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Smith & Mormon Part 1

Smith & Mormon Part 1

Hello and good day!

A great part of being a business owner is giving people their first job.

We were fortunate enough to have a new employee work a first day over the weekend and she was wonderful. She had applied with several other places around town, Target, Chipotle, etc., but nobody called her back. That was a mistake on their part and a blessing for us.

This got me thinking about how influential a first job can be. If your first job is working for a company that is luke-warm on customer service, and doesn't care much about cleanliness, you might end up carrying around bad habits with you for a long while.

On the other hand, if your first job is with a company like ours, who is obsessive about customer service and insists on having clean, bright, inviting retail locations, you are likely to carry that framework around with you as well.

Early influences can help you greatly throughout your working life.

My first job was in a bagel shop. The shop owners were never around and truly didn't care about the quality of the operation. As a result, the workers, me included, played down to their low expectations. It took me several jobs until I found an employer who held high standards and required that I up my game.

A few weeks back, I asked my brother Brian who taught him how to hold a high standard in his work. We were standing out in my front yard chatting. I was leaning up against my wife's black mini-van and Brian was standing in front of me, in the driveway.

As it turned out, he needed plenty of space to pantomime important parts of the story. By the end, my stomach muscles were cramped into knots, tears were running down my face, and the back of my throat was scratchy from bellowing out loud bursts of laughter.

My brother Brian flunked his senior year of high school. How it came to that is a long story which I don't have space to get into now.

I was expelled from college my junior year for drinking too much. I offer the latter fact so as not to air out Brian's dirty laundry without airing out some of my own as well.

Brian and I have the same mom and different fathers.

When the report card came out, Brian's father gave Brian a come to Jesus talk. Long story short, is seemed to Brian's dad that the best option was for Brian to join the army. Otherwise, Brian would stay in town and continue on with the activities that led to him flunking out. Brian agreed and went to the recruitment office to enroll. Over the summer, Brian completed summer school to get his high school diploma.

When the day came, Brian's father drove him to LAX and dropped him off at the army check-in counter. A bunch of 17- and 18-year-old kids boarded an airplane bound for Ft. Jackson South Carolina to go through basic training. It was the end of summer and intensely hot in South Carolina. The fort was mostly a collection of rickety old barracks, built during World War 2. Each barrack was two stories tall, and each floor housed between 50 and 100 recruits.

There were bunk beds along the walls where soldiers in training slept. There was no air conditioning. And two drill sergeants acted as master and commander over Brian's platoon. Brian is a male of average height, 5 feet 10 inches tall. He turned 18 a couple of weeks into basic training.

As a teenager he was very thin and had long, shaggy hair, a questionable fashion choice, driven by his love of late 1980s metal rock. His eyes are icy blue. To the extent that he got ahead as a youngster, it was mostly through humor, affability, and charm, not buckling down and doing hard work.

Upon arrival, Brian was sent to the barber to have his head sheared close, and he was given a bunk bed. The two drill sergeants who had complete and total authority over Brian and his squadron were named Sergeant Smith and Sergeant Mormon. Both were African American men with thick southern accents.

Smith was short, 5 feet 5 inches tall, and all muscle. He was a wound-up ball of energy who gloried in his job and his authority.

Mormon was tall and calm and had interests outside of the army. For example, one of Brian's bunkmates saw Mormon playing music in a bar on a night off. Even so, Mormon was a professional who did his job well. And the job of a drill sergeant is to break new soldiers. They try to break them mentally and physically.

This meant coming into the barracks at 2am in the morning, banging on metal trash cans to wake everybody up, and taking the young men out to the yard to do pushups in the sand until their arms turned into wet noodles. It also meant grueling disciplinary hikes in full gear when drill sergeants found sand in the beds early the very next morning. It meant walking up behind an unsuspecting soldier who wasn't standing up perfectly straight at attention and smacking him upside the back of the head.

In particular, Sergeant Smith loved to make a new soldier crawl through a sand pit, while standing above, straddling the soldier, and yelling, "you're made of dirt and dirt don't hurt," over and over and over again.

Now I have to backtrack a bit. Before shipping out to the army, Brian took a family trip with us to Ft. Wayne Indiana to visit my great aunt Opal.

our mother married my father when Brian was 10 years old and Brian inherited a bunch of step-relatives, one of whom was our Aunt Opal. At this time, Opal was an 88-year-old woman who loved to send letters and cookies to people she cared about. When she met Brian, she loved him immediately and promised to send him letters and cookies every two weeks while he was in basic training.

Brian gave Aunt Opal his address at Fort Jackson South Carolina and Aunt Opal lived up to her promise. Two weeks into basic training, the first care package showed up. All mail went through the drill sergeants who unfailingly chided or made fun of their charges about the letters and packages they received.

If a drill sergeant wanted you to open your letters or packages in front of him, all he had to do was say that he suspected contraband, and you'd have to open your mail in his presence. Brian was sitting in his bunk one day, wearing nothing but underwear, a tank top, and sandals.

It was blazing hot, and Brian was kicking back, finally enjoying a moment of rest after enduring two long weeks of hell, when a messenger came in to summon private Horsley.

I'm running out of space for now. I will finish this hilarious story tomorrow!


Thank you so much for your time today.


I hope that you have a truly blessed day!


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