Copyright© 2015 by Lumpy
The next afternoon the gym started filling up. I had to walk the coach through my plan, before he would agree to the meeting. He made some suggestions, but otherwise agreed to what I was going to do.
When it seemed like everyone who was going to show was in the gym, I stood up a few steps on one of the bleachers. There were a lot of kids I knew, and even more, I had never met before. I wasn't used to this kind of public speaking in front of a group, so I was pretty nervous.
The two groups had kind of a pack mentality so the girls were a little separate from the guys, and the JV and Varsity guys kind of bunched separately. I also noticed the coach, a couple of the assistant coaches, and the principal were standing at the back of the gym. Great, now I had an adult audience to worry about, too.
"Hi, everybody. I know you are all really curious what this is about and I really appreciate you taking the time to listen to me. I know a lot of you don't know me, and those that do might wonder why the new kid who was only on JV for like a week called a mass meeting of the cheerleaders and players."
There were a lot of head nods at that.
"First I want to ask a question of the girls. I know this is embarrassing, and I promise we won't ask follow up questions, but please as many of you as possible answer truthfully. How many of you after games or practice have been bothered, accosted or threatened? Please raise your hands as an answer."
It took a minute and a lot of the hands were very tentative, but the sheer number was startling. It was nearly every single girl there. There was a murmuring around the guys.
I looked at all the guys for a second, "Guys, we have a problem. These girls support you at your games. They are your friends, and in many cases, your girlfriends. Would you be happy if something happened to one of them?"
There was a lot of head shaking, angry looks and a few murmured no's.
"Most of you know my run in with several guys over the assault on one of the cheerleaders on my first day of school. Many also know I had to step in to help another girl, just yesterday after practice. This has to stop."
"In most cases, the guys aren't doing anything bad enough to get the faculty involved, but the girls still feel threatened and worried. You guys all know about team work. One of the number one rules of any team, is you look after your teammates. That is a good rule, and it applies to the cheerleaders as much as it does to the guy next to you in the huddle."
"While the faculty and teachers are around to help us, we can't rely on them. The best they can do is respond after something happens. That isn't good enough."
They were starting to get into it. I saw a lot more head nodding.
"Here is what I propose. I say we step in and make sure everyone, and I mean everyone, is safe. After practice, after games and other events, we walk the girls to their cars and make sure they get out safely and securely. I believe in the buddy system, and this will be our buddy system. I would like for the girls to get with the team after an activity, and ask two of the guys to escort them to their cars. I would like for the guys to be aware of the girls and make sure they are available to walk the girls out. If you can plan it out among yourselves, before the event starts, all the better. Guys, do you think this is something that could work?"
There were a lot of kids saying 'yeah' and a lot of head nodding. No one seemed to disagree.
"Girls, would this make you feel, and in fact be, safer?"
More agreement from the girls.
"I know it is a pain waiting for, or finding the guys to walk you out, but I assure you being assaulted by some jerk would be more of a pain. Is this something you would agree to?"
"Great. Let's try this for a few weeks and see how it goes. I am hoping we don't have any more incidents of something bad happening to any of our teammates."
"Also, there is one giant caveat to this. This is not a license to go out and rough anyone up. If you run into trouble, head back to the gym, field, locker-room or wherever there are still people and adults. Ignore the people bothering you and head back to safety. If attacked then defend yourself and your teammates, and again I am including the girls in the category of teammates, but do not instigate a fight. This is not 'open season.' We owe it to the principal, your coaches and the faculty to act maturely. We need to show them how real, honorable students behave. Guys, we need to show them how real men behave."
"Is that clear?"
A general smattering of agreements.
"Seriously, you can do better than that. Is everything we discussed here clear?"
They knew about having spirit and enthusiasm. They let me know it this time, with plenty of volume.
"Alright. Thanks for taking the time to listen to me and thanks to the Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors for putting up with a twerpy freshman giving out advice. I think the coach's know we all might be a few minutes late, but let's get to practice."
On the way out of the gym, I got a lot of back slaps and hugs from a bunch of the girls. The coach and principal stopped me on the way out.
"Coach Andrews filled me in on your plan. I have to say this is really unusual, but I liked it. I like you are organizing support of students by other students. I like that you emphasized the no fighting thing. Mr. Grey, you continue to surprise me."
The coach actually shook my hand, "I wish you would reconsider quitting. You have the makings of a leader and that is something we always need on the field. Even still, I think I will take you up on your offer to remain involved with the teams. If you can pull more stuff like this out of your hat you will always be welcome."
I thanked them both and hurried out of the school. I had arranged for Mrs. Bell to pick me up and take me to my interview. I hated to interrupt her workday, but she knew how important this was, and had quickly agreed.
I was pretty quiet on the ride to Josh's uncle's office, as my nerves ran wild. Josh's uncle had already agreed to get me a ride home so Mrs. Bell just dropped me off, told me good luck and that she loved me, and headed back to work.
The receptionist was very nice and asked me to sit in the lobby. After about five minutes, an older, bald-headed man came out. He was shorter than I was, maybe five-eight, a little over weight but not really fat, with small square framed glasses.
"You must be Mister Grey. I'm Ted Baker."
I stood up, shook his hand and said, "Thank you for the opportunity to interview for this job."
"Well, you certainly have manners. Follow me back."
He had me sit and fill out an application, which was easy seeing as how I had no advanced schooling or work history. After a few minutes, he came back in, read my application and pushed it aside.
