Country club worker
There's not a bunch of places of employment where you're seeing the same people every single day who aren't co-workers. Some of them — a few old men who were retired — would eat three meals a day there, shower there, brush their teeth, do everything there. Play cards, play golf. And every Friday or Saturday night dinner, they're there with their wives, dressed to the nines, drinking their cocktails. Super predictable: They'd like to have the same table, same waiters — a standing reservation every weekend. Those guys were basically living there: lifers, for sure.
They get invested in your lives. I had about three who would invite me to go to church with them, meet me and my husband out for drinks, send my kids birthday cards. I thought that was a neat deal, to work someplace where people were genuinely interested in you.
The majority of the not-so-nice was always about money. Always. The sense of entitlement was, you know, a funny situation.
It's a member-owned club, and everyone there acts privileged because they own it. But, to use one of the rooms there for an event, even as a member, you have to pay a food-and-beverage minimum. That covers the cost of having the staff there, setting it up, having the staff on site to take care of you and clean up. Some people wanted to come and use the room and have service, but they didn't want to pay the minimum. They'd say they're not going to pay, but they'd still come and then get mad when there's no tables and chairs set up for them. They'd wave their hands in the air and say, "This is my club! I can do what I want! I can come and use it if I want, and I pay every month as it is!"
There was a guy who lived slightly off the first hole of the golf course, and he built a little basketball court, part of which was on the country club land. He didn't get a permit or anything — he just felt entitled to do it, and then people got mad, and it's all, you know, the talk of the club. That was the only thing I saw people get really ugly about: money.
Most of the scandalous stuff that I can recall happened on the weekends — nonmember events, weddings and stuff. The wildest one was a group of young doctors that just graduated who wanted to put their whole minimum [payment] toward alcohol. They got so drunk that we found people passed out the next day in the locker room, male and female. In hindsight, we should have been a little bit more prepared on our end.
There was crying. There was vomit. There was sex in the bathroom. One of our staff found them. The majority of our staff is a group of Filipinos who come over for like eight months a year on a work visa, so their English isn't super good. One of them came to me and said "Miss _____, Miss _____, you need to see what's going on here." I got my co-worker and we just opened the bathroom door and said, "It's time to stop. It's time to get out of here. Y'all know better." That kind of thing. But what do you say, right? We walked away and let them do what they needed to do and that was that.
Once, there was a gun pulled by a drunk person in the parking lot. The guy should not have been driving and someone was trying to stop him. Then, a pizza man came by and accidentally blocked his car — and I don't know why there was someone delivering pizza to the country club — but between somebody blocking his car and somebody not wanting him to drive, it just kind of escalated. He started waving his gun, and everyone was like "Dude, OK, you drive then," and he drove away. No shots fired.
He was a member of the club, and that was addressed. There was a vote about what to do with him. I did not hear how they specifically handled him — but he definitely is still a member.
Overall, it was a great experience. I would consider myself a people person, so I enjoyed going to work, and I still talk with some of the members. I left because I was working every holiday, every weekend, for four years. I missed out on Thanksgiving, Easter, Mother's Day, Christmas Eve, with my family for four years. It was taxing, and I was ready for a change. The only days we were closed were on Christmas and New Year's Day. Yes, you'd think people would be home on Christmas Eve, but the club had to be open — for the lifers.
— as told to Benjamin Hardy
Law enforcement officer
The following account is from a law enforcement officer who once killed a suspect in the line of duty. After an investigation, the shooting was ruled justifiable. The officer is still at work with an agency in Central Arkansas.
He was as close as you are to me. I yelled at him and said, "Dude, I will shoot you!" And he said, "I know." I pulled the trigger twice, and he fell on his face.
I think one of the reasons I've had so much trouble with it is because I was so close to him. I could hear the gurgling noises. I could hear a hissing. I didn't know it at the time, but it was a hole in his lung. It was the blood going through the lung. There for a second, I literally thought there was a snake underneath him. It sounded like a hissing snake.
