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"Vinegar Boy", as told by Aaron

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  • "Vinegar Boy", as told by Aaron

    The “Vinegar Boy” Saga, as told by Aaron

    Thursday, April 3
    This is what happens when I swap work hours with the day shift - I get all their weirdoes!
    About 2 pm today, in storms this woman who starts going totally apeshit at me and screaming incoherently while waving around a half-full bottle of malt vinegar.
    I had no idea what she was on about and, before I could find out, the police arrived - but I hadn't called them!
    Now, I know nearly every cop within fifty miles of my site (I call them all often enough), so when they come in, I greet them by name and they do the same back and tell me they've been called here because of allegations I've poisoned a small child.
    The crazy lady identifies herself as the kid's parent and tells them I poisoned her lad. To avoid describing twenty minutes of ranting and gibbering on the woman's part, I'll cut right to the chase.
    I had sold a 1L bottle of malt vinegar to a kid (about fifteen years old) that morning and he had taken the bottle home and drunk half of it - yes that's right, he had drunk vinegar. Of course, he got sick as a dog and "redecorated" the walls and floor of several rooms.
    [No, I do not know why a teenager, who should be old enough to know better (and be at school too, for that matter) would drink half a litre of malt vinegar.]
    At this point the cops and I exchange looks and one said, "Damn Aaron, and we all thought you had finally snapped." Ha ha. There's always a comedian.
    The woman demanded that I be arrested, but the police weren't buying it now that they knew the situation. She eventually relented on her demands that I be be thrown in jail, but demanded an apology from me for "failing to tell her son not to drink vinegar."
    I said, "I don't tell people not to stick the fuel nozzle up their nose and fill their brainpan with diesel either. And do you know why? Because most people aren't that stupid!"
    End result: I refuse to apologize, and stand firm by my statements that her child is a moron. She demands apology, threatens to sue for slander, and promises to return tomorrow when the manager is here.
    And I thought the loons only came out after dark
    I'm curious to see what sort of reaction she'll get from my half-wit manager if she comes back. But knowing him, he'll probably apologize to her, and make a new rule that all staff will have to tell people not to chug-a-lug vinegar

    Monday, April 7
    She came back in! This time she apparently brought both the vinegar-drinker and her husband.
    I got the call from my manager around noon today after they had been in to see him. The story they gave him was, unsurprisingly, very different from how it happened.
    In their revised version, the kid asked me whether or not you could drink vinegar and I said yes. However, since we now have cameras that record sound (I don't know how I ever got along without them!), the manager played back the transaction to them. Apparently she now claims we edited out the sound
    Despite all that, my worthless sack of shit manager caved in to them and apologized, and told me on the phone that he wanted me to write them a letter of apology.
    THAT was never going to happen and, after an extended argument, with my manager using the "saying sorry does not mean you accept blame, it just means you're sorry" speech, he's decided to write one for me which he tells me I have to sign.
    Well, that's never going to happen either. He can sign the damn thing himself if he wants, but there's no way I'll be apologizing to this stupid woman because of her stupid child.
    So much for unwinding on my days off .

