Asleep At The Wheel

On the phone with Verizon’s inept tech support team for seventy three minutes, so I figured I’d pass the time and share a memory from my bottled water days. This happened in Ludlow, Massachusetts while I was General Manager for Aqua Cool Bottled Water. I was interviewing candidates for a route sales person. I have always felt that this position was not accurately portrayed by its title. In addition to driving a commercial side-bay delivery truck (think beer or Coca-Cola trucks), these folks were responsible for delivering 180 – 240 five gallon bottles to commercial and residential customers five days a week. They also were expected to deliver and pick up equipment including bottled water dispensers, filtered water dispensers and coffee brewers. They had a sales quota of 2-4 new customers per month and if that wasn’t enough on their plate…at the end of the day they unloaded empty bottled water racks and loaded full racks of water for the next day. Then they washed their trucks once or twice a week. You’d think it might almost be enough for some of these folks to consider reaching out to organized labor…..but I digress. That’s an actual blog for another day and relates to how I became the General Manager in the first place. Think Teamsters, bricks through windows, disabled delivery trucks and a dispute to the NLRB.

Back to today’s story. A call from the lobby indicated that my next interview candidate had arrived. He seemed very nice and after typical pleasantries, we got into a discussion about the open position. He did possess the necessary CDL (Commercial Drivers License) required for operating this type of vehicle. We talked about the hours of the job, salary, commissions etc…his familiarity operating forklifts… and in the middle of answering a question his chin dropped to his chest and he was motionless.

Yes, shockingly motionless.

I said his name once…..twice…..then louder a third time at which point he lifted his head and calmly said, “I’m sorry. Can you repeat the question?” It was a surreal moment…one second I’m thinking that the guy died or passed out or had some serious medical issue….and then twenty seconds later, we are back talking about overcoming customer objections or dealing with some other business situations. Not sure what to think, I proceeded with the interview until……yes, it happened again. Head down in the middle of a sentence for ten…twenty…thirty seconds until I slapped the palm of my hand down on my desk. His head popped back up and he asked me to repeat the question again.

Clearly and may I stress clearly as an understatement….he was not qualified for driving thirty thousand pounds of commercial truck down the highway. Moreover, I’d be uncomfortable riding bicycles with the guy. While I’m no doctor…something was clearly wrong…perhaps narcolepsy? After two episodes, I’d seen enough and was trying to politely wrap up this abbreviated interview. I asked him if he had any questions and after he asked a few….it happened a third time. Out. Like. A. Light.

This time, I picked up my phone and dialed 102, the extension for Stacy, our office manager and….for those of you old and / or wise enough to understand the nuance…Stacy was my own Radar O’Reilly. She was the perfect employee and made my job much easier. “Hi Jim, what’s up?”, she said. I told her that someone had fallen asleep three times in the interview. I explain that he’s here sleeping in my office right now. Both through the phone and from down the hall I hear her unmistakable laughing and OMG’s. She thinks that I am kidding….but, she is wrong. I ask if she’d like to come down to my office and see for herself. Thirty seconds later, Stacy opens my door and although less dramatically than my interviewee, her jaw dropped in disbelief. There sitting across the desk from me was a well-dressed guy, pen and notebook in hand with his head down and unresponsive. I said, “Watch this” and clapped my hands and as if on cue, he asked me to repeat the question. Stacy stepped away, I concluded the interview by saying something like we’d be in touch for final interviews and shook his hand goodbye.

Twenty two years later – I still remember that interview. Scary as it was, I didn’t know then, nor do I now what I should of …or legally / ethically could have said to him. Hopefully he got that issue recognized and addressed.

In case you wondered – after two months and a total of eleven hours of conversations with Verizon call centers staffed by “contract associates” they did not fix my Jetpack / MiFi issue of it disconnecting three – four times per hour today either, but that’s another story altogether!

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