Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Coworkers: Part 59 - Why Can't You Look?‏

   "Because we don't have a THE section. The Rolling Stones are in the R's. OK?"
   With that, Mandy wheeled around returned to her shopping cart stuffed with CD's to stock.
   A customer had interrupted her (mistake number one), asked if she might help him (mistake number two), then explained he'd looked all over the T section, but couldn't find The Rolling Stones (mistake number three).
   I witnessed the exchange from a distance and positioned myself so I'd be the first available employee the customer could vent at. He did. I smiled, nodded sympathetically, and told the mollified client I would deal with her. Walked up to Mandy afterward and said simply, "Hand."
   Mandy stuck out her arm. I slapped her wrist lightly. Walked off. She and I often used a shorthand. That way, I hadn't involved The Boss, other managers, or District meddlers.
   After her first week, the store realized Mandy possessed terrible customer service skills. She wasn't rude, she simply had poor people skills. Customers complained periodically, but it wasn't like she slighted any group or individual. Mandy was an equal opportunity offender. Curt and brusque to one and all. In the store, Mandy was never flavor of the month. One of the other girls had "favorites." Mandy never made her list. She was one of those invisible people who faded into the background. Yet, I saw her. She had a magnificent work ethic, and was extremely task focused. Conflicts arose when customers interrupted completion of those tasks.
   Bad as it was, once Mandy got pregnant, her customer service went to hell.

   For eight and a half months, she toiled on. Extended breaks and lightning trips to the restroom were tolerated by coworkers. As she got heavier, she got slower. For many projects, she found it easier to sit on the floor. Once there, she was a beached sea turtle, on vacation.
   "Excuse me, are you busy?" a customer asked.
   "What do you need?" replied vacation turtle.
   "Uh, George Strait."
   "He's in Country."
   "Uh ... yes ... but where's Country?"
   "Just down that way,"
she pointed in the vague direction of Neptune.
   "I'm sorry. Which way?"
   "Why can't you look?"
she snapped.
   At that moment John overheard the exchange and hurried to assist the frustrated customer. These were not isolated incidents, but occurred weekly.
   Normally, I would have slapped her wrist, and she'd answer, "I know, sorry." But, she was pregnant. Bloated, uncomfortable, nauseous. And Mandy, when she had been manager, had bailed me out of several lunatic mistakes. She covered for me, and didn't advise The Boss, Pat, John. I owed her.
   Stacey and Derek, a mismatched pair if ever there was one, concocted a more devious punishment than my wrist slap.
   They assigned The Professor to watch over Mandy. Station himself near that helpless, little woman. She was terribly pregnant, after all. Lift her up from the floor, see if she needed anything. Water, cookie, celery. Whatever he thought she required.
   Even when she told him to leave, he wouldn't. Lost her temper, got ugly, he treated her like an irrational, dysfunctional two year old.
   After two weeks of solicitous attention, she about lost her sanity. Especially after it was suggested she christen the baby with The Professor's name.
   Luckily, she lolled on the floor, and there was nothing deadlier than CD keepers to hurl.
   Besides, we were quicker. We could dodge.
   Too bad The Professor had been looking elsewhere.
   Maybe it was just a lucky shot.

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