Friday, April 10, 2009

I'm Stunned

My college has a multitude of awesome things, not least of which is the on-campus, student-run coffeehouse. I love this place. When I came to visit the campus, the cookies they sold were my deal-sealer in deciding which school I would grace with my august presence.

So at the beginning of this year, when I heard they needed to someone to run the student cookie bakers, I jumped at the chance. I was officially named President of Cookies, and the title wasn't even my idea. It came with the job. It's actually on my resume. And it's pretty much the only reason I'm still doing it.

Managing people you cannot control through sheer will, or even stern talks, is rather more difficult than I thought it would be. I know, I am young and stupid. However, I set up a fairly stellar baking schedule and a flawless system. Or at least it would be flawless, but for whatever reason, practically everyone I hired seemed to immediately suffer some sort of neurological condition that impacted their memories. Some people forgot it was their day to bake (despite having an online schedule that emailed them when it was), and other people forgot to tell me when we ran out of ingredients (despite increasingly desperate emails from me and the manager of the coffeehouse), and still others forgot to buy ingredients on the rare occasion we knew we needed them (despite my pleas to please just DO THE JOB WE PAY YOU FOR). 

You read that parenthetical statement correctly. This is not volunteer, or just some fun gig we expect people to do for the four hours of super fun baking time in the small kitchen. We pay them. And still, they forget. I know it is just the nature of the beast; when you set up a system with college students that relies entirely on their own drive and motivation, you're going to have to go through a few rounds before you find people who do actually want to do the job.

My favorite story happened one day with a girl I'm going to call Marie. That's not her name, but I'm not nice to her in this story, so I feel like I should change it. Marie did her job. She was there every time she needed to be. And for that, I loved her. But whenever I saw her or talked to her, I was struck with the impression that she seemed too stupid to live.

This was confirmed one day when, by some measure of divine intervention, one my bakers remembered she had a job, and went to the kitchen to do it, only to discover we were out of oats for the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I initially told her this was impossible, as we bought oats that came something like 30 cups to the container, and the whole thing barely fit in a cabinet. She assured me that she had torn apart the cabinets, and that it wasn't there.

Now, I was so happy she was thinking about doing her job that I would have crab-walked to the grocery store to buy more oats if it just meant she would do it again sometime. Before making this extravagant offer though, I told her I would call Marie, who had baked the day before, and see if she knew anything concerning their whereabouts.

Marie: Hello?
Sara: Marie, hi! This is Sara.
M: Who?
S: Sara. Sara Kendall.
S: I run the cookie bakers.
S: Hello! I have a weird question. One of the bakers can't find the oats. Do you know what happened to them?
M: Yeah.
S: You do? Great!
M: Mm-hmm.
S: And what happened to them?
M: I have them.
S: With you?
M: Yeah.
S: In your dorm room?
M: Yeah.
S: Um. Why?
M: I was hungry yesterday when I finished baking, so I took them with me and made oatmeal.
S: Marie. Honey. No.

She kindly let me come to her dorm and pick them up from her roommate, as she was heading out to class.

Well, this semester, Marie asked if she could be in charge of finances, since our finances person was going to be writing thesis, and this would give us one less person to pay. I had several doubts, but despite her relative lack of judgement, she'd always done her job, and in the end, I handed it over to her.

That was in January. It's April now. No one has been paid.

I was alerted to the situation in late February, and tried to contact her. And tried. And tried. And got management involved. And tried with them. And sent her emails marked IMPORTANT. And left her forty-two messages. And went to her dorm. If I knew her class schedule, I would have become extra-creepy and waited for her there.

But we never heard from her. Since my bakers were a bit less than driven when they were being paid, you can imagine how they got when they weren't being paid.

Right before Spring Break, out of the blue, I got an email from her.

"Hi Sara," it says. "I got the checks picked up (finally). I'll put them in the mailboxes."

That was the entire email. I kid you not.


And I never heard from her again.

And we STILL didn't get the checks. Together, the bakers and I are out literally thousands of dollars. Okay? Thousands. This is not something I or any of the management have taken lightly. We actually DID go the registrar eventually and try to get her class schedule. 

I sent her another email today, fairly used to the daily insanity in my routine now that means contacting her and never getting results.

Well. She emailed me back. When I saw it in my inbox, I actually froze. I read the sender's name eight times before I realized yes, she had responded.

"Hi Sara," it said. "I actually left the school. I forgot to tell you, I guess. I gave the money to this girl in the mailroom. I think it should get to you."

Word for word, that's what she said.


Please, guys. Tell me you work with people like this. I don't want to be alone with all the crazy.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, my. I've not worked with anyone quite like that. The closest I've gotten has been the retail stories my kids have told me. Like when a customer stood for a while in front of the change machine then said: "It says it only takes ones and fives. Can I put in a ten?"