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The boss’ right hand man | Things I’ve Learned From Strangers

I’m currently applying for post-grad jobs. It’s one of the worst things that I’ve had to do, to be frank. The whole process makes me remember how easy it was to get my first job at the surf shop up the road from my house.

Ananya Sharda | Graphic Artist

The interview went like this:

My dad and I went up the street to say hi to the guy that owned the place. I asked if I could work there, and the guy said yes. 

Cool. New job. 

I was 15 years old and wanted to work in a surf shop. I practiced saying “hey” instead of “hi,” because I figured that’s probably what surf people did. I drilled phrases like “the boards are over there,” because people would probably come in and ask where the boards were. I practiced my handshake, but quickly changed it to a fist bump after realizing that surf people probably exclusively fist bump. 

My first day was the following Wednesday, and though I had put myself through all of this preparation, I still felt sea sick. Nonetheless, I walked into the shop with my head held high, a universally confident move for both surfer communities and land communities. 

The guy from up the street — my new boss — greeted me from across the room while digging through a tower of boxes. I shouted, “Hey!” First surfer phrase? Check. We had a conversation from there about his expectations — basically none. Very chill. He finally came out from the tower of boxes, with a wet suit in hand, to show me around. 

On the tour of the building, I met my other coworkers. One was the Front Desk Guy, who beat me by saying “the boards are over there,” whenever a customer came in. I would, in time, have my chance. 

The other was my boss’ right hand man, Noel. He took people out on surfing lessons and was, what I can only explain to be, the real freakin’ deal. He was also extremely nice, acknowledged how nervous I was on my first day and said that it was okay. 

Everyone needs a Noel. 

The last guy was the Equipment Guy. He knew about all the equipment, talked to customers about the equipment and was the brains of the operation, if you will. I wish I would have thought this through before I chose him as my first subject to fist bump, because he tried to shake my hand instead. Makes sense — that is what the brains of the surfing operation would do. 

Front Desk Guy would’ve fist bumped. Noel? Definitely. My boss? Sure. But I should’ve known that the brains of the operation would’ve wanted a proper handshake. 

That was the beginning of the end. You might think that sounds dramatic, and you’d be right. That is exactly my way. 

It started with Equipment Guy’s misunderstood greeting and continued when my boss didn’t care what I did and told me to “run free.”

When I got put at the front desk with Front Desk Guy, he continued to hog all the chances to say “boards are over there,” and I started to take it personally. He was calculated — so calculated that he didn’t even teach me what to say when I picked up the phone because he wanted to get to it himself. 

So, when I was left alone with the phone, I had to let it ring. Sure, I could’ve picked it up and made something up, but truth be told, I barely even knew the name of the establishment. 

There was a time when I was working with Equipment Guy and I was assigned to set up a windsurf sail. There was one part of the sail he told me not to put the rod through, and guess what? I put the rod through it — surprise, surprise. I have a “better luck next time” mindset. Equipment Guy had a “get the f**k away from that sail” mindset. 

The only person who had really met my expectations was Noel. He was cool and shared his knowledge about all the forms of surfing that he did. He recommended different tasks for me to do when he thought of them and encouraged me to learn more about the products we were selling. 

But in the end, the surf shop wasn’t quite for me. That’s why when the next Wednesday rolled around — yes, a week later — I quit. I was clocking out for the day, and my boss said see you tomorrow. I turned around and said, “you know what, you won’t.” Then, I stole a sticker and left (for legal reasons, that’s a joke). 

Why did I quit? Was it because I was fed up with the people I worked with? Was it because I had a terrible work ethic? Was it because my boss had a beheaded bobble head of Hillary Clinton on his desk? 

Why, yes — all of the above. 

But as much as I will remember all of that, I will mostly remember Noel’s kindness. Now, applying to jobs at 21, I can only hope there will be many more Noel’s in the big bad world. 

So yes, I look back mostly on Noel’s kindness — and when I tried to fist bump that guy. God, that was so embarrassing.

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