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Author Topic: The Names Have Been Changed to Protect the Innocent  (Read 853 times)
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TheFugitive
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« on: August 03, 2017, 04:06:30 PM »

Listing out the most memorable associates who worked for me at Ames:
(*their names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Rob Skeezer - Bicycle Assembler.  Ames was unique among the retailers I worked for as we assembled bikes in-house.  (most chains let an outside contractor do it as they carried special insurance and took any legal product liability for what they assembled).  Rob was a dead-ringer for Howard Sprague on the old Andy Griffith Show, though he was not nearly as clean.  His work space was always a pig sty, and he had personal hygiene issues which made it very hard to get other employees to work near him.  He spent most of his time hidden away in his little assembly area in the loft up above layaway.  We had a local potato chip vendor who would come in periodically and give us credit for the expired product.  Rather than take it back he'd empty the expired chips into a 55 gallon drum and take just the wrappers.  We'd dump them in the compactor later.  Long story short......we had to fire Rob after this guy's trash can disappeared and we found it up in the assembly loft with approximately 20 gallons of expired chips having been eaten.

Bonnie Smegler - Night Stock - She was one of those employees who just didn't get it.  Show her how to do something fifteen times, and she'd still screw it up.  We swore that she did this on purpose, using the old adage "if I screw this up bad enough, they'll never ask me to do it again".  Bonnie had suffered some type of a head injury in her past, and actually had some sort of a plate in her head.  When you would sit her down to counsel her after she screwed-up some task she would look at you and say, "It's not my fault, Mr. Fugitive, I can't help it.  After all, I only have half a brain."   I mean, what can you possibly say in response to a thing like that?  Absolutely nothing! Shortly before the bankruptcy Ames spun-off the jewelry department to a lease vendor (JBA) and when we had to give them 3 employees Bonnie was #1 on our list.  She was their problem now.

Sean Dalton - This fellow showed up at an interview one day looking like a cross between a ZZ Top album cover and a painting of Jesus.  Long, LONG black hair flowing down to the middle of his back, full black beard, tattoos and an earring.  The other members of management sneered and snickered.  "Let's let The Fugitive interview this guy!"  I sat down with him, and honestly found him to be one of the most intelligent guys I'd ever talked to.  After he left the other managers came over for a recap.  "You guys are going to laugh, but I honestly think he is one of the smartest people I've ever met!"  We hired him, trained him as a backup receiver, and he did a really excellent job.   Our receiver eventually got promoted to management in another store, and we moved Sean into that job.  He continued to perform extremely well.  I was highly disappointed then to learn that a few months after I left the store he got caught as the ringleader of a group of five employees who were stealing by taking merchandise out the back door and concealing it in the trash.  He ended up doing some jail time.

Rhonda Mandarel - She was a cash office and invoicing clerk.  She was blonde and very shapely, probably was a 42 DD bra size.  Guys would meet her and their eyes would be immediately glued to those.  Being blonde with large breasts, many guys treated her as if she were stupid, and she played along.  She would launch into her best Betty Boop or Carol Wayne impression, and come across as a total ditz.  But in reality, she was one of the smartest women I'd ever met!  She would just play along with being dumb because she knew she could get information out of whoever she was talking to that could benefit her in the future.  Absolutely NO ONE was better at figuring out screwed-up drawer shortages and balancing the safe than Rhonda.  She would also give very sage advice on various personal problems.  Very smart lady!

Ben Koehler - He was an 18 year-old kid who swept floors and cleaned the rest rooms and parking lot.  Very nice kid.  He was slow.  He had some sort of a learning disability or mental development issue.  His dad was a very prominent citizen in the town where they lived about twelve miles down the road.  I believe he was on the town council, and was some sort of an elder or deacon in their Church.  One day Ben's parents split up when his mom learned her husband was having an affair.  Ben was devastated.  He would come to work dejected, depressed and crying.  Then he learned that the woman whom his dad had been cheating on his mom with worked in our shoe department!  This created a very tense and difficult situation for store management.  Ben would keep going back to the shoe department to yell at her and accuse her of breaking up his family.  We could not allow that to go on, but had to be careful how we treated Ben because he was special needs, and probably did not fully comprehend how his actions were not appropriate. This was one of the saddest situations I had to deal with in my time at Ames.

Eva Gutierrez - Cashier.  She was 37 years old, but looked very, very young.  Long, flowing dark brown hair, big beautiful eyes, and wore a pair of jeans extremely well.  While she was ringing 18 and 19 year old guys would come in constantly to hit on her, and she'd play along.  "Hi, what's your name?  Where do you go to school?  Do I know you?  Where did you say you go to school again?........OH....that's right, I do know you....you go to school with my son!"   The kids' tongues would fall out and they'd just about fall over on the floor.  I could stand there and watch her do that all day long, it was the funniest thing I ever saw!

Susie Diamond - Our gorgeous, sexy Damages and Defectives clerk.  I married that one.  Wink
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Brammy
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« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2017, 06:31:15 PM »

Shouldn't that be the names have been changed to protect the guilty? LOL.

Anyway it was disappointing to me that by time I moved to a town where they had an AMES the company was gone.  I always wanted to work at one. We moved to Southington, CT in 2003.

We all have worked with an interesting cast of characters.

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~Marc B~
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« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2017, 02:29:12 PM »

Ron Plett - an Assistant Manager I worked with in one of the stores.  A strange, strange dude, shrouded in mystery.  A man of few words, nobody ever seemed to get much out of him regarding his past. The only things I knew about him were that he grew up in Indiana and had been the manager of some discount store in Bloomington, Illinois that had gone out of business. He was string-bean thin, with long, scraggly hair, and some attempt at a moustache that was never more than half grown.  His facial features looked vaguely Chinese, but he had about the palest skin of anyone I'd ever met.  Even though he was from Indiana in all the time I worked with him I never saw him not wearing a pair of cowboy boots.

I knew this guy would be a character when I first met him.  I shook his hand and said, "Welcome to Michigan!  What do you think so far?"  He thought about it for a minute, rubbed his chin then said, "Well, the women are a whole lot more promiscuous than they were back in Indiana".

Obviously that was trouble.  He got involved in a series of bad judgments which resulted in his marriage self-destructing in full view of everyone in the store.  It started when a pretty young 17-year old girl working in his Ladies Department batted her eyes in a flirtatious manner and said, "Mr. Plett, can I borrow your car to go up to Burger King and get some lunch?"

Ron had a new Dodge Daytona on which he had made perhaps five payments.  To our utter amazement he tossed her the keys.  And of course, she totaled his car on the way back.

This was not easy to explain to Mrs. Plett.  I don't know what sort of tensions were going on in their marriage up to that point, because he never talked about them.  But this sure did not help.  Rather than learn his lesson things actually got worse when he began an actual affair with one of the other women in his department.

Now, I have to say, in this particular store there were perhaps three to four dozen of the best looking women I had ever seen working as employees.  The one he picked to cheat on his wife with was not one of them.  Very plain, built like a pencil, with a mean, clipped face.  A nasty, bitter personality (her sister worked for me, and at least she was pleasant).  When I first learned of this my first gut reaction was "what, he couldn't even pick one with breasts?".   As strangely has been the case with virtually every married man I know who cheated, the wife he had at home was MUCH better looking than the woman he was having the affair with.

His wife found out about this and of course filed for divorce.  She made sure that the constable served him with papers at the checkouts, in front of all the customers on a busy Saturday at Christmastime.  I heard she then went to work for Walmart, and ended up having a fairly successful career in management there.

Last I heard he and the mean, skinny clipped-faced girl were still together, living in a small Midwestern city.

I have this idea for a novel or a movie script about a shabby low-life detective who lives in Detroit.
It includes this character, a bounty hunter, who is based on Ron Plett.
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« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2017, 01:14:20 PM »

Stacy Rabbit -  Stacy was a 16-year old part-time cashier.  She was dating Jared, a kid who worked in hardlines.   Our store closed at 9PM, and after the cashiers counted out their drawers we typically kept them for another 30-40 minutes to straighten-up the store.  Was really never much more than that (we would have blown payroll, among other things).

One night after we released the employees Stacy and Jared went out on a date.  They were out very late.  He brought her home sometime after midnight.  She got busted by her parents, who of course wanted to know where she had been.  Instead of telling them the truth she threw us under the bus, claiming that she had been at work at Ames, and that we had kept her on the clock to straighten the store.

