Thunder and Lightening
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
Sleeping on the couch was getting old and Jerry swore that last night would be the last time he would do it. It was later than usual when he finally climbed out of the bed. In ten minutes, Mike would be showing up to work. He dressed, but not in business clothes. He had decided he would start taking Mondays off since Mike would be free Saturdays.
He had just gotten the store ready to open when Mike arrived. Stepping in, Mike said, “Taking the day off?”
“I was thinking about it.”
Mike was silent for a moment and then asked, “Are you going to show my wife some of her job responsibilities?”
The question reminded Jerry he actually had a lot of business to take care of that morning. He expected Abe and Martin to show up for their job interviews, he had to train Karen for her job, and he needed to show Mike some of the duties of being an assistant manager. He answered, “I’ll be right back.”
Going into his office, he changed into business casual dress. He accepted that he was going to have to work at least the morning, but he needed the afternoon off to accomplish his other chores so he could move into the house that night. Coming out of his office, he called to Mike, “I’m going to get some donuts. I’ll be right back.”
Jerry went out of the store and over to the donut shop. It was ten minutes before he returned with a pair of chocolate covered donuts and a cup of coffee. He set them on the counter as he took a seat on the chair. Looking over at Mike, he said, “After I’m done eating, I’ll go over some the responsibilities of being an assistant manager with you.”
“Pardon?” asked Mike confused.
“Oh, did I forget to mention that?”
“That you’re getting promoted to assistant manager.”
“Yes, you did forget to mention it.”
“Well, I figured it was about time. You’re going to be taking on a lot of responsibilities training people and running more of the store,” replied Jerry.
“When is it effective?”
A silence descended on the pair. Jerry considered what was going to happen that morning. He turned to Mike and said, “This morning, two black kids are going to come into the store to apply for jobs. One is fifteen and the other is over eighteen. Give them job applications and then interview them. Expect a little attitude from the older one. He doesn’t quite believe it is for real.”
Mike examined Jerry closely and asked, “Why aren’t you interviewing them?”
“Because I already know them and I want them to go through a formal interview with a stranger in a real business environment. They have to convince someone other than me that they want the job.”
“So what will you be doing?”
“Oh, I’ll be training your wife,” replied Jerry with a smile.
A similar smile broke over Mike’s face. He said, “Now that I’ve gotten a promotion and a raise, she doesn’t need to work anymore.”
“Consider yourself demoted,” replied Jerry hiding a smile by taking a bite out of one of the donuts.
“Okay, she’ll stay.”
Jerry took another bite of donut and nodded his head unable to answer with the food in his mouth. The telephone rang and Mike answered it. For the next few minutes, Mike was busy on the phone taking down an order. While he was busy, Jerry finished his donuts and drank most of his coffee.
When Mike hung up, Jerry said, “I’ll pull orders and you take the calls.”
It was about an hour later when Karen showed up at the store. Stepping behind the counter, she whispered to Mike, “Mom didn’t want to take the kids today.”
“We’ll figure out what to do. Don’t worry.”
Jerry came out and said, “I just found out that school hasn’t started yet. Who’s watching your kids?”
Nervous, Karen answered, “My mother.”
“When does school start?”
“Next week,” replied Mike wondering if this was going to be a problem.
“Well, why don’t you work today, Wednesday, and Friday. If your mother can’t take care of the kids one of those days, bring them in here. We’ll concentrate on the ordering procedure until the kids are in school,” replied Jerry as he thought through the work that would have to be done over the course of the next week.
Mike and Karen looked at each other in surprise. The word ‘reasonable’ had never been applied to describe Jerry. He had always been a tough boss and didn’t allow other people’s problems to interfere with them doing their job.
After a moment, Karen replied, “That would be great.”
“Good. Let’s get to work,” replied Jerry. He took a final sip of his coffee and dropped the cup in the trashcan.
Karen followed him to the office and sat in the chair across from him. For the next hour, Jerry explained the procedure for submitting orders. She wrote down everything he said and double-checked that she understood all of the instructions.
In the front of the store, Mike took care of all the calls and pulling orders. It kept him busy and when Martin and Abe showed up he was a little less than attentive. Rushed, he handed them the applications, pointed to a couple of chairs and told them to fill out the applications. The two kids felt like they were being given the bum’s rush and glanced at each other with a little anger.
Mike finished pulling an order as another call came in. He set the order on the counter and answered the phone. The two had finished filling out the application before he was finished with his call. Taking the applications to the counter, they set them on the counter in front of Mike. They stood at the counter expecting Mike to acknowledge them, but he continued to take the order. When he hung up, he looked up and said, “Take a seat. I’ll be right back. I’ve got to pull the order and get it ready for the runner.”
