jetsetgreen

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Larry (Not His Real Name)

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 Hawaii.”

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 Provo, Utah?”

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 Hawaii. He did not understand why his request to transfer to other glitzy locales had also not been fulfilled. Keep in mind that at the time of these notes Larry had been employed, as a temp, for exactly 6 weeks. The president assured her that Larry’s psycho temperament really did shine through those handwritten missives and that it was actually pretty funny.

Needless to say, Larry was the first temp to go when we let go our holiday staff.


In 2004, Utah had a gubernatorial election. The previous governor was not going to run for re-election so the field was wide open. I happened to turn on the TV one night to watch the gubernatorial debates. There, on stage right of the dias, was Larry.

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…

32 comments:

Mrs. Dub said...

This is the most awesome story I've ever heard, and really, really makes me wish I'd voted for Larry. If only he had worn the sweater and kept the 'tail.

'Cause what constituent doesn't want to receive some critiques on yellow legal pad paper at some point in his/her life?

Rynell said...

What a great story, though I am sure it was a pain at the time. It sure makes for good fodder now.

What a crazy.

ktb said...

Larry should learn to email - yellow legal pads are out!

sue-donym said...

Did you keep the letters? Just in case you ever wanted to hone up your management skilzzz.

I am going to find a yellow legal pad right now and write a bunch of people letters. Remarkable idea!

Azúcar said...

I am profoundly sad I did not keep the letters.

On the other hand, you can see what they were like by reading this book.

Marilyn said...

Your story telling abilities are unmatched!

Bek said...

wow. That is the best story ever.

Have you ever seen the site "passive agressive notes". It reminds me of this... ;-)

mandarin said...

you're a manager at borders in provo? i was a manager at borders in minneapolis. i just stepped down to find another job go to school.

your story brings me back so many memories. i think i could compile a book of all the managers in the company of all the crazies that ever get hired/fired.

btw, i am friends with the fritzes.

sara said...

How many years lapsed between temping and running for governor? And I wonder how those years were spent. Hmm.

Kalli Ko said...

I think Larry and RayOla should get together.

Azúcar said...

Mandarin, I haven't worked at Borders in years. I loved it there, but it's far in the past. These days I work for the Internet.

Six years elapsed between Larry the Temp and Larry the Gubernatorial Candidate.

Queen Scarlett said...

And to think...you could've told people that you managed the governor... darn. ;-) heheheh LOVE your stories.

elizabeth said...

hahahahahahahah. ha. stupid larry.

mandarin said...

oh, i see. that's cool. i always have great conversations with my family and the other managers, still, about some of the things that i witnessed as a manager at borders.

i once had a guy ask me to smell his armpits, because he was being told by my gm that customers had been complaining about his body odor. seriously, he walked up to me and lifted his arm and put his pit in my face. i was so shocked and disturbed, i turned and walked away.

compulsive writer said...

Oh I know "Larry". At our office he's the guy who thinks my eyeballs are located somewhere on the upper part of my chest.

fijiangirl said...

this story is so funny..I think Larry's twin brother lives out in Ca. He used to come into the congressional office all the time wondering where his S.S.I. disability check was!

kiki said...

This is possibly my favorite story ever!

Emily said...

Oh Brotherdear, Larry! People are funny, aren't they?

compulsive writer said...

kiki--you're back! I was just about to comment somewhere to ask if anyone knew where you were.

~j. said...

Too bad he didn't win the election. Balloons for everyone!

(I SO wanted this story to end with, "And then Larry became mayor of Salt Lake City.")

RC Cola! said...

I wouldn't have voted for Larry, but I do vote for this story. What a kook! Makes me wish I worked in a bookstore. My current job is never quite as interesting.

Sue said...

I love this post! I'm with J - I thought for a minute you were going to say he was the Lt. Governor or something. I wonder if Governor Huntsman gets mail from him? "I do not understand why I have not been appointed Chief of Staff. Please advise."

I hated hiring people. I always managed to hire the crazies who ended up suing the company.

Azúcar said...

I am good at hiring people, but there was a learning curve for sure. Every time a crazy slips past one, one learns to identify another trait to watch for.

Baggy off-white sweater...check
Graying pony tail...check

Geo said...

Insanely wonderful—this post, that candidate. I'm with sue-donym. I'm gettin' me a 12-pack of yellow pads and gettin' down to work.

Marie said...

I heard Larry's running for prez this year on the Very Silly Party ticket, but Senator Tarquin Fintimlimbimlimbimwhinbimlin Bus Stop Ftang Ftang Olay Biscuit Barrel of the Silly Party is giving him a run for his money. :)

Have you seen that Monty Python skit?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31FFTx6AKmU


In real life I'm afraid of people like Larry because if they have a book hoarding problem and an obsession with legal pad missives, who KNOWS what else they might be capable of??

~j. said...

Kevin Phillips Bong...

Lyle said...

Larry must be related to Cody Judy...

baggy off white sweater said...

Those were the best years of my life. To be part of book hoarding and privy to Larry's genius was remarkable.

We hate what we don't understand.

As his daily garb, I understood.

nct1112 said...

I seriously don't remember this guy! I really wish I did! He ran for Gov.? I am sure he got your vote - right?! :-)

Lucky Red Hen said...

Oh my gosh. I LURV that story ;o) hahahahahaha

christopher clark said...

I thought maybe you were writing about Tony from B&N. Promise me that you will write a blog about him.

Azúcar said...

Nate?! You honestly don't remember? You found several of his hoarded book caches. I remember you coming back to the break room totally puzzled, but bemused. What are you going to do with crazy? Nothing.

Topher, I'll try to come up with something.