    Tuesday, April 8
    A lot of nasty stuff happened today.
    My manager called me again today and told me to come in to work for a meeting. He wouldn't say why, but I guessed it was either about Vinegar Boy or the recent hassles we've been having with 'Sudsy', the drug dealer I had arrested, and his junky horde.
    When I get in to work, I find my store manager (SM), the territory manager (TM), the stupid mother, and Vinegar Boy all there.
    Can you spell 'ambush'? My manager can.
    We go out to the back office, and my SM and the TM tell me off in front of the idiot family for failing to exercise due care in selling a fifteen year old boy a bottle of vinegar. The TM tells me to apologize immediately. I ask, for what should I apologize?
    The stupid mother chose this moment to pipe up and screech, "I want you to say sorry for telling my son it was okay to drink vinegar - he could have DIED!"
    I reply that I never did any such thing, and told her that her son was either grossly in error or a liar.
    Both my SM and the TM again say to apologize - and now they want me to say sorry for calling the kid a liar. I say I have nothing to apologize for, and that I never told the kid it was okay to drink vinegar.
    At this point I should point out that I managed to keep my temper under check for the entire time, even though I was extremely angry at being ambushed. I figured there was a time and a place to unleash it, and that it could wait for a little while.
    Then the TM says that they know I did tell Vinegar Boy it was okay, they have it on film (technically, we have it on computer disk, but who's quibbling?). I ask to see the replay and if, from that viewing I am seen to tell the kid it is okay to drink vinegar, not only will I apologize, I will donate my last month's salary to the kid as restitution.
    The mother goes off about how we edited the footage to remove my words and the manager started to get a bit shifty. The TM looked curious about all this, and I thought that if the TM really hadn't seen the footage, I might get out of this with my manager getting his lazy arse kicked right out of the company.
    Silly me - like that was going to happen.
    So, at the TM's insistence, we watch the footage and sure enough, all I say to the kid is to greet him, tell him the price, count him his change, and a goodbye as he leaves.
    The TM looked pretty angry and glared at my SM, but said nothing. Nothing! He then repeats his demands to apologize.
    I was floored by this. The TM saw I did nothing wrong, and still demanded I grovel to this sack of waste after he and my SM publicly abused me in front of her.
    I refused to apologize (again!) and this time, demanded an apology from both the SM and TM for ambushing me, attempting to humiliate me in front of a proven liar and for trying to get me to apologize to Vinegar Boy and his mother.
    The TM told me to apologize, or I would be suspended for a week and written up. I say, "Fine" and walk out with the stupid woman trailing me and gloating at how I got what I deserved. As I get to the door, the SM comes out and says, "If you walk out the door, don't bother to come back!"
    I didn't even pause.
    When I got home, I had nearly a dozen messages from work on my machine, but I deleted them without listening to them. I've now changed the message on my machine telling my ex-SM that anything he has to say to me can now be done through the union and to stop calling my number - of course he hasn't listened and has called me at least another fifty times since I got home.
    When I had calmed down a bit, I called the site owner to see if he could take a look at what happened. The owner of my site is a totally cool guy, he's been in the fuel business since Henry Ford was a boy and is very clued-in. But as he's semi-retired now, it's pretty hard to get into contact with him. I did manage to catch his wife, so I explained things to her.
    Tomorrow, I'm going to my union rep to see about suing those sons of bitches till they fucking bleed.
    But right now, despite how angry I am at what happened, there's a big upswelling of sheer, unadulterated joy bubbling to the surface because I'm free of that damn craphole, and I'll be making my SM's and TM's life hell for as long and as hard as is humanly possible.
    Sometimes life is altered.
    Break from the ropes your hands are tied.
    Uneasy with confrontation.
    Won't turn out right. Can't turn out right

