Kick the Can

“Let me get this straight. You just took a beat down from an old guy in a wheelchair who was armed with a flyswatter?” asked Willie.

“Hey, he was fast. And pretty ticked off. I mean, well. You hadda be there.” said Fred. Willie owned the metal recycling yard where Fred worked. It was Fred’s job to weigh in the scrap and then pay the customers for it. The scrap metal came in lots of forms from aluminum cans to huge tanks and angle iron structures that had been carved into manageable chunks with torches and plasma cutters. Willie’s employees would crush and strap the materials into bales that weighed up to two tons. The two were standing behind the old wooden counter at the receiving point, a dingy and filthy office constructed with corrugated steel. The windows barely offered a view outdoors they were so coated with the grime buildup of years.

“So, explain to me what happened again.” said Willie, giving a sigh.

“Well, this lady came in and said she had a bunch a bags of cans. Said she was already parked on the scale.” The way the system worked, people with more than a couple of pounds of goods would park their vehicle on the scale, the scrap would be removed and the vehicle weighed again. The difference in weight equaled the weight of the recycled goods and established the value which was paid out to the customer. “I hit the weigh button and she went out and moved her car and tossed a bunch a bags of cans onto the carry sled. She knew the process so I knew she’d been here before. Then she pulled back on the scale and I weighed her again and she parked and come inside.”

“What has this got to do with the old man?” asked Willie.

“Hang on, I’m gettin’ there. So this lady comes in an stands at the counter and I ask her for ID. She gets bent out of shape and says that her ID is in her purse back out in the car and what do I want with ID anyways. I told her we have to ask for ID for taxes.” explained Fred.

“But we only ID for steel, for the larger payouts.” said Willie.

“Well, yeah, that’s what she said too. But she pissed me off takin’ an attitude about the ID.”

“Jesus Fred, she’s a customer, she knows the system –you said so yourself. She knows she doesn’t need ID and that you’re hasslin’ her. You know, we actually need customers to do business here.”

“Yeah, well, she told me she wasn’t gonna go all the way out to her car and get her ID when it wasn’t necessary. I mean, there was other customers standin’ there and she was embarrasin’ me yellin’ at me like that. So I told her no ID, no money. She tells me, ‘fuck you.’ Can you imagine? She tells me ‘fuck you’ and goes out to her car, pulls over to the sleigh and takes her bags of cans back. Now I got a transaction cus I already done the weigh in and you know how it’s almost impossible to void out a transaction. So I go out and yell at her to come back and I’ll pay her for Christ’s sake. She flips me off and keeps goin.” Fred heaved a depressed sigh. “Next thing I know here comes this van. Pulls right up to the door and opens up and out comes a ramp. This old guy comes wheelin’ down the ramp and BAM! Knocks the door wide open and he rolls in and yells “Who’s the asshole just made my wife cry? Come on, show yourself. So I go over to calm him down, see. I tell him there was a little mixup and we’d be happy to take the lady’s cans. This guy looks around and spots the fly swatter on the counter and grabs it. Says, so it was you? I say ‘yeah,’ and he comes at me swattin’ away with that flyswatter. He was pissed, Willie. And he was fast. I’m tryin’ to get away from him, I mean, I don’t wanna fight the guy or nothin’ cuz he’s old and in a wheelchair and all. So next thing I know I’m runnin’ and he’s chasin’ me and swatting me with that damn swatter. Customers are all laughing at me and then I get stuck over there behind the files and he wails on me with that stupid swatter and tells me I ever make his wife cry again he’s gonna throw my ass in the crusher. Anyway, he rolls back into his van and whoosh, he’s gone inna clouda dust. And that’s how we got all jammed up and why people are complaining I’m taking too long.”

“Jesus.” said Willie. “I gotta tell ya, you handled that all wrong, man. You shoulda just say ‘hey lady, you’re right’ and paid her. Now we got those people pissed off and no doubt they’re gonna tell their friends. You gotta weigh the end result, Fred. We need customers. For all you know that lady or her husband could work for a newspaper or something. Something little like this can reach the wrong person and all of a sudden we lose a big customer or a buncha little customers.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry. I tried to get her back though, right? I called her to come back and said I’d pay.”

“Too late by then. Look, just remember in the future, there’s no ID for aluminum because the cash outs are small. Only ID the customer for steel.”

“Okay, Willie. I got it.”

“Well, okay then.”