TRUE STORIES FROM THE CHRONICLES OF HUMAN RESOURCES - WHAT HR DEGREE DOESN'T TRAIN YOU FOR! 1 of 10 stories to come.
Freddie the drug addict takes a shopping trip to the Home Improvement Store
“There would be no fun in life if you could predict everything that was going to happen to you” ~ugagirl66 (me)
At least that is what I have told myself time and time again as I encountered some very bizarre people in my 20 plus years in Human Resource Management. These are all true stories. Unbelievable stories at times. But, I promise, they are all 100% true experiences in my career.
It’s Friday, and almost the end of the day, I worked mostly 10-12 hour days and this was after all my weekend off. So, I was really looking forward to getting out of the store on time. Alas, it was not in the cards. About 3pm this Friday afternoon, I am greeted in my office by a very hysterical and very proud, gay associate of mine. I tell you this not because I am judging, I tell you this so that you can understand the dramatics that went along with this specific incident. His name is Wilson and he is to this day, one of my most favorite people in the world. He is however, also one of the most dramatic people I know.
So, here we are at 3pm and Wilson runs into my office, red faced, hyperventilating and throws his hands in the air “Oh my God, you will never guess what just happened to me”. You’re right Wilson, tell me what’s wrong. Well, I was in the men’s restroom using the bathroom and minding my own business when I felt this hand on my back in mid stream. It scared the crap out of me, so I zipped up really fast and turned around. There is this crazy looking guy standing there begging me to save him. He says there are three guys out in the store who are trying to kill him. I swear Gina, he is all crazy eyed and everything. Noticing that Wilson was really upset, I said Crap Wilson, what did you do with the guy? I left him the hell in the bathroom, what do you think I did with him? Now I am thinking to myself, this is just great, now we have crazy guy in our restroom groping my employees, my Store Manager is off today, my Ops Manager is at a different store in some kind of training with Loss Prevention Manager.
Figuring I had no choice but to make sure my employees were safe and ask this customer to leave the store, I decided to go investigate. At this point, I am no longer a happy camper and wondering to myself where the hell on the "Emergency Flip Chart" it defines how to deal with "crazy, drug attics who grope employees". News flash, it doesn't! Thankfully, I did remember that while I had been walking the store a few minutes before Wilson came in that I had noticed a Detective friend of mine shopping and he happened to be towards the back of the store when I was heading back towards my office. Thinking, well at least Gomez could not have made it to the front of the store and checked out by now, I overhead paged him to go the front of the store to meet a manager for assistance. I then called a few of my male managers and had them scout the store for anyone who looked suspicious or like they were looking for someone. I called the cashier at the front of the store and told her to be on the look out for the Detective and to tell him he was needed in the HR Managers office to assist with a legal problem. Then, I walked with Wilson back towards the restroom. I sent Wilson in to see if our friend was still there and he rushed out, shaking his head, oh no, he's gone Gina. Now what? I am now thinking, this can't get any worse right? After all, it's Friday. But, nope, not today, now I have a crazy guy who has now bolted somewhere out in the store asking for help from God only knows and to top it off, he has allegedly pissed off 3 guys who are now in the store looking for him to teach him a lesson. This day is just getting better and better. Somebody, just stop the madness. For the life of me, I can't recall where this training was in any of my degree and certification training. I know for certain this was not indicated anywhere in my job description. I guess it clearly must fall under the ODAA clause for (Other duties as assigned).
So, Wilson and I began walking the store. It wasn't hard to find him, because we heard a yelp on the other aisle. As I rounded the corner, there in the flooring aisle stood a couple in their late 70’s shopping. The man was trying to remove the hand that was grasping his wife’s arm, but to no avail. I sent Wilson on to locate my Detective friend and bring him into my office. I then walked up to the customers and smiled and asked how they were doing?
They both calmed down as I put myself between them and the scared and clearly drugged up male. I looked at him calmly and said is there something I can help you with? He released the lady and they quickly walked away and then he turned to me and said “They are here and they are trying to kill me”. So, I asked him calmly, who is? He said they were supposed to be my friends, but they think I stole their drugs while we were working for a Church doing some work. Wow, I think to myself. I should not have asked if it could get worse. It just did. So, I am thinking to myself, this is just fantastic. Now I have one guy in front of me on drugs and possibly three others who are highly pissed off and either on drugs, or at least having had possession of drugs. So, realizing that I am in it for the long haul, I nicely asked to walk with me calmly towards the back. For good measure, I leaned into him and said with a low voice, “now, act natural, we did not want to draw anyone’s attention towards us”. As we exited the sales-floor and entered the back part of the store where the restrooms, break-room and training rooms are, I decided to ask some questions to keep him focused. So I started with, my name is Gina and I am part of the Management team here, what is your name? He quickly piped up Freddie. My name is Freddie. Thank you for rescuing me. I just knew these guys were going to kill me. Do you have a good hiding place for me? I smiled and answered "only the best ever".
I was taking him to the break-room thinking it was still semi-public and people could see me if I needed help, but quickly realized that was not going to happen. I noticed that I had about 8 employees in the break-room, on lunch, on break or just getting in. I could not risk them getting hurt and I did not know if our Freddie was armed yet, so I decide to divert him back to the training room where my office is located. It was completely empty and also towards the back of the building where there was no real exit for him. Once we got in the training room, I made certain he knew he was safe and that they would never think to look for him back this far in the building. Freddie started to relax, so I offered to get him a cup of water. There was no place he could run and my guys were now heading down the hall to back me up, so things were now starting to look up. When I re-entered the training room, I brought to of my larger male managers in with me and handed Freddie his drink.
Freddie then kept staring back and forth to the managers and kept talking to himself in a third person reference "um Freddie doesn't like this, Freddie is going to get up set, stop talking to yourself Freddie, you're gonna freak them out, no, no no... they are still looking for you Freddie, you need to hide Freddie, they are going to kill you before you can get out of this place. Freddie, had this entire conversation with himself in front of all three of us, who were now looking at each other with this holy crap, are we witnessing a melt down, an act or is he about to go postal on all of us expression. Since Freddie was clearly getting agitated with the guys in the room and seemed to be calmer when it was just me, I thought it might be a good idea to get them moving to get help and get Freddie on his way. I told Freddie I would be right back, that I was going to get him some crackers from the vending machine while he settled down. As we walked outside I explained to the other managers what we were dealing with. They both looked back at me, and asked where the heck did you find this guy? What are we supposed to do now? At this point, I thought we needed to move forward with outside assistance.
So, I explained quickly that I needed for them to go back out to the sales-floor. Joey, I need you to look for Wilson, keep him calm, tell him to keep his mouth shut until we get this under control. I don't want any employees or customers freaking out with him. Tell Wilson he did a great job and we need him to continue to remain composed. But, keep him away from back here and have him get back on the front-end to look out for the ambulance and escort them back this way when they arrive. Tyrone, I need you to look for the Detective, his name is Gomez, he is wearing a gun and badge and you can't miss him. I then instructed a third one J.D. whom had just rounded the corner to call 911 and an ambulance. It was now clear that our Freddie was on some very serious drugs.
I grew up with police officers in my family. Also, blackbelts, so we were taught early in our life how to defend ourselves. No, I am not a ninja, but I can hold my own if I needed to. Since I had family who were head of narcotics in local Sheriffs Departments and working for the FEDS I had a little more knowledge than the average person about drugs and people on them. I knew what the signs were and how to avoid those types of people as a teenager. It all came flooding back when I met Freddie, so I was able to tell right away that he had pinpoint pupils, along with his very erratic behavior, which had him shifting from balling like a child to looking over his shoulder for his would be attackers and now adding the whole talking to himself and referring to himself as a third person was a pretty decent indicator that he was NOT actually in our reality, but one he was working pretty hard on in his head.
As I walked back into the training room, Freddie had calmed down after grabbing the crackers from my hand. Clearly, he had not eaten for a while or either he had the munchies from his little drug bender. I decided to sit down across from him and talk to see if I could gather a little more facts to shorten his stay with us. I sat closest to my office door and him placed at the other side of a table further away. In our little Q&A session, Freddie apparently had recently been discharged from a drug rehabilitation facility just 3 days prior. He also admitted that he relapsed about 3 hours after leaving rehab. He said he doesn't remember a lot about the past couple of days, but does remember that he met some guys who seemed pretty nice. They did some drugs together and afterwards they asked him for money for the drugs they had shared with him. Since Freddie thought they were just being nice by offering him drugs, he did not know they were going make him pay. So, instead of beating him up, they said he could work it off with them at a church they were working at for community service. Sounds like a nice group of friends you have there Freddie. He said, no, not Freddie's friends. They want to kill me now. I asked him why do you think they want to kill you? Freddie said, because I smoked the rest of their drugs and didn't feel like working. They said I stole them and they were going to kill me now. He said, he didn't actually steal them, he just used them without asking permission. Ah, I said, well that makes perfect sense. I then asked him in good faith to empty his pockets out on the table for me so that we could make sure I didn't get in trouble for letting him in my training room with drugs or weapons. Freddie, shifted a little and said, I won't hurt you lady, you've been real nice to me. I told Freddie, I know that Freddie, or you would not be back here where I can protect you. But, I still need you to do that to keep me from getting in trouble. Oh, he said, you might get in trouble. No problem. He emptied his pockets out which contained a knife and some pills. I got him a little envelope and asked him to put them in it for me and I wrote his name on the front and sealed it "Freddies stuff". I let it sit on the table and told him he could take it with him and open it again when he got outside. He seemed ok with that. It was nice to know he wasn't carrying any weapons. I also had him pull up his shirt for good measure to show me he had nothing tucked in his back and also pull up his pant legs for his socks. So, he was clean of anything else at that point.