"We both know that this is a fairly simple job that doesn't take a lot of experience or knowledge. Since anyone can do it, why should I hire you?"
"Umm, well, sir..."
He interrupted me, "I am betting from what Josh has told me, you are usually polite, down play your abilities and are humble. While we are in this room, don't do that. It's fine in social situations, but I need not only a good read on what you can do, but I want to see how you think. Let 'er rip, son."
I shrugged in resignation.
"Okay. Although I don't have formalized training, I am smarter than most people you have coming into this building and anyone who will be applying for this position. I work extremely hard and do not give up on a task until it is done. I believe that a man's word is his bond and I live my life by that. If I promise something I will do it or die trying. I learn extremely fast, and have a true thirst for knowledge. I truly believe there is nothing I can't do if I set my mind to it."
"Well, hell, when you let it fly, you really let it fly. I wonder how long you have been hiding that ego behind your charm."
Ha! I liked this guy.
"I don't know if it's ego, sir. I admit that I have flaws. I am overly confident in my own abilities, obviously. I am seriously under-socialized, and can easily run into problems with personal interactions and communications. I tend to leap before I look, and I suffer from the normal teenage flaws of thinking there is nothing I don't know and believing I am immortal. But I also know my abilities. You wanted my frank assessment of what my strengths were. I believed that was what you really wanted, so I gave you exactly that."
"Fair enough. Since this is such a short interview, I want you to do a minor task for me. Clearly, this is a test, but don't focus on that. Just take the instructions as they are given and give it your best shot.
I followed him back through the offices to a warehouse area. Over one workbench there was a wall with dozens of small drawers holding small parts. Ted pointed to a bin on the table filled with small parts.
"These are unused or reclaimed parts that need to go in the respective drawers. Put up all the parts in the bin and clean this workspace. When you're done hit extension 112 on that phone and let my secretary, Mary Ann, know."
All the little drawers had labels, so I started opening them up. I actually wasn't surprised to see that the drawers contained not one part, but various parts. Ted did say this was a test. I started by pulling out all the drawers and sorting them. I had to make some guesses as I wasn't completely sure what this or that part was, but I was able to work it out through a process of elimination.
Once the drawers were all properly sorted, I started putting the miscellaneous parts into the correct drawers and put them all back in their original place. Following that, I went and found cleaning supplies and wiped down the workbench and swept the area. I noticed the bench next to it was empty and equally as messy so I continued cleaning around that area as well.
It was all pretty easy, and took me less than half an hour to finish. When I called Mary Ann, she said Ted would be right down. Sure enough, less than five minutes later, Ted reappeared.
"The area looks good. Why did you clean the adjacent desk?"
"I don't know. I guess it looked bad being so dirty, when the one next to it was clean. I already had the supplies out, so it only took a few minutes to clean it, as well."
"Were you doing that to try and impress me as part of the test?"
"I was aware that it would help me on the test, but I didn't actually think about it. I just kind of did it."
He then looked through the parts bin and drawers.
"I see you re-sorted everything."
"I noticed the drawers were mixed up with more than one part in a drawer. I couldn't just dump parts in a drawer with the wrong part so I sorted them first."
"And you knew what all the parts were."
"I knew some of them. The rest I worked out through a process of elimination."
"Good, I like seeing initiative. You have the job. Come in Monday, Wednesday and Friday and work a few hours 'till we close down. I would also like for you to work a few hours on Saturdays. I know you have school activities in the afternoon some times, so I don't care what time you get here, as long as you spend two to three hours here each day. You will be general help. Employees will make notes of things they need done every day. When you get here, you will start working on that list and clear as much as you can trying to keep note of the priorities. You will also help straighten up for the end of the workday. You can use your Saturday hours to catch up on overflow from the week and get the office in good shape for the next week. Is that something that will work for you?"
"I know you don't have transportation so I, or more likely Mary Ann, will arrange a ride home for you every day."
"Thank you, sir. That makes things a lot easier."
"Great. Go see Mary Ann, tomorrow, for your first day."
I was in a fabulous mood the rest of the week. Things seemed to be right on track. The buddy system for the cheerleaders was definitely working. While everyone seemed to be fine with it at first there were two incidents where someone was clearly waiting for the girls and the guys were able to intervene. There was no fighting but words were exchanged. Those two incidents, more than my little speech, really cemented the need for the plan in the minds of the players and cheerleaders. Everyone was now fully on board.
Work was also a delight. The tasks were pretty menial, but the people were all nice. I learned there was no manufacturing at the office building where I interviewed and went, every day. Apparently, there was a separate building where the actual production took place. The offices held the administrative functions, and the R&D section. While the administrative areas were okay, the work they had for me was mostly busy work. I helped with data entry and occasionally covered the phones for Mary Ann, so she could have a break. The work in the R&D area, however, was fascinating. Most of the work revolved around helping to compile data and organizing notes, as well as gopher work. However, occasionally they would ask me to help in a test.
I had never really worked on machines before, and I suddenly realized I missed out on a hobby I would have loved. Every step of the tests I helped in was interesting. I paid close attention to everything the guys said, trying to work out what they were doing. The people that worked there ... some were scientists, others were hard core mechanics ... noticed my attention and started to explain things to me. Turns out guys like this love to explain things. Usually, however, they are dealing with people who already know a lot of it or are too busy to just listen to them talk, so I was a treat for them. I absorbed everything they told me. They even would answer my questions.