Hard Release

I try to be a good person, but I can be mean if it serves a larger purpose.

When I first moved to Washington DC, I worked at a Kinko’s with a flaming homosexual named Flip. (Or, at least, I’ll call him Flip for anonymity’s sake.) He was the worst employee I’ve ever encountered in my twenty six years in the workforce.

Now, don’t get me wrong; he wasn’t a bad employee because he was gay. I’ve known and/or been friends with a great many gay people in my life and, by and large, most of them are perfectly ordinary people with ordinary lives, and possess the same motivations and aspirations as the rest of us. In my experience, with most of them you wouldn’t even know they were gay if they didn’t tell you so. But then there are those few individuals who treat it as sort a hobby and go about their days acting out all of the stereotypes as if they’re auditioning for the part of “gay person” in some bad movie. And this guy took it to an extreme. Everything was drama with this guy and he was the king of making mountains out of molehills. And in an environment where mitigating the drama the customers bring in with them is most helpful, he would continually throw temper tantrums and cry. Yes, actually cry.

And that’s not all. A person would think the subject of one’s homosexuality would not ordinarily pop up in course of every-day conversations with customers about their printing needs, but somehow he found a way to raise the issue – if not discuss it overtly – nearly always and with nearly everyone. (Not that they wouldn’t have guessed by the way he behaved.)

No one could stand working with him. He made us all cringe. Coworkers, customers, management.

Not to mention that Flip was always AWOL. Working with Flip went like this: “Where’s Flip? Have you seen Flip?” Not a single manager, in the year I worked there, was able to keep him at the front counter where he belonged for very long.

He was worse than useless; he worked against us and when he finally turned in his two-week notice to go do an internship somewhere, everyone was ecstatic.

I had a bit of a supervisory roll and during those two weeks I was particularly hard on him:

“Flip! Your lunch is over. We need you back on the floor.”

“Flip! Get to the front counter! I want you chained to that counter. If I see you away from that counter it’s coming out of your break time.”

“Flip! Get off the phone!”

“Flip! Get up. You know you’re not supposed to sit on the counter.”

“Flip! We’re too busy for this nonsense; quit your cryin’ and do your job.”

One day the manager came out of his office where he had overheard what was going on and asked me what was going on, kind of laughing despite himself. “Jim, what are you doing, man? He’s only got like a week left.”

“I’m doing a hard release.”

“A what?”

A hard release.

I explained it to him like this:

Back in Colorado, where I’m from, sometimes in the Fall the bears will come down out of the mountains because there’s not enough food and get into people’s trash and then fall asleep on their back deck or up in one of their trees. People come home from work in the evenings and find their trashcans overturned and a bear asleep in their yard. So they have to call the authorities who come with a tranquilizer dart, shoot the thing and then cart it off. The next thing they do is take the bear waaaayyyy up in the mountains to let it go. But, once they get up there, they don’t just open the cage and let it go. No. First, they get a pack of angry dogs on leashes and let the dogs bark at the bear for a while. Then they set off some fireworks and open the cage. As the bear is running away, they shoot some guns up in the air. The idea is to scare the living hell out of the bear so it will never come back.

They call that a hard release.

Today, on my last day, after a year at a cigar shop, I got a hard release too.

My replacement started this week, and boy are those guys going to miss me. Today I was forced to work alone with him for part of the day and, by the end of the day, I was ready to run off into the mountains, never to be seen again.

If you were to dream up a character – say, for a Saturday Night Live skit or something – who talked way too much, it would not come close to what this guy actually is. He resembles an auctioneer both in that he talks that fast, and also in that he’s not really saying anything you haven’t heard him say already. He’s the kind of guy who draws in quick breaths when he’s talking because he doesn’t want anyone to interrupt him while he’s taking a breath. And at one point today, I think his face has a slight blue tinge to it from lack of oxygen.

If you’ve ever met someone with the tendency to screw things up because they’re never paying attention to what they’re doing, this guy has it in spades. He’s the kind of guy who could miss more than one belt loop. You know what I mean; sometimes you see someone at the office or out in public where their belt runs on top of a belt loop because, when they put their belt on that morning, they missed one of the belt loops. It happens. It could happen to anyone. But this is the kind of guy who could put on his belt and miss two.

He dropped a box of cigars and broke three things including the box of cigars. He took the trash out of four trash cans but only remembered to put fresh bags back into three of them. We sent him to Subway to get lunch; he came back with Quiznos which is across the street from Subway. He bored us, wore us out, and gave us all headaches. By the end of the day my supervisor was digging cash out of his pocket to try to pay me to stay.

Uh, uh. No way. No offense – it was a great and all, but it’s time for me to get my career back on track, and I’ll be good and afraid of the place so long as chatty McBeltloop misser’s still there.

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