Music'al Notes

Wilmore!

“Where is Roy Hall? Roy Hall? Stand up.” My heart sank.

A lifetime ago I worked for the now defunct department store called Abraham & Straus. As manager of the furniture department, I was in charge of about eight people. They were a slimy bunch. One of them, Vinnie, was positively unsanitary. He would sidle up to customers, seemingly involving them in something conspiratorial. He would often whisper into women’s ears and engage them at a fundamental level. He was disgusting but he sold more than anyone. The rest were aspiring used car salesmen. I made friends with one of them, Emil. He taught me how fish out of Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn and introduced me to Beefeater Martinis for which I am eternally grateful. Unfortunately I caught him embezzling money from the store and he was let go in disgrace.

The bane of my life was Mel Wilmore, the store manager. He was a mean son-of-a-bitch that reveled in putting people down. His style was to walk onto the sales floor, find something wrong, yell at you in front of your staff and customers and make you feel like shit. Everybody hated him. He had risen up from stock boy to manager and had a chip on his shoulder. He was tall and thin and had bad teeth. He often shouted at me for one reason or another. One evening about ten minutes before closing he came down to the furniture floor. We were in the midst of renovations and in one area some sofas had been left in disarray. He went ballistic. We all had to stay late, after the store had closed, to reorganize the area. The following morning the interior designer arrived and saw the result. He then had a fit and we were made to redo all of the previous night’s work.

Part of the responsibilities of a manager was to do sales reports. After the store advertised a sale, the managers had to send in pages of reports about goods sold. This was before computers so compiling these reports was tedious. It was even harder for me because furniture was a ‘Big Ticket Item’ so named because the sales slip was large and contained a lot of information. It also had 5 layers of carbon copies and the one left for me was the last one. It was often blurry which made the report even harder to do. My reports were always late. Even if I came to work early I never managed to finish in time. This caused me untold grief. My boss would yell at me. His boss would scream and when Wilmore heard about it my whole day was ruined. I was warned that if I didn’t get it together, I would be fired.

It was the Fourth of July, the biggest sale of the summer and when it was over I looked at the stack of invoices and knew I was screwed. There was no way I could get through that pile in time. I threw caution to the wind and filled in the report using guesswork alone. I completed the report and handed it in on time. I waited for the storm. Nothing happened! A few weeks later there was another sale. I filled in the report the same way and waited: again nothing, and another, and another…

A few months later all the managers were summoned to a meeting with Wilmore. He had recently been on the warpath and the rumor was that he was fuming about the sales reports. The meeting started with him calling us a lazy bunch of good-for-nothings and then he started to scream about the tardiness of sales reports. We were all atremble. He called out individual managers by their names and systematically debased them. It was getting ugly when he said, “Where is Roy Hall? Roy Hall? Stand up.” I went pale. Not only was I about to be fired, I was going to be publically disgraced and humiliated in front of my peers.

“Roy Hall runs the furniture department. He has to extract the information from Big Tickets. His reports are always on time. If he can do it, you can do it.”