Thursday, 4 February 2010

734 - Found Encounter

In Starbucks, Newcastle upon Tyne, across the room, a young white manager, American, head of the Newcastle branch of a successful bottom-up sales company, in meeting with a British Asian job applicant and his well-dressed father.

The father understands top-down, hierarchical companies, and starts by trying to establish what health and safety measures are present in the company, what insurance, should an angry customer assault his son.

"We're all responsible for our own actions," says the manager. He brings in his partner, who says he broke his back and was off work for two months. "I paid him, though he made no sales," the manager says, "Because I felt responsible; he's a friend; it was the right thing to do. But I don't expect you to understand the business model. My father doesn't understand. Behind my back, he tells people I run a business, but never to my face."

"But what do you want out of this? You say you're from Nigeria, but where's your... home? What do you plan to do with all the money you make?"

"I plan to retire. Early. Fifty. Live in the Bahamas. Drink Pina Colladas on the beach ... I want to know I've worked well."

The conversation lasts forty minutes, intensely. Back and forth. Two cultures negotiating, but neither giving ground. Still, neither coming to blows. The manager shakes the hand of the father, and holds his coat out for him, dressing him. The word "respect" is used. The father allows himself to be dressed.

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