't the glorious return of "The Tim."
   Ken was an old friend of The Boss. Hard core music collector, freelance music critic, jammed around in garage bands. Blockbuster was a night job for extra money. He worked days for a cheapskate company, and the Reserves. Ken slotted into the crew nicely. Quality moment one night when the store grabbed a shoplifter, Ken automatically launched Queen's Another One Bites The Dust.
   Tim was also a musician, more dedicated. Tim was busy chasing the music dream. His previous band, Cream Of Mushroom, had recently folded, and he still hadn't formed Grand Street Cryers. We were a pit stop.
   Onstage, Tim was a passionate, inspired, front man. In the store, however, whether he meant to or not, he swerved out of his way to piss off the girls. Maybe he was going through relationship difficulties.
   When a customer requested a title, he'd shove past Kristi or Missy with, "I'll get it for you, I know where it is." Which the girls interpreted as "You helpless, little women could go back to knitting and diaper ironing."
   To his annoyance, them womenfolk would play Cream Of Mushroom, then cut it off mid-song. They'd place dark metal in rotation, he'd follow that with Carpenters or madman William Shatner.
   Tim was a guy after my own heart. Yet I didn't have a lot of dealings with him. In many ways, he was another version of Todd. Hell, both guys were similar to me. Like peering into a slightly distorted mirror. Skinny, cynical, self absorbed, hard surfaced. I was older, I was worse; maybe they would mature beyond where I was.
   So we're debating in the Listening Center. Mocking vintage heavy metal bands. What constituted the lowest common denominator. We honed in on popularity combined with buffoonery. Tim was well versed in all the cliches.
   "Uriah Heep," he suggested.
   I began singing Stealin', then bridged into Easy Livin'. "I had friends who loved those guys. Band never knew who they were. Prog, heavy metal, or dragon bait," I joked. "Grand Funk. From Flint, Michigan. Lead singer always affected a fake peckerwood drawl like he oozed up from the Mississippi swamp."
   "Good one. How about Bachman-Turner Overdrive?"
   "Ha ha ha. Fattest band of all time." I thought a second. "Autograph," I replied quietly.
   "Oh, God," he laughed. "That band had the ugliest members on the planet." He paused. "Rainbow."
   "Hell, yeah," I laughed. "Man On The Silver Mountain. Sounded like a howling rat on fire."
   "One of the stupidest songs ever!"
   "Hey!"
An older man interrupted us. "You fellers too busy to help an old timer like myself?"
   "Hello, Chuck,"
Tim smiled. "You want to hear the usual?"
   "If you don't object."

   The man was old, wrinkled and overweight. I'd seen him from time to time. Never knew his name was Chuck. Never cared. It was enough that I knew he was delusional.
   Tim accepted his CD, opened it, popped it in the unit. Handed the case and booklet back, "There you go, Chuck."
   Mister Chuck was in an exclusive group of crazy Regulars. He swore on a stack of Bibles he'd been lead singer in the Sons Of The Pioneers, Country 'N Western vocalists popular from the 30's - 50's.
   There were always weirdos like this.
   "I was lead singer in Bloodrock, you know?"
   "Let me tell you what it like drumming in Three Dog Night."
   "I was with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Mick Jagger."
(That came from a female.)
   Every big music store had characters who reminded you they once were, and still were, big shots.
   It was especially enjoyable when the artist they impersonated was long dead.
   Like claiming to be Napoleon.
   Sons Of The Pioneers was founded in 1933 by Roy Rogers. Nineteen thirty-three. Original members had gone over the mountain long ago.
   Our customer finished his listening siesta, and returned the case to Tim. Tim never bothered to ask him if he wanted to buy the CD. Why would he? The man, as an original member, surely had all the recordings. He just didn't have a set of headphones.
   "Any word on a new album, Chuck?" Tim prodded.
   "Roy's still in talks with the record moguls," the man frowned. "Timing is crucial, you understand. Charts and airplay."
   "How about any upcoming tours?"
Tim persisted.
   "Opportunities seem inclined to favorable," Mister Chuck mused. "Looks like we might tour with this George Strait cowboy, that Jones guy, and Hank Williams."
   "Hank? Junior or senior?" I asked.
   "Oh, senior, of course. Boy of his is too wild. Be like being in a circus rodeo. None of us wants that."
   Tim nodded sympathetically.
   "Well, guess I better roll on," Chuck stood up. "See if my little woman is done at that drug store."
   "See you, Mister Wagon,"
Tim waved.
   "Adios, pardners," and he wobbled away.
   God keep me safe. Don't let me get crazier than I am.
   I was about to resume our discussion by referencing Quiet Riot -- then -- Wagon?
   I turned to Tim.
   "Chuck ... Wagon?" I shot him a look.
   "I thought you'd notice that."
   Then both of us broke down laughing.
.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Coworkers: Part 51 - Lifeguard

