The only reason this story is seeing the light, is due to my friend Bryan from
His ‘Sushi’ story inspired mine. Although mine needs to be written in a tiny chunk of time, as I have to get to work soon.
The year was 2012.
As an owner of a little café at the time, one of the things that I used to count my blessings over, was my staff. Even the ones who would eventually go back to school, move on to different career paths and so on, used to keep coming back to say hello every now and then.
Until, I hired him.
He used to visit with his girlfriend, purchase a dry Cappuccino and marvel at how much he enjoyed my coffee! How different it was due to the beans being roasted fresh right there etc etc.
One day, he visited with his girlfriend as usual, stood at the bar, and said ‘I’d honestly love to work here’. My response?! ‘Drop off your resume’. And the rest was history!
I trained him as I usually trained all my staff. No experience required. As long as the applicant had a passion for coffee, a desire to learn, showing up on time etc, I was flexible.
He was a sponge, eager to learn and improve, and soon became the star in that little cafe.
He expressed a desire to learn to roast coffee, and I agreed to coach him until he mastered it.
This had all the signs to go positively well! Until one day, one of my favourite baristas, complained about an inappropriate behaviour he had exhibited that made her feel uncomfortable! It was my job to listen and inquire about any mistreatment etc. I advised I will talk with him and discuss the matter.
When I questioned him, he brushed it off and said ‘I’m European, it’s how we are! I was just being friendly’! I explained North American culture requires of him, to not repeat that behaviour ever again with any other staff member. He, charmingly agreed and as usual, stepped forward to give me a hug, and just as usual, I politely stepped backwards.
Needless to say, the incident was repeated with another staff member, who unfortunately was not as self confident as the first one was. This employee was vulnerable enough, for him to keep getting away with it. Yet no matter how innocent they made it look, I knew it was my job to protect her. Even if she refused to see it.
I decided it was time to face the music once and for all. I remember sitting him down at a table away from the café. I also remember how hard I prepared for that meeting.
In the end, I had to be extremely firm while I explained he can finish his last three weeks working for me until his Visa runs out! But I will not be renewing his contract under the circumstances.
As I expected, he did not take it very well.
Soon, I started hearing staff members asking me ‘why is Shane being let go?! He’s so amazing at the café and I should be happy to have him etc etc’.
The rest of the staff, supported me. Which was what made this not end very badly as my patience with Shane was running thinner and thinner everyday.
One of the bizarre things that I would hear, was ‘how come you’re not throwing a party for Shane’s departure back to Europe?’. Or ‘Shane is feeling really sad no farewell party is thrown for him, considering all he had contributed to the café!’.
In my mind, I wanted him to just leave once and for all. I did not want to embarrass him, but, at the same time, you can imagine my frustration over how he managed to change the wonderful culture we had for years at that café!
I finally decided, a farewell party for Shane is going to take place alright! But it will be just a little, different.
A big huge sushi dish was one of the dishes catered. Shane loved sushi. Except, I had asked for one Uramaki to be loaded with wasabi, and marked with a splash of Shuyo, so I know which one it was!
There was Shane, having a great time, feeling I finally caved in to the party throwing pressure.
In my mind, he did not deserve a farewell party, but I did not want my staff to be further divided than they already were. So I took ‘what may have looked like’, the higher ground route. Except now we know, not without a last attempt at some humour Sushi revenge.
I smiled at him. The big Sushi plate is resting on my forearms. He’s now smiling back looking at me, perhaps thinking he COMPLETELY won the bet. ‘Not so fast dear little man! Not so fast’.
Now how do I get him to pick ‘that’ specific loaded with wasabi piece?! Well…let’s say he just did and leave it at that! No coaxing was needed what-so ever. Of course there was…
Everyone around is busy chattering, laughing and having a good time. Shane?! He took one bite, still smiling, and…his face tuned ….red. I mean, really, red! I smiled and said ‘oh dear! Are you ok!’. Shane nodded sheepishly…yes. His eyes stopped smiling by then….and rather started watering!
I smiled again and said ‘good’. Then left with the big plate full of delicious sushi.
The party continued on and was actually a lot of fun. My staff (who knew of the horrible wasabi plot) laughed hysterically! Those who didn’t…kept wondering ‘why is Shane’s face so red???!’. I responded ‘Shane’s just a little emotional he’s leaving you all!’.