THE SONIC BOOMER
Under the title “Good Help is Hard to Find” comes this little nugget — we have just said goodbye to Clerk #7 at our antiques mall. Clerks 1 through 6 have generally gone the same route.
The job isn’t that hard. You basically need to know how to ring up sales on a cash register we purchased because it is “the easiest cash register in the world,” make change, stick the stuff in a bag and wave goodbye pleasantly. When nothing needs to be rung up, you can fill your empty hours by vacuuming or squirting Windex onto dusty plates and wiping it off with a paper towel.
This is, evidently, too much for some people.
Number 7 couldn’t cut it on several levels. And before you start mumbling about “kids these days,” let me inform you that this was a retired person; a man who had held a real job in the real world for decades.
During training, he seemed OK — unenthusiastic and stubborn, but minimally OK. I cut him some slack because he was retired — he didn’t need to be doing this.
“My wife wants me out of the house,” he said.
I should’ve asked why.
After explaining (again) what the job entailed, I told him where the Windex was.
“I’m not very good at cleaning,” he said.
This was Clue #1. “You know what’s good for that? Practice!” I answered.
Grumbling, he sloppily wiped off the base of a lamp. The lamp immediately sold. “See?” I encouraged him.
He did not seem encouraged. He seemed upset that we had achieved the desired result instead of him being able to prove that cleaning was something I really, really did not want him to do.
At the end of the day, he couldn’t get the cash drawer to balance. This was Clue #2.
“Try it again, and I’ll see if I can figure out where things are going wrong,” I said.
He counted the drawer and, when he got to the nickels, he counted, “54 cents.”
“Um, that could be it,” I said. “How can you end up with 54 if you’re just counting nickels?”
He showed me how. “These five nickels make 25 cents,” he said.
“And these next five nickels bring it to 50 cents,” he said.
“And then there are four nickels left — 54 cents.”
He lasted a few more days, but in the end, it was clear why his wife wanted him out of the house — he wouldn’t do anything he didn’t want to do and, if he wanted to do it, he did it wrong. His best choice was to sit in a chair and not move — something he did successfully for hours on end.
I’m not bitter about losing him — far from it. I’m bitter because, if statistics are correct, this guy probably spent 40 years of his life making more money than the woman working next to him, doing the same job.