   Tawnya hired on at the end of the school year. She might have been a better fit back in the Sound Warehouse era. Camp Bowie was her third employer. Not history, but current. Tawnya juggled three jobs, and she was a poor scheduler.
   Three days a week, she worked down the street for a Mexican restaurant chain. Three minute drive. Our store would have been the perfect second job. Instead, we followed the swimming pool job. Wet 'N Wild water park, thirty five miles east. Tawnya was a lifeguard. She was always late, she was always wet, and she generally clocked in still wearing her swimsuit.
   Girls hated her, guys got distracted.
   Tawnya also did modeling work. She was tall, and easy on the eyes.
   Like students everywhere, she had an insatiable need for money. She paid her own freight for college tuition. Dan and I had earned degrees on our own dime. We understood, and defended Tawnya. Our coworkers were less sympathetic, less tolerant. They knew she would flip flop in fifteen minutes late, chat with four or five male customers who swarmed her way, then change clothes. This was greater than a criminal felony. Tawnya was impacting lunch breaks.
   Employees noticed her customer assistance was blatantly preferential. Older people, middle class women, white people. When confronted, she pleaded that she didn't know anything about Rap music, or R'n B, or Punk, or Country.
   "Tawnya, neither does most of the crew," Dan advised her. "We still walk them to the section. Show them the artist they requested."
   "But what if they start asking questions?" she wailed.
   "Be honest. Tell them you don't know. If a particular album is popular, tell them that."
   Dan tried hard to protect Tawnya. Store suspicion was that he wanted to illustrate her. Did I mention modeling work? Tawnya was already featured in national restaurant commercials. Did I mention swimsuit? Wet swimsuit?
   From that period on, Tawnya and Dan shared a bond. No idea what kind of bond, but Dan was her go-to colleague.
   Tawnya had already received strike one from The Boss's for chronic tardiness. Not helping all customers became strike two.
   Strike three fell after a Duran Duran concert, where she and other Texas bombshells managed to hook up with the band. She wasn't late, she went missing. Two days. Neglected to phone the store.
   When Tawnya finally did appear for work, The Boss terminated her.
   Next day, in a rather remarkable moment, The Boss listened as Dan and I argued Tawnya's case. Even more remarkably, he reinstated her. On store probation. With the proviso that Dan and I would bear a degree of responsibility for her.
   For awhile, we were not exactly flavor of the month.
   Then, one afternoon, John walked in with a tape of TV's American Journal. Episode featured Tawnya. She actually was on probation. Technically, not probation, but "free on her own recognizance." Pending a trial.
   Tawnya faced 25 years to life. Court date, upcoming.
   No one had known.
   Our coworkers only knew Dan and I had let her back in the store.
.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Coworkers: Part 52 - Stubble

   Kristi and Pat decided to throw the "surprise" bridal bash for Mandy. Natural site would have been Pat's Shack, but Pat firmly refused. Murmured something about females, champagne and cake. Then again, the memory of the Blur Party, not to mention the Swimming Pool Incident, were fresh in her mind. Eventually, Trina agreed to stage the bonanza at her house, small place she shared with Dan and John. The home where the air conditioner was just about kaput.
   Several girls signed on to bring snacks, one offered to buy a cake. Others put down champagne, beer, white zinfandel. No names were mentioned, but two would smuggle weed and accessories. Sugar, reefer, alcohol, and a hot room of giddy females. Pat's intuition served her well.
   Trina contacted Mandy's fiancé. Trina made fiancé part of the conspiracy so he could persuade her to venture forth.
   He also provided warning.
   Mandy was more liberal than she used to be, but that fundamentalist upbringing was still pervasive. Vice was contagious. If she suspected booze or pot, more likely than not, she would feel uncomfortable, she might bail.
   Champagne, reefer, wine, all shelved.
   Cake and soda. Lots of sugar. Attendees would be four years old again.
   Then there was entertainment. For generations, females have deplored, despised, and participated in the same games and stunts that would have been familiar to Betsy Ross, Nell Gwynn or Cleopatra. Most were silly, juvenile and mindless. Women were naturally uncomfortable behaving like buffoons. That's why they kept guys. Man pets could launch stupidity without thinking. Prime viewing followed, "Hey, watch this." It's what we did.
   How about bonus entertainment?
   Trina phoned the boyfriend back. Dropped the suggestion.
   He thought the idea hysterical.
   The ladies began hunting for a stripper.

