“Tales of a Scorched Coffee Pot” — Chapter 104

Jason McGathey
7 min readJul 7, 2022
organically leaky ceiling

Heading into this Don Evans era, Edgar’s first thought is that, okay, maybe we’ll finally start getting some results on this “enforcement” front. While granted that here we’re talking about another tall white male, given to stomping around with a coffee mug, displaying a ton of bravado as he talks up his credentials and boasts of laying down the law, Don had certainly said all the right things during his introductory meeting. So only time will tell. But his first ever conversation of substance with Edgar checks some encouraging boxes, calling over from Central after about a week on the job.

“Tell me something: who is authorizing all this crap that people are ordering, here at the store?” he demands.

Ah ha! Yes! Now they are getting somewhere. Edgar feels like he has mentioned this countless times here and there, for years, as have a couple of others, but they have been consistently pooh-poohed by anyone in charge. It’s just something that nobody with authority has felt like dealing with.

“Well, that’s just it,” Edgar tells him, “nobody’s authorizing it.”

“What? You’re kidding.”

“No. They order whatever they want.”

“That’s not gonna work,” Don says, “we need some sort of guidelines in place.”

“I agree. And see, the thing is, they shouldn’t even be able to order anything that isn’t already in our system. That’s how those Slingshot ordering guns work. It won’t let you. Except the problem is, then they just call in an order, or email it instead. We’d have to put a stop to that, somehow.”

“We need to do something about this,” Don concludes, before hanging up.

His tone has sounded somewhat reproachful, but who knows, Edgar thinks, maybe that’s how he always talks. Surely he doesn’t believe that the pricing/data coordinator, with zero employees under his command, is somehow personally responsible for forcing department managers to toe the line in this regard. Or for that matter guys like Vince freaking Brancatto. Hopefully Don himself is able to corral Vince, actually, earn his keep as a quote unquote “enforcer,” which is a prospect Edgar would really like to see.

Then again, this level of confusion wouldn’t necessarily surprise him. Todd thinks Edgar is the “techie guy” and from the sounds of things Don thinks he’s the ordering overlord for everybody. Are any of the higher ups clued in to his actual job? Fred, maybe? It reminds him of how back in his Kroger days he worked at this one store with two assistant managers. One was launching an investigation behind the scenes, snooping around and asking a bunch of questions to bolster this theory that Edgar was a slacker and not really doing much; meanwhile, concurrently, the other assistant manager was telling him he took too much on, needed to delegate more, and gave him a middling review based around this entire concept. All at the same time.

That sounds like an extreme example, but it’s pretty much how retail works, he muses. Even the restaurant industry doesn’t display quite the same split personality, with every boss basically acting like he’s running a separate company. It’s like, can you people possibly compare notes first, before an employee is ever approached over any of these half-baked notions? Otherwise, it’s difficult to know what you should and should not take seriously, which leads to tuning everyone out and just bearing down and focusing on what you consider to be correct.

New management figures brought in after you are especially problematic. They would almost need to be handed a presidential book of secrets before even taking the job, to know what battles were fought in the past, what contributions each employee has made and what the issues have been. Of course, most of these management types, even if handed such, would only give it a dismissive wave and claim they already know all of that stuff, therefore don’t need to read the thing. Maybe if you could get them to sign a disclaimer, swearing that they have been brought up to speed on all the information contained within, and would be held liable if not — that might work. Otherwise, these companies are basically holding all the cards. There is always this looming threat of “the file” they maintain on every employee, which, indeed, they could surely trot out at any juncture. Until that happens, though, the employees in question are looked at as though being weird or cheesy or dramatic if they mention anything said file might contain. For example, though he’s outlasted basically every important figure save Rob, is that edict about not confronting people in person still in place, for Edgar? Can he get something in writing saying it has definitely been removed from his file? He feels like the answer to that would be some sort of twisted legalspeak explaining that they would really like to and so on, tossing in a few words like precedent and ramifications, as they profusely apologized and explained that this was unfortunately not possible.

