“The worst thing that’s ever happened to me while at work didn’t come from a customer – it came from my boss. I was 15 and it was my very first job. I grew up on an island that boomed with tourism during the summer, and ended up landing a job at a concession stand on a beach. It was actually a good-sized building. Years later, it was even converted to a full restaurant. We served sodas, burgers, and other types of food like this. It wasn’t a great paying job, but there were a lot of perks for someone my age: I was able to work at the beach all summer, I was around other kids my age, the work wasn’t hard, and I even started dating a girl that worked there as well. Nothing major – we were only 15 – but we would go to movies, walk around town at night, hang out with mutual friends, that sort of thing. Life was great!
My boss was someone who liked to have fun at his employees’ expense. He was in his 40’s, wasn’t very well-educated, and just loved to feel like part of the ‘cool crowd.’ You know the kind of guy I’m talking about: someone who could dish it out, but couldn’t take it. You’d see it every day. He’d make a joke at some kids’ expense, and everyone else would laugh. You could see how happy it made him to have other people laugh with him.
Everyone was picked on from time to time – including me – but towards the end of the summer, I’d had enough. It was the middle of the lunch rush; I was one of three cashiers helping customers, and my boss was running around in the back doing various things.
I was chatting up one of the customers as I was cashing them out, and my boss thought it’d be funny to embarrass me and yell out as loud as he could, ‘If you talked to your girlfriend the same way you talk to customers, you might’ve had a shot with her this summer!’
As I said, I’d had enough, so without thinking I snapped back, ‘If you ever had a girlfriend, you might’ve had a shot too!’
He didn’t like that too much. His face turned bright red and you could almost see steam coming out of his ears. He ran over to me, grabbed me by the back of my shirt, and ‘ushered’ me to the middle of the room. It was an open area, so all of the employees, and even customers, could see.
He barked at me, ‘Get on the ground and give me 50 push ups!’
Again, this was my first job. I didn’t know what was considered ‘normal.’ So without knowing what to do, I got on the ground and started doing push-ups.
‘Count them off!!’ He shouted.
So I did. And then he shouted, ‘Louder!’
And I counted louder. Then he decided to put his foot on my back as I continued. Not just for show – he really put his weight into it. I had a hard enough time doing push-ups, to begin with, but with the added weight of my boss, I struggled.
I eventually finished, and when I got up, everyone was staring at us. I was embarrassed, shocked, enraged, confused, and just fed up with this guy. I tried finishing up my shift (another three hours), but before I could, my dad showed up. Apparently, one of my parents’ friends witnessed the whole thing, called them, and told them to come down as soon as they could.
My dad came over and asked if I was okay, to which I said ‘yes,’ but he knew I only meant I wasn’t physically hurt. He told me to go get in his truck, and then he found my boss. The verbal bashing he gave him was one for the record books, but I guess it wasn’t enough because my boss started getting in my dad’s face, to the point where he actually pushed my dad.
It’s the only time I’ve ever seen my dad get physical with someone else. One swing was all it took, and my boss ended up on his back with my dad standing over him. He told him to consider this ‘his son’s resignation.’ I never went back.
I learned a lot of valuable life lessons that day, and they’ve stuck with me my entire life. I continued to work in the food-service industry for another eight years as a waiter and then bartender, so I had a lot of other rough experiences. However, I also met some of the greatest people I’ve ever known, had lots of fun, and learned how to deal with all kinds of people. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”