Are You Coming Back Tomorrow?
What happened to your hand?
My boss told me to heat up a batch of sauce. And as I was moving it, the new guy was totally out of position and bumped me. The boiling sauce went all over my hand. My boss gave me some burn cream. I didn’t want to go home early, but it finally got too painful.
I was picking my son up from his job at a local restaurant. It’s a little inconvenient to have to go out in the middle of the night. It’s not even predictable. As a closer, his shift ends anywhere from 10:30pm to 12:30am. Still, I guess I can’t complain. He’ll have his license in a few months and then he’ll start that process of spending less time with his family. It’s only about 15 minutes from his work to our house, but it’s nice to have that time to spend a few minutes talking to him.
Tonight, he was holding his hand up and at an awkward angle. It’s hard to tell with a 16 year old, just how much pain he’s in. Never one to complain, he’s often simply bourn the pain of an injury without saying anything. He was only bringing it up now, I think, because he felt he needed some explanation for getting picked up early.
The restaurant he works at is a popular one for teenagers. He was pretty excited to get the job and less excited when he was assigned dishwasher. The dishwasher typically is the last guy to leave at night. Even with a lot pre-closing, there were always the utensils that the other people used during closing that had to be washed. However, he understood that you have to start at the bottom when you are the new guy. Fortunately, he’s working with a bunch of other high school age kids. They don’t all have a high tolerance for work. So, turnover is a constant process and he quickly moved up to more prestigious jobs such as “tortilla maker.”
On this night he was training a new dishwasher. He was trying to do his new job and help the new guy. It’s what led to him getting burned. His boss had naturally been concerned with his health, but also worried about my son deciding that getting hurt was a good reason to stop showing up to work. Knowing my son, the boss needn’t have worried. My son’s been blessed with a high level of commitment from an early age. If he starts something, nothing will stop him from completing it. (Unless it’s household chores, but that’s another topic.)
He reminded me of one of my first jobs. I was the gopher in a cabinet making shop. I was 21, just back from serving two years as a missionary for the LDS Church. It was a summer job before I headed to BYU for school. My job was sweeping and sanding, and carrying stuff from one location to another.
It was the sanding that got me in trouble. We made solid wood six panel doors. The face of the door could be sanded with power tools, but the inset panels needed to be hand sanded. That was my job. On my first day, I was handed a piece of sandpaper and pointed at a door set up on a couple saw horses. Sanding takes very little skill. “Make the rough spots smooth” about covers it.
I attacked the task with enthusiasm. As I tucked the the sandpaper into the panel and slid it to the right, it caught a bit of the raised grain. Before I knew what was happening, the paper acted like a really dull scraper and the bit of wood peeled away from the door into a four inch long sliver. Unfortunately, the sliver was very thin and very sharp. It skimmed my little finger, penetrated through the fleshy part of my ring finger and embedded itself into the side of my middle finger.
I wasn’t so much hurt as I was surprised.
Hey, ah, boss?
I’ve got a problem.
We got some clean paper towels and wrapped my fingers. I assured them that I was good to drive to the hospital.
Are you coming back tomorrow?
What do you mean? I still have a job, right?
Oh sure. Absolutely. It’s just the last person we hired for this job showed up for the first day and then announced he didn’t like wood dust. We never saw him again. We just wanted to make sure this wasn’t going to convince you to quit.
I’ll be here.
As I drove my son home, I thought about what makes a good employee. Sometimes, it’s just being willing to show up, even when things get a little hard.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved