Hiding From the Past

on Sunday, June 8, 2008



I haven't dug my fingers into the earth yet this year and was itching to do so. My friend, Naomi, brought me a catnip plant to replace the one I had that didn't come back this year (can you imagine that? A fricking catnip plant!) and after planting it I wanted more! I also have an area of the yard right on the front corner that is a pain in the ass to mow and have been thinking about converting into a small flower garden. So the other day I went to Home Depot to see what they had for plants. I picked out a Blanket Flower, a Coreopsis and a Speedwell and went to stand in line to pay for them. This is when the hiding started, I saw my ex-ex-boss, the guy who taught me how to roast coffee, the guy who fired me for being "too efficient."

I haven't spoken to him since the day he fired me and this in only the second time I've seen him in 13 years. The first time was a the funeral of Marge Hams, who, with her husband Al, ran Al's Music in St. Cloud since the mid-70s. I was talking to the guys from Slip Twister, who had just played a rockin' version of Spirit in the Sky, per Marge's request before she died, and I saw him come around the corner in the line of people going to the basement of the church for cookies and coffee. I made a hasty exit from the church before he could see me.

I worked for him for 2-1/2 years. I roasted beans for two of those years. I watched him take this lovely little coffee house with pineapples on the carpet and the flag outside (an international symbol of welcome) and crystal containers of sugar cubes at every table and turn it into a piece of shit. I swear, he must have lived by the motto, "Treat the Customer as the Enemy," because he drove people away in droves.

Tracto mos ut hostes hostium


The stories of his martinet-style of employee management are numerous, from penciling small "X's" on the floor of the kitchen area to make sure the employees were mopping, to telling an employee who was making drinks for customers to stop what he was doing and hang some shelves instead.

For a long time we got along great, I thought I understood his brand of crazy. I didn't agree with him on everything, but we got along just fine. The day he fired me came so far out of left field I would never have expected it.

It was a Friday, by this time he had closed the coffee shop because he didn't like people coming and going all day, but we were still roasting beans. He was out making deliveries, I was working at the roastery. I had finished all my work for the day, the shelves were full of bags of coffee, all alphabetized and organized, and I had everything prepped for Monday. It was 2:30 pm. I usually worked until 4:30, but there was nothing left to do. I sat there for a while doing nothing and decided to go home, better that than make him pay me for two hours of sitting around. Keep in mind that I pretty much set my own hours, we had no time clock and I had left early before with no problems.

Apparently he had forgotten some product and needed to get back to the roastery for more. Even though, as I mentioned before, the shelves were full and everything was well organized, he wanted me to be standing there handing him what he had forgotten. Instead he had to get out of his van and do it himself.

That Monday I had been working for a few hours by the time he came in. Normally we would banter a bit and then go off and do our own thing, but this time he paced the back hallway and the back room for about 20 minutes. I knew something was up, but what happened next took me totally by surprise.

He finally walked up to me, full of purpose and said, "Things just aren't being done to my satisfaction. I'll pay you to the end of the week, but you're fired." And he walked away.

I sat there stunned for several minutes.

Then I gathered my personal belongings into a small box and walked out the back door. He was doing something in the back of his van and as I walked by he said, "I love ya, man."

"You picked a really fucking strange way of showing it," I said.

I walked out of his door, around the corner and into the door of the new Meeting Grounds coffee shop. I asked them for a job and, because they knew who I was, was hired on the spot. I spent all of 30 seconds unemployed. I stayed with them for the next ten years until they went out of business and I started up Muggsy's Beans.

So I just stood there in line at the Home Depot as he and his wife shopped for gardening supplies while I alternately hid behind my plants or stood facing away from them. I didn't want them to see me. I would have nothing good to say to him, except maybe, "thanks for the great career, fucker."

I took my plants home and got them into the ground just before it started to rain.

1 comments:

cjschuette said...

OK, he is the one who should be avoiding you, the big phony asshole. Oh, and thank you for successfully using "sugar cubes" and "shit" in the same sentence. Can't tell you how long I've been waiting to see that.