Working at the Home DepotSubmitted by ASO at 2009-06-29 14:53:34 EDT
Rating: 1.96 on 62 ratings (62 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Everybody has had a job at one point or another that they just weren’t any good at, and if that isn’t true for you it’s because I just made that up to make myself feel better about working at the Home Depot. Before I’d signed up for the job, a few of my Orange-aproned friends told me that the money was good and the treatment was excellent, something along the lines of other undignified professions as UPS delivery man or hospice servant. I really couldn’t care less, since as long as my job did not interfere with my busy schedule of drinking, sleeping in class, and lighting things on fire I didn’t care about any benefits. I was also extraordinarily desperate because in a small town that is home to two universities, throwaway college jobs were hard to come by and my parents were tired of putting money in my debit account and finding, when my bank statement showed up at the house, that all of it was spent in one night at a place called Brew-Ha’s.
I’ll be honest: I don’t know anything about tools or home repair. At all. Literally nothing, so when a “friend” of mine - who I hated* and who didn’t know I had slept with his ex-girlfriend with whom he still shared an apartment and also was trying to reignite the flame – mentioned that I should apply at the Depot, I was hesitant to respond. I needed a job but I hate being useless. “Don’t worry,” he said, “the training is top shelf. And besides, they’ll hire you if I give them the word, since I’m a Floor Leader there.” I later learned that this only meant that he was trustworthy enough to work in his department without his immediate boss, but not so important that HR would give him the raise he wanted just so that he could afford to pay his half of the rent.
When I went to the job interview, I was sat down in an empty room, save for three folding chairs, by myself. When anybody else arrived after many minutes the first thing I learned was that the guy who would be interviewing me was leaving for another store within a week so I would never see or hear from him again. Instead that job was left up to the awkwardly stern looking lady sitting beside him who never said a word to me, ever, save for a phone call telling me, simply, the date and time of my initial training, and that I would be working in the Kitchen and Bath department. During the actual interview, the inevitable subject of hardware expertise came up: “Do you have any area in which you have any amount of familiarity?” I suspected mentioning that I had used a screwdriver a few times (stabbing myself with it once, accidentally, while trying to pry a plastic grate off the bottom of a pool) would make me instantly unhireable, so I went with “no, but I am willing to learn.” I was hired on the spot.
When I arrived at training, I learned that I was hired along with six other people, one of whom was a middle-aged guy named “Seth” who would be working in my department with me. Without ever asking, I learned that Seth had formerly been a contractor but when the economy went south so did his business, so if I needed to learn anything I should ask him. I was slightly offended that he assumed I knew nothing since I hadn’t yet told him my name. Before that part of the conversation I learned a few more things about Seth that I didn’t ask for. Apparently when he applied, he listed former four-star Admiral Jonathon Howe (the guy largely responsible for the American military disaster in Somalia) as a reference. When questioned, he said that he was on a first-name basis with the man, and he told me a story about how, when he was a Navy SEAL, he had once been Howe’s personal assistant and chauffer. “The idiots here actually tried to call him and ask about me, but he’s a four-star Admiral! There wasn’t even a number they could reach him at, so they couldn’t talk to him, but they still wanted to know why I listed him. I mean come on, he’s a four-star Admiral, why wouldn’t I? Who’m I gonna list instead, my third grade teacher? Come on!”
In addition to being a former Navy SEAL, Seth mentioned that he was a current gambling addict, three-time divorcee**, and “volunteer member of the US Coast Guard Reserve,” a phrase he continuously repeated during those moments in conversation usually reserved for silence, like when I mentioned that I had just returned from a hospital where my grandmother died of food poisoning resulting from bad fish prepared by a restaurant apparently owned by the mob since the police made a deliberate effort to keep their distance from the whole situation. His status as a volunteer member of the US Coast Guard Reserve afforded him the ability to go up there and figure out just what the fuck the deal was, and he would do that for me as long as I let him into the next frat party. I thought about the proposal but ultimately declined because he was not the dependable sort of detective I normally hire for accidental grandmother deaths.
Training, at least the part with actual humans involved, lasted three hours and consisted of a tour of the store and the knowledge that yesterday one of the guys in lumber cut one of his fingers off, so Safety First. Somebody asked about workman’s comp and the tour guide made a joke about “more like severance pay, ha ha,” and besides him I was the only one who laughed. Training from that day on entailed sitting in front of a computer and listening to a robotic voice detailing the differences between this brand and that, and I was only kept awake by Seth’s incessant jabbering while he sat at the computer next to me, clicking almost randomly on quiz answers and bitching about how simple this shit is while I’m struggling with the section on toilet accessories.
I should have known, at this point, that working at the Home Depot was not going to be a positive experience, but I remained naively optimistic. That changed immediately after I finished my training, a few days before spring break. I was set to begin working, and had even decided not to leave town so that I could get started while what little information I’d gleaned from the hours staring at the computer was still fresh, but I learned that my bosses assumed I would be embarking on a spring break trip and did not schedule me for that week. I asked if I could begin sooner, and they told me no, so I immediately took up the offer of a friend who needed somebody to go to Cancun with him after the guy he was set to go with bailed on him at the last minute.
