Birthdays at Heathkit

One summer day, our manager let it slip that his birthday was going to be over that weekend. The following Monday, I asked him how his birthday was, if his wife and kids (all quite young at the time) had done anything for or with him.

"Not a thing", was his response. And he sounded a little disappointed by that.

Well... my mother is something of a character...she normally keeps the supplies for a good party on-hand, or knows where to get them quickly. So, I wandered into the back room of the store, and called her up, and asked her if it might be possible for her to whip-up a birthday party for the manager that afternoon. She was up for the challenge!

A couple hours later, she showed up at the store with cake (she baked it herself (from mix), if I recall correctly!) and ice cream, balloons and other decorations.

And thus, a tradition was born at the store.

Every year, my boss would say, "Please not this year", and every year, we did it anyway.

One year, the regional manager was in town for his birthday. "PLEASE, Not while Doug is here!" Now, Doug was a long-time acquaintance of our store manager's, and a good guy (not the same person as Bill). I figured he'd probably be ok with the idea if asked.

So, I had my mom on "hold" -- not to do anything until I gave her a call after I had talked to Doug. When I had a chance, I told Doug, "it's R's birthday today, we often have a surprise party for him, would you be ok with that?" He was absolutely ok with the idea, "As long as the store still is operating properly for the customers", and so the party rolled on.

So, what happened on my birthday? Not much, at least as far as the store was concerned, as I was away at school the first several years we were doing this.

After graduation, I was still working at Heathkit, My mother asked me about doing something at the store for MY birthday. I said "NO WAY!"

It wasn't (just?) a matter of not being willing to take my own medicine, but a rather practical concern -- as the organizer of the mischief, I figured it was my job to make sure the store stayed fully functional while the party is going on -- answering the phones, greeting customers, etc. If it was MY party, I figured it wouldn't be overly fun to be the one responsible for also keeping the store running.

My birthday that year was on a Saturday. Shortly before lunch, I am talking to a customer about a printer cartridge, and a pizza delivery woman walks in with a stack of about eight pizzas, and walks up to me.

"Are you Nick?"
"um. yes?"
"Happy Birthday!"
"Are those paid for?" (I figured if they were paid for, they were from my parents, if they weren't paid for, they were from R paying me back for the past years of his parties.)
"Yes, they are paid for"

She left the store, and seconds later, my parents walked in. Turned out my mother had called the store, got a hold of a coworker of mine, and had her get a personalized pizza order from each and every person at the store that day -- everyone got exactly what they wanted. No compromising. My parents wished me happy birthday, and left.

A few people ran up, grabbed the stack of pizza, and ran into the back of the store. I finished selling the customer their printer cartridge, they wished me happy birthday, and left as well.

I looked around. The sales floor was empty. The reception desk was empty. Much as I suspected, I was alone, watching the sales floor and the phones. And MY pizza was in back with the rest of the staff. After about 20 minutes, someone came up to the front of the store, thanked me and my parents for the pizza lunch...and then looked at me and realized that I hadn't been in the back eating pizza with everyone else.

"You havent ..."
"Not yet, no"

So, I asked him to watch the floor for me while I went in back to heat my no longer warm pizza in the microwave.

THAT'S what I was afraid was going to happen.


Copyright 2014, Nick Holland
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