A story by MG
It was 2:30pm on a regular hot and muggy Tuesday. About the time when half the staff is walking back into work with hot food, still laughing from the walk back to the job. Reggie was 21, soaking up the single life in all aspects, and taking full advantage of the sales commissions that his job offered. Life was good.
Upper management dropped the ball and left this particular store with a brand new manager still wet behind the ears and the place turned into a clubhouse. 10 men, only 2 women. Because of the lack of women and any real boss figure, the store got rowdy quite often, but never lost focus of sales goals.
“Homie, ten dollars says not only do I end up the night with more sales than you, but I’ll also get phone numbers from two chicks before you can even get one,” Reggie said smiling confidently to his coworker.
Jorge quickly finished chewing his sandwich to quip back, “Please dog, the only reason you get numbers is ‘cause they GIVE them to you to check their account. And as far as those sales go, put twenty on it if you serious”.
“BET!!!” Reggie shouted as he slapped a twenty-dollar bill down sarcastically close to Jorge’s sandwich.
Reggie was outstanding at sales. Warm presence, vast product knowledge, and extremely hungry for the commission checks. He tended to be sloppy with his paperwork and cash handling ability but management always overlooked it. His downfall was the night life and the ladies. His savings was collecting virtual dust, and his checking account depleted heavily from back breaking car payments and overpriced drinks in the club.
Yari walked over. She was a 24-year-old honey bronzed skin Dominican girl that everyone wanted to talk to. She put her hand on Reggie’s chest and playfully asked “Jorge did I hear you’re giving Reggie twenty dollars to beat you in sales tonight?”
Reggie and Yari always flirted and spoke intimately, but never linked up outside of work.
Here came Tykesha flushing out of the bathroom. Tykesha was the only black woman working at the store. She was 29, horrible weave, always looked angry, and not the fattest cow in the barn but most definitely looked like she needed to be milked. Nobody really tried to get along with her, and quite often made jokes about her just loud enough for her to hear. Reggie felt bad deep down because she seemed isolated and even a bit lonely, but had no issue joining in on the jokes.
“I hope you used spray Tykesha girl we eating in here!!” yelled Flip as everyone chimed in with approving laughter. Tykesha rolled her eyes and ignored everyone while walking directly to her sales station.
Reggie stepped into the bathroom to freshen up before hitting the sales floor again. He checked the mirror, the eyebrows, no food on the mouth, good to go. He pulled out his phone to see who needed some attention. A few texts from the usual girls. The only one that caught his eye was a text from his brother. He opened it up and all it said was “dad has bad lung cancer, come home”.
Reggie and his family were very close, and this was the worst news possible considering pops had just lost his job. Money was going to be an issue. As he was walking out of the store to speed home to his family, the manager called him into the office.
“What’s up Joel?” Reggie asked, fighting back anxiety.
“Your cash bag was $275 short last night, what’s up with that?” Joel questioned.
Reggie shook his head at the floor, thinking back to how wild the store was the night before, and how little attention he had paid to closing out his register. “I don’t know.” He replied coldly, “but I didn’t steal it and I don’t have time for this right now.”
The next few days were a blur. Running around trying to get things sorted out. Deep talks with his father and brothers. Gathering as much money as possible from as many different sources. The only option was to get his father the best treatment possible and to keep him alive. The plan was to get back to work by Saturday, the busiest day, to make sure that commission check stayed fat.
Friday night around 11pm he received a text from Yari.
“Joel is trying to get you fired over the missing $275. Word is upper management is putting the heat on him to discipline the store better and is going to fire you to make an example”
When it rains it pours. Reggie was partying in the city all last week and had less than $35 dollars in his account until next check. His family and close friends were broke, already chipping in every penny they had for his father’s treatment. The timing was horrible and Reggie was shaken. He felt ashamed for living so recklessly, not even having a simple $275 in his account. Joking around so much at work to put himself in this situation. He went to sleep with a stomach ache.
“Good morning everybody, ” Reggie said nervously as he scanned everyone’s faces for any sign of them knowing what might happen to him. He took a deep breath as he logged into his station and Joel came out of his manager’s office. Joel said good morning, made a few jokes with everyone and left to get himself a coffee. Everyone seemed to relax. Reggie even cracked a smile and asked the homies about the NBA games last night. His father was still sick, but feeling safe about his job, the biggest source of income in the family, relieved a ton of added stress.
The day was going smooth. A ton of traffic. Fat sales all day. Coworkers in a great mood lifting Reggie’s spirits. Reggie was all set to lock up his station and go get some lunch when he saw the area manager pulling the front door of the store open. That made his heart drop. Everyone knows when management is going to fire someone, they bring the area manager in because he has to sign the final papers.
