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Clement's Corner: The Blonde Budgie

Owen Clement tells a tale of prickly relations between a store manager and the store owner.

Stan Howard thoughtfully exchanged one item for another on the fixture in planning his relay. It was one job he had enjoyed doing from his very first time as a trainee grocery assistant. So intent was he on what he was doing that he did not notice someone move up beside him. A deep voice broke into his concentration, “And what do you think you are doing?”

Expecting a young man he was amazed to find a petite young blond squaring up to him. She reminded him of a bird puffing out its feathers. It took all his self-control to keep himself from grinning. “My name is Stan Howard, and who might you be?” He said matter-of-factly.

“I’m Susan Henderson, I own this store.”

“Well my dear,'' he sensed her bristle even more “you obviously know nothing about delegation.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I suggest you find the manager, who I’m sure will be only too happy to inform you. Now if you don’t mind, I’m busy.''

With that he turned back to his task of deciding which product went where and as to how much shelf space it merited.

Flabbergasted at being dismissed by a late middle-aged stranger, she strode away, her ridiculously high-heeled shoes tap-tapping loudly on the tiled floor. Stan briefly glanced at the compact figure whose hips swayed seductively as she went on her quest to find the manager, Patrick O’Hare, intending to vent her rage.

She found him in his office, busy working on his previous day’s sales figures. Bursting in on him unannounced, she demanded to know who gave that arrogant man permission to work in the cosmetic section of the store and demanded that he be made to leave forthwith.

Patrick had locked horns with Susan since she had inherited her father’s business on a couple of previous occasions. Each time he had backed down, fearing losing his position. This time he decided to take a stand. He did not respond to her until he made certain his figures were balanced. Laying down his pen, he pushed back his chair and said, “That arrogant man, as you call him, happens to be the manufacturer of those products. He sought and received my permission to lay out the section to produce the most profitable results. All I hope is that you didn’t offend him.''

“Offend him,'' she said, raising her voice.

“Yes, Susan, offend him. If you did, I would like you to offer him a sincere apology.”

“Are you kidding?”

“Unless you do, my resignation will be delivered to the Board today. Either I run this place, or the Board finds another manager. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a great deal of work to get through.”

Having issued his challenge, his expression dared her to either fire him or leave the office.

“You will regret this,'' she said as she spun around and stalked out, leaving the door open, her high heals clipping along even faster than before. Patrick rose, giving his secretary a conspiratorial wink before closing the door and returning to his desk.

He was about to continue when there was a knock on the door. Thinking it was Susan returning he called out sharply, “Yes.”

The door opened and Stan Howard stood there, smiling, “Feisty little budgie that one.''

Patrick laughed out loud as he beckoned Stan into the office and then walked over and closed the door.

“I hope you won’t lose you job over this,” Stan said.

“I probably will. I’ve been mentally composing my resignation.”

“Look, there’s no need to do that. I’ll offer her my apology and hopefully she will take it no further.”

“Thanks Stan, but it’s gone too far for that. Besides, as you can imagine, this has been building up for quite a while. It’s about time I took a stand. She must be made to realise that I manage this place not her. It’ll be up to the Board anyway.''

Patrick closed the accounts folder, moved over to the rack and took down his jacket. Putting it on he said, “Come on Stan, let me buy you some lunch.”

“On one condition”, Stan said moving to the door, “that it’s on me. You could be on the street soon.''

They both laughed.

Patrick took Stan to his favourite bistro just around the corner. Their conversation concentrated on business matters at first. Inevitably the altercation with Susan cropped up. Stan had just used the term “Bossy Budgie” when he noticed Susan glaring at him from a nearby booth, indicating that she had heard his remark. She stood up and strode to the counter to pay her bill. He quickly rose and followed her calling out to Patrick, “I’ll be right back.''

Patrick, who had not noticed Susan, thinking that Stan had seen another acquaintance, continued with his meal. Unbeknownst to Patrick, Stan had left the restaurant to chase after the girl.

Patrick waited for nearly an hour for his guest to return. He had just called the waiter to pay the bill when Stan came back, holding onto Susan’s arm.

“My apologies Patrick, Susan and I have been having quite a discussion.”

Patrick pulled out a chair for her. Still very much on the defensive she sat down.

Stan pulled out his chair and both men sat.

“Would either of you like something?” Patrick asked.

Stan, ignoring the question, said to Patrick, “I’ve explained to Susan why I was doing the relay and she’s quite happy to let me continue. Aren’t you Susan?”

Patrick was about to speak when Stan looked pointedly at him and said, “I’ll get back to work and leave you two to settle the matter between you. I’ll hold you to that dinner engagement you promised me Susan and remember, no one should stay angry for long.''

He smiled and left, insisting that the lunch was on him.

Susan, her face set, waited for Patrick to speak.

”Nothing’s changed Susan. If the Board wishes, I’ll hand in my resignation.”

She clearly had not anticipated this offer. “I see. Your way of having a discussion is to offer an ultimatum is it?”

“Look, these are the facts, either I manage the place with all its responsibilities or I don’t. I can work no other way”.''

“So, as the owner, if I see something wrong I am not to say or do anything, is that it?”

“Of course you can, but through the proper channels, not by overriding my commands.”

She stood up and without saying another word left the cafe.

Patrick arrived at his office, called his secretary in and had her draft a letter of resignation. Without his knowledge she had spread the word to the section managers, the storemen and the employees. They gathered outside his office after the store closed that evening. If he left, they declared, they would all walk out as well. Owner or not, Susan Carlton could not behave in such a high-handed manner.

Patrick, overwhelmed by their unanimous support, thanked them for their loyalty. He assured them that even though right was on their side, they would still have to await the Board’s decision. In the meantime, he bade them to continue as normal.

Stan had been very busy for the following few weeks calling on other clients. After which he rang Susan and arranged their dinner date, she agreed, but avoided answering his query about Patrick.

That evening, when Stan arrived at Susan’s home to collect her he was not surprised when she said that if he didn’t mind, Patrick would be joining them.

© Clement 2007


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