Mr. Harris


(Ep 72 - "The Hardware Store")

(Mr. Harris is on the phone with a supplier.)
What do you mean you can't ship on orders of less than a gross? Since when?
Old Man Harris. "Mr. Hardware" himself.
Let me tell you something. I've been ordering what I need from you people since before you were born. You heard my offer - I stand by it.
(He slams down the telephone, then paces with his hands behind his back, and looks at Kevin.)
Are we looking, or working?
Then what stopped you?
Then get to work.
ladder As far as I could tell, his system of organizing the merchandise was based on the maximum number of times I could climb from the bottom shelf to the top shelf and back again.
Not so fast - what are these?
They're bolts...
You're sure?
Uh...yeah - toggle bolts.
Used for what?
Used for...fastening things. In plasterboard.
It wasn't enough he knew everything about the business...he seemed to think I should, too.
So...should they go with the sheet-metal bolts, or over there...(points)...closer to the plaster supplies?
Well, I...with the plaster supplies.
Do it then.
Not that I wasn't grateful for the education.
(Mr. Harris moves to a counter and takes a pen from his shirt pocket.)
I wasn't.
(Sotto Voce): Gimme a break...
What was that?
Nothing. Mr. Harris, shouldn't we knock off? It's almost six o'clock.
(Mrs. Haris enters from the office door.)
Almost six o'clock is not six o'clock. (Frowns.) Besides, there might be customers.
Sam? Why don't you let him go a little early?
Well...Pfff - alright. Alright!
Thanks, Mrs. Harris. (Smiles.)

(Mr. Harris holds out a box.)
Flange pipes...top shelf. (Points.) Now, be sure you check the inventory thoroughly.
OK...the benefits stunk. That didn't mean there weren't opportunities here.
(A woman enters.)
Excuse me. My husband says...we need a washer.
Oh, your husband is a plumber?
Oh, no - he's an accountant.
Oh...(Laughs.) So is my oldest. He does my taxes. I don't let him near my sink.
Yep - the chance to watch a master salesman at work.
(Mr. Harris takes the washer from the woman.)
Now let me see this. Oh...rubber - see, one crack and you lose the seal. Now brass, copper are very good...they last. Absolutely indestructible.
(The woman looks off impatiently.)
Unless you have hard water - then you get rust. (Frowns.) Do you have hard water, or soft?
I'm not sure. Um...look - I have to meet the five-fifteen - my husband will be waiting. Why don't I just stop back another time?
(She takes the washer from Mr. Harris and walks toward the door.)
Thanks anyway...
Let's face it...the old man's idea of salemanship was a little outmoded. So, it was up to me to bring him in to the twentieth century.
Mr. Harris?
Well...I was just thinking. Do I really have to wear this tie? I mean, 'cause if it's OK with you, I'd just as soon -
Let me tell you something. When you're outside playing, you can wear what you want. But when you're in here working, you'll wear the tie. Am I understood?
Needless to say, the whole thing hadn't gone quite as well as I'd hoped.

(Outside the hardware store.)
Mr. Harris?
I don't think I'm gonna be able to make it on Saturday.
Yeah. Actually, I don't think I'll be able to come in at all anymore.
I see.
Yeah. Well, see there's this other job I might be taking.
And where is this new place of employment?
In the mall.
joint The mall? That's where you want to go to work - selling crap that doesn't work to people that don't need it in the first place? What would you be doing?
Working. In a restaurant. "Food service management".
Ah, what the hell.
It's a burger-joint.
And this is how you want to spend your time - flipping hamburgers and watching the girls walk by?
Bingo. He finally understood.
Then why would you do a thing like this?
sweep Because they pay fifteen cents more an hour.
Oh...(Smiles.) So that's it. I see. (Sighs.) Fifteen cents an hour...
Sure it was a bitter pill, but what else could the guy do?
I'll pay you twenty.
Just prove to me that you're worth it - sweep! (Points.)

I was wondering if I could have the day off, Saturday?
Why - I have this...appointment.
Well then, uh, certainly.
Of course, anytime you have a social engagement, and work interferes...(gestures)...you just let me know. We'll close the store. (Nods.)
Hey, all I'm asking for here is a just -
We have an agreement. You work here - Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. And I pay you - what now? - one dollar and sixty five cents an hour. Maybe now you would like me to pay you double-time for the days you don't work.
And that's when it hit me - the guys had been right. I wasn't an employee, here. I was in bondage. A slave.

(Kevin played hookey at the mall, then goes to work.)
You're late.
I know...Mr. Harris, can I talk to you?
Very well. You were late today. I understand - you needed to prove something. It's alright, it's forgotten. I'll see you Tuesday.
Well, I'm not going to be coming in anymore. You see, I took the job at the mall - I start Monday.
Don't be foolish. You work here.
But I don't want to work here anymore. Don't you understand that?
You're a bright boy! You could make something better of yourself!
I wouldn't call stocking hardware something better!
Oh, I see.
Mr. Harris, all I do here is move cartons from one shelf to the other and listen to you talk about hardware. No one even comes in here anymore - no one wants to.
(Mrs. Harris approaches from the office.)
Is that so! Let me tell you something...
The hardware business -
Sam, the boy wants to go.
offer You don't even need me here most of the time.
I know that. I would like you to keep working here, but I won't try to make you stay. I've made my offer - I stand by it.
I felt him watching me. And somehow, I knew what he was thinking. How much I learned, how much he taught me. I was fifteen. I lived in a world that was new - and alive, and exciting. And everything here was old. Maybe it was stupid - that's also part of being fifteen. I traded in my tie for a stupid hat and a plastic nametag at the mall. When I left a month later - no one cared. But every time I pick up a flat-head screw, I think of old man Harris, and how those cowbells clanged as I walked out that door. And though I can't say exactly what I learned...I know I can't measure...what I lost.

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11/28/14 13:30