  • #2
    Thursday, April 10
    Well, a lot's happened in the last two days!
    - I decided to start listening to the messages on my machine again, both the store manager (SM) and territory manager (TM) left a large number of very unpleasant messages about how I should be disgusted with myself for leaving them in the lurch with the irate mother*, and that I was a 'bad' employee and worthless sack of shit. The list of personal and professional insults was quite long, and I got it all on tape. Both the TM and SM told me that I was never welcome at the company again, and they will tell all the other petrol stations in the area about me.
    * I didn't mention this in my last post, but when I left the store after the incident, Vinegar Boy's mother followed me out saying how I "got what I deserved". As soon as I was outside (and out of the range of our in-store cameras) I let her have a huge blast of bile. Not my best moment, and I'm not proud of myself, as I don't believe in using foul language in front of women. But I forgot myself this once.
    - Had meeting with union rep at 11 am and explained the situation. Took the answering machine tapes with me. He got a union lawyer on the phone then and there, and she came over in less than five minutes.
    - Lawyer says I have a very good case, as the answering machine tapes alone indicate I was forced out of the job due to hostile working conditions. She gets all the papers I need to sign and goes off to file them with the court.
    - I get home and get swamped with phone calls from my coworkers asking what the hell happened. The SM is telling them not only Vinegar Boy's version of the story, but that I told the SM and TM to "get fucked", so they had to fire me, but they all wanted to hear my version of events. That last part, about swearing at them, is NOT true. I held my tongue until I was out of the store.
    - By 4pm, the lawyer calls me to tell me she had already served my ex-manager (at home, no less), the TM and head office with papers indicating intent to sue etc, and had subpoenaed (if that's the word) the security camera footage from the sale that started it all, the initial incident with the mother, the first meeting between the manager and the mother, and the final incident where I walked out.
    - 4:30pm, I'm now getting messages on my machine from the manager telling me he was joking about firing me and that he wants me to come into work as usual. TM calls and leaves message that it has all been a huge misunderstanding, and he wants me to come in so we can work it out. How spineless can you get?
    - 5pm comes and I get a call from the owner who is very upset. My ex-SM had left him a message after I walked out (and before I left my message with his wife), which basically went along the same lines as the lies he was telling my coworkers. But, as he had only just got home from interstate, he ended up getting the SM's message, my message, and the union lawyer's message all at the same time. Ouch! That's gotta hurt. We arrange to meet tomorrow after he has had a chance to look at all the footage.
    - Another meeting with the union rep and the lawyer (Super Lawyer!). Basically updating me on everything the lawyer did yesterday - which I already know - and detailing their own conversation with my ex-SM who is now apparently claiming it was all a huge misunderstanding on my part, and that he never told me to never come back. The union guy told me he then started playing back one of the nasty messages the S.O.B. had left on my answering machine, and that my ex-SM hung up immediately.
    - Meet owner. He had reviewed all the tapes and, if anything, was even more pissed off than I was! I find out what I've suspected for a very long time - the manger was related to someone at head office. In fact, he is none other than the territory manager's nephew!
    That explains a lot.
    The owner tells me he only hired him because the TM promised to keep a close eye on him, and having a TM on your side can mean a lot of fringe benefits for a site owner. But, the owner - great, GREAT guy that he is - decided that enough, was finally, enough.
    This was totally unexpected! For the first time in this whole stupid affair (it started with a moronic kid drinking vinegar, for the love of all that's holy!) I was stunned - but in a good way.
    The owner has also issued a formal complaint to head office about the TM for his actions in the whole affair, because he left the company wide open for lawsuits, not only from me, but from the Vinegar Boy as well by playing along with the whole thing.
    Now, the owner and I aren't really friends - we don't know each other well enough for that - but we do understand each other very well. We've both been in the industry for longer than is probably good for us, and neither tolerates any bullshit . Beside, I'm the only person he's ever hired who has lasted more than a month working the Thursday - Sunday graveyard shifts.
    He told me that he understands my actions, and supports me 100%, but asked me to hold off the court action until we get a response from the head office about what is going to be done about the TM. I agreed - provisionally.
    I told him that I would settle for nothing less than the TM being stripped of his post, issued with a written warning about his behaviour (two of these and you get fired), and getting a public apology from him.
    The owner told me he wanted to see that too. So, for the time being we've come to an agreement.
    - I phoned my union guy and he was okay about it - besides, now that all the legal paperwork has been filed, nothing else was going to happen for a long time anyway, until a court date had been set.
    Now I’m waiting to see what head office will do. If they let the TM off the hook, I’m going for his throat. But – and this is a big but – if they hang him out to dry like he deserves, I will consider the matter settled.
    My anger isn’t directed at the company per se, but at two individuals who did a very mean thing. One of them has now lost his job and will probably never work in the industry again. The other….we’ll see.
    You know, looking back over all of this, I can’t help but to be struck by the sheer absurdity of it all. What started with a kid who is so unimaginably stupid as to drink vinegar ends up with me walking out, my store manager getting fired and - whatever happens next - a lot of change is about to happen in my life.
    I think of all the stuff I’ve done at work, all the insane events I’ve witnessed, all the insane people I’ve dealt with, and all it took was a bottle of vinegar to change everything. There’s probably a lesson in that somewhere, but I’ll be buggered if I can see it.

    Friday, April 11
    Not much happened today, just a couple of things to note.
    My ex-ex-manger gave me another round of calls today and boy was he ever pissed - he still hasn't learned not to leave nasty messages on answering machines. The tapes on my machine are filling up so fast I had to buy a five pack from the local electronics store to keep up.
    I had a lawyer from head office call me. I let him speak to the machine, as I've once again changed the message on my machine to say, "Any conversations regarding my previous employment should be directed to my lawyer at ******”
    It seems they want to set up a meeting.
    Seeing as how the last meeting I went to for these people resulted in me being ambushed, I'll let Super Lawyer Lady field this one.
    Sometimes life is altered.
    Break from the ropes your hands are tied.
    Uneasy with confrontation.
    Won't turn out right. Can't turn out right


    • #3
      Thursday, April 17
      Well, it's been a very busy week for me, but I wanted to wait until I had something concrete before I posted again. Though I'm not superstitious by nature, I was worried that I might jinx things.
      That said, I am now very happy to report that I have some very happy news.
      I took copies of the answering machine tapes of my ex-manager to the union rep to hand on to Super Lawyer Lady for advice. I'm not too worried about anything he would do, as I'm twice his size, but his rantings were really starting to annoy me. Especially when he started ringing in the middle of the night. Super Lawyer Lady took the tapes to the cops and they apparently paid him a visit. I also had to swear a statutory declaration about the calls and how they were getting harassing.
      I now have a lovely written statement from the cops (a Notice to the Victim). And my ex-manager, if he ever calls me again or even comes anywhere near me, will be hit with an A.V.O. (Apprehended Violence Order) quicker than he can blink.
      Since then, he's been no more trouble, and I have an official document to show any future employers why I don't have a reference from him.
      Just this morning, I was driving along the road and had to pull over when I started laughing again over the sheer absurdity of it all.
      I hoped throughout all this to settle things without having to go to the media. But, if head office tried - even once - to screw me over, I would have started singing so loud they'd have bled from the ears. I've been doing everything I possibly can to retain the moral (and legal) high ground in all of this.
      It is because of past nasty experience that I too keep a few months' worth of pay in the bank. I've been screwed over before by bad management and bad managers. More than once.
      Here we go, back to the bizarre world that is my life:
      >> Monday.
      Had lunch with the owner. As the Territory Manager (TM), an agent of head office, was present at the ambush, any legal proceedings will focus on the company and not on him according to Super Lawyer Lady - he's relieved, as am I. I both respect and like the owner and didn't want any of this unpleasantness to rub off on him.
      He fills me in on a whole bunch of stuff about my ex-store manager (SM) that I didn't even suspect, and some of which the owner's only recently discovered himself from the manager of one of his other sites who's pulling double duty at my work.
      Allegedly (okay I've covered myself), the SM was incompetent beyond what I had ever thought, and perhaps even a bit shady. All the paperwork he handled was a total mess, with errors all through it, and there may even be upcoming problems with the tax office because of it. The returns are a total mess - i.e., out of date stock and store-use items. There are so many errors in them that over $2000 worth of stock has just vanished in the last five months. Out of date items have been returned to the shelves (I've noticed this myself - and commented on it in the staff diary), but they have been credited to stock-keeping as well. What this means is that the manager was allegedly getting refunds for unusable/out of date stock from the suppliers (but not disposing of it or handing it over to them) and then selling the stock! None of the money from those transactions has yet been accounted for.
      The owner has been reviewing as much of the security tapes as he can, and has noticed massive discrepancies in the hours when the SM said he was working and the hours he actually bothered to show up. I've complained for ages that the SM only worked, at most, four hours a day, and left piles of work for the staff to do that he was responsible for. Seems he may have been allegedly lying when it came to writing up his hours and getting paid.
      The list goes on and on. What the SM did to me was just the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak. But I live in hope that the owner will be taking his own legal action (or possibly a baseball bat ) against my ex-SM.

      Another meeting with the union rep. Head office has arranged a meeting to discuss what happened, and union rep, Super Lawyer and myself will be attending it on Wednesday. We spend many hours going through it all again, and taking as many notes as we can on the events and all that has happened since. If you think these post are long, you should have seen how many pages we filled up during our meeting.
      I find another call from head office on my machine when I get home. They now ask to set up a private meeting. They call back and I let them speak to the machine again. I call the union rep and play him the message. He said it was a good sign.
      In the evening, I get a call from Super Lawyer saying a tentative court date has been set for October. I know the courts are clogged, but this is ridiculous! I tell her about the new message from head office, and she also says it's a good sign.

