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.

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