*

   A few years earlier, there had been a memorable disaster with a stripper and departing employee. That particular coworker never spoke with anyone again, and her husband was incensed.
   Hiring a stripper was like perusing a mail order catalog. There were more choices than the girls anticipated. Once they narrowed down categories of age and R-rated versus XXX, they began arguing over profiles. Fireman. Cowboy. Law Enforcement. Surgeon. The Colonel. Teacher. Three Piece Suit. Rock Star. Plumber.
   There were glossy photos of guys in "before" outfits. Listings of musical selections.
   Missy and Trina lobbied for the Hard Hat or Motorcycle Cop.
   Gents with tools or nightsticks
   They were overruled.
   The rest of the girls, Kristi, Pat, Pepe, Stacey, Amster, Tawnya, all voted Western.
   Bodybuilder. Guaranteed Billy Ray Cyrus lookalike.
   The Country Stud.

*

   The air conditioner was dead. Desperate souls might broil chickens in that matchbox house. Cake icing melted everywhere. The guest list had been slapped together without consideration, either. Several of the girls had poached boyfriends from each other. Hollywood's Cathouse Bloodbath began with such a plot.
   Several unmentioned ladies staggered in stoned. Well, pot had been banned from the party, not before the party.
   Half the bachelorettes knew the unspoken history of Tawnya, others did not. As at the music store, the unknowing ate first.

   The party was dead air, grinding gears, awkward babble when Country Stud swaggered in.
   "Hello, girlfriends!"
   Mandy about died.
   Introductions, invites to sample his muscle tone, suggestive flirting, rolled out the old tape deck ... and then ...
   " ... don't tell my heart, my achy breaky heart. I just don't think it'd understand ... "
   Not!
   Hell, it wasn't even Country music. Retro metal, courtesy Firehouse.
   In no time flat, Mr. Stud done stripped down to the dayglo package enveloping the seed pod.
   Plus white boots. No self respecting redneck would be caught dead in white boots after age three. What was he thinking? Also sported "party hair," the long mullet. He only knew one dance routine, a dandified, dancing march in place. Punctuated with frequent pauses. Glided her hands across his Adonis flanks. Made small talk. Like asking her how old she was. When she answered, he replied, "Isn't that kinda old to be getting married for your first time? I mean -- " The room screamed at him.
   The tiny living room was a sweltering hotbox. Sweat streamed off the gyrating gizmo. He strutted up to Mandy, quick stepped a 180, grabbed her reluctant hands and slapped them right onto them achy breaky cheeks.
   He had been shaving his behind. Repeatedly, it seemed. Because hair kept growing back. Thicker.
   Stubble.
   The magic ass was, she later confided, very sweaty.
   Sweaty forest of stubble.
   "Come on girlfriends, squeeze these Country Cheeks!"
   None shared in the horror though it was an offer seemingly impossible to refuse. After fifteen minutes, he started tugging his clothes back on. In front of everyone. Stuck out his hand, and took a wad of cash from Kristi. Counted it in front of everyone.
   Speaking for men everywhere, "Sorry, ladies."
   Country Stud, inflated to maximum, sought fulfillment at the next femme enclave.
   Afterward, one of the girls cried forlornly, "Sorry, Mandy."
   Weeks later, someone would comment, "Stubble," and someone else would blush, wither, or bust out laughing.
   Despite it all, the boyfriend still married Mandy. He was a class act.
   We sent them a Billy Ray Cyrus CD to relive those happy moments.


