In The Darkness of Retail Sales, No One Can Hear You Scream


I briefly mentioned in an earlier post that I used to work for that glorious cellular monopoly– AT&T.  Somehow, I managed to stay with them through the entirety of my college years and not get fired. I squandered every bit of work resources and passive aggressively retaliated at every opportunity, yet… they kept me around.  It may have had something to do with the fact that my boss was the dumbest excuse for a man that has ever walked the planet.

Hey Aussa, how do you spell caveman?
Managing an AT&T store: So easy a caveman can do it.

C-Nels (as we affectionately called him) spent the better part of his day sitting in his office with his feet up, texting his barely legal hairdresser and watching Eminem music videos.  His employment was easily the biggest oversight in the history of corporate America.  C-Nels was a massive and lumbering beast of a man, with all the bravado of someone whose heyday came and went as quickly as his short-lived career as a community college football star.  His wavy half-mullet and wide set eyes conjured up images of “The Cowardly Lion,” though “The Illiterate Lion” might have been a more fitting title.

cowardly lion
“I even scare myself.”

“Aussa, how do you spell ‘open’?”

“Hey Aussa, how do you spell ‘again’?”

He officed two feet away, so every time he paused Eminem long enough to answer an email with his slow two-finger-typing he would shout through the wall for the spelling of every other word.  He worked in retail, but could never remember the difference between “sell” and “sale,” and once asked me how to spell “hello”.  Despite this lack of cognitive functionality, he remained in charge– which was like having a jar of mayonnaise for a manager.


Despite his continued employment, it was widely understood that if AT&T Corporate wanted you gone, you were gone.  They had a special way of making the rules and policies so convoluted that you were incapable of knowing what was expected.  The commission structure, quotas, and job description changed on a monthly basis, leaving staff in the dark about how much money they were making or whether their name would be in Bold Red Letters on a scary Excel spreadsheet.  Usually the threats  of termination were empty, but those standards and requirements were in place so that they always had the option of giving you the axe. 

“I’m going to sue Aussa for blogging about me.”

This axe was reserved for special people like Marcus, who was easily the most intelligent person who worked there– which meant his attitude was piss-poor.  Cursed with a potent form of cleverness, he was both too arrogant to take his job seriously, but too lazy to pursue a career.  Like many of us, he was here to ride the money train as long as possible, surviving each day with a routine of passive aggressiveness and subtle sabotage. He was a master of this game of survival, but made the fatal mistake of insulting a corporate bastion named Celia.

at&t death star
“You underestimate the power of the phone.”

Everyone knew Celia and everyone shuddered when they heard her name.  I could never prove it, but I’m pretty sure she spent her weekends kidnapping Dalmation puppies and turning them into coats.  When she visited the store, we’d all fake sick or bid our paychecks for the most strategic lunch hour.  Every sentence out of her mouth was condescending as she strutted about in designer duds, chest thrust forward like a pre-teen with socks in her bra.

"Poison them. Drown them. Bash them in the head. You got any chloroform? "
“You got any chloroform? “

Celia loved talking about her lavish lifestyle, because obviously we’d love nothing more than to learn of her greatness.  We knew all about how well the Range Rover dealership treated her and that her favorite cupcake boutique made her feel like a princess.  She strongly advocated for sending food back at restaurants and was convinced that there wasn’t a barista on earth who could furnish her with a proper latte.


Add in her penchant for Burberry and Louis Vuitton, and Celia had convinced herself that she was really something special.  The rest of us were convinced that she spoke Parseltongue and took the form of a giant snake when she went home at the end of the day.

“I need feeding every few hours.”

Only Marcus would think to cross her.  When he ended up in a seminar led by Lady Voldemort herself, it was inevitable that he was going to get fired.

Before Celia arrived, we were given markers and name tags so that she could cast spells on us by name.  As fate would have it, Marcus ended up with a yellow highlighter.  In the interest of following instructions, he wrote his name in the practically invisible color and slapped the nametag on his chest.   Darkness descended as Celia walked into the room.  Fairies died and flowers wilted as she stood before us, her breasts jutting out like quickly drawn revolvers in the Wild Wild West.  Her plastic smile appraised us as she scanned the room– but her eyes narrowed on Marcus.

“I want to see the light leave your eyes!”

“You—“ she snapped, “what’s your name?”

“It’s here on my name tag.”

This was not the right answer.

“And how do you expect me to read something written in yellow?”

“How do you expect me to write in a different color, when this is what you gave me?” 

We all missed Marcus after that.  The authorities still have hope that one day his body might be recovered.

Goodbye, Marcus.
Goodbye, Marcus.

(Just kidding)

C-Nels received a call that afternoon and was told to look at Marcus’ numbers and find a reason to fire him by the end of the week.  When he was called into C-Nels office I crouched in the bathroom with the lights out and my ear pressed to the wall, listening for the sounds of yelling, cussing or objects being thrown.  It was difficult to hear over the Eminem but I’m told that Marcus simply handed over his keys, shook hands with The Cowardly Lion, and snuck out the back door.


Marcus became a legend that day.  Like all former employees he would later say that getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to him because it forced him to actually apply to law school.  We were all jealous of his termination but far too cowardly to leave behind the comfort of a job where you could scrape by with the bare minimum and work for a guy in an Ed Hardy shirt.

Have you ever had an incompetent boss?  Have you– or a coworker– been fired after a glorious display of insubordination? 

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