Mike disappeared into the back of the store without waiting for an answer. Martin turned to Abe and said, “We’re getting fucked over.”
“Shit and I thought Jerry was an okay guy,” replied Abe.
“He’s white and doesn’t give a shit about us blacks,” answered Martin.
The two of them returned to the chairs and waited, getting angrier by the minute. After five minutes, Mike came out of the back of the store with a box and set it on the counter. He had just set the box down and picked up the applications when the runner came into the store. Mike set the applications down and dealt with Howard.
Martin felt like Howard had cut in line and that he should have been taken care of before the guy who had just walked into the store. He walked to stand behind Howard glaring at him as he took in the guy’s appearance. Howard was blond haired, blue- eyed, and well built; he looked like a California Surfer from a television commercial. Martin frowned and shook his head getting even angrier.
When Howard left the store with items from the counter, Martin said, “You bigoted bastard. You took care of the white guy when we were here before he was.”
It was lucky Jerry had warned him that Martin would probably have a little attitude or else Mike would have kicked him out of the store without a second’s hesitation. Instead, he pointed to a sign on the wall next to the cash register and asked, “What does that say?”
Martin looked at the sign and answered, “Customers come first.”
“Are you a customer?”
“No. I’m here for a job,” replied Martin.
“That guy that was in here represents about fifty of our customers.”
Martin looked at Mike for a minute with a frown and then said, “Oh, I didn’t know.”
The telephone rang and Mike said, “Customers come first.”
Mike picked up the telephone and started writing down the order. Martin stood there for a full minute and then went back to the chair. Looking over at Martin, Abe said, “I guess he showed us.”
Martin shot his brother a glare and sat there quietly. When Mike got off the phone, he picked up an application and read the name off as he said, “Abraham, would you go down that aisle to the door marked office and let Mr. Smith know that I’m swamped out here.”
Abe stood up and looked down the aisle not knowing what to do. Looking over at his brother, he shrugged his shoulders and headed down the aisle. As he went, he looked at the shelves amazed at how much stuff there was on them. The store looked small from the front, but it went back a long way. The aisle ended and he found the office to his left. Knocking on the door, he waited until he heard Jerry’s gruff voice shout, “Come in.”
Opening the door, he stepped inside the office surprised to find Jerry and an attractive woman in the office. When the guy up front had referred to Mr. Smith, he hadn’t connected that with Jerry. Seeing his neighbor standing at the door, Jerry asked, “What is it?”
“The guy out front told me to tell you that he’s swamped.”
Nodding, Jerry said, “Thanks. Tell Mike I’ll be out in a few minutes.”
Abe stood there for a moment as if he wanted to say something. Noticing he hadn’t moved, Jerry said, “Go on.”
Abe stepped out and closed the door behind him. Pausing to consider Jerry’s behavior, he didn’t know what to make of him. He was a lot colder here than he was around the house. Puzzled, he returned to the front of the store. Mike was nowhere to be seen.
Turning to his brother, he asked, “Where did he go?”
“Went down one of the aisles,” replied Martin.
“What do you think?”
“I think I ruined any chance of getting a job here,” answered Martin. He had taken the fact that Mike had called on Abe as a sign his brother still had a chance at getting a job, but that he didn’t.
Jerry came up to the counter with the woman following behind him. The telephone rang and Jerry answered it. For the next few minutes, he took the order. When he was finished, he handed the order to Karen and said, “Pull this order. If you see Mike, let him know I’m covering the counter and he can use his new desk to interview the candidates.”
Abe and Martin looked at Jerry with wide eyes. They had both figured that since he was the manager that he would be interviewing them. Martin became even more convinced he had blown the interview and was ready to leave. About that time, Mike came up to the front of the store with a box full of parts. He set them on the counter and said, “Karen is pulling your order. Might take her some time to find everything.”
Jerry said, “I’ll have to sic the assistant manager on her if she screws up. For now, I’ll check her to make sure she got all of the right parts.”
“Right,” answered Mike as he envisioned interesting ways in which he could punish her if she made a mistake. He picked up the applications from the counter and asked, “Which of you two should I talk with first?”
Martin said, “Take Abe.”
Mike led Abe to the office and interviewed him for the job of stock boy. It was a relatively simple job and Abe answered his questions with candor. It was easy to tell the young man was rather surprised by the process of being interviewed. He sent him out with instructions to send his brother to the office.
A very subdued Martin entered the office and looked around, taking in the sparse décor. There was only a single decoration on the wall and it was a tool calendar with a very attractive scantily dressed woman holding up a wrench in a suggestive fashion. Mike said, “Have a seat.”
