“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”
– Soeren Kierkegaard
It was a weekday afternoon at the Big Box hardware store, and I was looking for a replacement part for a grass trimmer.
I was eventually advised to find Harlan in aisle 19 or 20 because he knew where everything in lawn tools was.
I found him there with another guy, too, and they both crouched down and peered into the dark corners of a bottom shelf with leaf blowers.
Harlan (that’s what it said on his shirt) saw me and said, “I’ll be with you in a minute.”
“Don’t rush,” I replied, calmly standing aside.
It turned out the customer wasn’t interested in leaf blowers – they wanted a battery-powered leaf blower. Harlan kept recommending different mulching models and the customer just shook his head.
“I tried that,” he said, somewhat frustrated, “screwing her up too much.”
“The leaves?” asked Harlan.
“No,” he said, then sighed.
It was quiet for a moment. He paused, looked around, and then told us his problem.
He was the manager of an adult entertainment club where women strip clothes for money. Some of that money – tips, I suppose – is thrown at their feet and the cast began to argue angrily about which bill belonged to whom, disrupting the continuity of their dramatic presentations.
After all, he had told them that he would sort things out by collecting all the money on the floor and making sure it got to the right person.
However, this turned out to be very difficult.
“I have to take care of the bar,” he said with increasing frustration in his voice. “I have to take care of the customers! I have to take care of the girls !! And I have to take care of the money !!! “
I wanted to be helpful, but in my years of role-playing HR scenarios, nothing like this had happened before.
“What about a rake?” Harlan suggested.
“Doesn’t work,” he said quickly. “Not with money.”
“How about a long handled paint roller with inverted flypaper or tape …?” I said from a perspective outside the box.
“That could work,” added Harlan.
When the customer didn’t answer I said, “I have one at home. I could take it to your club tonight.”
He just shook his head.
Harlan quietly suggested that a competing bulk crate store could have a leaf blower without a mulcher.
“I was there first,” said the customer. “They told me to come over here.”
He turned to go.
“I’ll make something up,” he said, and then walked away.
Harlan looked at me, smiled slightly, shook his head and asked, “Do you need anything?”
“No,” I said, bending down to pick up a weed trimmer spool. “I discovered this while we were talking. I just wanted to hear this story.”
I wanted to tell this story too.
I told my wife when I got home and expressed the excitement, “you will never-guess-what-happened-to-me”.
However, I was quickly told that I and the paint roller weren’t going anywhere.