Saturday, November 15, 2008

Coworkers: Part 05 - Into The Back

   "What's going on with that other job of yours?" The Boss asked.
   I was still relatively new. My shift was Tuesday and Thursday, 2 - 6, and Friday 6 - midnight. Fourteen hours. My other job, rebuilding player pianos and pump organs, clocks during overflow, was at a standstill. A mini Recession, focused on the Texas corridor, had slammed business. Dick was long gone. John found employment as a high end mechanic. He worked a bit on Saturdays. No projects were coming in for either of us. I still went to the shop daily, but mostly cleaned, organized, watered the plants, worked on my retirement home play.
   "I don't know," I answered. "Business is slow. Real slow."
   "How would you like more hours?" The Boss asked.
   Did I want more hours?
   "Sure, what do you need?"
   "I was reviewing your application. You've run back rooms ... inventory ... before."
   "New Hampshire, inventory prep, primarily cycle counts. In Los Angeles, I had complete control of the back. Inventory control, shipping and receiving, production schedules, fronting the line. Whatever was needed."
   "We're not that detailed here," he studied my application. "OK. Here's the deal. Danny is leaving. He's going to be Assistant Manager at Hurst. I'm moving Todd up to Floor Manager. I need a new Backroom guy ... " He paused.
   "Receiving Agent? Verify packing slips and contents match?"
   "More or less ... " He paused again.
   "That's day shift. Monday through Friday. And you're wondering about my other job?"
   I looked at the Floor, the parking lot, Video. I'd worked with John ... seven, eight years ... only we weren't working.
   "I'll be good to go next Monday."
   "Excellent. Todd will train you Monday. You should pick this up quickly. Thursday, Truck Day, you'll work with Todd and Rob. They haven't killed you yet, so I'm hopeful. Oh, and I prefer speed and accuracy," he gave me a look.
   "In that order? Don't get bogged down with details?"

   I still had Classical duty. When Jeri was off, I was on call. Most of the crew didn't want to deal with fussy clients. Beethoven was Beethoven. Bernstein, Von Karajan, what's the difference? Advising between the '63 versus the '77 versus the new, digital version, was too much.
   Tuesdays were New Release day. New titles rolled in Fridays, Mondays, and Tuesdays. Cross reference titles with slips, hit 'em with the price gun, stack them in a cart. Note: If there was a stray shopping cart within a quarter mile, it vanished into the Backroom. "May not need it now, man," Todd advised. "But we will for Christmas." We had 20 grocery carts in the back.
   "Packing slip? I never touched that."
   Todd warned me about Dan. Dan was notorious for opening New Release boxes to see what was coming out. For taking packing slips and wandering off with them, laying them down, forgetting.
   I wanted to get along, I tolerated this for awhile. Then, fuck it. I hid boxes or buried slips. Threatened dismemberment.
   Thursday was Truck. Replenishment from the Distribution Center. Accessories, videos, CD's, cassettes, boutique crap, vinyl. Several pallets worth of product.
   Todd and I broke down the shipment, then resorted everything by chart. A-Chart (biggest sellers, highest volume), B-Chart, C-Chart. Also NR-Chart (New Releases). Sometimes NR titles were for the following Tuesday, other times they were already out. The Backroom guy had to simply know, and not break, street date.
   Todd and I worked different charts. He took A, he was quicker. Half the titles were sale priced. Sometimes set by Bromo, other times The Boss let a hot album ride. By noon, half the shipment would be on the Floor, getting security taped.
   "Outta my way, fuckers."
   Rob clocked in at noon and worked Accessories. Blank tape, carrying cases, deck cleaners, stuff like that. Sometimes he was hungover, sometimes not. He was usually cranky.
   Especially if Todd hid a box or packing slip.
   Or his coffee mug.
   Coworkers drifted back constantly. A customer wanted a specific title. It was on-order. Did it come in? Could we find it? Everything stopped and we began digging.
   Carey frequently entered. Not a word. There was a full length mirror on one of the swinging doors. She stared, transfixed.
   "I don't see how you guys can work back here. I'd be in front of this mirror all day."
   We laughed. Carey was difficult, she had a short fuse, but she was stunning. She had no need of a looking glass.

   After two weeks, I had the Backroom nailed. I had done Inventory for years. I was an ex-stoner. I could concentrate and organize endless names, dates, and numbers in that rat's maze in my skull. Merchandise got checked in swiftly. The crew accepted me.
   I was "in."
   There was only one teeny problem. D-Chart.
   All the back catalog ordered by James.
   Big State, House, and all the majors. WEA, Sony, UNI, Poly, CEMA. Especially CEMA.
   Those packing slips had NO PRICES. Just meaningless codes. Meaningless because there was no legend or description of the codes, because there were dozens of codes.
   I had gotten stumped. Bogged down with details.
   Exactly what The Boss warned me to avoid.
   Paged James, no idea. He placed orders. Period. I could leaf through all his D-Books. Like hell.
   Todd came back, then Dan, finally The Boss.
   No one knew. In the end, Dan advised me to use the "Danny Method."
   Best guess. If customers only knew.
   "If it looks full priced to you, price it that way. Mid-line. Budget."
   "What I always did, man."

   "What if I screw up?"
   "We'll catch mistakes. Tell you. You'll get the hang of it."
   "Or else we'll come back and throw you off the lift."
   "All of us, taking turns, cause you're one of us."

   Nothing like being accepted.
   I thought of an ancient Browning film. The chanting sequence.
   "One of us! One of us! One of us!"

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