Reggie walked to the back and poured a cup of water to try to calm down. Both Joel and the area manager were camped in the office for what seemed like forever. Reggie was no longer hungry and just wanted to know what was happening. The thoughts of his father swept over him. Everyone in his family depending on his income to assist with his healthcare. The overall satisfaction of being 21 with a great paying job with benefits.
Joel stepped out of the office and scanned the sales floor, looked back into the break room.
“Reggie, come on in here,” Joel said quietly.
This was it. Reggie sat down in the chair very stiff, barely breathing. He had a plan to tell his story. He wasn’t the begging type, but, drastic times. Joel started talking about policy right off the bat, quoting lines from the worker handbook. Reggie went into a zone just staring at his tie, waiting for the important words to be spoken. The area manager was casually looking through the “evidence” while Joel spoke the company lines. As he started counting through money in the register cash bag, Joel got to the main course.
“Due to no explanation of the missing money, even given these unfortunate circumstances with your father, we are going to have to let you go, Reggie”.
Once the time came, for some reason he no longer had the heart to plead for his job. His father had taught him better, and the misery of the past few days was starting to pile onto his soul. Just as the tears were beginning to flood his pupils, the area manager cut in.
“Joel, what’s wrong with his register bag?” he questioned, “the money is all there and the spreadsheet is filled out perfectly”.
Reggie sat forward with confusion and anticipation. “Let me see that!” he said quickly, trying to hold back any premature happiness.
He counted carefully through the money, it added up. He grabbed the spreadsheet. It was filled out perfectly in purple pen, seemingly a woman’s writing. Everyone sat back in their chairs feeling a bit more relaxed.
“Well, Reggie…” Joel muttered slowly, “let’s be more careful in the future so we don’t have to go through anything like this. Now get back out there make some money, take care of your father”.
Everyone shook hands and Reggie left the room. He couldn’t believe it, what a stroke of luck. Or better yet, a perfectly timed gesture from a good friend bailing him out. He knew it was Yari, his Latina love who had replaced the missing money and filled out his spreadsheet. He went right up to her.
“Yari! Thank you mami! I owe you big time!!” Reggie declared right on the sales floor.
“For what papi? You kept your job that’s great!!” Yari yelled.
Reggie stuttered with joy “Y…You…You replaced the money missing in my bad mami, no?”
Yari still yelling replied “No papi, but I’m thrilled for you!!”
Reggie walked back to the break room and just sat down. He needed a moment to reflect and soak everything in. He was so relieved to still be employed to be able to help his father. His eyes made their way to the sales board where everyone writes their goals and daily numbers. Looking at everyone’s names, appreciating the future he still had making money with everyone. Right as he was about to get up his eyes noticed something. He walked quickly into the supply closet.
“Let me see your count sheet Tykesha”. Reggie demanded.
Reggie scanned over the sheet then looked around for more of her work.
“You always use a purple pen?” he asked curiously.
“Mostly, why?” Tykesha said getting defensive.
“Did you replace the money I was missing from my bag??” Reggie replied almost suspiciously.
Tykesha gave him half a smile and turned back around to her computer and started typing out the rest of her work. Reggie took a moment to lean against the wall, trying to make sense of things. “Why would you help me, though?” Reggie wanted to know.
She kept her back turned and kept working. The silence got awkward and Reggie headed for the door. As he reached the doorknob Tykesha spoke out calmly, “Because I know what you’re going through.”
Reggie turned around to face her.
“My mother had cancer,” Tykesha explained. “There’s nothing more important than preserving life. Plus you my brotha out here and I’m always gonna be there for one of my brothas. If we don’t have each other’s back’s, who will?” she said casually.
There was nothing Reggie could say. He had made jokes about this woman, watch her get teased, and never once stepped in to defend her. He felt a wave of guilt rush over him followed by a touch of embarrassment for letting himself act so immature. Despite it all, here she was, a black person looking out for a black person.
Looking past the teasing, having the understanding that real life, family, the connection we all share, was way more important than the shallow behaviors of a few 21-year-olds. Reggie hung his head with a bit of shame and stepped forward to hug her. He let a few tears out on her shoulder, feeling so accepted by a woman he had shunned.
“Your daddy’s going to be ok Reggie”. Tykesha whispered.
“I appreciate you Tykesha”. Reggie graciously answered.
Don’t let this counter culture get you twisted. A nation divided will never stand, and we fall for it like children. Every single one of us.
Family ain’t family no more if we don’t know the difference between our enemies and allies.
Some of us drink the kool-aid.
Some of us never knew.
Some just forgot.
Challenge yourself to see past our minor differences to appreciate the ocean of shared connections we do have.
We do it together or we continue to decline. Hotep.