Things started out okay. Charles seemed like a friendly sort of fellow. In fact, he sometimes would go out of his way to be friendly...or at least social. He was a very social man, who liked to talk and hang out with customers, chat with people he knew, and talk to employees about his thoughts on things and share numerous anecdotes and stories he'd encountered over the years. Also he was the only other manager that has consistantly referred to me as "Mikey".
But amongst the friendliness there was also a part that sometimes he hid well, and other times blatantly flaunted. Charles could be insensitive--in fact, very, very insensitive. He could be rude, obnoxious, sarcastic, and had the extreme nack to say the exact right thing to make you want to take spoon that you were washing and try to jam it right into his chest; and he pulled all of this off with an extremely care-free and bitingly sarcastic attitude, of which seemed to be calculated in such a way to maximize infuriation of those to whom he talked.
"Look at this! There's [crap] all over this table!" "It looked like somebody puked all over this table." "Your dining room sucks!" Yes, these are all exact quotes. And he told me this after I had carefully gone through the dining room that night and cleaned everything. Sure, there were a few spots that I'd missed, because my contact wasn't working well then, but nothing to merit the comments he made; in fact, the dining room was very well passable.
He called it his "tough love approach". I call it being a flat-out jerk. Harsher names, even, which I refrain from using. And oh was he called these behind his back. It was a love/hate relationship with him amongst the crew. At times they got along great, talking, laughing, and working all the while. At other times he let himself go, and we all worked brooding, hoping that he wouldn't come over to us, because when he did, he certainly was going to make a snide remark. There was no "if"; he just would. 1/1 chance, yes.
He was an ill-liked man, basically completely and wholely an unlikeable man. And that...was why I undertook the task to be his friend.
You see, some people are pretty fortunate. They have friends, online or offline, who they can talk to about their problems, socialize with, and all those things that friends do. From what I saw, Charles had none to whom he could rely. Everybody at work talked about him, and not necessarily in a positive way, either. The main manager, Amy, constantly received complaints about him. When I told her about how Charles was treating me, she just merely nodded and said "okay". He was quickly losing allies and only gaining enemies.
I tried talking to him. When he was in the office doing his paperwork, I would sometimes poke my head in and talk to him a little bit. It would normally be just some chitchat, other times it would be stuff about work. I even talked to him about his behavior there at work, telling him he needed to chill it out and start being friendly. "Yeah, Mikey, I know I'm a [sphincter muscle]; it's cool, you can tell me." He knew that he was bad, yet he didn't change. Why? Didn't he want to change?
At times it seemed like he tried to change and cover up for some of his actions, making an action to be civil. I remember once when the steering pump of my car went out and I had to call to let them know I was going to be walking and I could be there in a half-hour, Charles said something, I forget what, and that was that. Thirty minutes later when I arrived, Charles went up to me and told me that if he sounded obnoxious on the phone that he was sorry; it just sort of took him off-guard. That surprised me, since he didn't sound bad at all on the phone. I told him it was all right, and that was that.
While he was first working there, it was spread that his birthday was coming up. It was casually mentioned here and there, and apparently it was even written on the managers' calendar. When the day came, I think he was gone from work. The next day, after hanging out with Shira, I had a little time before work. It was nothing big, so I thought to quickly stop at Dairy Queen. Banana splits; everybody loves banana splits. Drive-thru, three or four bucks, and a disbelief at the high prices of Dairy Queen, I was off to work.
Charles was in his office when I got there, diligently working on paper work. I poked my head around the side of the door and chimed in, "Hey, Charles, your birthday was yesterday, right?" I asked.
"That is correct," he replied, obviously not enthused. I didn't take it in at the time, but it seemed like a subject which he didn't exactly want to discuss.
"Well all right," I said, bringing the paper bag around, plopping it onto his desk. "Here you go. Happy birthday." I then turned around to go start working while he looked into the bag to see exactly what it was that apparently was for him, and the rest of the night basically went off without any sort of hitch, I think.
The next day when I went in, he was there in the office, where I asked him for my drawer with the money for the night. He got it, made a few comments, and then finally he said, "...you know...you were the only one who actually got me something for my birthday...and that...really hurts. Normally my sister gets me something, but...she was out of town."
I smiled back, making a hand gesture to say it wasn't a problem. "Don't worry about it. I know what it's like not having people remember you or your birthday. I'm sure your sister got something for ya too, don't worry." He then quickly changed the subject before things got too uncomfortable.
