After the tail-between-my-legs return to my mother’s house so common in my generation, it was time to start working again. That meant applying anywhere and everywhere offering money for labor. After a little under a month, I was interviewed and hired by a small, family owned and operated boatyard. Per the Craigslist ad, I was to work in their front office as a sort of administrative assistant – a role previously held by their daughter who was now on her way to bigger (and undoubtedly better) things.
I was under the assumption that I would love working there. The harbor is beautiful, I love the smell of ocean air, and I love working at small businesses. There was a small yapping dog that ran around the shop, and a large cage with birds who added some color behind the desk. It was rundown, but clearly the regulars loved the homey feel, as did I.
This place clearly had a lot of room for improvement when it came to marketing itself, and I felt like I could really make a positive impact on their business practices and long-term marketplace relevance. The shelves were stocked seemingly at random, little was done in the way of digitizing, and there were no policies and procedures to speak of (I don’t believe I ever signed anything but a W-2), so I was excited to get to work.
I was in the office for very little time before they realized that I had muscle tone and a willingness to put it to work out in the yard. Having never worked in a boatyard before, I wasn’t exactly the fastest when it came to knot tying, and I had to ask a lot of questions, but I was hired as an admin assistant, so…
Anyway, I actually enjoyed the work for the most part. I had to pick weeds from the planters surrounding the parking lot, but I got to listen to my audiobooks while I worked. I had to lift and carry rusted slabs of steel, but I got to enjoy the beautiful weather (except when it was raining) of Southern California’s beaches. I had to carry large quantities of insulation and fiberglass, much of which got embedded in my arms, but… Actually, no, that one just sucked. The rest was pretty enjoyable, though.
Then the problems started. I talked more than I suppose was appropriate. I asked more questions than was absolutely necessary. Once I was asked to dust all of the shelves, and when I said I was done, the owner went immediately to the only shelf I had overlooked (it was the highest shelf and it was completely covered with signs), and ran his hand along it. He threw his hand up in my face, putting the coating of dust on display, and said, “I guess you just don’t feel like doing the things I ask you to do, huh?”
Can’t really fault him on that one. I didn’t dust the shelf. That was my bad.
Another time, though, I was actually working in the office (ya know, the thing I was hired to do given my years of experience working in offices and marketing for small businesses), and I realized that there was no call log. So, I took it upon myself to spend ten minutes drafting a sheet that could be printed regularly, and give whoever was answering the phones the chance to record information about the people on the other end – why they were calling, who they were, what their contact information was – so that that information could be used to follow up at a later date.
When I explained this to the wife, she was all about it. When I explained it to the husband, he said, “You never heard of Post-Its before? Ya know, those little yellow pieces of paper with sticky stuff on the back?”
“I have,” I said, “but this is a more organized way of keeping track of who calls and why.”
“I only care about the people giving me money!”
“Well everybody who calls is potentially someone who just hasn’t given you their money, yet.”
“Oh, so you know how to run a boatyard now?!” he spat.
“No, but I do know…”
“I’m seeing a lot of this!” He did the hand open-and-closing thing, like hand shadow puppet prattling on, “and not enough of this!” and he clasped his hand shut, and stormed off.
Well fuck this, I thought. I didn’t quit, and I wasn’t fired, but I did get a call the next day saying that there “just wasn’t enough work to do in the office right now,” but I would definitely be getting a call back when business picked up again. I never got that call, and I opted out of telling the wife that her husband’s stubbornness, unwillingness to adapt, and dickish nature were running their company into the ground.
I did get the chance to learn a little about boats, and I definitely got a lesson in humility, even if it was unintentional. I learned that starting again at the bottom isn’t the end of the world. I learned that showing up on time, working hard, and doing a job thoroughly and correctly without backtalk will get you far. I also learned that there’s only so much douchebaggery I’m willing to put up with in the workplace, and that dude had more in his gnarled pinkie than I was willing to tolerate in a whole human being.
Would I do it over again? Probably. But I’m a glutton for punishment and good views, and speaking solely in those terms, that boatyard had it all.