EDITOR’S NOTE: I still have plenty of life lessons to learn, but I thought I would start a series on Fridays that would highlight different lessons I’ve already learned. These may more or less be a personal reminder so I won’t make the same mistakes, but nevertheless, here it goes. (And if you’ve got one you would like to submit, I’d love to consider it as a guest post – we can all learn from others’ mistakes.)
During my freshman year of college at the University of Georgia, I returned home after fall quarter and began desperately searching for a job to make some extra cash. I was really desperate, so I took a job at Wal-Mart unloading trucks on the graveyard shift. This was before the idea Wal-Mart Supercenters had taken hold and they realized that people wanted to buy $5 lawn chairs and a bag of Ho-Hos for 99 cents at 3 a.m. Think all the way back to when everything Wal-Mart sold was American made. Sam Walton was barely cold in his grave.
Since working from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. isn’t the most preferable shift, the people chosen for these slots are interesting. Our shift included one guy trying to make ends meet for his three kids by two different mothers, a former Vietnam vet who obsessively played with Tarot cards (Personally, I would’ve quit using them the minute they pointed my future working the graveyard shift at Wal-Mart), a guy I’m pretty sure was running a drug operation on the side with his pager, a woman with a personalized hernia belt who I thought might power drive me into the tile floor, and Spanky.
Spanky was our supervisor who derived his nickname from his striking likeness to this guy. He even encouraged the use of the name, which only led to further mockery behind his back. I actually liked Spanky, except for the time he threatened to fire me if he caught me using the pallet jack as a skateboard again. Tony Hawk may have been the flavor of the day in halfpipes, but I would’ve ollied circles around him on a Wal-Mart pallet jack.
While Spanky tried to run a tight ship, he was like everyone else that worked the graveyard shift – we all needed to slip off and take a nap at some point. One morning, I believed he was doing just that but I couldn’t find him. It was 4:30 a.m., time for the morning stockers to report to work and begin preparing the floor with the new product we unloaded from the trucks. None of them had keys, which required Spanky to unlock the doors.
I was wheeling some kid bikes to the toy section at the back of the store when I heard a rat-a-tat-tatting on the glass door leading to the garden section. I recognized the woman as the elderly lady who stocked the health and beauty section each night. Ever devoid of a pleasant demeanor, she rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t know if her perpetual foul mood was the result of getting up so early or just being a crotchety old woman, but it made no difference to me. I avoided her like rational thought averts Washington.
Without a key, I couldn’t help her so I began searching for Spanky. I canvassed the store and couldn’t find him. So I returned to the toy section only to find her still tapping the window with her key. I made a face at her, more or less urging her to stop. She didn’t. Where was Spanky?
I then located the closest store intercom and shouted my S.O.S.: “Spanky, the old bat has been standing outside the garden center for five minutes now trying to get someone to let her in. Can you please come open the door for her?”
I hung up the phone, smirked at the woman again and returned to work. She kept banging.
Less a minute later, Spanky came sprinting to the garden center door, then he stopped and looked at me.
“You realize the store intercom goes to the garden center, don’t you?” he said.
Horror filled me. I was more afraid of the old woman than I was of wrestler lady.
“Run,” he said.
Spanky stuck the key in the lock and graciously waited for me to get a head start.
I took off through the store in a dead sprint. I was about halfway through the store when I heard her raspy voice screeching about some “young punk.” I somehow avoided her the rest of night and never managed to find a good enough reason to visit the health and beauty section at 4:30 a.m. for the remaining two weeks that I worked there.
LIFE LESSON: Never reveal your true feelings on an intercom. Trust me, you’ll be glad you resisted.
Question: Have you ever spoken something very publicly and wished you could take it back?