This is all about when a job goes wrong, when corporate America is left to run things with no responsibility whatsoever. Please feel free to comment and commiserate. I'm sure I'll be in need of a co-author to the book this just _has_ to become.

16 July 2007

Put The Coffee Cup Down And Step Away From The Pot

I've been a corporate drone at the same corporate hive for about 8 years now. My last job was a stint at a retail big box hell I'll call "The Computer Stuporstore," where America used to get its computer equipment before Michael Dell and Steve Jobs mercifully cut out the middle man.

My job was as a PC technician, one of the guys in the back room working on whatever clusterfuck someone brought into the store. Well, that was my job description. My actual job was, from 5 to close, was to work the counter.

The Computer Stuporstore had a few bizarre policies. Everyone was reviewed on income generated, but technicians were not allowed to make sales. Naturally, we were always evaluated as "Losers." My personal favorite was "Overtime is not permitted and not tolerated at The Computer Stuporstore." Yes, we were written up for clocking out one minute late. I finally took to telling the operations manager to learn how to make adjustments since I'm too busy doing, yanno, work to be arsed with worrying about the clock. (Or "Poor planning on your part does not constitute failure on my part.")

The absolute worst policy concerned coffee. Someone at corporate decided that, if one drank coffee in the late afternoon, they were not rested enough. If they were not rested enough, they were not giving The Computer Stuporstore their all. And if one is not giving the Computer Stuporstore their all, management should intervene and give counseling.

Never mind we all drank Coke after noon, which not only contains caffiene but sugar as well. And the professional geeks in the back room? Half of us were Mountain Dew addicts and future type II diabetics.

In December of 1999, I got an offer to join BigHugeCo in a job that 1.) was accessible by bus and 2.) wouldn't insult my intelligence. The offer increased my salary by 33%. "Let me think about that. Yes." So I turned in my three-week notice at The Computer Stuporstore and embarked on a month long campaign to get myself fired.

I cussed out the general manager in front of a customer for telling her that I would work overtime off the clock. I punched in early and went to breakfast. I let the phone ring evenings while I spent half an hour in the break room watching Jeopardy. Did this get anyone's attention?

No. What did?

One afternoon, the new Starbucks opened in the strip mall next door. I walked over on a break and got myself a cup. This got the general manager's attention, who brought it to the operations manager's attention. The OM, his name was Roger, hauled me into his office for "counseling."

"Were you aware of the rule about coffee during afternoon hours?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "Are you aware I turned in my notice and that I will be leaving your fine establishment for one that, unlike this one, pays more than people on food stamps get?"

"Nonetheless, for the next sixteen days, you are an employee of The Computer Stuporstore, and therefore, I have to ask you about your coffee."

"Okay, it's called Sumatra blend. It will knock you on your ass. For the largest size, it's $1.50." (This was 1998.) "If you like, I'll buy you a cup."

"J, understand that when we see you drinking coffee, we have to wonder why you're not getting enough rest."

"I'm not getting enough rest because I work two jobs. And no, you have no say in that situation. Unless you want to pay me more."

"I understand. But I still have to write you up and take a statement."

"Okay, here's my statement. 'I'm sorry you losers don't understand that sometimes people drink coffee because they like it. I'm sorry some moron in corporate has nothing better to do with his time than make up silly rules to make this place an even bigger hell than it already is. I'm sorry I still have to work here until New Year's Day.' Did you get all that?"

"You could quit now."

"You could fire me now."

Roger smiled. Roger actually got it long ago. He was biding his time until he either replaced the GM or he moved on to someplace better. Like everyone else who quit this place in the seven months I'd worked there. "Get back to work."

"You're not going to fire me?"

"For drinking coffee? Where do you think I work? Corporate?"

They never did fire me. Though the GM did avoid me after I cussed him out in front of a customer.


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