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Throwing Larry Under the Bus
Picking Sides when Managerial Excrement Rolls Downhill
"Throwing someone under the bus" is a perennial term among Harm City grocers, denoting the fine art of deferring blame to anyone other than yourself.
I once had an assistant manager who called me "The Senator," a black nerd who hated black men and women and could not wrap his head around the fact that I did not fire them at every opportunity. The employees named him "Erkle," which I think was the name of a similarly bispeckled, bow-tie wearing, big-headed, skinny black dude on some TV show. One thing was certain about Erkle, was that whenever he said to or about an employee, "Not meaning to thrown anybody under the bus—but..." then you absolutely knew that some poor clerk was getting tossed under the bus.
Many times I have had the pleasure of throwing a department manager or store manager, who towered above me in the hierarchy, to the not so tender mercies of the bus driver named Fate, whose avatar was generally a district manager. But Larry, I never wanted to throw Larry under the bus. The guy has hired me on two separate occasions and is one of the kindest, hardest working fellows I know. He feeds stray cats, reads science-fiction adventures, and has actually had the courage to mention the name of Donald Trump in a positive context around rabid democrats. John, Larry's boss, has also done me a few good turns. Of course, like any long time store manger, he can be a prick. Although, I have proudly noted that he's not half the dickhead I was when I was in his impracticable shoes. John walked up to me on a Tuesday morning after I had had an extended weekend, which was how I was spending my vacations, a little at a time, and said, "How was your weekend, sir?"
"Fine, John."
Then, pretending as if a grunt who makes $150 bucks a week can afford to travel and enjoy a jaunt to Atlantic City—which is a Baltimorean's idea of a weekend getaway—he said, "So where did you go?"
"Nowhere."
He then turned to Larry, who was standing three feet away stocking the butter as I rotated the yogurt, and said, "Ask him to work this Saturday night."
As Larry began the obligatory, "I know your free time is important to you and that you spend it all writing," I was already laughing sardonically.
On numerous occasions Larry has tried to defend me from John's instinct to overwork a dropout from his managerial cult. I understand and appreciate them both.
Well, a few weeks ago, I was writing the fill order for the cottage cheese and sour cream section, as John and Larry argued over whose fault it was that there was no sign on the cream cheese display I had so aggressively featured in the bin. In reality, getting a sign on the shelf for a sales item is the grocery business equivalent of emergency dentistry in Bangladesh. The few people who can be trusted actually making price changes on the company software—this is in every retail food operation I've ever worked—immediately develop a gatekeeper complex. They are the head of a two-person department that holds the other 7 departments hostage. Essentially, Larry and John were arguing over which one of them should have been trying to convince the scanning coordinator to do her job:
John: "How long has this Best Yet cream cheese been without a sign?"
Larry: "I don't know. Come on, you know the deal."
John: "This has been without a sign for three days!"
Larry: "I don't want to hear it, John. It's been two days at most."
John: "Jim, how long has this cream cheese been without a sign?"
Jim: "Since I built the display 14 days ago. I just assumed you guys didn't want to sell it."
John: "Get a sign, Larry!"
Larry: "Thanks a lot, Jim. You couldn't have shaved off a week, not even a day? Ah, it's okay. I haven't been under the bus for three days—was beginning to miss the smell down here!"
There you go, another minute in the life of a ghetto grocer, an occupation in which the man without humor is without hope.
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Add Comment
Jeremy BenthamJune 10, 2016 2:42 AM UTC

Funny! One hears the expression "thrown under the bus" quite a bit these days. In case you were wondering what its origin is, it is Army slang from the Korean War. It means to callously sacrifice someone in order to ensure one's own survival or success. It was coined by American servicemen who witnessed just such things happen some 66 years ago. Once Koreans became aware that the Americans would pay monetary reparations to the family of any Koreans they accidently killed or injured, many poor Koreans started pushing unwanted children in front of moving American military vehicles. Again the callousness and utter ruthlessness of the act astonished and horrified the U.S. Servicemen who were witness to them. They could not grasp what would possess these people to murder their own children like that. However, the average Korean commoner back then was poor and starving in a way that was impossible for a 20th Century American to imagine, so anything that would keep the rest of the family alive a while longer was justifiable in their minds. Not to mention the fact that the country’s Confusion ethics and morality emphasized the greater good of group survival over the survival of an individual. So someone had to be willing to take one for the team. Korea was left completely impoverished by decades of Japanese occupation. The Japanese completely looted the country. For example, in photographs taken during the Korean War you might notice that the Korean landscape appears completely barren. That is because the Japanese had cut down all the trees in the entire country. To this day Koreans harbor a dislike for Japanese that we Americans have a hard time understanding. After all the Japanese seem so polite and inoffensive to us. Fast forward a few years and American servicemen began using the expression "thrown under the bus" to describe any situation where a superior "sacrifices" a subordinate by attempting to shift the blame for the failure of some enterprise onto him. As in "COL Smith threw CPT Jones under the bus over the field training exercise". Of course it’s a rather exaggerated and theatrical metaphor given that no one is actually murdered in such cases, but many people thought it witty and apropos of the circumstances nevertheless. So the expression caught on. I imagine that as America becomes more corrupt, more balkanized and more impoverished we will see more and more "expendable" people get "thrown under the bus", and not always metaphorically.