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I held a lot of low-level jobs in my early to mid 20s. Most of them were to help pay for college. For a long time I functioned under the idea that this wasn’t my career, so I might as well have some fun while at work. This notion caused me to become really good at coming up with asinine things to entertain myself, and then talking my way out of getting fired. And honestly, I should’ve been fired multiple times. Below is a list:
1. Shooting store manager in face with fire extinguisher.
I was an assistant gardening manager at Lowe’s for about three years. It’s where Mel and I met. One day I was asked to clean out a storage loft so it could be torn down. I found an old fire extinguisher. The store manager asked how I was doing. He was an easygoing guy named Tony, with dark hair and good sense of humor. I replied, “Fine. Just wondering if this extinguisher still works.” I pulled the handle, and he was in a cloud of white smoke. His eye instantly went red with irritation, and stayed that way for a few days. He was angry, no doubt about it. I kept insisting that it was an accident that happened in the name of safety. He ended up making me read a handout he picked up from the fire department about how to properly check a fire extinguisher.
2. Damaging forklift by driving it at full speed over parking lot islands.
Sometimes things got boring at Lowe’s. And when they did, I often took the forklift into the parking lot for what I called, “bajaing.” Lowe’s was a big store, and upper management wasn’t always present, and lower management (like myself at the time) wasn’t fully invested.
Coworkers would set up cones and two-by-fours as obstacles, and I would run them over. One day I decided to drive over all the parking islands at full speed. Everyone had a good laugh, and I almost flipped the forklift a one point. The next morning, it wouldn’t start. No explanation was given to management as to why.
3. Transferring 1-800 sex talk calls to coworkers
Lowe’s had these big black cell phones that were used to communicate between departments. I got into the nasty habit of calling 1-800 sex lines, and transferring them to people in other departments. I will admit that it was hilarious to hide behind a lawn tractor, transfer a call to someone, and then watch their face as they heard a sexy voice saying, “Oh baby. Oh baby.” However, this ended up becoming a real trend. People all over the store were getting involved, and during the peak of this problem, it felt like every other call was a woman moaning.
Eventually I was called into Tony’s office (the store manager). He said, “I can’t prove that you started all this. But I’m pretty sure that you did. I’m not going to fire you. I just want you to give me a few of the numbers you boys have been using so I can have them blocked.”
I listed off a slew of sexually explicit numbers (1800-sexy girls, gay stud…) and as he wrote them down, it was clear that he was having a difficult time not laughing.
4. Singing happy birthday as obnoxiously as possible
I waited tables at the Olive Garden for about five years. Every shift I was asked to sing happy birthday to someone. I hated it! I didn’t mind singing it to kids, but adults… really? Sing it to your damn self. I really hated being part of some inside joke, where it wasn’t the person’s birthday. It felt degrading. So in protest, I started singing it as loud and out of tune as possible. I thought it would keep people from having me sing, but instead co-workers thought it was funny, and went out of their way to get me to sing. But I stuck with it, and eventually the management wrote me up, and forbade me from singing in the restaurant. I was thrilled! This was the only time I have ever been written up in a job. However, I will admit that this backfired a bit. When I started telling tables that I couldn’t sing happy birthday, they assumed I was lying, got offended, and tipped me poorly.
5. Playing a genital showing game
In early 2000 the movie Waiting (a comedy about working as a server) was very popular among my Olive Garden co-workers. In the movie, the actors play a game where they flash each other. Sadly… we started this game in real life and I participated.
6. Hiding in store room and sleeping on kids sized mattresses
I worked graveyards at Toys-R-Us for about three months during Christmas time, 2001. Mostly I stocked shelves, but when I got tired, I’d drag a couple crib mattresses into the storeroom, surround myself with boxes of toys, and sleep for a few hours. I was only confronted once by a manager about where I’d been. I told her I had diarrhea. She dropped the subject.
7. Letting ass hang from pants while working in the plumbing department
At Lowe’s, I mostly worked in the garden center. But sometimes I was asked to cover other departments. Whenever I was asked to work in plumbing, I made it a point to let my ass hang from my pants, and to constantly be dropping things so I could bend over in front of customers. At the time it seemed appropriate. But now, I’m a little ashamed.
8. Writing, “I have a boner” in large letters on 8 foot stack of potting soil.
Most of my time at Lowe’s was spent using a forklift to place large pallets of soil (8-feet tall) on warehouse shelves. One of the shelves was 30-feet tall and faced University Avenue (a major road). Each pallet needed to have an item number spray painted on it. One day, I painted, “I have a boner” on the back of a pallet, and placed it on the top of a shelf facing the road. It was up there for several months until a manager found it. I was interrogated, but denied any involvement.
9. Climbing inside decorative blow up snowman in order to scare children
At Christmas time, the Lowe’s garden center was transformed into a winter wonderland. In 2002, we started getting large blow-up snowmen and Santas that were to be used as yard art. I put up a display of the snowman, and kids kept punching him. One snowman ended up getting popped. To solve the problem, I decided to climb inside one of the snowman displays (there was a zipper in the back of the snowman that was just large enough for a slender 20-year-old to climb inside), wait for a kid to hit the snowman, and then hit him back. I can’t say it solved the over-all problem, but it was a good laugh. And it felt like justice.
What are some of the crazy things you’ve done at work?
You would also enjoy, The Baby Hates Me.
Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley