Monday, September 23, 2013

The Lingering Sting of Failure

I heard a commercial the other day about TCBY.  Does anyone else remember them?  The frozen yogurt place?  One of the first ones.  I haven't heard anything about TCBY for years; I assumed they didn't exist anymore, but this commercial said they are the largest frogurt chain in the world. 

I remember TCBY quite well.  I worked there -- for about two weeks the summer after I graduated.

I was psyched to get this job.  I mean, frozen yogurt!  My family has a long history of ice cream obsession, so this was perfect for me.  I started out working all evening hours, and I was always under the direction of one of two girls who were both a couple years older than me and had worked there for maybe a year or so.  College-age, but they weren't going to college; they just lived life and served frozen yogurt.

The fun part of the job was serving the customers.  That was easy and pleasant.  But the part that did me in was the behind the scenes stuff.  They had a Master List posted in the back of all the little jobs that needed to be done before closing down and leaving for the night.  Basically, our evening's work consisted of serving customers and checking items off this List.

I still don't know why I couldn't get the hang of this List. None of the jobs were difficult: cleaning the bathrooms, washing the glass on the front door, restocking certain items, etc.  My "supervisor" would tell me when we had free time to pick something off the List to do. So, I would pick something . . . and inevitably, she would say, "No, don't do that yet," and choose something else for me. 

So, I stopped picking things for myself and asked her what she wanted me to do.  Then she would get annoyed that she had to micromanage me and I couldn't just pick something and do it.  So, I would pick something -- and she would tell me not to do that yet.  It became a really aggravating cycle for both of us. And this was the case with both of the girls I worked with (although one was more kind about it than the other).

I wasn't stupid, so I realized that there must be some information here I was missing.  I tried to have each of them explain to me the reasoning behind why certain jobs on the List needed to be done at later or earlier times.  Because it seemed to me that EVERY job needed to wait until we closed down -- I mean, a last minute customer could come in and smudge that glass door and I'd have to do it over again, yes?  That's why they stopped me from doing it last night, yes? But we never seemed to be able to communicate.

Finally, the day came when the owner called me in and told me that this clearly wasn't working out. The final straw was my accidentally allowing the yogurt in one of the machines to go bad overnight.  The switch I had to flip went from "on" to "off" to "stand-by", the overnight setting . . . and I didn't get it flipped all the way over.  So, I lost that summer job after two weeks.

I'll tell you, it was devastating to me.  Not that I missed working there -- by that time, I kind of hated the job and that Cursed List. But it was the first genuine failure I think I'd experienced in life.  Something I had really tried hard at . . . something I should have been able to do, I thought . . . but I failed.  Even now, looking back, I can't figure out why I couldn't figure this out.

But I suppose it's good for all of us to have a major failure once in a while. Keeps us humble, right? But I don't know if I could step into a TCBY for a cup of frozen yogurt again. It still stings a little.  Sigh.

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