Tag Archives: bosses

The path of least resistance has weeds

The path of least resistance has weedsAll of us on the crew tensed as we pulled to a stop in front of our next account.

It was an otherwise normal-looking house on a nice street. The issue was that it belonged to the company’s owner, Benito. We knew that if the lawn was cut too short or if a single weed was missed, Benito would chew each of us out in Italian.

To make matters worse, Benito’s wife was a homemaker, so she was always there to glower at us through the window as we worked, and also to make sure that we didn’t tromp on her flowers or kick gravel onto the lawn.

With anxiety gripping my heart, I knelt and started deadheading flowers in the front planter. I glanced up and saw Benito’s wife standing at the window, staring me down. I shivered and focused intently on my work.

Juan ambled by with a weed eater slung over his shoulder. As he trudged along the gravel path woven through the front yard, he accidentally kicked gravel onto the lawn.

The window immediately flew open, and Benito’s wife started screaming.

“That no-good bastard no watch where he step!” she yelled, pointing at Juan. “He kick rock all over!”

“Dammit Juan!” Crew Leader Carl barked. “Watch where you’re going!”

Later, Juan and I were kneeling in the path, pulling minuscule clover-looking weeds that grew in the moss woven between the stepping stones.

Juan paused for a moment to pull a sticker from his finger.

The window flew open again. “He no pulling enough weeds!” Benito’s wife screamed, pointing at Juan. “He lazy! He just sit and stare!”

“Dammit Juan!” Crew Leader Carl barked. “Work harder!”

As we loaded the truck, Carl appeared behind me.

“Wow,” he said, his voice low. “For whatever reason, Benito’s wife does not like Juan. And when Benito’s wife doesn’t like someone, she tells Benito, and then Benito fires them.”

My eyes widened. “He’s actually fired people because she complained?”

“Of course,” Carl said. “And why not? I’m sure it’s easier to find new people than it is to argue with her!”

A company-required radioactive shirt

A company-required radioactive shirtWhen we arrived at work the other morning, the shop superintendent, Shoemaker, was standing near the punch clock handing out shirts to all the guys.

“What are these?” asked Slim, as Shoemaker handed him a shirt.

“Benito just ordered them,” Shoemaker said. “They’re the new company uniform. He wants all employees to wear them while they’re working.”

“I’ll take a medium,” I said.

“Once size fits all,” Shoemaker said, thrusting an extra-large shirt at me.

I frowned, holding the shirt to my chest. “This is a dressing gown.”

Shoemaker snorted. “That’s because you’re a runt. They’re designed for men who’ve actually filled out.”

“Filled out how?” I asked. “With their beer guts? Because that describes most of the men at this company. Particularly you.”

Shoemaker glared at me, clenching his goatee.

Slim unfolded his shirt and scowled. “Why are they such a bright, neon green? They look radioactive.”

“Don’t complain,” Shoemaker said. “You’re getting a free shirt. Besides, they’re lightweight, and the neon color reflects the sunlight instead of absorbing it. Benito wants his employees to be cool and comfortable as they work.”

“Benito’s putting our comfort first and foremost?” I asked, narrowing my eyes. “That doesn’t sound right. There’s got to be more to the story.”

“There is,” Shoemaker said. “The bright neon also helps him to spy on his crews from several hundred yards away, so he can make sure they’re actually working.”

“OK,” I said, nodding. “Now that makes sense. That’s the Benito I know.”

Those who don’t know, teach

Those who don_t know, teachIt was Monday morning, and all of us were seated on folding chairs in the shop, facing the open bay door. Shoemaker, the shop superintendent, had called an impromptu meeting before the crews took off to go to their respective job sites.

“The owner, Benito, asked me to gather everyone together this morning to discuss something very important,” Shoemaker said, stroking his goatee and pacing back and forth. “The company has gotten a lot of complaints lately. Apparently, some team members have been whistling at women while driving company vehicles.”

I looked at Juan and Slim. Both of them were staring at their laps, examining their hands, as if they’d never catcalled in their entire lives.

“As we all should know,” Shoemaker continued, “whistling at women is inappropriate behavior. Not only that, but it’s sexual harassment. And when we make disparaging sounds at members of the general public, it reflects poorly on our company’s image.”

“Unlike our 30-year-old vehicles,” someone called out. (It might have been me.)