The only leverage an employee really has is to simply just quit. And that avenue has been driven extensively here of late, with Will in grocery merely the latest to rip a hole in the asphalt as he peeled out. Nonetheless, it’s true that this perception disparity flows in both directions. If anyone dared ask, for example, Todd would surely reply — and is clearly under the impression — that he is setting the industry alight with his brilliance. And probably Fred and this Don Evans character, too. But where is a person to turn if seeking a true appraisal, an accurate assessment of his or her talents? Because if this recent overheard conversation is any indication, a number of his current employees would rate Todd considerably lower.

“Hey, have you guys seen that fuckin, uh, Netflix documentary about the Fyre Festival?” Edgar hears Valerie asking Dale and Jack, out in the main room. The latter he knows is still attempting to get those ancient PDAs up and running, at the continued behest of their master, while Dale he believes is unpacking boxes and Valerie either helping him or sitting at her receptionist desk. Whatever the case, Todd and Fred are both out of the office, which is obvious by not so much the language, which nobody gives a damn about at this point, but the subject matter to follow. Vince is here, sure, but he matters even less than the curse words by now.

“Oh yeah,” Dale says, “I saw that.”

“I almost went to that shit!” Jack crows. “Seriously, I was this close to buying a ticket!”

“Okay, so let me ask you, then,” Valerie says, “first impression, off the top of your head, like, for real: who does that guy remind you of?”

“Who, Ja Rule? Or the main, like, con artist guy…” Dale says.

“The main guy.”

“Todd Cashner.”

Valerie busts out laughing, evidently pleased by this confirmation, though all she says is, “that’s awesome…”

“Oh yeah, totally,” Dale continues. “I thought that after the first, like, five minutes. I mean, yeah, that dude’s got better connections, he’s a little more slick, a little, a lot more charismatic…but yeah…why, is that what you were thinking?”

“Yes,” Valerie says, though cackling wildly, an effect that slaps a Doppler effect on that single syllable, stretching it out: yeh-heh-hesss! As she brings her hands together, once, audibly, continues snickering and adds, “god that is awesome…”

“Nice, nice,” Jack throws in, explains, “some of my friends actually went…thank god I passed on that shit…”

“I mean, not that he could pull it off, but…,” Dale continues, “that’s totally what he’s going for.”

“Right, right,” Valerie snickers. “Like, a million people could watch that thing, and 999,999 would be thinking, god what a shady asshole. One person would be, like, laughing and nodding in admiration, saying, This guy’s cool! I like this guy!”

“And we work for that person,” Jack concludes.

“We work for that person.”

“I even feel like some of their answers are exactly the same,” Dale observes, “hey dude, the concert’s supposed to start in two days but we still don’t have the stuff to build a stage. Stop being negative! Hey Todd, you said Universal was ripping us off but then you came back with a lower discount — does this mean we have to raise prices to hit our margins? Stop being negative!”

“Hey dude, maybe ask your IT department before you order fifty of these ancient, busted up devices that don’t even work,” Jack adds.

“Stop being negative!” Dale tells him, as all three cackle in response.

“Yeah, well, apparently they told that guy he’s never allowed to run another company again. That was part of his plea bargain or whatever,” Valerie says.

“Hashtag fingers crossed!” Jack says.

“Hashtag killing it!” Dale jokes, but then must exit the building himself, as Edgar hears the front door open and shut, as the central room falls into relative silence.

This is Dale’s latest catchphrase, a sarcastic killing it! Having supplanted his longstanding personal favorite, I really don’t get this place, which has rung in everyone’s ears for so long that it’s caught on and taken a life of its own. That one is now repeated more by others, robotically just rolling off the tongue, even after its originator has long since moved on.

But the thing is, while these job role and performance perception misalignments might flow in both directions, only one of those matters. It doesn’t matter what the employees think about their management, merely the inverse. At least up until a company goes out of business, that is.