.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Shoplifting: Case #05 - Granny

   Thursday morning, just Pat and myself. Kristi was struggling to arrive, Mandy had phoned in sick. If nothing else, Stacey would arrive at noon, Pat and I could manage. Besides, there was no one in the store except for a little old lady browsing in videos.
   Pat and I killed time up front, waiting for the shipment truck. Gabbed about coworkers, concerts, lunch ... who remembers? Granny was leaving empty handed, we'd have the store to ourselves.
   Only Granny had just triggered the security alarm. Pat and I stared at each other, stunned. The woman was nicely dressed, white blouse and black slacks, 70 if she was a day, and moved with surprisingly speed; she had turned and was halfway to the rear of the shop.
   Pat hurried after her while I searched the video shelves for a gap. What could she have swiped? Maybe she'd just stepped on a security tag.. I craned my neck, scanning for the women. They had squared off back in ROCK, near the Local section. The senior sprinter was pointing at the racks and shaking her head vigorously. Pat's hands were on her hips and she delivered a skeptical look.
   I walked back. This smelled like a catfight.
   "I am not a thief!" Granny argued loudly.
   "So how did this SLAYER video suddenly appear on these CDs?" Pat demanded.
   Slayer? A fellow metal head! I gazed at Granny with new respect.
   "I am not a thief!" she declared, power walking out the store.
   Pat rode on her heels, badgering, "Well, you sure run like a thief."
   "I am not a thief!"
Granny had the vocabulary of a Mafia parrot.
  At the door I held Pat's shoulders. Given any excuse she could have kicked her AARP ass. Pat was boiling. "I'm alright. I just hate --- Look! She's getting into a Cadillac!"
   Sure enough. Wide, white Caddie with a massive chrome grill that could have used for Air Force radar.
   We never phoned the police. She'd probably been a klepto for years. I found it oddly reassuring to know we're popular even with geriatric shoplifters.
.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Coworkers: Part 53 - The Pact

   An informal pow wow was held in the Backroom. Subject - Tawnya. After John discovered Tawnya faced an upcoming criminal trial, we argued about what our involvement should be. We, as in the Sound Warehouse crew. We shut all recent hires completely out of the loop. Most were still unknown factors.
   Telling The Professor was out of the question. He talked to himself. Loudly. Mandy harbored a temper, and disliked Tawnya. If she possessed a drop of information, her mouth would trigger. Kristi was Mandy's best friend, they shared secrets. Cymon was new, but already trailed after Mandy like the lovestruck. Mikey was unpredictable and twisted, he might ask Tawnya out, initiate spawning to implant jail larva.
   From what we had learned (newspaper columnists could be useful), it seemed foregone that Tawnya would serve time. She was temporarily out on probation, enjoying dwindling freedom.
   How did she get hired? Because our application only asked if one had been "convicted." Not if one faced conviction. Tawnya had wisely kept mum on that aspect.
   Plus, she passed the drug test!
   Employees were in 90% agreement on how we dealt with Tawnya. Treat her normally. Feign ignorance. Never - never - mention the incident, or the upcoming trial. That differing 10%, however, was Dan. Typically enough, Dan wanted to know. What had happened? Why did it happen? Did she feel guilty? Anxious?
   The rest of us strongly disagreed. Missy and Trina thought the whole mess was bad mojo. John and I argued that if one of us entered into any discussion, as in confidence, we could be summoned for a lengthy court date. We'd be questioned, we'd be cross examined, we'd lose work.
   Pat sided with Dan, she desperately wanted to know. Tawnya was better than watching a car wreck. "This is fun!" she insisted. Yet she reluctantly followed the other females.

   The situation was deliciously awkward. Tawnya carried a terrible secret. Most of us knew that secret, which we couldn't divulge. Did Tawnya suspect? I wondered. Right away, Kristi's intuition sensed something amiss and she pressed me, but I wouldn't confide in her.
   Persistently, Dan poked around or needled.
   Truck day, lunch break, whenever there was a small gang in the back, Dan might voice, "So like family here. Where we share and help each other." or "I don't know, I've done some bad things. What about you?" or "Ha ha, like you could ever hurt anyone."
   We wanted to clobber him. Afterward, we'd just scream, "Dan!" He'd laugh lightly and stroll away with his coffee.
   Tawnya was comfortable with Dan. Too comfortable. If he made an inappropriate comment she punched him. Hard. Once, she drove her fist into his stomach and he bent over in pain. "Oh, Dan, quit being such a pussy," she giggled.
   My favorite alarm moment came when she brought in a batch of fresh cookies she'd baked herself. Nervous would be understating how her coworkers viewed that plate. A few were flat terrified. Yet, since not all employees were in the loop, others suffered no fear. The Professor ate a couple ... and lived. Cymon ate a couple more ... no problem. Then everyone feasted.
   End of August, Tawnya gave notice and returned to college. In addition to her television commercials and modeling, she was a straight A student in a hard science major. Her university experience was ending, however.
   The court date, moving inexorably, arrived.
   The trial unfolded as our columnist insider predicted.
   Tawnya changed clothes. Her college dreams, her life, were placed on hold.
.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Coworkers: Part 54 - Management Training‏