I've had difficulties dealing with it and shaking it off. Since then, I've developed some OCD-like symptoms, especially when it comes to my own security. Checking locks. I've probably worn out three or four alarm systems on my car, just making sure it's locked. Little stupid stuff like that. My wife refers to it as being hyper-vigilant. My startle reflex is off. If something falls, I'm like a cat hitting the ceiling. I can't sit in church. I'll see movement out of the corner of my eye and my head's whipping around. She's thinking, "You're in church." My thinking is, "You know how many mass shootings they've had in churches?" I just can't turn it off.
In my house, I know where the gun is all the time. When I get up in the morning, it goes with me. When I go to bed, it goes with me. It has a place at the breakfast table. I know where it is, and I could find it in the dark. I know exactly where it is on the bedside table. The only time that changes is when [children] are over. But it still goes in the same place every time, because I know that if something breaks bad, it's not like losing your car keys. You can't be meandering around looking for it. I need to know exactly where it is. That's the OCD stuff kicking in, too. Is it ready to go? Is everything as it should be? Hopefully that will be something I can work myself out of after I retire. I hope. The best way I can describe it is: You know Ebenezer Scrooge? His friend Jacob Marley, dragging the chains around? That's me.
When you shoot somebody, they send you to [a psychologist] to make sure your marbles are in a bag enough to send you back to work. It's gotten better over the years, but it's kind of a joke. I saw [a psychologist] just two or three days after, but none of these things started to appear until months later. So I went and sought help on my own. I went to counseling for months, and was diagnosed with PTSD. I take medication. Hopefully when I retire I'll be able to get off of it. The last piece of cake I eat at my retirement ceremony, I'll spit the meds out. [laughs]
One of the most interesting things I've had to do during the whole process was when my therapist said, "What would you say to the guy, if he was sitting right here?" I said, "Why did you make me do that? I didn't want to do that. I told you what I was going to have to do. But you made me do it." I said it just like that. And the therapist said, "Would you really talk to him like that?" I said no. Then I started dropping F-bombs. There were people out in the lobby who probably canceled their appointment for the day and got the hell out. I'm calling this guy everything but a son of God, but saying the same thing, "Why did you make me do this? You could have run. You could have stopped. You could have done anything but that."
I got no answer, and I'll never get an answer. I have no idea why he did it. I don't understand, and still don't. You don't have that opportunity with that guy. It's not two dudes playing "Call of Duty." You don't hit replay. You don't get another life. It is what it is. He doesn't have to deal with it anymore, but his family does. He probably had kids. They've got to deal with it. My family has got to deal with it. I've got to deal with it.
You get different reactions for co-workers. It runs the gamut, from they don't know what to say so they don't say anything, to what they should really say, to "Hey killer! Two more like that and you get a microwave!" You're supposed to say, "I'm glad you're OK." There's no judgment in that. You're not saying it's a good shoot. You're not saying it's a bad shoot. You're just saying to a co-worker, "I'm glad you're OK."
This one guy, I saw him coming out of court. This was a guy who I'd worked with for years. We ate dinner together. We were fairly close. This was four days after the shooting. I was coming out of court and I saw him and said, "Hey, what's happening?" And he just kept walking. Didn't make eye contact or anything. It really bothered me. Later on, I kind of figured out that nobody really knows what to say. You don't want to do more damage. But there are a lot of officers that look at you different.
You Monday morning quarterback yourself for the rest of your life. I could go step by step with you on what I did. Luckily, I'm blessed with the fact that my actions, I feel like, were completely on the money. But that is probably rare in these types of incidents. You don't get in your car in the morning and think, "You know, I'm going to go into work today and I'm going to kill somebody." These things happen and you get dragged along behind the truck.
I talked to a minister about it: How is this going to square me with the Almighty? It's one of the Ten Commandments: Thou Shalt Not Kill. I'm thinking, "Did I save my mortal life now to put my eternal life in jeopardy?" The pastor that I talked to actually broke down the Ten Commandments in the original languages. He said the word "kill" should really be "murder." Thou Shalt Not Murder. That helped. But it's always going to be there. That guy is always going to be with me.
