You're Fired (Words I used to hear a lot)
As a Jehovah's Witness, I was fairly polite, considerate, and well-mannered.
After 2 years in Federal Prison, when I got paroled, something was changing inside of me I did not quite understand. Today, I realize I was an extremely ANGRY person, but I had swallowed my anger. Little by little, working at go-nowhere jobs, my anger and resentment were emerging.
I thought I'd share two such stories.
YOU'RE FIRED!! A true story.
I was in MacDonalds this morning listening to a young shift worker as he was being questioned by a Supervisor who ended up terminating his employment.
A flood of memories avalanched upon me!
I'll share this one with you now...
I was hired by Montgomery Ward Data Processing back in 1969-70, right after being released from Federal Prison. I was mentally unwilling to take anymore bullshit in my life. I had had two years worth already.
I was earning $2.38 an hour! (I know you're impressed.)
Everybody liked me. Hell, they loved me. I was a lot of fun and made everyone laugh. Lots of Nerd-types worked there and I managed to help them find their sense of humor.
One of my duties was to pack up reports for the shuttle truck which went out at 2 PM once each Wednesday.
I'd wrap the print-out in brown paper and use a Marks-a-lot to print the name of the Admin person on the other end.
Her name was BIRDIE BARKER.
As a wee joke, I drew a cartoon bird with a thought balloon above which said, "Woof Woof!"
Pretty innocent, huh?
No. No no no. Not at all! As you'll soon see, this was going to be interpreted by a Vice President in charge of self-importance, as a firing offense!
It was about 4 pm when my phone rang in the processing center where I performed my duties.
"Hello, Terry Walstrom, Burster and Decollator. How may I assist you?"
A cold, clinical, deep voice came through.
"Are you some kind of Smart Ass?" The voice could have been anybody.
"Why yes--now that you ask. I would have to reply affirmatively to your query. I've been told repeatedly how intelligent my ass is. Thanks for asking." And I hung up.
Count to five (1 Mississippi, 2Mississippi...)
"Good Afternoon, Mule barn--mule speaking."
"Are you the idiot who just hung up on me?"
"Why, No. Of course not."
"Well, who hung up on me?"
"That was me--but--I must correct your misperception. I'm not an idiot. According to Psychology studies, an "idiot" has an Intelligence Quotient of 0-25. Mine is, thankfully, above that."
"Listen up--listen to me--do you know who you're talking to? Do you have any idea who you hung up on? I'm the Vice-President of-----"
"Excuse me just a minute Mr. Vice President--I have a call coming in on the other line. Hold on--or, better still--I'll return your call when I'm through doing my job." CLICK!
(1 Mississippi, 2Mississippi...)
"Hello, Embalming Clinic, our customers are dying to come here. How may I help you"
"(Much swearing, vile name-calling, screaming...)"
"I'm sorry, I can't make out what you're saying. Try calling back later; we've obviously got a bad connection." CLICK!
(1 Mississippi, 2Mississippi...)
"Hi there! I'm not in at the moment. Please leave a message at the sound of the fart...(raspberry sound)..."
Before I could hang up----a loud, pleading voice rattled the phone.
"STOP IT! STOP THIS and TALK TO ME Godammit!"
"Why hello, is this the Vice-President in charge of --? Say, who are you anyway and why do you keep interrupting my work?"
"Aren't you hired to send reports to our catalog store? And did you draw a picture of a bird with the words "Woof Woof" on that report?"
"Guilty as charged, Your Honor."
"Have you got nothing better to do than waste the company's time and money on utter nonsense?"
"I'm glad you asked that question, Sir. Follow along with me as we reason together...First, I make $2.38 an hour. Second, that figures to be .04 cents a minute. Third, it takes me half a minute to draw the bird and write 'Woof Woof!' which breaks down to .02 cents of wasted time. Finally, at 52 weeks per year--you are correct--I have nothing better to do than waste ONE DOLLAR and FOUR PENNIES a YEAR making Birdie Barker smile! I imagine you make a bit more than two-thirty eight an hour--WHAT'S YOUR excuse?"
Can you believe this guy actually fired me for all that?
Here's another "YOU'RE FIRED" saga from my sordid past.
For about a year, I was Custom Framing Manager in a Crafts and Hobbies store similar to Hobby Lobby or Michael's called ZAK'S.
The owner was Don Mechanic. He was a jerk.
I was hired to manage one of the brand new stores in a killer location close to Six Flags Over Texas theme park.
Hobby stores are highly competitive. In fact, a war broke out between ALL these stores and 50% OFF on Custom Framing was catnip, for hordes of customers.