   As always, Blockbuster knew everything - - knew nothing.
   Within a few months of buying those half dozen music chains, then rebranding the conglomeration Blockbuster Music, lofty minds in the towering palisade decided to show us lowly music minions just how petty and easy our miserable work environment was. Every time there was a "Manager" vacancy at any music outlet, masterminds shifted in an eager Assistant from the video division.
   No real work experience, no music aptitude. The workload daunted them immediately.
   Without exception, video division transfers flamed out.
   Phase Two. The Marines. The Top Dogs. Video Managers.
   Expectations were higher. They were, after all, managers.
   One week, they oversaw their happy store, checked in twenty new titles, replenished snacks, and churned rentals. Thinking was unnecessary. Video rental was so simple, a simpleton could manage a store. Next week, after the transfer, these same happy managers were bouncing mindlessly inside their new music store. Over a hundred new titles landed weekly. Sale lists fluctuated, and all titles had to be priced. That wasn't difficult, it was detail oriented. Orders had deadlines. The manager had to forecast NR, A, and AA Charts. If back catalog, D-Chart, wasn't delegated, the newbie could lose their mind. Inventory was gigantic, yet there were budget constraints. Most of those transfers knew nothing about music other than what aired on the radio. Staffs quickly realized their new managers were an idiot.
   Sank without a whimper.
   A few begged to return to Video stores. Blockbuster, eyes opened to mediocrity, declined.
   Thereafter, transfer requests to the music division ceased.
   Phase Three: The Manager Training Program.
   Outsiders.

   Woody was the first applicant transferred to our store. He looked around 40, so he was older than everyone else. Years ago, he had worked for a mall based, record chain. Music retail experience was a plus. His music knowledge was stale, but he could ramp up to speed within a few months. After a week of cashiering, Listening Center, and stocking, he was sent to me for Receiving 101.
   At his previous record store gig, employees opened boxes, stocked them directly. At Camp Bowie, the Boss wanted one agent to hold accountable. A bad Backroom guy could kill a store. The Boss demanded all product be verified against invoice, then manually entered into the database. He was deeply suspicious about vendors and the Distribution Center. His misgivings were justified. DC errors were rampant, large labels like WEA or Sony were usually accurate, local distributors like Big State were a crap shoot. In addition, once a week Pat or John justified my numbers. He trusted me, but he liked checks.
   Woody grasped the realities of inventory control. He was not fast, and he never would be, but he only needed to know the basics and what troubles to watch for.
   Pat and John trained him on all the office nonsense. Payroll, invoices, bank deposits, boring paperwork crap.
   The Boss worked with him on orders, scheduling, dealing with a store full of lunatics, navigating witless Blockbuster decrees.
   Woody worked our store for two months, then transferred to the tiny Six Flags store for a month, then to North Richland Hills, finally back to us. Blockbuster wanted applicants exposed to a variety of manager styles.
   After four months, Woodster was "good to go" and headed off. That was the fine print. Upon completion of the training period, newly minted managers would be relocated where needed. They had no say in destinations. Woody was sent to San Diego.