Sometimes I feel like I'm like a dude in prison. I'm crossing the hash marks on the wall, waiting to get out. That's all I can think about right now, is getting out. What else have I got? I've got my family. But as far as my mental and emotional survival, I can't do it here [as a police officer]. So, yeah, I've got all my eggs in one basket. And if I catch a 12-gauge round through the basket and all my eggs run out, I'm fairly well fucked. But that's what I've got.
— as told to David Koon
My 4-month old son, Kwaine, died in 1995 after sitting in an emergency room for hours with a high fever and a history of pneumonia and a doctor refusing to see him. I watched a white child with a broken arm be seen while I waited. I told the emergency room nurse that I would wait until midnight — I had been there since 6 p.m. — and if the doctor hadn't seen my son by then, I would leave if my son's condition wasn't life-threatening and take him to Little Rock the next morning. The nurse had the ER doctor look at my son's X-rays and told me my son's condition was not life-threatening. I woke up the next morning and my son was dead in my arms.
My mom died the next year.
I decided I needed a fresh start — someplace where nobody knew my name or my past. I was a single mom with two kids and $80 to my name, and I needed something to earn money fast. Initially I thought I wanted to be a hairstylist, but when I learned that school lasted a year, I decided to go the manicurist route, which was only four months of cosmetology school.
I started doing nails in 1999 and it has been going strong since then. People come see me for the total experience, relaxation, to feel better, to feel complete and for appearance. And then there are some who like the one-on-one. "Hey, next time bring a bottle of wine. No one over there listens, but you are here." My passion is not the actual process of doing nails and feet, it's the people. When I can be here and hear someone else's situation is worse than mine, I actually feel better about my own life.
I travel to Mountain View once a month to do an 80-year-old lady's nails. I get so much out of that — it makes that lady so happy. She can't believe that I would do that for her — that I would get on the floor. You know what I think about? I think about Mary washing Jesus' feet. I walk out of there feeling like George Jefferson. We often forget about the elderly.
For whatever reasons people come to see me, I care what they think about me because what I do is my legacy. What I do and how I treat people matters.
I get such a diverse group of people that with all that I may be going through — my husband has an illness that requires constant medical attention and help from others — I don't ever need the services of a therapist. I was told in school not to get personal with my clients. "How can I touch you or rub on you without getting personal?" I have a personal relationship with all my clients.
I've been running my own business for 11 years. I service about 150 clients. I have a standing clientele base and eight to 10 people every day. Their backgrounds range. I mostly service the high-end clientele — doctors, lawyers, judges, their wives, paralegals, forensic analysts, retired teachers with good benefits. I don't do walk-ins because I choose who I will accept as a client, and I usually do that by hearing the person over the phone. And then after our first visit, we will know whether or not we click. Usually the people I have, I keep.
The hands bother me more than the feet, as far as germs are concerned. People do far more with their hands than with their feet. So calluses, hair, funguses don't bother me, but I certainly see a lot of it.
The worst feet I have ever had was a lady with nails that had grown so long, they curled under her toes. I cut them and took care of her feet anyway, but told her that she needed to cut them more often. She had dangerously long nails. She came back about six months later. Her nails were not curled under her feet, but were still about six inches long.
The worst experience that I have had with clients had nothing to do with smells or germs. I had a lady that kept putting her feet on my head when she wanted me to look at her. I finally had to tell her that I did not want her to come anymore. She previously had a standing weekly appointment. That was the only person I have had to turn down.
I hear so much in my line of work, but not as much as one might think. One of the most shocking was a woman who told me that she found her husband in bed with another woman, and she just stood there and watched as her husband got dressed. Most recently, I have people that are involved in the pharmacy-doctor scandal. I tell these people to hang in there and that things will get better.
Then, I have this one girl who laughs the whole time. There is a nerve on the bottom of your feet and hers is especially sensitive.
One of my more memorable experiences with a client is from a guy that said, "Oh hey, I know you like Patron. I'm going to bring a bottle of Patron and we are going to have some shots. I'll bring me some beer." He brought a fifth of Patron and a little shot glass, and I drank shots while working on his feet and hands, which took about an hour and a half. After a while, I told him that we had sure put a dent on that bottle. He informed me that I had done that all by myself. I thought to myself — I'm not drunk. So, he left and I stood up and really felt the effect, and I was ready for him to leave so that I could rush to the bathroom. He left and came back for his phone he'd left while I was on the toilet with the door wide open. I was embarrassed.
