Once upon a time I worked for a door-to-door company. I was 23 and all of my co-workers were also women in their early 20s or late teens. Our company rightly felt safety was an issue since most of us were on both the tiny and naive side. We followed a strict pattern when we were going door-to-door. It kept us close together so that if one of us yelled, we would have a partner in the area to hear us. We always worked in groups of two to three, and when we were being grouped into teams, a lot of care was given to make sure that at least one of us had a cell phone. All was well in our little family for a while, until we hired a new girl we shall call “Penny.”
Penny was in her late 20s and four years older than the next oldest member of our group. She immediately set herself up as our mother hen, both smothering us with matronly affection and routinely telling us that she knew better than any of us due to being so very much older. She was resentful that she was reporting directly to someone younger than her and ignored our seniority even though some of us had worked there for years. On the whole, it was mildly irritating at worst. But as time went on, she began breaking the company’s rules and throwing our whole order into chaos due to her “knowing better.”
Now, the pattern we hit houses in guarantees that we stay close and that we hit the most houses per group, but not the most houses per individual. We could not move onto the next street without our partner(s) and would sometimes have to wait between five and fifteen minutes if they were at a door when we finished our houses. It doesn’t sound like much, but because we worked on commission, every house we hit really counted, and waiting for your partner, while necessary, sucked.
There were many incidents in the months we worked together where Penny abandoned her coworkers to keep hitting houses. In the course of one evening with her, she cheated me and another girl out of literally hours of work by skipping ahead and leaving us to visit houses she’d already been to who were none too happy to hear the same sales pitch twice in one day. She would insist that she take her break separate from us since she smoked and we did not, then go around the corner and continue working, leaving us with the responsibility of locating her before we could even resume work.
The worst incident was when we got a call at the end of the night when the van came around to pick us up. Our group leader told us that she’d picked up Penny, but Penny’s teammate that day, a teenager (the youngest of our group) we’ll call “Tina,” was missing. Penny having the only cell phone between them, we had no way to call Tina now that they were separated. Penny’s only rather indifferent information was that she had simply lost track of Tina during the day and had no idea where she’d gone. Tina had been missing for well over an hour. We were in a state of panic. While our group leader with Penny drove up and down the streets calling our bosses back at the office to tell them we had for the very first time in the company’s history LOST a whole employee, the rest of the groups ran along the perimeter of Penny and Tina’s area, yelling for Tina.
We did find her, perfectly alright sitting on a street corner. You guessed it. Penny had bolted ahead when Tina had been stuck at a house for longer than she was willing to wait, and in the darkness had pulled so far ahead that she was out of sight. Tina, with no cell phone, and it being well after sun down, had been sitting and waiting for Penny to come get her on the corner that the pattern said they would meet up on for over an hour. Penny hadn’t even attempted to find her and hadn’t shown any concern about the matter until the end of the day when she had to stop working.
Shortly before I left for unrelated reasons, our supervisor moved away. Penny was already primping herself and ordering us around expecting to be promoted to her station as the oldest and wisest of us. I, and all the other girls, told our bosses that if they promoted her, we’d all walk. Tina was promoted. Penny was furious. I laughed. 0310-09