      Have brunch with manager today before the big meeting. He tells me a bunch of old 'war stories' from his days as a console operator and wishes me luck. No more updates on the alleged mismanagement of my ex-SM.
      The big meeting:
      I rock up with union rep and Super Lawyer at head office in Melbourne. Greeted by secretary and asked to wait. An hour and a half later, we are still waiting. Super Lawyer says this is a standard tactic. We wait another half hour, then tell secretary we're leaving.
      We leave.
      At this point, I was thinking about all the talk of "good signs" being BS and - I admit - feeling a bit down. I thought I had put on my good suit for nothing, and that head office was going to try and screw me over and was just playing with me. I chain-smoked nearly a whole pack of cigarettes on the drive back to the union rep's office.
      Back at the union rep's office, he finds he has a message from head office. Super Lawyer calls them back and really tears them a new one over the phone. I mean, I've seen some great rants and abuse over the years, but this lady totally blew me away. Pity she's married, I think I'm in love. Awesome doesn't even begin to describe it - I'm surprised the phone didn't melt! I am SO glad she's on my side.
      We go back to head office.
      After waiting for barely a minute we go in.
      From this point on, I'm afraid I cannot be as detailed as I like about what happened. When I started employment, I signed the standard non-disclosure agreement about certain aspects of the job (which I've bent more than a few times) and I’ve been told by Super Lawyer to stay mum, even with my family, about some of what was said. I also signed a legally binding agreement this afternoon that prevents me from saying what happened in certain parts of the meeting and regarding certain aspects of this whole affair.
      But what I can say is this:
      The company admitted no wrongdoing and pointed the finger squarely at the TM and his nephew, my ex-SM. They weren't very happy when I revealed that I knew about their relationship to each other. By the way, "weren't very happy" is probably the understatement of the year.
      Super Lawyer told them about the trial date and reminded them, in point by point detail, of everything that had happened so far, which could be verified by the security tapes and now also, by the owner and the site's new manager.
      A lot of legal talk went on about "abridgement of responsibility" (I'm still not quite sure what that means in context) and what the legal consequences could have been if I had caved in. I think she was basically pushing the point that by refusing to admit responsibility by apologizing, I effectively saved the company from huge potential lawsuits from the Vinegar-drinking family.
      I think.
      The TM has now been pushed into a non-administrative role recording fuel transportation details and gave me a (semi) public apology in the office area outside the meeting room and in front of the union rep, Super Lawyer, both lawyers from head office, the State Controller, the Human Resources Coordinator, and about ten assorted workers from adjoining offices who came to see what was going on with all the loud voices. It was very satisfying to watch him turn a dozen shades of red as he read from his apology notes. I hope it hurt. A lot.
      The bastard is still in the company, and even though he wasn't issued with a written warning, I am content that he will never be in a position to abuse his power again. The State Controller was very adamant about that and there are half a dozen witnesses to that effect.
      That was all the formal stuff out of the way. The next part of the meeting (and the next two days) dealt with what to do with me and once again, I can say very little about it.
      It was accepted that I was not to be held any way responsible for the actions of Vinegar Boy, and that I acted "Admirably" under extreme duress (I quite like that part). My termination of employment has been rendered null and void, I'm getting a 10% raise, and am being moved to from part-time to full-time status, with all the health and holiday benefits that come with it. Because of my position as Health & Safety officer, I'm also receiving a 5% pay increase for every hour I work, commensurate with my extra duties. Previously, I didn't get anything for it except for two or three meetings a month, which I was paid standard rate to attend.
      I'm also receiving full back pay for all the hours I've missed - adjusted to my new rate - since this exploded.
      As for the legal case for being forced out of work due to hostile working conditions and the hundred-and-one violations of my worker's rights, that has now been settled. I REALLY can't say anything about that.
      Sometimes life is altered.
      Break from the ropes your hands are tied.
      Uneasy with confrontation.
      Won't turn out right. Can't turn out right


      • #4
        >> Thursday & Friday:
        Meeting, meetings, meetings. Mostly lawyers talking to each other in a language beyond my ken. I sign this, I sign that, I don't sign the other.
        So, the end result:
        Store Manager - out on his arse and may be charged by police.
        Territory Manager - demoted, apologized, and now hated with a passion by his superiors because of what he caused them to have to do.
        Me - returning to work next week and at a comfortably increased rate of pay and now with holiday and health benefits .
        If I ever see the Vinegar Family, I intend to throw them out of the store while giving them a few choice words. I doubt anyone at my site will want to serve them after what they caused.
        I'll be going in to work on Tuesday to meet my new manager (please be a good one, please be a good one) and I'll ask about having their pictures put up behind the console and permanently banned.
        If head office does decide to hold a grudge, I have Super Lawyer's card and can always contact her through the union, so I should be covered.

        Thursday, April 24
        Well, I worked my first shift tonight since the...incident...and it feels like everything is finally back to normal. Well, as normal as my work ever gets.
        Had a whole bunch of customers ask where I had been - not that they missed me or anything, but now they knew they weren't going to be getting away with murder anymore.
        And with my comfy raise, I hardly even got mad when two drunken yobbos vomited over the store window (from the outside), and I had to hose them down to get them off the site; or the junkie I caught trying to shoot up in the cleaning products aisle, or the gang of wannabe townies camped out by the car wash trying to browbeat customers into buying smokes for them, and who I kept taunting over the PA when they failed (until the cops arrived to escort them all home); or the strange lady who thought my petrol station was part of the airport, or the.. well you all know what my Thursday nights are like.
        Sometimes life is altered.
        Break from the ropes your hands are tied.
        Uneasy with confrontation.
        Won't turn out right. Can't turn out right