“Magic could keep me from meeting the gunman. It could keep the gun from being drawn. But this was the real world, and no spell would stop a bullet.” –Rosemary Edghill
I had to fire an employee last week, which sucked. And what made it suck worse is that I’m never dressed appropriately for anything, so I had to fire an employee while I was wearing an adorable teddy bear T-shirt.
You know, I really need to invest in, like, a plain, black smock or something. Or like a logo-free poncho.
In addition to our main location, we run a small satellite shop in a nearby bar. The bar store has a folding security gate, and on the night in question, my employee had the gate mostly pulled shut while he counted the till and got ready to start his shift.
A couple of minutes before he was set to open, a customer stuck his head through the gate and started grilling my employee: Was he open? Why not? When would he be open? Why wasn’t he open yet?
My employee was like, “Give me just one second…” but the customer kept at it, quickly growing irate and resorting to foul language and name-calling to express his impatience. Ignoring the vitriol, my employee finished at the register and moved to pull back the gate, and the customer got in his face and spewed more obscenities, at which point my employee reacted without thinking and shoved him.
The customer, who’d been drinking for… a while, stumbled backwards, lost his footing, and fell over, banging his head on the floor. And this is when the bar staff suddenly realized that there was a Situation, and they all wheeled around just in time to see my employee standing over the dazed customer and screaming, “THERE. NOW WE’RE OPEN.”
I was working late at the main store, so one of the bartenders ran over to alert me. I followed him back to the bar, where I noticed the customer standing outside, holding his head and sharing with passersby his version of what happened: He’d just been innocently collecting donations for Orphaned Puppies Sans Frontières, when out of nowhere, my employee downed a bunch of ketamine and went medieval on him with a crowbar.
Once inside, I found my employee behind the shop’s checkout counter, apologetic but unrepentant. “I realize that I crossed a line, and I accept the consequences of my actions,” he said. “But all I did was push him. He fell down on his own.”
I couldn’t fault his logic. And it was clear that even if the customer didn’t physically throw the first punch, it was he who incited the altercation. As such, Gardnerian Me was like, “Well, in witchcraft, thou must ever return triple, so you get to shove him two more times,” and Discordian Chaote Me was like, “If the truth can be told so as to be understood, it will be believed; as per the Law of Eristic Escalation, the dude on the floor is now enlightened.” But Store Manager Me was like, “My guy, the one thing we can never do is lay hands on a customer. I need you to turn in your keys.”
I cannot tell you how much I hated saying this. And I hated that even though he did get what was coming to him, Big Gay Karen’s entitlement won out against treating sales associates like actual human beings.
And I also hated how helpless I felt. As irrational as it sounds, I just kept thinking, “I’m a witch. Rules don’t apply to me. I should be able to do something about this.” I mean, I can (and have, and continue to) cast spells for financial prosperity, and to protect the store and its denizens from harm — those probabilities aren’t too tricky to manipulate in our favor. But I can’t undo an employee’s snap decision, nor can I make it so that an intoxicated douche-nozzle never goaded him into acting the way he did.
Witches traveling through time to right wrongs and prevent the Apocalypse is only a thing in American Horror Story. Out here in the non-fiction boondocks of customer service, we’re unfortunately stuck playing by the same rules as everyone else.
Which makes me think of this guy I used to kind of know. I was never very clear on why it was his go-to defense mechanism, but whenever he felt cornered or threatened, or even just frustrated, he’d be like, “You don’t know who you’re messing with: I’m a witch, and I am powerful.”
This approach never worked out well for him — he alienated far more people than he ever subdued. Although it was probably just an extension of Paganism as escapism: like, entry-level wage slave by day, Herald of Diana’s Darling Crew by night. Something we see on occult social media far more often than anything instructional.
But this is also why those of us involved in the arcane have to stay at least somewhat grounded in the mundane, so that we’re capable of working within and around our limitations. Because the alternative is pretending there aren’t any restrictions, material or otherwise, on what we can do. And that, too, has a tendency to end badly.
One of the store’s higher-ups arrived on the scene within half an hour — the bartender who’d come to get me called him first — and he dealt with damage control while I got the (now unstaffed) bar store closed up for the night. Not unforeseeably, BGK was upset to learn we’d let the employee go. “How am I supposed to press charges if he doesn’t work here anymore?” he asked.
“Oh, gee,” the higher-up replied with utmost sincerity. “I guess we didn’t think of that.”
Tensions fizzled soon after, especially once the bar’s doorman emerged from the shadows to report that he’d heard everything the customer had yelled before the shoving went down. Which made it tough for BGK to maintain a facade of unmixed victimhood.
I will say, though, that as a witch, I was able to draw on additional strength to get me through the evening, and I was able to handle the termination firmly yet compassionately — a flexibility that comes from spending so much of my free time winding through rabbit holes. And while I can’t alter the past, nor expect people to bow down when I inform them of my warlocky omnipotence, I can woo things up so that the customer is compelled to give the store a wide berth in the future. And I can do a few things to ensure that my ex-employee finds a surprisingly good job opportunity a lot sooner than he anticipated.
I will also provide him with the most glowing of references upon request. I’m a teddy bear that way. Hell, I occasionally even dress the part.