ZAK'S stores developed procedures managers were required to follow. In my opinion, incredibly inefficient.
The system worked as long as there was no stress (i.e. coupon sales) placed on this system. With great demand, everything broke down to a standstill.
When first hired, in order to 'get my feet wet' I was placed in ZAK'S busiest Dallas store in the middle of a 50% coupon sale!
Everything that could go wrong DID.
Customers were kept waiting and promised due dates which could not be met.
I mentally noted the bottlenecks and wrong-headed procedures.
A sales contest was proposed by the District Manager, Richard Gomez, a knucklehead. Richard was brimming over with a strong sense of authority but lacked know-how, imagination, and resourcefulness.
Other than that, he was okay. (i.e. insufferable.)
Richard announced, "There's a $50 bonus for the first employee in our stores who can sell our most expensive frame to a customer."
He was referencing a god awful gold monstrosity manufactured in Guadalajara for brain-dead Elvis-on-black-velvet sorts of customers with perhaps more money than brains or taste.
"You may as well reach into your billfold and hand over that $50 right now, Richard because I'll sell one of those butt-ugly bad boys before the day is over."
I only said that to irk the man. I confess.
You see, he was way too over-confident as a person. He thought too much of himself. I wanted to give him a dose of his own laxative.
"Nobody has ever sold one of those frames. What makes you so sure you can do it?"
"So, if you are confident I can't and won't sell one today--make it $100 bonus. Put your money where your mouth is."
"It's not MY money--it's company money--don't be ridiculous."
"I won't if you won't."
He did a slow burn. Instead of saying anything, he turned on his heel and walked off.
Later that afternoon, a customer walked up to the counter with one of the ugliest oil paintings I had ever seen in my life.
"I'd like to get this framed."
"Why would you want a custom frame for something so unremarkable?"
The man gave me a truly puzzled reaction and then broke out laughing.
"My wife's mother painted it. I thought I'd get on the good side of that women. A woman without a good side, I might add. So, I complimented her and praised this crime against humanity.
I thought my wife would appreciate it, too. Let me tell you something--no good deed ever goes unpunished in my house! My mother-in-law decided to GIFT us with this pile of shit.
My wife hated the painting as much as I did. So, next time her mother came over, the Old Bag sniffs indignant-like and put her hands on her hips and announced out loud: "I guess you were just lyin' yer ass off about lovin' my painting since you didn't bother yer sorry ass to put a frame on it."
I laughed. This guy was funny!
"My wife assured her I was going to frame it very soon. So, I went to the flea market to pick up a cheap-ass Mexican frame but this thing isn't a standard size. So, here I am."
A light bulb went off over my head. This poor man was the answer to my prayers.
"I have just the sort of frame which is certain not only to please your mother-in-law but convince her you respect her work as a brilliant artist. Once she sees the frame I'm about to show you, you'll endear yourself to the Old Bat. She'll never say it is CHEAP!"
By the time the man left, I had become the 1st employee of ZAK'S to sell the most expensive frame!
I wasted no time searching for Richard before he left our store.
I walked up to him and placed my hand out palm up.
"You can lay that $50 bucks right here. I just sold that frame. The customer paid up front and the money is in the register."
What happened next is typical of a man of this sort. He backed out of the deal claiming he was kidding. He was snide and prickly and totally chickenshit about it.
What could I do? I had to let him slide.
About six months later...
When my new store was being laid out--I took charge of carpenters and finishers and changed up the officially approved plans for the layout.
I was General Patton preparing for the Battle of the Bulge.
Long story short--my custom framing department quickly proved itself to be the #1 department for efficiency, sales, and customer satisfaction!
Richard was sent over to check out why ONLY my store wasn't in trouble. Immediately he saw I had changed everything--the layout and all his procedures!
He was purple with rage.
"Why did you take it upon yourself to make all these changes?:
I shrugged and told him the truth.
"I figured you had come up with the procedures based on your best judgment and I immediately realized what an awful idea it would be not to change it. Simple. My system works and yours doesn't."
"Hey--where're my $50 bucks?"
Thanks. I'm not proud of all this, mind you.
I did have "issues" to work through dealing with Authority. The kind of Authority which forces people to waste their time and which gave no consideration to efficiency.
I've often marveled at the sort of person who gets promoted without any talent.
The easiest answer is that they do exactly as they're told without question--and in turn--expect the same of those who work under them.
My idea of an excellent Manager is simple. A Manager gets obstacles out of the way so a job can be performed as close to effortlessly as feasible.
Unfortunately, authoritarian personalities end up ruling over things and flexing self-importance.
Kids, don't try my way. Find a nice middle ground. You'll last longer.