Recently, as I walked out of a well-known restaurant, I realized that I had left my favorite pair of sunglasses on the table. I quickly went back into the restaurant and rushed over to the table where I had been sitting. A busboy wearing a name tag that said, Chico, was clearing the dishes and wiping the table with a damp rag. I asked him in my best Spanish, “ha encontrado un par de gafas de sol sobre la mesa?” He turned, smiled and replied, “No, Ma’am.”
For some reason, when anyone addresses me as Ma’am, it causes me extreme side effects. All my joints suddenly ache, I see age spots before my eyes, my short-term memory is compromised, and I experience an intense urge to host a Botox party. Chico and I were off to a bad start.
I looked down and noticed a slight bulge in the pocket of Chico’s busboy jacket. My keen instincts told me that I would have to use a little finesse to win him over enough to give me back the sunglasses. I began using the few Spanish phrases I thought would gain his trust, que passo being one of them. He gave me a quirky expression. I did mistakenly use the word, aguebado for ambia, so instead of close friend, I think I called him an idiot.
He turned to me, sighed, and in perfect English said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry but I haven’t found any sunglasses today.” Involuntarily, my voice raised an octave. “I really need those sunglasses, they belong to my boyfriend!”
“You might want to ask the cashier to check lost and found.”
I stomped off toward the cashier thinking about how there hadn’t been enough time for someone to find and turn in a pair of sunglasses and just how much I detest thieves. The cashier didn’t seem to be any more helpful than Chico. She left me standing at the register as she seated what looked to be twenty members of a networking organization. I looked at my watch and tapped my keys on the counter to signal her that I was in a hurry then turned my attention to Chico. He had just finished clearing a second table and was carrying a tub of dirty dishes to the kitchen. I couldn’t keep from staring at the bulge in his pocket and how disappointed my boyfriend would be when I told him Chico had stolen his sunglasses.
Before the cashier had completely returned to her station, I was already explaining that Chico sent me and she needed to check the items in lost and found.
“Ma’am, no one has turned in any articles today but you are welcome to check.” She brought up a box that was kept under the counter. There were pens, lipsticks, a black address book, a cell phone and a screwdriver. I raked through the items and shook my head. I looked up and gave her a direct stare.
“What do you know about Chico?”
She frowned. “Excuse me, Ma’am?”
I felt my face flush. “Do you trust him?”
“He’s been working here about six months and we’ve never had a complaint.”
“Well, there’s always a first time. Do you know who his supervisor is?”
“Yes, of course, just a moment, Ma’am.”
My jaw ached from clenching my teeth. If I heard the word, Ma’am one more time, I was going to scream. A short, stocky, middle-aged bald manager appeared at the counter. “Hello, my name is Paul Davis. Can I help you, Ma’am?”
I ground my teeth to quash a scream. “Yes, you can. I believe you may have a toxic employee.”
“Do any of your workers complain of feeling confused, angry, betrayed, anxious, fearful or filled with self-doubt? You may have heard of the book, Toxic People, most managers have.”
“I’m sorry Ma’am, we are not interested in hiring an outside EAP counselor.”
“I’m not selling EAP services. I’m talking about respectful behavior, personal responsibility, integrity and honesty among your workforce.”
Paul hesitated several moments before speaking. “I was told you want to make a complaint about one of our employees.”
“Yes, I do. I believe you have a thief in your midst and his name is Chico.”
“Chico? I don’t believe he would ever steal, he has been employed here for a few months and has earned my complete trust.”
“Maybe you should check his pockets! That is unless you wish to continue being co-dependent and become his benefactor, further allowing him to remain on his path of wrong doing. Erich Fromm, a well-known psychologist said that not just individuals, but whole workplaces, even whole societies may be lacking in sanity. It’s called, consensual validation. It’s a condition that is not exactly insane but not quite sane either. Is that what you want for Chico? Unsanity? Do you really think you are doing him a favor by protecting him? Is this whole world blind to dishonesty?” I spread my arms wide to emphasize my point. “When are we going to wake up and expose the ones who debilitate organizations? What happened to respectful behavior, integrity, honesty, communication and objectivity?” I was nearly panting from emotion.
“Ma’am, maybe if you told me what it is you suspect was stolen, I could help.”
“A very expensive pair of sunglasses, that’s what!”
He stared at me for a long moment. “Are the frames silver-green in color with a leather brow bar?”
“Yes! Did Chico have them on in the kitchen?” I stood on tip-toe trying to see into the kitchen.
“No Ma’am, you have them on your head.”