I picked up our Round Table pizza last night, and I thought about Frank.
The summer I was sixteen, my dad declared that I would be getting a summer job. He helped me write a resume, and one Saturday morning, drove me around to local businesses, stopped the car, and forced me to get out and introduce myself to managers. I was not an outgoing person, but my dad believed in throwing me in the deep end.
One of those places was Copy Plus, a small store owned by Frank, which was just a few blocks away from my home in California. I got the job that same week. (It was either that or the candy store at the mall. Given these options, I figured a copy store was going to be better than any mall job. I was right.)
Frank was my first boss. He was from Philly, and he often told me the story of the gunshot wound on his elbow. One of my first lessons from him was that if anyone ever came into the store with a gun, I should open the cash register and back away. My wide-eyed little sixteen-year-old suburban self wondered what I had gotten myself into. After all, this was my neighborhood shopping center, not the ghetto.
Frank had a big laugh and an even bigger heart. He looked after me like a daughter, and he shared his business and his life with me. Every morning, he would tell me how much money we made the day before. We weren't Kinko's, he would tell me, but Copy Plus always went the extra mile.
It was just making copies, I thought--but with Frank, it wasn't just making copies. Frank taught me how to run and service his giant, high speed copy machines, and I learned the thrill of getting them all working at the same time. The rhythmic chanting of those machines were the background noise as he taught me how to make our customers happy. I learned how to smile at strangers, how to solve people's problems, how to meet deadlines. I experienced the exhilaration of handing a satisfied customer a nice, neat box of a job well done.
Frank showed me what good business looks like. What a good boss looks like.
Now that I think about it, I learned a lot about life at Copy Plus. Parts of Frank are indelibly a part of who I am.
Over the next several years, I quit that job four times--to go back to high school, to go to college, to be a camp counselor, to be a student teacher. Whenever I visited home, I would visit Frank, and every time, he asked me if I wanted my job back. He hired me back--four times. Copy Plus became a part of my history.
Round Table Pizza was just two doors down from Copy Plus. Round Table is still there, but there's a UPS store where Copy Plus used to be. My parents have lived in the same house since I was two years old (minus the years in Africa), so when we visit, we order our pizza from the same Round Table. Last night, picking up the pizza, I lingered in front of that UPS store, and I remembered Frank. And I remembered that day my dad forced me out of that car with my resume. He told me that one day when I was older, I would thank him for it. He was right.