That went to show me that things weren't as they seemed with him. As unlikeable, rude, obnoxious, uncaring, and dislikeable as he was, he still had a heart underneath that outer shell he wore. Apparently he was forsaken by his parents and relatives, except his sister. He had his heart broken many times before, and once even proposed to a lady, having set up the perfect place at a lake and everything. Her response? "...no, no, I don't want to get married with you. But that's a nice ring. Could I keep it?" Oh...harsh.... He threw that ring right then and there into the lake.
He found solace in his alcohol and many, many cigarettes, though every single time he only found himself feeling more empty that he started. He was hurting on the inside, and it was obvious to me. He needed somebody to see through the man that he showed on the outside into the inner soul that he bore. And I tried my best to do that. It was tough, harsh, and sometimes even downright hurt. But finally he realized that I was trying to reach out to him, and from then things started to change.
Insulting my work, criticizing and nitpicking the small things I did, making snide remarks about whatever it was that came to mind, it seemed to me and to other people as well that he was even singling me out and picking on me. Some people even said that back then it seemed like I was ready to just throw down with him right then and there. Oh, trust me...I was mad. Mad. But I refused to let it out at him. I don't let my anger out on anybody, but instead calmly assess the situation and civilly discuss the situation with them later at an appropriate time where I don't feel like taking the plastic-wrapped fork nearby and trying to stab it into one of his eye sockets.
But he started to calm down. He realized I was actually trying to reach out to him and be something of a commandant and friend to him, and he softened up. It might have been because he was trying to improve his image, but it genuinely felt like he actually...wanted...to be friends with me too.
Finally the time came when he was to be tested by the higher-ups, be approved, and finally leave our store to go to the one there in Hobart. From what I heard, the testing went off without any problems. Tested, approved, stamped, and sent, he was finally gone. They got a cake and everything when he did to celebrate his certification, though some on the side said that it was also to celebrate his finally getting out of the store. "Yay! No more Charles!"
I was a bit disappointed that he was leaving, while also a bit relieved too. I wouldn't have to put up with his attitude or his like atmosphere, which could bring morale down among everybody around him. But finally...he was gone. He went off to Hobart, one of the other stores our owner owned, and things quickly went back to normal at our Wendy's.
That was many months ago, back during the start of the year. Since then, some times we would hear how things were going over there at Hobart with Charles, which were...um...not going well. We heard he didn't treat people well, Tim (the stores' owner) was having him take classes to improve his attitude and how he treated others, and when somebody from Hobart temporarily worked at our Wendy's, when asked of Charles, they got the expression of "are you kidding?!", and then we definitely got an ear-full of what was going on over there. It was never positive news which they bore, either. Even discussions of lawsuits, way out-of-line actions, and even apparently a reported kick to the shins came up.
And then, last Friday....
I was washing dishes, not feeling well. Being sick bites. A lot. Harshly. That's been happening a lot lately, but now isn't the time to get into that. I got a mustard bottle and was scrubbing the outside of it, getting the mustard that had crusted into the grooves of the nozzle on top. Tony, our manager that night, and Bob, another employee, and I were talking. I made a joking comment to Tony, and Bob replied, "You shouldn't talk about him that way! Tonight is his last night here for awhile, you know. Sunday we're getting your buddy Charles back."
I stopped and blinked. Charles? "...are you serious?"
Both of them went on to tell how Charles was being sent back here, because apparently things weren't going well with him at Hobart, he needed more training, was to be "re-trained", and now we got him again! Whooooooo--no. No. Dangit, I don't want to see the guy again! In a display of annoyance and surfaced anger I threw down the mustard bottle. I didn't want Charles to come back! I had had enough of him the last time he was there! Why did he have to come back to our store? Why us? Darnit, why did we have to be "training store certified"?! Blargh....
Finally Sunday came. While stopped at a red light, I prayed that God would give us the patience, strength, and wisdom and knowledge to deal with Charles this time around. I wasn't looking forward to seeing him again, in all honesty, and not many others, if anybody, were either. Even Amy had said when I talked to her about Charles coming back that she didn't even like him
And that day, when I walked in, I saw him there on the far end of the dining room, clean-cut hair, blue shirt, everything, just like I last saw him, talking with Tim. What it was about, I could only gander. Maybe Tim was telling him this was his last chance. Maybe it was just about company things. Maybe it was about his duties which were to be fulfilled while working there...I don't know. I collected the trays sitting on top of the trash recepticles, kept from making eye contact, and went about my business, getting my cash drawer set up and everything.
For awhile I intentionally avoided him, ignoring him by pretending I was busy with something else, like...putting away and organizing the headsets. Why does it seem just about nobody except me thinks to go about that task anyways...? After listening in on brief conversation tidbits and such from him, I decided to "reintroduce" myself. I was walking over to my sink when I saw him going over to the office. I stopped mid-step, getting a smile, deciding to give this whole thing another go. "Charles! Hey!"
