punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Storytime - Vince's General Store

I used to work for a tech support company on the night shift (3pm - midnight). Our building was in an industrial park, and not much was open past 5pm, much less when we got off at midnight. Some of us would drive down to TGI Friday's, but we didn't have a whole lot of money, so that wasn't often. So what to do when you got hungry?

Well, the building had a deli ... that closed at 4pm. It also had vending machines, one that served snacks (okay, but it ran out quickly of the good stuff), food you could cook (called "The Wheel of Death" because many things were overpriced and past expiration dates), and sodas. Some people brought their own snacks, but sometimes you just wanted some snacks, and the vending machine options just didn't cut it.

I don't know how this started, by a man by the name of Vince Brown started bringing in bulk food from some warehouse. Vince was a systems analyst. He was a real nice guy, although he did have a sort of 12-year-old "I am invincible" attitude that got him in trouble from time to time. But Vince was appreciated more than for his work and humor. His bulk food he brought in, he sold at cost. First is was just sodas. A soda from the machine was about 85 cents a can, and he was selling them for 23 cents. Then he started bringing in Cup-o-Noodles. Then candy bars. Vince's pod was used by servers, so the lockable "employee space" was unused. He found the keys, and started storing food in there. He even had a menu, and if you were really special, you were on his mailing list.

I am out of Reece's Cups, but I got a box of Twix. I will sell them for 22 cents each. I still have some Sunny Delights, but due to demand and supply, I will have to limit people to one a night. They are still 80 cents each, but they are 20oz bottles!

Then there would follow the current price list, plus any price changes, like, "I got a new box of Oreo packets cheaper, so they are going for 22 cents each down from 27 cents. I am still out of Hawaiian Punch, and the bananas are still green."

Supervisors let him get away with this because he never sold anything for profit, and the night supervisors also used his services. This went on for about a year when I worked there. Then came the evil accountants.

There was a particular pair of evil accountants we'll call "the Stupors." Jane Stupor and Dick Stupor were a grouchy husband and wife team of people who felt that somewhere, someone was having a good time, and thus, should be stopped at all cost. They were squatty toad-like people with permanent frowns and bandy legs who decorated their pods with trailer-trash goodies. Our tech calling queue was a set of pods on one side of the huge office space, and the accountant pods (some of which was the billing queue, where the Stupors worked) were on the other side. We were separated by a main hallway of sorts, which was nothing more than a gap of pods wider than the other gaps. Accounting usually went home at 5pm, and the queue closed at 8pm. The tech queues stayed open until midnight, and after 8pm, it was just us, being goofy techs. Sometimes, people would stay late and use the office LAN to play Quake and Warcraft. Ahhh ... those were the days. The supervisors and the main desk were also pretty cool, and let us take smoking breaks, snack breaks, or just "that call was so stressful, I need to walk it off" breaks. A lot of chatting occurred outside the building, in the break room, and even near pod where no calls were taking place. Then, for some reason, the Stupors started staying late hours. They started complaining about the noise. Formally complaining.

The upper management, or the "Day Men," were people we might see from time to time during meetings between 3 and 5, but it was rare. The Day Men (sometimes called Sun Zombies) sometimes would pass silly memos commenting that people should do this or that, but didn't often interact with us directly. Well, the Stupors put up such a fuss about how unprofessional we were, and how they couldn't do work, that the Day Men started to pass rules that we were not allowed to chat, hang out outside, and certainly not play games, during or past office hours. Sometimes we'd abide, and then things would slide, but then the Stupors would complain again.

Some thought the Stupors were really complaining because their son worked with us, and we were possibly a "bad influence" on him. Their son was kind of a dweeb, with bad hygiene and strong opinions that rubbed people the wrong way. I don't hold anything against him, because he was one of the people speculating, and later proved, his parents were the ones causing the problems. Later, he moved out of his parent's house, got a really good job somewhere with a friend of mine as his boss, and my friend later told me he was a really good employee, had wizened up, and was actually turning out to be a pretty cool guy. So kudos to him!

Vince's store was one of the "travesties" the Stupors often complained about, with lies that Vince was attracting vermin. Vince would close for a little while ... then open up again secretly, and then it wouldn't be a secret anymore until the Stupors made a fuss. We complained that Vince sold things at cost, usually had things we wanted (he even took requests, if possible), and was good for morale. "No food service!" was handed down, and so we starved.

This went on for a while, and then there were huge layoffs as they outsourced the call center techs to Arizona. Vince got laid off, along with the entire Stupor family. The son got a job right away, but I dunno about Dick and Jane.

There are times, now, when I am at a vending machine paying $1.25 for a can of soda, that I wish Vince was still here. Then I think about the time he challenged a previous middleweight boxer in our queue to some rounds, and was beaten severely to the mat. Oh well. Here's to you, Vince!

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000179.html
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