15 November 2006

41. Sundance

Dear Sundance,

I stopped by the warehouse on Monday 13 November, only to hear from Ron that I'm no longer welcome to begin training for the stocker labor pool, due to concerns about my customer service abilities after my conduct during the apple, pear, wine, and cheese tasting of Sunday 5 November. What an unpleasant surprise. I'll be the first to admit that I spoke too soon and too loudly that Sunday, within earshot of customers as well as coworkers, and that my word choice was poor. That said, and speaking of unpleasant surprises, I would like to explain the heat of the moment in which I spoke.

I did not work a full week before the tasting, only the preceding Tuesday and Wednesday, and I believe that the fax orders I placed that Tuesday were lost in transmission, including one for Willamette Valley Cheese, one of the companies whose products we had planned to sample on Sunday. I left Oona a note to this effect on Wednesday evening, after having been unable to reach anyone at WVC by phone to determine whether or not the orders had been received. Oona had said she would call me that Friday to let me know if she had successfully hired a new cheese person (I wanted to train my replacement and do whatever I could to smooth the transitions in the department). She never called.

When I arrived at the cheese department the Sunday of the tasting, I found out that Oona had ordered from Willamette Valley Cheese to replace the lost Tuesday order, and that Liz had driven to Albany and back to pick up the new order. What we got, in addition to the WVC cheeses we already carried, were four brand new products, none of which were programmed into the scale or Expressions, and no invoice from which to determine their price. Furthermore, all the WVC cheese was in blocks too big to sell — they would have to be cut and rewrapped. I called Oona about the unpleasant surprise, but she was busy with her daughters and there wasn't much she could do from home anyway. Liz and I were on our own. Now fortunately, the other two companies we had planned to feature at the tasting, Fraga Farms and Silver Falls, had sent us not only products but people, actual human beings to help with the tasting. We could have been fine sampling out their wares and the already-programmed WVC cheeses (many of which were still in stock and could have been sampled without an emergency order or Liz's heroic retrieval efforts). Unfortunately, Liz had already prepared all the cheeses for sampling, including the new ones which we literally could not yet sell, and which customers were thus unable to find as the tasting got into full swing.

Those were the circumstances when I said what I did that Sunday. Maybe I should have just gone home. Instead, I invented prices for the four new cheeses by guessing based on WVC's other products, programmed them into the scale and Expressions, cut, packaged, and stocked all the new products, all while trying to help with the tasting and perform a semblance of a normal cheese shift's responsibilities.

By the end of that day, I was ready to compose, choreograph, and perform a major song and dance of complaint to Renee. Some kindergarten-level notions of not being a tattle-tale helped me wait almost three days to cool down before visiting Oona in person last Wednesday. She was very brief with me, essentially saying that the tasting was a big success, so everything that happened on Sunday was worth it. I wish I could say I'm glad the ends justified the means, but I don't believe that's true, and I'm certainly not glad about it. Based on that exchange, which also included the fact that a new cheese person had been hired, I guessed that Oona wouldn't be calling on me for cheese labor pool any time soon. It didn't occur to me to guess that I'd been disqualified from the warehouse labor pool as well. That unpleasant surprise came on Monday, as previously mentioned.

The worst part about everything I've described here is that so much of it feels exactly like the kind of problems I was worried I would cause when I resigned the cheese buyer position, and which I wanted to prevent. I wanted to be the cheese department's labor pooler so we wouldn't always be stretched too thin staffwise; I wanted to take shifts so that Oona wouldn't have to cover all of mine on top of her other responsibilities, including interviewing my replacement, whom I wanted to train. Most of all, I wanted to leave Sundance on good terms. I'm sorry I failed to the exact same degree that I'm not sorry I tried.

I always want honesty, respect, and good communication. I did not want tears and a tattle-tale letter, but I feel better for having written. Thank you for reading.

I still love you all.


Written in the early morning hours of 15 November 2006, when I couldn't sleep, and delivered to my former place of employment at a more reasonable hour later that day. I know, I've been really good about only publishing unanswerable and in most case unaddressable letters here, but I'm making an exception for this one. Maybe someday I'll write a letter about breaking rules I made for myself, but meanwhile this letter will stand as a reminder that I can do it, even if I'd rather not. Title abridged 1 December 2011, last reformatted 6 June 2014.