Employee of the Nanosecond

Brian called the other day. My friend wanted to let me know that, after two years of retirement, he was going back into the workforce. It didn’t surprise me completely, because I was just as shocked two years ago when Brian decided to retire early.

At 57, I thought he had several more years of productive work life ahead of him. But his job had become boring, and his boss was a jerk, and –– well, you know. There just comes a time. Brian didn’t need to work, and he sure didn’t need the stress.

What really surprised me the most about his recent announcement is where Brian decided to return to work. Brian is working retail. To top it off, he’s working for one of those “everything for a dollar and a quarter” discount stores near his home.

“You’ve got to be nuts!” I said to the man whose most recent employment brought him a six-figure engineer’s salary, and who once owned an eight-figure construction business in the early 2000s. “Those are some of the most put-upon, least respected, most under-appreciated employees on the planet. What makes you want to join them?”

“It’s fun,” he said.

“Fun?” I said. “What makes long hours on your feet, surly customers and low pay fun?

“I just make it fun,” he said.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Retail jobs are as noble as any other, as long as you love what you are doing. I just get the feeling that most people in retail don’t. I’m certain Brian doesn’t. That’s because I know the secret that obviously his new employer failed to pick up on:

Brian hates people.

I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m exaggerating. Probably I mean Brian doesn’t like crowds. Maybe he despises folks who don’t agree with him. Perhaps he’s just perturbed by annoying people.

Nope. I mean he hates people. Period.

Give Brian a set of blueprints, a scale, maybe a calculator and a pen he’ll grow your business five-fold. However, I wouldn’t dare let him near the “trust fall” game on an employee bonding retreat.

“Oh. You mean I’m supposed to catch her?” I can hear him say.

Young people, old people, shy people, bold people, they all rate the same with Brian. If it were up to him, people would have the life expectancy of mayflies. Once we concluded the birthing process, we’d all die off.

“So, how do you make your job fun,” I asked, noting to myself that it had been a long time since I’d had a good cringe.

“Well,” he said, “the store’s owner is so desperate for employees, I get away with murder.”

Oh, dear heavens! Even I didn’t think he’d go that far.

“If my boss wants me to do something that I don’t want to do,” Brian said. “I just tell him ‘no’.”

I’m beginning to understand why the shelves are never stocked in those discount stores. “OK, I can see some enjoyment in bossing around your boss, but that still means you’ve got to deal with the general public at the counter,” I said.

“Sure! But that’s where the most fun is,” he said.

“I guess I just don’t see it.”

“Well, like the other day,” Brian began. “A man came in to buy some antacids. I could tell he was drunk, so I thought I’d have some fun. I picked up the large package, and ran it across the scanner. But instead of putting it in the bag, I set it down on the same side of the counter he set it on. I picked it up the second time, and scanned it again. I did this over and over. You should have seen the man’s eyes when I told him he owed $217.43!”

“Sheesh, Brian! And he went for that?”

“I threw in some sample-sized men’s deodorant for free, and he left the store thanking me.”

“Okay, but you can’t get away with that every day, right?” I hoped.

“Naw, you have to be creative. Our scanners are old and unsophisticated. If there is a multiple item purchase, we can’t just scan one item, and then type the quantity on the keypad. We have to scan every item individually.”

“Now, that would bore me,” I said.

“Not if you make a game out of it,” Brian said. “Just Tuesday, a lady brought 75 pencil erasers to the counter, on sale for Back-to-School. I proceeded to scan them one at a time. Several minutes into the scan –– with concern on my face –– I stopped. I looked the lady in the eyes, and said ‘I count 37 so far. How many do you have?’”

“I can’t believe you didn’t get in trouble,” I said.

“Well, the boss did call me into his office that day,” Brian admitted.

“I’m not surprised,” I said.

“They want to make me Manager. Profits are up 18 percent this month.”

John O. Marlowe is an award-winning columnist for Sagamore News Media