My name is Unreal and I’m a listener in St. Louis. I’m writing to tell you a story about a breed of small business tyrant you guys don’t talk about much on air, but I feel like you’d appreciate. That’s right, I’m talking about Weird Dad Boss.
Have you ever been to one of those stores that seems like it’s family-run but the people who work there can’t possibly be related? For some reason I’ve temped at a number of these places, but the place where I currently work takes the cake. When people come into the store ask if we’re a family, we’re *supposed* to say yes. Weird Dad Boss often gives customers a fake name, so we’re supposed to say that we’re [fake name’s] son/daughter/grandson/daughter. The owner / patriarch is your classic small business owner who pays his employees minimum wage but thinks of himself as a nice guy. I should have been tipped off that things were going to get weird when I asked someone if we had to clock out for lunch, and she said yes but that we couldn’t actually leave for lunch because Weird Dad Boss likes to cook for everyone. Seems nice, right? Well…
Weird Dad Boss has a dog that he brings to work that sits in the store most of the day. When we’re at work the dog is all of ours, which means I sometimes have to walk and feed it. No big deal, right? One day early on I went to the mini-kitchen in the back of the store and noticed that there was a large quantity of chicken boiling in water on the stove. I asked what it was for and Weird Dad Boss said that buying chicken was cheaper than dog food. When I went back to the kitchen later I saw that one of the other employees was eating the chicken, which I pointed out was for the dog. He laughed and asked what the difference was anyway. I guess he’s right, but I would rather bring my own lunch than eat dog chicken. When I asked if I could do that I was told it would really hurt Weird Dad Boss’ feelings.
A few weeks later Weird Dad Boss asked me what I was. As an off-white person in the Midwest I get this all the time and it doesn’t really bother me. Once he found out I was part Japanese he began making increasingly questionable comments– once telling an Asian-American customer that she and I were “probably cousins.” The strangest thing to happen so far took place shortly after. I came in to work one day and found a large (2 x 3 ft) framed print of a Japanese woman behind my chair. Sometimes Weird Dad Boss rotates the artwork that hangs in the store so I didn’t think much of it. When Weird Dad Boss came in he kept asking me leading questions about how nice the painting was. Finally he admitted that he’d gotten the painting at a garage sale *for me* because he thought the woman looked like me, and he hoped that I would hang it up on my wall. I refused and he continued to insist that I take it. When I told him that I found it a little bit racist he backed off, but hung the painting right where I can see it, where it hangs to this day.
Then he announced we were having something I would like for lunch: “Chinese food.” I got excited because I actually like Chinese food, but it turned out to be the same boiled chicken with soy sauce on it.
Anyway, those are my stories! You guys get me through the day.