It was early morning, and we were at the shop, loading our tools into the truck.
We were just about to take off when the bay door flew open. Benito, the company owner, was standing there with his hands on his hips, silhouetted against the bright morning sunshine.
“All you! Stop right there!” he said, yelling in his thick Italian accent. A smoldering cigar was stuck in his mouth.
“Oh no,” said Crew Leader Carl, mumbling under his breath.
“Oh, yes!” Benito ambled into the shop. “You no leave yet! This shop is a mess! See those tools against the wall! They’re everywhere in one large pile. I no like! You clean this up before you go. All shovels here, all rakes here, and all hula-hoes here! Got it?”
“Yes, sir,” Crew Leader Carl said. “The crew and I will clean this up immediately.”
“Good!” Benito said, tapping ash from his cigar onto the shop floor. He was standing under the red-lettered “No Smoking” sign, which hung prominently above the punch clock. “I want all this organize when I come back!”
He marched out the bay door.
Crew Leader Carl turned to us. “Well, you heard the man. Organize all these tools at once!”
He stood there with his arms crossed, supervising, as we all started to gather tools and lean them against the wall in neat rows.
Everything was lying in a large, unsightly pile, and even working together, it took us several minutes to pull everything apart. Shovel handles were stuck in rake prongs, and rake handles were stuck in hula-hoes, and hula-hoes were attached to shovels. It was a mess.
As we started to sort things out, the job required fewer people. Stan, one of the younger members of the crew, was squeezed out as the rest of us banded closer together to pry apart the remaining tools.
Standing there with nothing to do, he walked over to the bags of fertilizer, which were lying haphazardly in the middle of the shop floor. He grabbed one and pressed it against the wall, and then picked up another and stacked it neatly atop the first.
“What the hell are you doing!” Crew Leader Carl said, screaming.
Stan jumped, his eyes wide. “Sorry, Boss. I was just stacking these fertilizer bags.”
“Did Benito ask us to stack the fertilizer bags?” Carl yelled. “Did you hear those words come out of his mouth?”
“I, ah —” Stan just stood there, his lips quivering and knees trembling.
Carl marched over to Stan and kicked the two stacked bags across the room, so that they once again were lying in the middle of the shop floor.
“From now on, you do only what you’re told!” Carl yelled, jabbing a finger into Stan’s chest. “The same rule applies when we’re working for customers. You do only what they ask, and nothing more! Understand?”
“Yeah, Stan,” I said, chiming in. “That’s the above-and-beyond attitude that sets this company apart.”
Carl pointed a finger at me. “You shut up! Don’t you have tools to organize?”
“We just finished,” I said. “We were going to come over and help Stan stack fertilizer bags, but apparently, going the extra mile is frowned upon here.”