I had a lot of truly terrible jobs with truly terrible bosses in truly terrible places. It would be easy to let these experiences turn me into a truly terribly person. The frustration and annoyance that comes with timecards and mandatory three-hour meetings about using time more efficiently can really warp the way you look at the world and the people in it.
If you want to stay positive, though, it’s important to recall some of the funnier moments years down the line. It’s only then that the inept manager or the insane customers can cause smiles. Once you’re removed from that situation, it’s easier to laugh. The longer the amount of time since you occupied that desk, the funnier those stories seem.
In high school, I tended to drift towards sales work. For those who don’t know, sales work apparently isn’t hard. I know this for a fact because the owner, Gus, in his stained t-shirt, would stand in front of the room and remind us that literally everyone could do it. The phrase he used spoke volumes and has stuck with me for twenty years.
Hey. Listen. This isn’t Rocket Scientry.
I have lived so much life since then and still, Gus is the only person I ever heard say the word “scientry”. This guy actually owned the business – not rocket scientry, indeed.
The job that stands out the most for me in terms of insane moments was my full-time stint as the web guy from a power tool distributor a few years back. I didn’t even make it 12 months before screaming into the night, but it felt much longer. There were so many terrible things about that place. Ugh. There was that time…
No. No. I’m not doing that. The whole point is to remember the funny things, not the miserable. My brain may default to the negative, but my soul needs the positive. It may sound hippy dippy, but I’m really doing it to preserve my sanity and make life happier for those around me – myself included.
The craziness of this position began the moment you walked into the building. Joe, our warehouse parts-puller, made it a point to run up to you every day with a common phrase and make you guess what movie it’s from. Sound confusing? It was. Stuff like this.
Good morning, Joe.
“Good morning!” Ha ha! “Good morning!” What movie is that from? “Good morning!” Come on. You know this.
It’s 8AM, Joe. I have no idea.
Come on. Burt Reynolds. “Good morning!” Dustin Diamond…”Good morning!” Ah haha. It’s before your time.
Outsiders learned quickly that almost everyone working there was insane. Once they sent in a new drillbit rep, Tracy, to meet with us. She was fresh out of college with a bright smile and positive view of the world. She said “please” and took notes. When I met with her in the conference room (which was a large closet with crates to sit on), she told me all about her goals and why she chose this line of work. She was a good kid.
Good kids stand out like sore thumbs in this place. Mark, our front desk manager, couldn’t understand, well, anything. Later in the day, after she had left, he stopped me as I came walking by and had to ask.
Yo. You see that little girl they send in here today? That little girl with the notebook?
Tracy. Yeah. She’s from the drillbit supplier.
Yeah. Tracy. What’s that all about, huh?
I wasn’t sure what he was asking.
I’m not sure what you’re asking.
Little girl like that. Why she want to be in a business like this? Bunch of dirtbags. Look at it. It’s awful. Tools. Drillbits. Terrible business. What she want to be in a terrible business like this, full of a bunch of dirtbags like me?
It was a bizarre form of self-deprecation manifesting itself in ways I don’t think he fully understood. But there we were. He seemed intent on figuring out why Tracy had chosen this field. He was so intent, in fact, that he, well, did this.
I even asked her that. I was like, “Why would a nice little girl like you want to be in a business like this? Awful business. Bunch of dirtbags. It’s not a place for a girl like you.”
I had been looking at a piece of paper as he was talking. I stopped short and turned my eyes back up to his. He was beaming with some sort of excited energy.
Wait, you said that to her?
You damn right I did. Why not? Give me one reason. Give me one good reason why a nice little girl wants to pick a dirtbag business like this?
I looked him in the eye.
Because it’s her family business. Her dad owns it. Her whole family is in it. You called her whole family dirtbags.
The color drained from his face.
Yeah, oh crap. I hope you’re stocked up on drillbits.
Sometimes I have to do twists and turns to find a lesson in my life moments. This isn’t one of them. Mark taught me an important lesson that day. Although, I’m pretty sure I already knew it, he was still a solid reinforcement.
My favorite story from that job isn’t even my own. It’s something that, I’m warning you now, has bad language in it. There’s really no way to avoid it. Taking it out takes away the effect. Not telling it just isn’t an option. It was once in a lifetime.
My setup was in a small room packed with three online reps manning the pop-up help desk on our company website. After a few minutes of someone browsing the online wares, a picture of a Disney Princess appears and asks, “Can I help you?” They could then type something, either real or abusive, into the box. This went on all day. You heard from a wide range of people.
The customer service reps would narrate these pop-ups out loud as they appeared and, most times, the customers were angry. There were furious complaints and all-caps questions. The help desk deserved a trophy. The clicking of their keys never stopped, even as they spoke.
You heard it all day. Click, click, click. On this one particular day, we all were feeling ornery. Tess, at the desk next to me began reading her pop-up out loud in an annoyed voice through her clicking.
“Hello Tool Store. I am unhappy with your site. Your selection is too low. Your prices are too high.”
Click, click, click.
She stopped reading, sighed, and then let out the best response that could be expected at 2pm on a Tuesday.
Right. Sorry, asshole.
Click, click, click.
We all laughed in that exhausted laugh you do at work. When the chuckles died down, the room became silent for a second before Tess’s gasp shattered the still air.
Oh my God. I wrote “Sorry, asshole.”
I was typing and I was talking and I meant to write something else and I just typed “sorry, asshole”…to the guy!
No way. No way you wrote that.
She did. We all lost it. People came running from all over and soon we were all at Tess’s computer screen laughing our heads off. We were bored out of our minds, so anything would have entertained us. But this – this was genuine gold.
After some deliberation, she decided to tell him that her message was meant for someone else. He replied with “I should hope so” and then proceeded to ask questions about hammers. It was kind of ridiculous. I made sure to point out the obvious to everyone.
He knows damn well you weren’t talking to anyone else. That was awesome.
We had some wild moments with some unforgettable people. Don’t get me wrong. You couldn’t pay me enough to ever step foot in that building again. The time that I was forced to, though, wasn’t all bad. It just takes a little time, distance, and perspective to realize that.
If anyone I worked with or for takes offense to any of these stories, it certainly wasn’t my intention. But if they insist on a response from me, though, they can head over to Tess’s desk. She typed up a reply that should suffice.