Martin sat down in the chair and looked at Mike. After the episode in the front, Mike understood how easy it was to lose one’s temper at an employee. In this case, it was a prospective employee. He leaned across the desk and said, “If you call me a racist ever again, I will shove my foot so far up your ass that you’ll be able to bite my big toe off. Do you understand me?”
The anger with which Mike had delivered his threat shocked Martin. He answered, “Yes, Sir.”
“Now that the little matter in the front is taken care of, convince me that you want to work here,” Mike said as he leaned back in his chair.
Martin replied, “I figured after that episode out front that I didn’t have a chance at having a job here.”
“So why are you still here?” asked Mike with a smile.
“The hope that I still had a chance.”
“What do you know about the job of being a salesman here?”
While he had been angry for most of his time waiting in the front, he had taken the opportunity to watch what Mike, and then Jerry, had been doing. It looked simple enough. Answer the phone, look up the parts in a book, write down the order, and then pull the parts. He was about to say that, when he thought better of it. With a smile, he answered, “The customer comes first.”
At the answer, Mike laughed and nodded his head. Leaning forward, he said, “We are the largest auto supply store in the city and have over fifty auto repair shops that order parts from us. They will call four or five times a day to order parts for cars they are repairing. It can cost them fifty dollars an hour to have a car sitting in a bay waiting for a part. We pride ourselves on delivering parts in the shortest time possible. That is why we are the biggest auto supply store in the city.”
Martin sat back and did some mental math. He whistled and said, “That’s two-hundred to two-hundred and fifty orders a day.”
“You’ve got the idea. That means that we work our asses off around here and when we are short-handed, we work even harder.”
Martin was quiet and then smiled broadly. With a grin, he said, “If you hire me, then you won’t be so short-handed.”
Mike laughed and said, “I have to talk to Mr. Smith and we’ll get back to you to let you know our decision.”
Standing, Martin went to the door. He stopped as his hand reached for the doorknob and said, “If you don’t mind, I’d like to stay until you and he make up your minds.”
“Because I can start working today,” answered Martin. He knew he was taking a chance, but he had nothing else to do. Going home to sit on the curb swapping lies with the other guys didn’t seem all that attractive to him.
“Okay. Go out and sit in the chair. I’m not sure when I’ll have a chance to talk to Mr. Smith, but we’ll try to get around to it as soon as possible,” replied Mike.
“Thank you,” replied Martin as he left the office. As he walked down the aisle, he realized that he hadn’t blown the job and there was still a chance. He felt that Jerry liked him enough to send him here and that the interview went well with Mike.
Entering the front of the store, Martin saw that his brother was waiting by the door ready to leave. Taking a seat, he said, “Abe, you can go home without me. I’m waiting here to find out if I’m hired. If so, I’ll start work.”
Jerry had hung up the phone just in time to overhear what Martin had said to Abe. The kid had surprised him, demonstrating a real desire to work here that he hadn’t realized was present. Abe said, “Hey, I’ll wait with you.”
Mike came out from the back of the store and stood next to Jerry at the counter. The phone was quiet, so the two men went down the aisle to talk. Jerry asked, “So what did you think of Martin?”
“He’s got nerve and wants the job.”
“Think he’ll work out?”
“Going to be tough, but he learns quickly,” answered Mike with a smile. “It only took him one experience to discover that the customer comes first.”
“Are you willing to train him?”
“Yes, I am.”
Nodding, Jerry said, “What about Abe?”
“That’s a no-brainer. He looks like a good kid.”
“That’s what I thought, too,” replied Jerry relieved that he wasn’t alone in his impression of the two kids. He asked, “Do you want to tell them?”
“Sure,” replied Mike pleased to be delivering good news to someone. He went to the front of the store and gave the news to the two kids.
Jerry went to the counter and waited for the telephone to ring. He watched how Martin and Abe took the news they had jobs. Martin was subdued, but Abe gave a good shout of excitement. Jerry laughed at the reaction of Abe and was about to say something when the phone rang. He answered the phone and went to work.
After hanging up, Jerry looked around to discover Mike, Abe, Martin, and Karen surrounded him. Smiling, he said, “I’ll stay here until after Mike and Karen get back from lunch. Until they go, I’ll answer the phone and Mike will show the rest of you how to pull orders.”
For the next two hours, Mike taught the new employees about the inventory as he watched over them while they pulled orders. Jerry took orders and passed them back to the others. Howard came and went several times. Finally, it was lunchtime and Mike brought his troop of followers up to the front of the store. Jerry said, “Mike, why don’t you and Karen go to lunch. When you get back, I’ll take my day off.”