Before I left, I asked for my schedule, and I found that my first day of work would be the Thursday after break. So naturally I assumed that would be my first day of work. I don’t know what other conclusion a person may draw from that other than that my first day of work would be Thursday. The Home Depot doesn’t see things that way, however, and they changed my schedule while I was in a different country and gave me a shift on Tuesday. The scheduling lady sent me an email that was blocked by my spam filter notifying me of the change, but they accepted no excuses and I was given 7 demerit points for a no call / no show. At the Home Depot, an employee is fired automatically after receiving 10 demerit points. I was almost fired before I’d ever worked a shift, and the best part is nobody told me until a fucking month later, when I was at 8 after showing up one minute late for a shift.
Not that I really deserved to keep my job. I’d assumed during the ineffectual computer courses that the real training would occur on the job, but I was very wrong. It was one thing that I knew nothing about either kitchens or baths, but also, nobody had ever told me I would be responsible for any questions people might have about plumbing. Honest to God, I made an effort to learn about everything on the fucking shelves in that place, but whenever I asked my bosses or co-workers for help they just suggested I pick things off the shelf, hold them in my hands, feel them, and then I would know them intimately. Kind of like a woman, apparently. I suspected none of them had ever been to college because that strategy rarely works. At best, I’d think I knew the name, or at least the first letter, of the thing I was holding.
When I eventually admitted my goal of having the slightest fucking clue about any of the shit I was responsible for selling was a complete and disastrous failure, I sought refuge in the bathroom. The first time this happened, it was because they made the mistake of scheduling me for a 7 am shift on a Saturday and I needed to sleep for a while, at least until the hangover kicked in. Six hours later, I woke up and my shift was almost over. I wiped the sleep from my eyes and discreetly left the bathroom and wandered around the store for twenty minutes before clocking out and going home. Nobody ever said a word.
Thus began my ritual.
I didn’t always sleep in the bathroom, but it was my usual solution to the problem of being scheduled to work at that place. When I woke up, or when sleep didn’t come, I read a book. When sleep was not an option and I also had no book, I passed the time by biting my fingernails, texting old friends, or just by staring at the wall. It wasn’t rare that I would be interrupted by another employee needing to use the facilities, but nobody ever asked or, it seemed, cared where I was. My department manager rarely requested my help, only ever to help move boxes or pallets, and if he couldn’t find me he just assumed I was doing work for somebody else. Occasionally he’d call me on the walkie-talkie the store associates use to communicate with one another but I solved that problem of availability simply by keeping mine switched off when he wasn’t in eyeshot. He never suspected that I was useless.
The big boss of the store likewise never asked me about my disappearances. That is, he never even knew my name, or even recognized me. I recall him introducing himself to me seven separate times over the course of three months, always excited about a fresh face in his store. When I realized my time in the bathroom meant nobody knew who the fuck I was, I decided I could get away with anything I wanted and it would never catch up to me. I replaced my “Andrew” apron with one that said “Donald”. I became even less a model employee than before. I treated the store like it was my personal lounge. Though they might have preferred me to pay for my beverages and snacks that I eat during my shift, I found it much easier to save the middleman some work and take my food directly from the shipping containers they left out in storage. While on duty I would walk over to the appliances section and watch baseball on ESPN GameCast. If a customer ever looked ready to approach me with a question, I’d get surprised and suddenly remember I left my box cutter in the break room. When I felt especially adventurous, I learned how to drive the forklift, and every once in a while I’d take it for a spin around the store, with a serious look that suggested to other associates that I actually had a reason for driving it. I was being paid to sleep, watch baseball, and wander around the store behind the wheel of a forklift, and because I looked purposeful in all my endeavors, most people just assumed I was being useful all the time. This was quickly becoming the best job I had ever had.
But as it tends to go with things that are good, the job came to an end. The mistake of scheduling me for early morning shifts finally caught up to them, and I failed to show up for one of them. My demerits would total 15, well over the amount needed to fire my ass. There was, however, a glimmer of hope: I was called by my manager and he told me that, because I had shown such significant improvement lately, he would campaign to keep me on the staff, and that in the mean time I should continue showing up as per my regular schedule. I told him thank you, and he won’t regret it, etc. Not even an hour after talking to him, I found out my intramural softball team’s first playoff game was during my next shift. I did not show up.
I went in a week later to pick up my final pay check from my ex-manager, and after introducing himself to me and telling me he looked forward to working with me, I went to my locker and collected the books I’d been reading and the box of goodies I’d accumulated from storage and walked out. I put my combo lock on somebody else’s locker and left. I got a call three days later from the woman who didn’t speak to me during my interview expressing gratitude for having been part of the Home Depot family and that they acknowledge the failure on their end to provide a suitable working experience for me.
*A couple years earlier, I was genuinely interested in being his friend. We played baseball and football together in high school and I thought he was a reasonably cool guy, until he started flipping out on me for what I thought was no reason but was actually the fact that he knew his still-girlfriend-at-the-time had a crush on me. In the worst case, he had a bonfire at his house at the beginning of the summer and a bunch of us kids were sitting around and drinking and catching up after we’d all been away at school. I was drinking vodka red bulls because I was 19 and I still thought that was a good idea, and I threw my red bull carton in either a trash can (to me) or a firewood storage container (to him). He says what the fuck and I, thinking he’s joking, flip him off and say here’s what the fuck, and he tells me he’ll kill me if I ever show my face at his house again. Later that night I moved a For Sale sign from down the block onto his lawn and his mom called the police. I ran away and didn’t see him again until two years later, when he was so lonely and desperate for friendship that he thought we were cool.
** “but it’s better this way ‘cause now I got two bitches and no responsibilities”
This is an unrelated picture of me urinating in a forest.
here we spot a poofter in his natural habitat.jpg