Shoemaker stopped grooming his goatee mid-stroke. “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.” He continued to pace. “Because of these complaints, we’re going to spend an hour this morning undergoing sexual-harassment training. I’m passing out pamphlets now. Please take one and pass them back.”

I raised my hand. “Can I ask a question?”

Everyone turned to look at me. Shoemaker closed his eyes and sighed. “Yes. Go ahead, Peter.”

“Are you going to be administering the training this morning?” I asked.

Shoemaker tugged at his goatee. “Yes. As the shop superintendent, it’s my responsibility to ensure all employees are appropriately trained.”

“OK,” I said. “And just so we’re clear, you’re also the one who wallpapered the shop bathroom with all those Penthouse spreads last week. Correct?”

The entire company laughed. Shoemaker’s face turned red.

“Everyone turn to page 1 in your pamphlets,” he said, casting his gaze downward. “Maybe we all can learn something this morning.”

Love this job, and love you, too

Love this job, and love you, tooWe were driving between jobs, barreling down Main Street with our overflowing trailer swinging behind us.

One of the guys, Juan, saw an attractive woman walking along the sidewalk, so he stuck his head out the window and whistled at her as we cruised past.

“OK, that crap’s got to stop!” said Crew Leader Carl, turning around with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. “We have a name on the door!”

I was in the backseat, sitting in the middle. Juan was on my right, and an overweight, acne-ridden guy named Slim was sitting on my left. He, too, was a smoker, and between every job he lit up and puffed like a maniac, filling the cab with both the scents of his smoke and his body odor.

“Hey,” he said, turning to me and elbowing me in the ribs. His breath smelled like limburger cheese and Pall Malls. “You want to know something cool? If you take a song — any song — and you replace the word ‘love’ with the F-word, it changes the entire meaning of the song.”

I looked at him, blinking.

“Seriously, try it,” he said. “Any song. Just replace the word ‘love’ with the F-word, and you’ve got yourself a whole new song. It’s hilarious.”

“Yeah, I’ll get right on that,” I said.

We passed another woman, so Juan stuck his head out the window and whistled.

“Dammit!” Crew Leader Carl said, pounding the dashboard. “I mean it!”

Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane,” Slim said, hacking on his cigarette. “Let’s change the words! C’mon, man! Sing it with me!”

I shook my head. “I’d really rather not.”

Another woman was walking up ahead. Juan glanced at Carl out of the corner of his eye, then looked out the window and let out a small chirp.

Through the rearview mirror, I saw Carl’s eyebrows rise. “I heard that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Slim was singing Somebody to Love with the perverted lyrics. Every time he changed the word “love” to the F-word, he laughed and hacked on his cigarette.

Just then, on the left side of the two-lane street, we saw a heavyset woman walking alongside the road.

“Hold on a second,” Slim said. Holding his cigarette, he stuck his double-chinned, acne-riddled face out the window and bellowed “Moo! Moo!”

“Dammit!” Carl said, slamming the dashboard. “How many times do I have to tell you guys? We have a name on the door! A name on the door!”

I sighed, closing my eyes. “These morons are loved.”

Slim looked at me. “What’s that?”

“If you change the word ‘love’ to the F-word, then it makes sense,” I said.

Redheads are notorious

Redheads are notoriousWe were driving between jobs one afternoon, cruising through town with the windows down.

As we went through an intersection, we all noticed an attractive young woman up ahead walking along the sidewalk. She was wearing high heels and a short skirt that showed off her long legs.

As we drove past, one of the guys, Juan, stuck his entire head out the window and whistled. The woman jumped, startled.

“Well, that was subtle,” I said.

Juan elbowed me in the ribs. “She was hot, no?”

I shrugged. “Yeah. She was OK.”

I didn’t want to state the obvious: that she was way out of my league.

“No,” said Crew Leader Carl, shaking his head and puffing on a cigarette as he drove. “You wouldn’t want her, Pete.”

“Why not?” I asked.

Carl looked at me in the rearview mirror. “Isn’t it obvious? Because she’s a redhead!”

We drove in silence for a moment.

“Um, OK,” I said, shaking my head. “I don’t get it. What’s the deal with redheads?”

“Oh, man,” Carl said. “Don’t you know? Redheads are the nastiest of them all! They’re gross. They’re dirty. They’re notorious!

I stared at him, blinking. “Carl, what are you talking about?”

“Well, let me explain,” Carl said. “The only reason I say that is because the first redhead I dated gave me the crabs, and the second redhead I dated gave me the clap.”