I love my job and glad I didn't choose hair. People are too picky about their hair. If I mess up your nails, I can fix them. I make $50 per pedicure and $30 to $40 for manicures. I get $55 for nails. So I can make anywhere from $30 to $50. Pretty damn good not to be a doctor or lawyer.
People ask me, "How do you remember my feet?" I tell them because I see them more than your face.
— as told to Kathy Kelly
I began working for Starbucks in 2010 and worked there for four, almost five years. I was originally hired as a chef, but I declined the position and asked to train as a barista instead. Starbucks really was that cool job that just sucked. It was cool because you were able to see, interact with and experience people of different racial backgrounds and social classes on a daily basis. What made Starbucks suck were those specific customers that every store knew about, almost like a blacklist, that introduced themselves and expected you to know their drink even if it was the first time you personally had ever met them. Some of the most difficult customers are gold card members. They feel like it's the newest American Express Black Card, super exclusive. It makes them feel like they have some sort of power. No, you paid for 30 drinks, congratulations. You get a free drink a year, thank you. And refills. That's the only purpose of the card. It doesn't give you the power, right, or authority to berate and degrade someone else.
As a shift manager I could never let anyone berate one of the baristas. Their job is hard enough, let alone over a $7 drink that I can easily fix and give to you for free. Have some respect for the baristas, even if you don't like them. I've watched at least 10 baristas cry because of something a customer's said. I've seen things get thrown at baristas. I've seen people quit in the middle of their shift, and someone is always having a breakdown. Most people think the job is completely easy: "I'm going to sell coffee and it's going to be like a movie." No. You're going to come to Starbucks, you're going to smell like coffee and stinky milk, you will get pissed off by the customer that gets to the window and says they want their drink iced after you've already made it, they will curse you out, give you 10 other things to put in it and expect you to make it over perfectly in 30 seconds flat.
It can be frustrating, especially the drive-through. It seems like white women in Suburbans and large trucks, with sunglasses and cell phones, don't mix with drive-through. Either they hit the box or drive up the curb. I've seen so many people hit the speaker and drive away. I've seen a lot of people throw trash out of their cars into the drive through and look at you while they do it. It's so disrespectful, like walking in the house with muddy shoes and wiping them on the carpet, like "what?"
You serve so many people each day that you don't really learn customers' names, you learn their drinks, like when you talk about them to other partners [co-workers], "Did the guy who gets the tall Chai come in today already?" "No, but the lady who comes in and gets like 6 pounds of coffee did." "Good, then I won't see her till next week." It makes for interesting conversation.
There are so many college students that work at Starbucks. Half of them are disgruntled, because they're working at Starbucks, and they're usually still working there after they graduate from college. Almost everyone smokes weed to stay sane, but it's definitely a great place to network. When you stay at a store long enough the customers know you by name and ask about you when you're not there. You're pretty much known in the neighborhood after you've worked at Starbucks. You'll be out on your off day and run into a customer, "Hey don't you work at Starbucks?" "Yeah, you're the Chai Tea latte extra hot, no water, no foam." "That's me!"
The organization as a whole is focused. I still have stock invested in the company. I see it took a hit [laughs], but at least they're geared towards their customers and their satisfaction rather than pushing out crap like McDonald's. They protect their name and try to stand behind it especially with their employees. Starbucks calls their employees "partners," and I can see why. You can work at any Starbucks, transfer anywhere there's an opening, if you want to travel abroad or go to school they can help you with that. The biggest benefit of being a partner was the free drinks and food. I've had everything on the Starbucks menu, including the discontinued and seasonal items.
