Once upon a time I hired a guy with pony tail whose name was Larry.
It was my first holiday season as a human resource manager and I was supposed to hire some temps for the bookstore. Larry’s neat application was interesting. He was on leave from a university across the country to care for a sick parent. Larry taught in the business department and just wanted a little part time job to get him out of the house and maybe earn a little cash. Larry wore a thick off-white sweater to our interview. The pony tail was a little “60s reject” but hey, he kind of fit the whole package—aging hipster, round Lennon-type glasses, kick-back, patches-on-sweaters professor. I hired him because we needed someone who could be in charge of the business books section.
Larry was fine at first. He was quiet and seemed kind. Everywhere Larry went he carried a yellow legal pad and a Bic ballpoint pen. The pad gave him an air of being busy, even when he wasn’t.
He wore the off-white sweater everyday. The shirt underneath would change, but the baggy off-white sweater stayed. My manager Rebecca and I would puzzle over this self-imposed uniform (and the wide-wale corduroys.) However, an idiosyncratic fashion sense in the book industry is hardly something remarkable--after hire Larry grew a 'stache.One day I went into work and noticed a note in my box (all employees had a cubby where we could place notes or announcements.) The note was handwritten on yellow legal pad paper. Larry had listed several defects in my management style and was kind enough to point them out to me. It took it to Rebecca, who laughed at it and told me that the list was wrong and not to worry.
The next day there was a note in Rebecca’s box. The following day there were handwritten yellow notes in all the manager’s boxes. Larry didn’t say a word. He didn’t say, “Hey, get my note?” or “Have you thought about the things that I suggested?” Nope, he just kept leaving notes. My favorites were the ones that suggested that we do a better job at motivating the employees. He thought that we should bring in balloons for the staff, or buy some dollar store prizes. Uhm, Larry, these are college students. College students want more money or food. Three year olds want balloons.
You would see Larry wandering around with two or three books and his legal pad. When you’re shelving books you have library carts full of books, it’s not common for you to have just a couple books in your hand for 8 hours. Suspicious. One night while looking for some overstock (the books that you had to reach by ladder) in the business section, I found almost two dozen books from all around the store hidden between the light fixtures and the overhead shelves. Big no-no, especially during the holidays. We had a nice talk with Larry, and reminded him that you cannot hoard books for purchase. He was allowed to put books on hold for himself like the other employees, but hiding them? No. So Larry just moved his hoarding place. He moved the books to different section’s overstock, or hide them in the back stock room. We’d find stashes of books in lots of places, all of them Larry’s. I seriously did not understand.
By the time we figured out that Larry was off his rocker it was too late to get another temp, we were stuck with him through the holidays.
One day in mid-December Rebecca got a call from her regional manager. “Who is Larry?” asked the regional manager.
“He’s a temp,” Rebecca answered, “Why?”
“Because Larry has gone over your head and applied for several general manager positions in the company including for the new store in
By this time we understood that Larry wasn’t just off his rocker, Larry was crazy—crazy off-white sweater pony-tailed Larry. He kept leaving us long, two and three page handwritten notes on the yellow legal pad.
A week before Christmas Rebecca was due on a conference call with all the general and regional managers from the entire company along with the President of Borders. This is how the call started:
“So,” said the President of Borders, “What’s with temps in
Rebecca almost died.
Apparently, Larry was unimpressed with our responses to his notes, so he took it upon himself to mail (you know, envelope, stamp) yellow legal pad notes to the president of the company—repeatedly. Larry did not understand why he was not already in charge of the Borders in
Needless to say, Larry was the first temp to go when we let go our holiday staff.
YES, that Larry. Oh, he had cut his hair, shaved the 'stache, and was sporting a navy suit, but the glasses were the same. Larry was running for governor. Don’t worry, Larry lost, but seriously people…