Instead of calling us to complain, or to check and see whether their daughter was telling the truth about this, her parents called the Michigan Department of Labor.  They came to the store and pitched a tent up our rear ends for a week.  They audited EVERY time card of every employee who was under 18 back to the day the store had opened. The good news was that the time cards revealed that Stacy had punched out at 9:34  PM on the night in question, so we were off the hook on the actual complaint.

The bad news was that they hit us up with a violation for EVERY under-age employee who had clocked out even ONE MINUTE LATE for their required break.  In a store with 80 employees it is a practical impossibility to make sure that everyone gets their breaks timed down to the minute.  But the State of Michigan does not care apparently.  We were cited for each, and the total fines came to more than $10,000.  As a result we were told that we were no longer allowed to hire anyone under 18.

The Michigan Department of Labor hung around town for a few weeks, and audited ALL the retail businesses.  The guy who owned the Dairy Queen ran exclusively with under-age help.  They beat him up so badly he closed his store and it never reopened.  All because Stacy did not want to fess-up to her parents.


Mandy Sandavalas - She was an 18-year old girl who worked in our electronics department. She was 6 foot 3 with long, blonde hair.  She had an identical twin sister, Sandy, who worked at a convenience store up the street.  The two of them coming through the door together looked like 1/3 of a roller derby team.  Their dad was an immense mountain of a man....he barely fit through the front door at Ames!  They had a brother who was 13 lbs. when he was born!  I had grown-up with identical twin brothers, so I used to chat with Mandy about what it was like being a twin.  I told her "the really weird thing was when they became teenagers and started dating, girls would call the house and say 'Is Mark or Steve there?'  Like they didn't care which one they got."   She got this horrified look on her face and said, "Oh, God, I HATE when that happens!"


Leslie Starkamp - She was the Jewelry Department Manager.  She was always a difficult person to deal with.  Very stubborn and pushy.  We probably got more customer complaints about her than anyone else in the building.  Though we did not know it at the time, Ames was getting ready to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  In preparation for this, Ames senior management pulled a sleazy little maneuver where they spun-off the jewelry departments into a separate "leased department" called JBA. It was a separate company that would lease the jewelry department from Ames and run it, just like J. Baker Shoes did with our shoe departments. (the reason for this move was to put the gold and diamond inventory beyond the reach of Ames' creditors once the bankruptcy was filed).  In order to maintain the legal fiction that JBA was an independent operator, we were told that the Jewelry Manager no longer reported to Ames store management, and was answerable ONLY to her JBA Regional Manager.  We were literally forbidden to tell her what to do.

On a 1 to 10 scale, this took her from being an 8 to a 37 so far as making her difficult to handle.  Her JBA manager was based in Ohio, and would make the drive that far up into Michigan maybe once a quarter.  At all other times when we had an issue with her she would kind of sneer at us and say "I don't have to listen to you."  This was a BIG problem because although she was a JBA employee, she wore an Ames badge and an Ames smock.  So as far as any customer knew, she was representing Ames.  One day I took a phone call from a VERY angry woman.  She was very upset and was threatening to sue Ames.  I asked her what had happened, and she said that she had been called by our store for a reference on somebody we had interviewed for a job.  She had not had a particularly good experience with this person, and gave her a negative reference.  The candidate somehow found out about the negative reference, and came out to her farm to confront her.  She said that she had been threatened.

I was dumbfounded.  I could not imagine any of us on the management team being dumb enough to tell a rejected candidate that their reference said bad things about them.  I checked further, and none of us had even interviewed any candidates in over a week.

Finally I was able to put the pieces together.  Leslie had called this girl in to interview her for a job in the JBA jewelry department.  She called the references on a speaker phone, as the candidate was sitting there in the office with her!  The candidate thus heard every word they were saying about her.  This lady said some negative things, so the candidate got in her truck, drove to her farm and the confrontation ensued. 

I blamed Ames for this 100% because they had moved Leslie into a position of complete management authority without giving her ANY training on such issues.  And at the same time forbade the rest of us from supervising her in any way.

