First-Day Employee

First-Day Employee

From A 6th Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul

First-Day Employee

There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots, the other wings.

Hodding Carter

My father had a small business, employing approximately fifteen people at any given time. We pasteurized and homogenized milk from farmers each morning, and put it into bottles for home use and for restaurants. We also put the milk into small containers for the school kids everyday. We also made a wonderful little thing called homemade ice cream.

We sold all of these milk products, and many more, in the front of a dairy building, which had been fashioned into a small store with a large soda fountain. During the summer months, there were rows and rows of eager tourists lined up at the ice cream counter, waiting for their daily indulgence of my father’s most exquisite recipes of some twenty-seven flavors of homemade wonder.

Being such an extremely busy little store meant that the employees had to work fast and furious for hours at a time, with little rest. The swarm of tourists never stopped and our “rush hour” lasted many hours on hot days.

I had worked for my father since I was young, as did all seven kids in our family. So I had seen many new employees come and go due to the fast and frenetic pace.

One day, in 1967, we had a new employee, Debbie, who wanted to work in the store for the summer. She had never done this type of work before, but planned to give it her all.

On her first day, Debbie made just about every mistake in the book. She added the sales wrong on the cash register, she charged the wrong prices for items, she gave the wrong bag of food to the wrong customer, and she dropped and broke a half gallon of milk. The torture of watching her struggle was too much for me. I went into my father’s office and said, “Please go out there and put her out of her misery.” I expected him to walk right into the store and fire her on the spot.

Since my father’s office was situated within view of the sales counter, he had no doubt seen what I was talking about. He sat, thoughtful, for a moment. Then he got up from his desk and walked over to Debbie, who was standing behind the counter.

“Debbie,” he said, as he put his hand gently on her shoulder. “I have been watching you all day, and I saw how you treated Mrs. Forbush.”

Debbie’s face began to flush and tears began to well in her eyes as she struggled to remember Mrs. Forbush from the many women she had given the wrong change to or spilled milk on.

My father continued, “I’ve never seen Mrs. Forbush be so polite to any one of my employees before. You really knew how to handle her. I am sure that she is going to want you to wait on her every time she comes in. Keep up the good work.”

In return for being a wise and compassionate employer, my father got a loyal, and hardworking employee for sixteen years . . . and a friend for life.

Mary Jane West-Delgado

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