Not at ALL What You Thought

Friday, February 06, 2009

Love, Fear, and Integrity

So Juice lost her job at the movies. There was a mess about under-aged folk buying tickets to appropriate movies and then sneaking into R-rated movie auditoriums. Or kids found in R-rated movie auditoriums, claiming to be with Adults. And then alleged Adults claiming the kids.

And the tickets being traced to Juice's window.

For this, Juice was reprimanded and sent back to the window. Then Management found another kid with a credit card, but no ID. His ticket was traced back to Juice's window, too. So AMC fired her. And, to add insult to injury, the child who fired Juice accused her of being "blatant." (No, he doesn't know what the word means.)

The night this happened, Juice called me to pick her up from work a half hour earlier than the schedule had said. I assumed that work was light; she'd been allowed to leave early plenty of times. Goobs and I went to the theatre and picked her sister up. Juice was quiet all the way home, and when we got home, she went to the bathroom and took a shower. Then she went to her room and closed the door.

She said nothing to me of being fired. I found out when I went to my bathroom, where Juice had written on the mirror,in soap, "Mommy, I'm sorry, but I got fired tonight!" My heart broke for her, especially when I got into her room and saw that she had been crying since she'd gone to her room. My poor baby. What could I do but what mamas've been doing for centuries --tell her that everything would be all right?

We make these promises, we mamas.

Anyway, I told everybody who cared about Juice what had happened. They all commiserated with her, but only my mama insisted that I talk to Juice's boss. Well, the boss of Juice's boss: he goes to our church. (Everybody does.) But I insisted that Juice handle this thang. She was the employee. She's seventeen. She's got to learn to confront these situations like a grown up. Her mama's got to learn to let her. So I made Juice call her boss' boss and ask if there was anything she could do to get another chance at AMC. Well, she called and left a message. That day, I think, her boss' boss called her back and said he'd look into the matter and get back with her.

A week passed. I kept asking Juice if she'd heard from the man. She hadn't. And she hadn't. And [insert teenaged exasperated sigh here] she hadn't. So I took matters into my own hands. I emailed the guy. Here's what I emailed him:
Hey, [boss' boss' name],

I didn't want to get involved in Juice being fired at AMC; I wanted her to handle it. But more than a week has gone by, and she still hasn't heard from you. I fully understand if AMC management has decided not to give Juice another chance, but we'd just like to know what the decision is, so she can move on to another job.

And then another week went by. Juice still hadn't heard anything from him.

Tonight is our weekly prayer night. The girls and I went out to pray, and I saw Juice's boss' boss in the sanctuary. All my instincts screamed "GO OUT AND COME IN THE OTHER DOOR!" But I've got to learn to confront these situations like a grown up. So without looking at the brother, I walked on in the sanctuary, chose a seat (some distance from him), took off my coat, and tried to pray. When prayer was over, I was hugging other brothers and sisters and, determining that I had been grown up enough, I decided to leave the sanctuary by a route different from the one by which I'd entered. I looked around for Juice, didn't see her. Goobs came up from somewhere and began, as is her wont, to pull me towards the exit. (I don't care how short our time is at church--and this was less than a half hour-- right after somebody brings on the benny*, my kids are READY TO LEAVE.)

"Where's your sister?" I asked.
"She's talking to Mr. [BB's name]."

I gotta tell you, honey, I had hopes. Even then, I had hopes. But after a long walk back to the parking lot (mostly alone because that Goobs child ran back inside the sanctuary before I reached the car), after the girls came back to me, I learned that grown-up things aren't always as mature as they should be.

"What'd Mr. [BB's name] say?" Turned out, the boss's boss couldn't give Juice another chance. Juice, he said, would have to ask the child* who had fired her for another chance. Why? Because the boss' boss wants to show his employees that he has confidence in their decisions. Well, some of his employees.

