Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Boss

I used to work in a large warehouse until Corporate America in it's infinite wisdom closed the doors on the facility. The last five years of my existence there were spent in the receiving department.
Receiving was done at night from midnight to nine. The available appointment slots were from one to six and for the size of the warehouse, our docks were pretty small. This meant that any truck driver worth his salt would be waiting on my doorstep when I arrive at work at 23:30, hat in hand.

As the receiving clerk I ran the show. I assigned the doors to the drivers when they arrived. Some were much easier to hit then others. Some offered more room to work on the dock. Some just sucked anyway you looked at them.

When I arrived at my office the drivers would start lining up in the hopes that I would assign doors early so that they could get themselves and their rig situated and have time to either off-load early and make good time to their next stop or grab a quick nap. During the check-in process occasionally drivers would try to get the door they were assigned changed. We would discuss it. I would explain why they were assigned the door they were assigned, they would explain how inept they were as a professional driver in the hope that I would pity them. Sometimes I couldn't change my mind without screwing up everything for everyone and they were shit-outta-luck. But other times I had plenty of room to be nice.

They must have been able to see it on my face either way. When I was stuck between the proverbial rock and retaining wall they hung their heads and went about the business of dealing with it. But somehow they always seemed to know when I was able to let them have their way, if I so chose. They whined, begged, flattered, exaggerated, and outright lied--anything to get their way. We could waste half an hour in this silly dance when what it came down to was they were professional drivers who for the most part could get their trucks into any of our doors with minimal difficulty. They were just bored and needing attention.

Enter the Magic 8-Ball. One of my best friends (a long-haul driver whom I met at that job) thought this up and was shocked and delighted when I was silly enough to not just laugh at the possibility but put it into practice.

If you have ever worked in Corporate America you know the truth of these next words. As an employee at the bottom end of the decision chain any time you need a supervisor or manager to make a decision for you (not because you aren't smart enough to figure it out for yourself but because you're not ALLOWED to think for yourself) you might as well use a Magic 8-Ball. The end result is the same. And the logic is often better with the plastic toy anyway.

So, my buddy and I hatched this plan and waited for the first opportunity to use it. The next night when a driver started whining about getting a new door (and I had flexibility to grant or deny his whiny-ass pleading) I simply said, "well, I don't know. Let's ask the Boss." and picked up the black plastic orb that was perched on the end of the shelf above my monitor. A hush fell over the drivers qued up through my office. A couple started giggling. I looked the driver in the eyes as I shook the ball while saying out loud, "Magic 8-Ball, can this driver have a different door?"

I looked down at the toy, turned it over, and read aloud the response floating in the little window, "Not now". The driver hung his head, his whole body seemed to sag a bit, and he dejectedly left the office. A few drivers later another man, who was a regular and could easily park in any door, grinned at me as he started whining about his assignment too. I grinned back as I reached for the "Boss" again. This time it replied, "Ask again".

So I shook it again asking loudly, "Magic 8-Ball can this sorry-assed excuse of a driver PLEASE have a different door?" I turned it over and read aloud, "YES". They cheered. The smile on his face lit up the room and he bounced out of the office.

I didn't use it often but it sat above my monitor and every once in a while I would take it down. Just the act of taking it off the shelf lightened the mood in the office. But the best part was that regardless of the answer it gave, no one ever argued with the "Boss".

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