Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Last Honest Man

Many moons ago, I worked alongside a man named Garrett. He was a soft-spoken, even-tempered, affable fellow, who did his job sans any fanfare, griping, or pointless workplace histrionics. Garrett was also a dead ringer for the bearded G.I. Joe I recall playing with as a boy.

In the rough and tumble retail business environs, employees come and employees go with the reliability of the ocean tides. And often in this ebb and flow, human flotsam washes ashore.

The Garrett era, if you will, coincided with—from our very non-technological perspective—the primitive use of video camera surveillance in a mom-and-pop business setting. Our shop had a claustrophobic backroom that performed double duty as a cafeteria and office. And a safe, which more times than not had ample cash in it during the daylight hours, was nestled at its very far end but nonetheless visible, and well-known, to one and all. Safes out in the open, with money in them, are just asking to be robbed.

As per the script, money did in fact go missing one day. But what the hapless perpetrators were blissfully unaware of was that they were captured in the act. Caught on film. The camera never blinks. It was an inside job, too. And, please, say it wasn't so! Serving as the lookout for the brains behind the theft—an arrogant malcontent and recent hirer named Tony—was Garrett, caught red-handed on the surveillance videotape. Tony had assumed the role of Jimmy Valentine, safe-cracker extraordinaire, but was hopelessly inept in his reconnoitering. Both Garrett and Tony were summarily dismissed from their jobs, and no criminal charges were filed against them after they fessed up to the crime and, of course, returned the dough.

Fast forward a few weeks and we receive a phone call. Garrett, it seemed, had applied for a new job and cited us as a reference—his only one, by the way. The fellow on the other end of the phone seemed a bit befuddled. He said, "Garrett answered the question, 'What was the reason for leaving your last job?' as 'Fired for stealing.' This can't be true? Why would he tell us the truth! And he wouldn't list you as a reference then, would he?" The last honest man would.

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