I’m sure my mouth was hanging open. “But you can’t just impugn an entire class of women based on your personal experiences!”

“Sure I can,” Carl said. “They were miserable experiences.”

“Maybe it’s not so much redheads in general as the type of women you date?” I suggested.

Carl shrugged. “Crabs and clap. I think the math speaks for itself.”

Teamwork gets the job done

Teamwork gets the job doneBryce and I drove to the job site together. It was an older house with a dirt yard in front and an aged paver patio in back.

We hopped out of the truck. I grabbed both a pick and a shovel.

“OK,” Bryce said, “I want you to dig a three-foot-deep trench from here—” he walked the entire length of the front yard — “to here.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I got to run to the supply store for spray paint,” he said. “I forgot to grab some at the shop.”

So he left, and I started to dig. An hour later, he returned with the paint.

“OK,” Bryce said, “now that you’re done with the trench, I want you to tear out all those old pavers in the backyard. Put them in a pile by the sidewalk.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I got to run to the supply store for a couple of bags of sand,” he said. “I forgot to grab some at the shop.”

So he left, and I ripped out all the pavers. I hauled them in several wheelbarrow loads to the front yard and stacked them in a pretty pile by the sidewalk.

An hour later, Bryce returned with the sand.

“OK,” he said, “now that you’re done with the pavers, I want you to dig a four-foot-deep hole by the front of the house. Make sure it intersects with the trench.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I got to run to the supply store for a valve box,” he said. “I forgot to grab one at the shop.”

So he left, and I dug a four-foot-deep hole. An hour later, he returned with the valve box.

Just then, Benito pulled up in his small truck. He climbed out and inspected the site.

“Good job!” he said, walking toward us. “You guys get a lot done!”

“It’s all about teamwork,” Bryce said. “Together, Peter and I kick some serious butt.”

He looked at me. “Isn’t that right?”

I glared.

Seeking out opportunities for advancement

Seeking out opportunities for advancementWe were loading the truck one morning when Benito, the owner, appeared behind me and grabbed my arm.

“I want you work with Bryce today!” he barked.

I sighed. “Again?”

Benito wagged his finger in my face. “You do what I tell you and no complain! Bryce is good guy! He’s been with me long time!”

“Of course he’s been with you for a long time,” I said. “He’s too useless to work anywhere else.”

“How dare you!” Benito screamed. “You take that back! Bryce is my No. 1 guy!”

“Yeah?” I said, crossing my arms. “Because his work ethic is No. 2. Seriously, the guy doesn’t do anything! Whenever you pair us together, he sits and delegates while I do all the work!”

“Bryce is a foreman!” Benito said. “That means you do what he says and no complain!”

“How come Bryce gets to be a foreman while I’m just a laborer?” I asked. “I actually work. And not only that, but I’m competent, too. What does it take to get a promotion around here?”

“You no work with me for long time!” Benito screamed, clenching his fists. “You no prove yourself!”

“OK,” I said, “so let me get this straight. If I play my cards right and muddle through for several years without making waves, then someday I, too, can achieve Bryce’s advanced stature and prominence? Is that what you’re saying?”

Benito glowered, his eyes narrowing. A vein started to protrude from his neck.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” I said.

Several minutes later, as I was loading one of the trucks, Crew Leader Carl approached me from behind.

“I heard you and Benito fighting,” he said. “What was that all about?”

“Nothing,” I said. “We were just discussing advancement opportunities.”

Carl’s eyes widened. “Did he say he’s going to promote you?”

“Only if I achieve longevity through bureaucratic momentum and run-of-the-mill performance,” I said, shrugging. “I guess I didn’t realize this place was so corporate.”

Never make the same mistake twice — even if you’re not sure what it is

Never make the same mistake twiceAs we drove out of the shop one morning, Crew Leader Carl stopped at the office to talk to the owner, Benito. The crew waited in the truck while Carl went inside.

Several minutes later, Carl returned looking pale and trembling. He hopped behind the wheel and lit a cigarette, his hand shaking.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

Carl took a deep drag. “Not really. Benito just chewed my ass for fifteen minutes straight!”

“For what?” I asked.

Carl shrugged. “No idea. It was all in Italian. He was waving his arms and screaming. I never even saw him take a breath. It was like a damn Francis Ford Coppola production in there!”

“So you have no idea what he was so mad about?” I asked.

“No idea,” Carl said. “But I’ll tell you something: Whatever it was, I’m sure as hell never going to do it again!”