My first job out of college was as an inside sales rep at a steel company, in Houston. We were located on the ship channel, in a really bad part of town. 6 acre warehouse and manufacturing plant, built in the 50s. See the “Super Rat” story for how nice it was – it wasn’t.
As everyone knows, I love to screw with people. We had 5 inside sales reps, and we all reported to the Sales Manager, Roy. Roy was great. He didn’t care, as long as we – a collective we – made our numbers. For about 30 years, Roy has run his family meat market in a small town between Houston and San Antonio. For those that know me well, here’s a tidbit you might not have known:
One of our sales reps was a black guy named Shadid. He had converted to Islam – this was the 80s – and he was the first Muslim I ever really knew, and certainly the first one that was a friend. We’d joke with Shadid – he was, thankfully, good natured – about his name. One day a piece of mail came in addressed to “Sha Dude”. Pretty funny. He thought so too. But we were always asking him about what his “real” name was, before he changed it. He’d never tell us. So, we made one up. Bubba. Bubba Washington. And we started calling him Bubba. Instead of getting mad, he called all of us Bubba too. So, Bubba became the office name for everyone, kind of like “Dude” is today. “Bubba, want to grab a bite?” “Bubba, there’s a phone call for you.” So, now my family and office staff knows where THAT came from.
Back to Arch. Our office staff reported to the office manager, Arch. Arch also controlled the shipping process, which meant assembling truckloads. He was a dick. No, he was a TOTAL dick. About once a month, the sales staff would take the office staff out to lunch. The problem was that Arch only gave them a 30 minute lunch. We all had an hour. So, it was hard to get out and back in 30 minutes. One day the ladies were about 5 minutes late. He called one of them, Susan, into his office, and fired her. We were pissed. First of all, she was cute, and second of all, she was the best order entry clerk we’d ever had. We’d been in the process of trying to get Roy to promote her to a sales position. I went into Arch’s office and tried to lobby to keep her – I was the top inside sales rep at the time. But he wanted to make sure we all knew that he was in charge. So he said “no”. Screw that, I was going to get revenge. This was the last straw with the guy. He lived to be a dick to his employees. I was going to make his life miserable.
First thing we did was start an office game: 1 point if you could get Arch to say “GD”, and 2 if you could get him to say “shit” or the “f word”. Any excuse to go into his office with bad news, was fully embraced: “Arch, last night’s shipment to ABC was short”… “Awe, GD it!”. “Arch, one of the loads got rained on.” “Shit, motherf’ers”. 4 points!
We had a phone system that let us call extentions. You didn’t know who was calling, which was cool. Because I’d call his extension number, and then hang up. I could see into his office, because we put a little mirror up. His office had a private bathroom in it. He’d get up from his desk, JUST get to the door of the toilet, and I’d call. And hang up. I’d do this maybe 4 or 5 times in a row, until he’d just let it ring. Sometimes I’d tape down the buttons in the cradle of his phone, so even when he picked it up, it still rang. He’d SLAM the phone down. Then I’d unhook his handset from the phone. He’d pick it up and there was no cord. He’d throw the handset across the room. Sometimes I’d leave the cord dangling from the handset. He’d scramble to plug it back in, then there was no one there. I’d leave messages on his desk saying that “Mr. Fox” called, and leave the number for the zoo. Shit like that. We had our Regional VP in our office – he covered about 10 branches. One day we were bothering the crap out of him, calling his extension, and he finally got to the point where he’d just let it ring. Then Jim, the Regional VP walked into his office and said “Arch, does your phone work?” “Yes Mr. B____”. “WELL THEN ANSWER IT, I’ve been calling you for 10 minutes”. Hahaha.
When he wasn’t around, I screw with things in his office or bathroom. I’d take a shit in his bathroom, and not flush the toilet. He’d go apeshit. After hours, I’d piss in his potted plants. I’d put leftovers into the drawers of his desk on Fridays. I’d steal stuff from his office and hide it. I hated the guy.
Arch smoked in his office (this was the 80s). When you got him a little pissed off, he’d pace back and forth, and flick his ashes towards his trash can. Every few weeks he’d light his trash can on fire. He’d throw the contents of his coffee cup on it. One day I was in his office trying to score points, and the smoke started in the trash can behind him. Pretty soon, there were flames. I just watched. Finally, he jumped up and threw his coffee on it, running back and forth to the sink in his bathroom and yelled at me “WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SOMETHING???” I said “I thought you were warming up your lunch”, and walked out of his office. Man was he pissed. What’s funny is that he drank in his office – this wasn’t uncommon back then. His beverage of choice was vodka, because it looked like water. One day he threw his vodka onto the fire. Almost burned the place down.
At one point, I had a brilliant idea. He’d come back from lunch each day, and his trash can would usually be full. He would then smash it down with his foot, compressing the trash to the bottom. So, I emptied out his trash can, filled it with water, and piled the trash back on top of it. I got 16 points that afternoon when he came back from lunch. And he walked around all afternoon with a wet leg. Since everyone was laughing, he couldn’t tell who did it.
I got promoted to outside sales, and then to product manager. When I became product manager I had an office next to him, and the first thing I did was to get his sorry ass moved out into the middle of the warehouse. Actually, by then he’d mellowed a bit. Really, a lot. But still.