Hello and good day!
Cliff was a baker. He and I worked together in a bagel shop. He was around 30 and I was 16 when we knew each other.
The bagel shop was my first ever job.
The owners of the shop were a married couple from New York City. They didn't make much money selling bagels.Both had full time jobs and were absentee owners.
The shop was a passion project for them. They thought that San Diego needed a good, New York style bagel.
The wife interviewed and hired me, even though she had serious concerns about giving a sixteen-year-old his first job. But they were hard up for a worker who could work the afternoon to close shift.
The shop was down the street from my high school and after school I walked straight to work, that is, until I was fired a few months later.
Cliff was also from New York City, and he was a real no nonsense kind of guy. He was a good guy, and sometimes a friendly guy, but a straight shooter. He worked four days a week and pulled long shifts.
He started his days at 3am making bagels and he'd still be working the oven when I showed up after school.
By the time I came in, he was tired, hot, and not usually in the most flowery mood. He was tall and strong with a heavy New Yorker accent.He always wore a backwards hat and had black stubble on his face.
It's funny who you pick up lessons from throughout your life.
We each have our own life philosophy and a life philosophy is a mosaic. You tack on little pieces to the big picture as you go along.
I've been walking around for decades with something that Cliff told me and until yesterday, I had forgotten where I learned it from.
It was my job to sweep and mop the floor when I came in.
One of the owners, the husband, gave me a strict tutorial showing me how he wanted it done. His instructions were very clear and specific and not hard to understand.
I had to move the tables when I cleaned the floor. A lot of crumbs fall off of bagels and they got underneath the legs of the tables. If I didn't move the tables, I'd be leaving food scraps on the floor, and that could cause problems.
Roaches and rats in particular are always on the lookout for edible debris.
Regrettably, I was lazy in my cleaning.
The owners weren't around very often, and I felt that I could get away with taking a short cut.
I didn't move the tables.
Cliff didn't say anything at first. I attended to customers and did my halfhearted cleaning, and Cliff baked.
There was a girl from school who came in all the time who I had a crush on. She was a year older than me and seemed to like me.
I thought I was a big shot because I had a job and could serve her bagels. She came in a few times a week and we flirted.
One day, when I showed up for my shift, Cliff was in a terrible mood. He was more terse than normal, which was not good for me, because he was already a very terse person.
When he saw me, he snatched off his cooking apron and threw it over a chair in the break area.
"I'm going out to smoke," he said. I saw him out there leaning on the big glass window in front of the shop.
I began my cleaning duties.
I had worked halfway across the floor when the girl I liked walked in.
"Hi Adam," she said.
"Hi April," said I.
We were both talking in flirty sing song voices, smiling at each other, and making eyes.
I was almost done serving her order when Cliff came storming in.
"Adam I am sick of watching you screw up your job!" screamed Cliff.
It was awkward and I was embarrassed.
Cliff had completely lost his cool and was outright yelling at me, loud.
"You're supposed to move the friggin' tables! What is wrong with you! I need this job and you're treating this place like a game!" He screamed it at the top of his lungs.
My face was burning red.
I rung up April and she walked out.
I decided to stand up to Cliff, even though I was nervous and shaking and had adrenaline pulsing through me.
"You just made me look like an idiot in front of my friend."
"No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did. You made me look like a complete fool."
"You're wrong about that Adam. I didn't make you look like a fool."
"Then what do you call it?"
Now here is where he said the thing that has stuck with me.
"Idiots and fools are stupid. You're not stupid. Mopping doesn't need a lot of brain power. I made you look lazy in front of the girl, not stupid. And you know what? Lazy is worse. And Adam, you're one of the laziest people I've ever seen. Just move the fricking tables when you mop, like Larry told you."
I've been running that line of thought on myself for so long that I had forgotten where I picked it up.
It took some diligent searching through my memory bank to remember.
I never lost Cliff's distinction between lazy and unintelligent.
In strict point of fact, almost every task that a person carries out during the day does not require extreme intelligence.
We are all smart enough to do just about everything we need to do.
Whether we do a good and thorough job is mostly decided by our moral compass.
Acts of omission generally come down to a question of ethics not intelligence.
That is my opinion anyhow.
To wrap up the story, I started cleaning correctly when Cliff was around and watching me. We managed to scratch out a grudging working relationship.
But when Cliff wasn't around and nobody was watching, I reverted to the path of least effort.
The owner popped in one day unannounced and caught me in the act of disobeying his very clear instructions.
He fired me on the spot, and that was a good thing for me.
I was never fired from another job after that, and my bosses were always pleased with my effort.
Last time I went to San Diego, the bagel shop had been replaced with a burger joint.
I hope that Cliff and Larry are doing alright.
I owe them a debt of gratitude for the lesson they taught me.
Thank you so much for time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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