   Leroy had no retail experience, had never worked in a music store. For 20 years, he'd been military police. Army cop. Big, imposing man with a friendly front. Listened to current music, but his knowledge was neither deep nor broad. The Manager Training Program was a new opportunity. Most of his colleagues had opted for a US Postal stint, which he equated with zombie work.
   Leroy mastered the usual store elements. With coworkers, he strained. He was accustomed to dealing with bad puppies by tossing them in the cooler. Retail didn't have that option. The ingrained cop was built for apprehending bad guys, not compromise, leniency, clemency. People screwed up in this world, made mistakes, or behaved like idiots. The Boss typically yelled, but usually tried to straighten them or help them. Outside of stealing, he rarely fired people unless they were complete morons.
   And people did make mistakes.
   Leroy discovered a cashier error while training. Told Kristi who was training him and she summoned the pez-head to the back.
   "Worthy, your drawer is $15.00 short."
   "No way."
   "Think you might've / could've given a customer a twenty instead of a five for change?"
   "No way."
   "Worthy ... "
   I usually worked register and processed inventory at the same time. I was one of the fastest cashiers. That said, most managers would probably agree that I wasn't as good a cashier as I blithely assumed I was.
   "OK, OK," she waved me off. "I'll .. fix this ... somehow."
   "Thanks. I owe you."
   "I know. Don't worry, I won't forget."
   Kristi bailed me out, like so many others had over the years. Mister Clueless. Leroy observed our exchange without comment. I felt he would prove a stern manager, but he also had instincts to sift cupidity from stupidity.
   An unannounced job opening was suddenly posted in the Region that Leroy would have been perfect for.
   Loss Prevention.
   Donut Bear was being assigned a partner. Likely, the working partner.
   Leroy had passed the manager training program. He was ex military police. He was big, black, and behind that grin, waited a no nonsense hard-ass.
   Employee-thieves would be completely intimidated by him.
   Leroy would have been perfect. He did not land the position, however. We suspected Donut Bear had a problem with one of his attributes. Or that Leroy was possessed better qualification than the Bear. Instead, the LP post went to Danny, who'd worked at Camp Bowie years earlier. Danny quit the LP job after four months, bored beyond belief, and returned to North Richland Hills.
   Leroy was transferred to Carolina.

   Leroy was the last good manager applicant. Those who filed through afterward had no business aptitude, or weren't intelligent enough, or suffered incompetent people skills. Some were flat out dishonest. The chain could have used Leroy in those situations. None of them successfully completed the training. The final trainee shepherded through the process was Jinxed. That character proved to be memorable.
   After Jinxed, Blockbuster intellectuals discontinued the outside manager training program. Thereafter, the majority of managers rose through the ranks.
.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Coworkers: Part 55 - Cymon

   Picture a horseshoe. Upside down, out of luck. Place a round ball bearing on the top of the horseshoe. Drench the tips of the horseshoe in midnight black ink. Draw a puzzled face on that ball bearing head. Finally, a name.
   Cymon.
   Cymon was a quintessential gym-rat. Lot of the crew had gym memberships. All drank, clubbed, or partied instead. One could get healthy later in life. Cymon, however, worked out nightly. Wasn't musclebound, but he kept his arms flexed in that horseshoe. Even when walking, those arms didn't swing. Instead, his torso swiveled from side to side. Cymon's look. Flair. For whatever reason, when Cymon swaggered by, I thought of Popeye.
   Like all new hires, Cymon was assigned register duty. He immediately killed the check stamp pads.
   Customer handed over a check. Clerk turned it over and stamped the backside with the bank deposit routing info. Any two year old could master this. Cymon could not. We'd walk up, his hands were stained in black ink. Which he transferred to the counter, the cash register, his clothes, face, all the bags (nice surprise for the next cashier).
   "What the hell are you doing?"
   "It's the ink! It won't stay in the pad. It does seem to migrate, doesn't it?"
   He'd then hurry off to the bathroom.
   That nice, brand new, white bathroom.
   Permanent black ink.
   The Boss lost his mind.
   After a week, only managers were permitted to touch the stamp pad. Managers loved trotting up to the front every five minutes.
   Next, Cymon wrecked the doors. Manual doors, not automatic. Cymon shoved manfully. Door jumped off its hinges. Three different times. We managed to fix one accident ourselves. Other two times, locksmith.
   "Terribly faulty, aren't they?"
   Then, Cymon harassed the girls, or rather, Mandy. He became blotto obsessed with her, and trailed behind like a lovesick puppy, cooing in his lilting Commonwealth accent, "Oh, Mandy. Whatever shall we do about us?"
   There was no us. Mandy lived with her boyfriend, they planned to get married. Cymon was told that. Repeatedly. Mandy snapped at him endlessly, but her boy bashing technique was amateurish. Missy or Trina would have cut him with a few single syllables.
   Store infatuations were common. James for Pat, Trina for Todd, Pat for John, were only a few. Cymon merely upheld the tradition. Even shot down in flames, he remained undiscouraged and stood next to her, like a creepy bodyguard. Accomplishing nothing. No store assignments, no Mandy leg. The Boss eventually modified the schedule so they wouldn't work together. Then he reconsidered, and fired Cymon.
   Cymon refused to die. He hired on at another Sound Warehouse location in the mid-cities, and became their Import expert.
   After that, I don't know.
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