"Mikey! Heyyy--" He stopped, looking at my head for a few awkward seconds. Finally, "...trying a different color and trying to grow a ponytail?"
"Something like that," I casually replied.
"Why'd you dye it?"
"I went to an anime convention."
"...a what?" Why is it that just about everybody I know outside of my circle of friends and people online don't know what anime, a.k.a. "Japanese animation", is?! *sigh.
The rest of the night went okay, except for the part where I was still feeling sort of sick, and then found blood in my stool. Sorry if you didn't want to hear about. I was sitting down on top of the cooler underneath the headset cabinet drinking Sprite, hoping it would help me feel better, when Charles passed by. "You feeling okay, Mikey?" he asked, going to the office. He didn't wait for an answer, then went in and sat down. He then called to me from there, so I obliged and got up, walking over to the door with my Sprite in hand. "Yeah?"
"I heard a rumor that you didn't like me," he stated matter-of-factly. Ohhh boy. I wasn't sure where he'd heard that from, but I wasn't going to cover it up or try to hide it. "I have nothing to hide" is a motto I try to follow. Later I would learn that Ian, another coworker, had mentioned to him for him to try and lay off me a little bit, because he was "pretty harsh" last time he was here.
"Listen, Charles", I began. "Last time you were here, you did a lot of things to make some people mad. You said the wrong things at the wrong time, and your attitude was really horrible."
"Yeah, I remember that whole thing about me saying 'you sucked'," he interjected.
"Charles, I think that honestly you're a cool guy." I honestly do. He's got a great heart that shows through when he wants it to. "But your attitude just needed a lot of improvement. And you remember that I even talked to you about it. When people heard you were coming back, they were like 'oh no...Charles is coming back'. People here weren't looking forward to you coming back; they remembered all what you put us through last time. But really...you are a pretty cool guy; I do like you. You just need to keep your attitude in check, man!"
"All right. I had thought about killing myself, but didn't help." This comment brought a few thoughts to mind. Back when he had first started working at our store, I was talking to him about something about the last Wendy's, and I said something alone those lines (don't worry, people; Mikey is in no danger of suicide, trust me). I wondered to myself if he was making a reference to that line. I also wondered if he really meant it. Was he starting to hurt that much inside that he began pondering ending his own life? Or was it the fact that I was the one who tried to reach out to him and be his friend that he was willing to tell me that? Or was it that I had said something like that previously and he thought to confide in me with that fact? Or was it that he was using his own brand of biting humor? Argh...thinking about it now almost gives me a headache. I know he's likely still hurting inside, but is it now that he's become that lonesome and depressed, and things obviously not going well with him, being that he was sent back here, that he actually was thinking about ending his own life?!
This brought back to mind the reason I tried reaching out to him in the first place. He was a hurting soul. Love the unloveable. Get close to the untouchable. Even if he was somebody whom everybody hated, that didn't change the fact that he was still a human being, a man, a person...and all people out there need love, no matter who they are.
I inwardly sighed, feeling somewhat ashamed at having been upset that he was coming back. I shouldn't have made such a big deal about it. I shouldn't have told Amy every time she gave me another reason that he was coming back "...but we don't want him here." I didn't want to put up with him again before, but then I realized that I might very well be the only person in his entire life in arms reach that actually cared about him.
It reminds me of something that Dillon had told me: "We might be the only Jesus people get to see." And how true that phrase is. A lot of people are completely unloved and uncared for, and there isn't anybody out there who cares for them. Some people might get the wrong idea of Christianity, and think it the "following that guy in the sky's rules or risk going to hell" thing, when it's very, very not. It's only about a relationship, not any of the "rules" crap; it's just asking Jesus to be your savior and letting him be the Lord of your life--all that "holy life" stuff comes after it, because of it naturally, not because "that religion said to". What was I saying before?
I replied to his comment, "It never does," then gave a friendly tilt of my head, then went back to work. Charles is going to be here at our store for a month. What it's going to be like and what he's going to do and how he's going to end up, I have no idea. I just know that through this I need to talk to him and counsel him when I can, letting him know what's going on, and try to support him when I'm able. I was able to see a few times that night while working with him some of his animosity still remains, but I can tell he's trying, he's darn well trying, to correct himself and make himself better. Hopefully it's not just for appearance's sake and when he can, he'll go back to the way he previously was; I genuinely think that he can be a great manager and be a great person, and he could be a manager both higher-ups and employees alike could like. Charles does have the potential, but he does have some work to do...he's got a bunch and bunch of work to do. And that's why during his trip on this bumpy odyssey I plan to be there in the background trying to be there for him when I can. God help us.