I don't know whether that lady ever sued Ames.  I apologized profusely, tripping all over myself trying to explain how this had happened.  It all sounded so stupid I could not believe the words were coming out of my mouth.
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TheFugitive
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« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2017, 01:12:26 PM »

Tim Sweet - He was a hardlines manager I worked with.  He supposedly came from a family with a lot of money.  Had gone to prep school and then dropped out of some very elite college.  It all made you wonder "why is he schlepping around an Ames store then?"

This guy had a very nasty attitude. Obnoxious and arrogant.  He tended to be racist and bigoted, and say offensive things. When Ames bought Zayre they had this program where they sent an Ames manager into a Zayre store to train them, and vice-versa.  I got sent to a Zayre store in Jacksonville, Florida, and a manager from that store got sent to mine.   It turned out that the newly converted stores got IBM 4683 registers, but the girl who went to my store was being trained on the old 3680's.  So I rebooked my flight and spent a couple of extra days working with her after she got back there.

She was Asian....Chinese or Filipino or something.  She met me and was very upset about the store I came from.  In particular she was upset with Tim Sweet.  "He looked right at me and said, "You're funny looking, what are you?" (meaning what race).  I buried my head in my hands and shook it.  Because that was EXACTLY the kind of thing Tim WOULD say. I did my best to apologize to her on behalf of my store, and on behalf of Ames.

Tim also had some major issues with personal hygiene (B.O. seemed to be an ongoing challenge during my time at Ames).  He wore the same sticky looking sports jacket every day, which probably hadn't been dry cleaned in years.  Ames policy was that two members of management, or a manager and one other employee, had to go and make the bank drop every day.  It was almost impossible to get ANYONE in the building to go to the bank with Tim Sweet.  "Please don't make me go, Mr. Fugitive, I won't do it.  He just STINKS too bad!"  I generally had to force the issue and make them go anyway.

Several years after I left Ames my wife and I were shopping in a Phar-Mor when I saw Tim Sweet
stocking in one of the aisles.  I did not feel like approaching him to renew old times.  I gently steered my wife towards another aisle.  But as we passed the one he was in I kind of casually pointed to him and whispered to her, "See that guy over there, honey?  I used to work with him.  He's a real a**hole!"
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« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2017, 03:42:30 PM »

Shawna Janus - Loss Prevention

She was in her late 20's and had the best undercover getup I've ever seen.  She looked like a member
of some 80's punk band.  Distressed denim jeans, steampunk style jewelry, and her hair spiked with
gel up to an amazing distance from the top of her head.  You would never have any idea that she
was really LP working undercover.

One time she caught these three 13-year old girls stealing makeup.  She wrote out her reports and
then called their parents.  As we were sitting in the office she glared at these girls and said, "Well,
you've been busted for shoplifting.  It's going on your permanent records.  Your parents are on the
way here right now.  Don't you have anything to say for yourselves?"

They were quiet for a moment, then one of them looked at her, cocked her head and asked her
"How do you get your hair to stay like that?"
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« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2017, 09:15:06 PM »

Really enjoying these! While I never worked at Ames, I could have fun writing about many of the folks I've worked with. Might be a good thread elsewhere on here...
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« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2017, 11:34:51 AM »

Dave Taylor - He was a hardlines manager I worked with in one of the stores.  He was an older gentleman, probably 65 or darned close to it.  Pencil thin, with a full head of gray hair that he kept in a perfect crewcut.  He was from Indiana and was one of those American Gothic Midwestern characters.  A real solid, down-to-earth guy.

Dave had been a Store Manager for the G.C. Murphy 5&10 chain, which was acquired by Ames.
He had this amazing story about running a G.C. Murphy in Downtown Fort Wayne, where on Christmas Eve, 1952, his store managed to do over a million dollars in sales (in 1952 dollars!) He had been around retail for decades, and quite literally had seen it all. 

By the 80's Dave was running a G.C. Murphy store in Coldwater, Michigan.  Ames closed it
after acquiring Murphy's.  They offered him a job managing an Ames store, but he would
have had to move out of state.  He had a daughter who was enrolled in a state university in
Michigan, and rather than move away and have her lose her in-state tuition, he voluntarily
took a demotion and ended up working in an area Ames as an Assistant (and my peer).