Look. Don't get me wrong: if my child was sneaking under-age folk in the movie; if she was stealing; if she was disrespectful to patrons or her superiors; well, Juice'd have to get over being fired, in my book. (Yeah. She's gonna have to get over it anyway.) But this was not the case. My daughter was a good employee. She was always on time. She had never called in sick. She had, in fact, taken other people's shifts when they didn't want to take them. She had taken other people's shifts when I didn't want her to take them. Patrons and fellow employees alike were always commenting on Juice's sunny face*. She often chose that johnbrown job over my convenience (since, yeah, I taxied her to and fro). It really annoys the aitch out of me that the boss' boss couldn't see what a jewel of an employee he had had in Juice. It bothered me, too, that it doesn't seem to've occurred to the boss' boss that because he's the boss' boss, he has the prerogative to overturn various and sundry decisions.

Especially when they're wrong.

In the twenty-some years that I've been employed, I've seen plenty of boss's bosses do just that. Argue against employees' decisions. Second guess their employees' decisions. Overturn their employees' decisions. All the time. In different ways, of course. There are nasty boss's bosses and less nasty boss's bosses. Yes? But, in my not-so-humble opinion, it is the boss's boss's job to overturn a bad decision and help the boss understand that his decision was a bad one --bad for the business, bottom line. It annoys me that this man doesn't see that.

And this annoys me: after Boss's boss explained this to Juice, he said, "And tell your mother that I'm not afraid of her."

The heck?

At first, I thought (and --you know-- said) "Oh, yes, he is afraid of me. Else why even say. . . ." And then I talked about it with Christina, who agreed that the week wait after my email might've been. . . . Boss' boss' message --to me-- that he wasn't afraid of me. But why? Who cares whether the man's afraid of me? Is fear the only reason he might be impressed to consider what I think is the right decision? What about integrity? His own? And here, you know what? I'm not even talking about giving Juice another chance at that job. I'm talking about just calling folk back --because you said you would. Boss' bosses do not have to re-hire anybody, especially in this economy, okay? But shouldn't they have to stand on their word?

Riding home from prayer, I was listening to some tobymac songs. The project in my car now has these amusing little interludes. One features a guy who clearly has no ear for real talent, but he thinks he does. He's not a nice guy, but he thinks he is. The girls and I have heard this amusing little interlude over and over again. But, for the first time, I wondered aloud, "What does this guy think about himself? How do we know?"

And then my mind went back to a Malcolm in the Middle episode where, at the end, Francis points at a man, bound and gagged in a classroom, and says, "I've never seen him before, but this guy is a jerk." I told Juice about these thoughts, and her patience, waiting for Mama to get to her point, was commendable. What did tobymac put in "Chuck@Artist Development Interlude" that helps us understand what kind of jerk Chuck is? How does Francis walk into a classroom and choose the jerk among the non-jerks? What helps us know what we know about people if we pay careful attention? What lessons can we learn from our experiences?

"I just think it's interesting," I finally said to Juice as she stood, waiting at the back door with Frody on his leash, waiting for Mama to make her point. There was a silence.

"You're funny, Mommy," Juice said.

Well, Jesus, my brother, thank You for always trying to teach us to pay attention.

*An expression I learned from my first boyfriend when I was fifteen. It means, of course, "renders the benediction."
*Yes, child. He's barely older than Juice.
*If I say so myself, she has a great smile.


  • At 8:32 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hmmm. Do you have a church e-mail directory, I wonder? If so, I'd send this link to all and sundry.

    But I'm a jerk so...

  • At 8:42 AM , Blogger Gine said...

    Hey, I'm fighting the urge just to tell my pastor about this.


    Just lost the fight.

  • At 4:19 PM , Anonymous Coquinegra said...

    WOW! My mother would have broken the Boss in's wonderful you held your peace. What did Pastor say?

  • At 8:16 AM , Blogger Gine said...

    Pastor said, "WHAT?? What kind of --??" about the Boss' excuse and then interrupted himself with, "Never mind. Juice'll get a better job. . . ."


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