We were working at a large industrial complex. Stan, one of the younger members of the crew, was walking the entire perimeter, picking up garbage scattered in the shrubbery.
The rest of us were mowing, weeding and pruning.
We returned to the truck and loaded our tools. Stan came sauntering around the corner, dragging a trashcan full of wrappers, cans and other assorted debris.
Crew Leader Carl was walking along a thick hedge that lined the complex’s entryway.
“Hey Stan!” he called. “You didn’t check these shrubs at all!”
“Sure I did, Boss!” Stan said, dumping the trash from his can into the back of the truck. “That was the first area I checked.”
“Yeah?” Carl came tromping toward us. He held up what looked like an empty ice sack. “Then what’s this? It was caught in the bushes right where people walk in!”
“I don’t know,” Stan said. “Maybe the wind blew it there after I checked them. All I know is it wasn’t there earlier.”
“Don’t give me that crap!” Carl said, wadding the sack and tossing it into the truck. “You need to pay better attention, you hear? It’s the details that matter. You can’t just gloss over them. An oversight like that could cost us the entire account.”
Stan balled his hands into fists. “But I didn’t —”
“Can it!” Carl said. He motioned to the rest of us. “Let’s go.”
We all climbed into the truck. I sat in the backseat between Juan and Stan. Carl drove, and Francisco rode shotgun.
As we drove to our next job, Stan sat in silence with his arms crossed. His bottom lip was sticking out.
We cruised into town, barreling down Main Street with our rickety trailer swinging behind us.
“Where do you guys want to go to lunch today?” Carl asked. “I’m in the mood for Taco Bell. Does that sound good?”
The rest of us murmured and nodded. Stan said nothing.
Carl noticed. He looked at him in the rearview mirror. “What flew up your butt, Stan?”
Stan took a deep breath, but he didn’t say anything. He just stared at the back of Carl’s seat, his eyes wide and fierce.
“Answer me!” Carl yelled. “Or I’ll kick your butt right out of this truck! I’m not going to tolerate any of this pouty two-year-old crap!”
“You didn’t have to yell at me back there,” Stan said.
Carl’s eyes narrowed. “What?”
“I said you didn’t have to yell at me back there!” Stan said. “I wasn’t lying. I combed every inch of that property. The bag wasn’t there on my first go-around!”
“I said I didn’t want to hear that crap!” Carl said. He turned around and jabbed Stan in the chest, even as we continued to barrel down Main Street. “You missed the bag. Just admit it!”
“Um, Carl,” I said, swallowing. “You might want to watch the road.”
“I’m telling you, it wasn’t there!” Stan said.
“I’ll tell you what you need!” Carl said, jabbing Stan in the chest again, his back turned to the road. “You need to develop your attention to detail! That’s what you need!”
As he said that, we barreled through a red light. A car honked, coming to a violent skid in the middle of the intersection.
Carl spun forward, grabbing the wheel with both hands. “What was that?”
“I think you glossed over a detail,” I said.