I heard a little knock on my training room door and saw Detective Gomez standing on the other side of the slim window in the hallway. I decided to step out of the room first. I looked over at Freddie and he was fine, eating his crackers and drinking his water, looking around the room and whispering to himself. As I stepped out, I glanced back and told him I would be right back, Freddie, just smiled and waved his arm in the air.
Stepping out in the hallway, Ryan, my Detective friend then looks at me and ask what the hell have you gotten yourself into now? I laughed and said, you know me, trouble always seems to find it's way here to the Happy Home Improvement Center. Laughing, he said, fill me in. I explained the whole situation in a short summary of events. I told him what I had learned, that I had his weapon in an envelope with some pills on the table and that I had him pull up his clothing and down his socks and did not see any visible weapons. Ryan, laughing said did you really make that guy pull up his shirt and take his socks down. Yep, sure did. He said, you know I still have to search him. I told him that was fine. I had made Freddie leave his pockets out so that others would know he was not trying to harm anyone. Laughing, he said, well lets go meet your new friend. I told Ryan I had instructed the manager to dispatch deputies to look for the angry friends and to keep them calm until we could get more details and get Freddie off in the ambulance to be checked out.
So entering the room is now Detective Gomez. How's it going man? Freddie glancing at his badge and gun quickly ask, am I in trouble. Detective Gomez says, well I don't know, did you break the law or hurt anyone? Nope, Freddie says, I am sick, real sick and there are people trying to kill me. I was running, not trying to hurt anyone. I just need a place to hide out. Gomez looks back at me and I said Freddie, Detective Gomez needs you to allow him to search you. We called an ambulance to help you get better and to take you away from here so that your friends can't find you. But, he has to know the paramedics are going to be safe, can you do that for me? Freddie says, they are coming to get me to hide out? I smiled and said, you bet. They have the best escape plan ever. Can you work with us on this? Sure, Freddie says, you want me in the floor or on the wall? Gomez responds, the wall is fine. Legs apart, arms behind your head, pockets out. He quickly searches him and finds nothing more. He then sits down in front of Freddie and introduces himself. Also calm, Detective Gomez ask Freddie to explain what was going on. He could clearly see that our friend Freddie was clearly looking more pale, and was now sweating and twitching uncontrollably. I told Freddie he was in good hands with Detective Gomez and that I was going to the video room to see if I could locate his friends a little easier.
It wasn’t that hard. As I was leaving the room, my phone went off and I was alerted by a cashier that there were indeed 3 people at the front of the store demanding them to produce their “sick friend Freddie”. They said he needed to get some help and they were there to help him. The only problem was that the cashier said they all looked like they had been running and were dressed with gang colors. So, I informed the Detective what was happening. We had J.D. and Tyrone come in and sit with Freddie, as far as Freddie knew they were there for his protection to keep others out. Ryan (Detective Gomez) and I headed to the front to address the three men. Once they seen us round the corner and realized that the police were involved, they instantly decided it was not important that they speak to Freddie anymore and that they felt he was “in good hands”. At this time, 4 Deputies entered the store and took over the three men for questioning while Detective Gomez (Ryan) and I went back to the training room to wait for the Ambulance to come and take Freddie to the hospital or place him back in rehab.
As we were waiting for them, Freddie decided to disclose that he was going to kill himself because he no longer wanted to live like he was any longer. When you make a comment like that to the police, fire dept, or paramedics, they are required to take you into a hospital for an hour observation.
30 minutes later I watched Freddie leave off in the Ambulance safely. His friends were detained by the Deputies up front for further questioning. A video was released to show that they indeed had chased poor Freddie into the store and were looking for him. When searched by the Deputies they had found 1 gun and two knives and a pair of brass knuckles. Freddie had apparently done just what he said. He shared their drugs thinking they were free. But, not so much. Then later found their stash and helped himself and left them none.
Needless to say, the work at the Church was no longer being conducted by the drug addicts and the Father of the Catholic Church was happy to have been notified. Freddie, was sent back to his rehab after 3 days of medical treatment and observations and three people chasing him turned out to be 1 (13) year old boy, a 19 year old and 28 year old who was the drug dealer of the bunch.
It was about 7:30pm when I finally left for the day. But, the store was back to normal, the reports were filed to document the events and all was happy again in home improvement world. That was until I received a call on my weekend off stating that I was going to be documented for having handled the situation the way I did. Needless to say, I was never documented, at least not after I called the Legal Team at Corporate and filled them in. I was going to be documented for getting between a customer and Freddie, not taking him to the break-room where my employees were because I wanted to keep them safe and opted to take him to my training room where there was no escape and no one to harm but me and lastly because I took the initiative to involve the police without first calling Corporate to get the ok.
So tell me folks, if you were in this situation, how would you have reacted and would you have as an HR Director at Corporate instantly opted to document your HR Manager for taking the actions above?
Stay tuned for more of the HR Chronicles. I have many more stories to share!