But Starbucks breaks some of the best fucking people. I've seen multiple people that were bright, energetic and manager material get absolutely crushed and demoralized by the interview processes to become a manager. You can't tell somebody that's been helping that place not fail as a store, working their ass off as a barista, that they're not doing everything possible to keep the store afloat just because they'd rather interact with customers than shove travel mugs down their throat. Like I've seen people just flat-out crying on the floor because of an interview gone wrong. I try to comfort them and tell them that it'll get better, they'll get the promotion the next time, but it won't get better and they won't get the promotion. I was promoted to shift manager after being with Starbucks for two years. I had been qualified for the position for a year, but management made me ask for it instead of offering it to me. Once you make that jump in position, at some stores being the shift manager, you're damn near the manager. The promotions suck, though. I understand it's minimum wage, but it seems like they really only do the minimum — 12 cents can only impact gas prices, not a paycheck. As a shift manager you really have to care about other people and their issues, especially employees. It made me more empathetic, more efficient, and better with people in general, but I was definitely overworked and stressed out. I was always leaving late and catching hell about having partners in the store after their shift ended when I was closing.
Starbucks is very nondiscriminatory in their hiring and that's a good and bad thing. They've hired a few people that were sketchy to begin with. There's one guy I remember especially: Dude was a drug addict. He seemed to be genuine when they interviewed him and supposedly "brought more diversity to the store," but he was a constant worry for me as a manager. I was pretty much babysitting and watching him every shift making sure nothing got stolen or that he didn't flip the hell out on a customer. I've heard of baristas doing disgusting things to customers' drinks, but I didn't personally ever see it and just couldn't do anything like that myself. At the end of the day I try to treat people the way I want to be treated. This is your job, even if that person doesn't have any respect for your position. It's a lot easier to make their drink right and get them out of your face than have them come back because it was wrong or you did something and they come back even more pissed off. Just kill them with kindness.
Worst fucking customer I've ever had in my life? The shift manager on duty was a hard-ass and managed aggressively. He tried to run a tight shift but you can't run a tight shift at Starbucks — it's Starbucks. Well, a local homeless drug addict came in and got in line during our morning rush and wanted a free coffee. We were getting ready to brew another batch so my instinct was to give him the free coffee and tell him to leave, that way he wouldn't cause a scene. But the supervisor decided otherwise and told the man that either he paid upfront for the coffee or he needed to leave. The guy didn't like that, so he went to the store's restroom and came out a few minutes later with the biggest smile on his face. He glared at the supervisor, bought a coffee and left. Twenty minutes later the shift manager goes to the bathroom and comes back out looking like he had just seen a ghost. The guy basically took a dump in the middle of the bathroom floor. That was the grossest thing I've ever seen. I took over the rest of the shift and the shift manager went to go clean up the bathroom. The funniest thing I saw was when Farrakhan came, and he was surrounded by these huge guys and they ordered nothing but straight black coffee all around [laughs]. You meet a lot of celebrities, too. I've met Tom Arnold, Andy Dick, Mos Def and lots of local celebrities like reporters, judges and politicians. I didn't care too much for politics then so I treated them normally.
I hated frappuccino happy hours because you always had the most demanding customers with kids and they want something off the secret menu. I'm not looking for anything on a secret menu; if it's a secret it's still a secret to me, just tell me what's in it. It seemed like we always had drug dealers come through and order the most non-gangsta drinks like strawberries and cream frappucinos extra sweet with extra whipped cream or caramel frappuccino with extra caramel drizzle and extra whip blended in, and they had the nerve to pay with change. I can clearly see the large wad of cash sitting in the car, but you paid with quarters and nickels? I hated employees who stole or pocketed tips because they felt like they had a hard shift and they deserved the extra money, I'm just not selfish like that, so it really annoyed me.
But Starbucks is most definitely a family. Anybody I've ever worked with I still keep in contact with. My best friend still works there and we hang out all the time. I can still go into a store and be recognized by customers and employees. I know I can go back at anytime, I've been asked to multiple times and still do to this day, that's why it's important to maintain a good reputation. I would definitely go back to Starbucks if it paid more or if I could have my own franchise. I miss the face-to-face interaction and the environment. But it's definitely not a job for people who aren't friendly and don't want to help people. After you leave you try to stay away from black polos and khakis for a while. I still can't wear khakis.
— as told to Kaya Herron