I looked at him as a mentor, and he was very helpful to me.  We would go to a little place
up the street for coffee and eggs, and talk about the business.  Despite being so old and so thin he did a LOT of physical work in that store.  It was not uncommon to see him lugging big, heavy pieces of furniture around.  I was shocked therefore to walk into the Men's Room one day and find him changing an ostomy bag.  He had survived cancer many years earlier.  You would have had absolutely no idea.

One time my parents came to visit and he went out of his way to compliment them about what a fine son they had raised.  The guy was willing to give his all for family, which is something you really had to admire about him.
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« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2017, 08:23:33 AM »

Fred Krupp - He was a store manager for whom I worked and from whom I earned the nickname The Fugitive.  He had only one arm, and the one-armed man was said to be ruining my life.

He was actually from a few miles away from were I grew-up in Pittsburgh.  But I had to go all the way to the north woods of Michigan to meet him.  He was born with a deformed right arm which was just sort of a half-arm or flipper.   His face was badly scarred from a traffic accident he had when he was young (he crashed into a wheel stop in a parking lot at a high rate of speed and was thrown through the windshield).  When he got upset that scarred face would start turning red, then purple, as he waived his half-arm around frantically and shouted.  It was truly a frightening spectacle.  I could picture Captain Queeg on the deck of the HMS Bounty each time he did this.

He was an extremely knowledgeable and unbelievably demanding gentleman.  I must admit I never got along with him that well, though that was not entirely his fault. We were of nearly polar opposite personality types.  He was highly disciplined, and my basic personality was somewhat rebellious.  He was a company man, and I do not have the makings of a very good corporate citizen.  I don't think he quite knew what to make of some of my zany antics.  I did admire him for a story that was going around about his prior job working for a drug store chain in Maryland.  The cops sent an undercover agent in to make an underage liquor buy, and apparently the cashier sold it to them.  They came back later and demanded that he identify the cashier.  He reportedly refused to do so unless he could first get a look at the undercover agent to determine whether or not he himself would have carded this person.  This apparently enraged police authorities, and he apparently was in some danger of being prosecuted himself.  But he stood firm and refused to ID the employee.

Plus he certainly did not allow the fact that he had one arm to hold him back one bit from accomplishing a heck of a lot.  We did not part on very good terms.  I was offered a transfer to another Ames store (I think in all honesty he had engineered this as a way to get me out of his hair).  I however was already looking for another job, after the Michigan Department of Social Services had put up a poster in our store informing me that I was about to qualify for food stamps.  When the transfer came I turned it down, which seemed to make him quite angry.   But the other town was quite remote, and the last place I would have wanted to be looking for new employment.

This situation resolved itself when a store management opening turned-up in his wife's hometown in Ohio and he jumped on it.   In hindsight I did learn a whole lot from him.
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« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2017, 01:27:09 PM »

Sally Nickles - She was a young African-American cashier who worked in our store.  She was our only black employee (the county where we lived was 98.9% white).  She was very well-liked in the store, and she and her family were likewise well-liked and respected in the community.

I was asked to round-up a crew and travel about 60 miles away to another Ames store to help them prep for inventory.  Sally was a member of my crew.  What I did not realize before I brought her was that there was a major national Neo-Nazi organization headquartered in this town. The guy who broke Geraldo Rivera's nose with a folding chair on television came from this town.  The term "racist" gets thrown around very loosely today, but let me tell you, the people in this town were hard-core racists.  The whole time she was working in that store she was getting dirty looks from the locals.  Some of them sneered and told her to "Go Home, N****r!"  I was shocked.  It was a brutally ugly experience.  As she was driving away at the end of the day people in the parking lot were throwing rocks at her car and shouting the N-word at her.

When we got back to our store I sat her down and apologized.  "Sally, I never would have brought you down there if I knew what those people were like," I told her.  What was weird was that both of our stores were in 99% white counties.  Yet in one she was treated with respect, and in the other it was the complete opposite.

I have been to the South.  North Florida, Alabama, Savannah, Georgia......I have NEVER seen anything remotely approaching the kind of raw, angry racism that I witnessed in this small town in Michigan.
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« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2017, 05:37:21 PM »

I was asked to round-up a crew and travel about 60 miles away to another Ames store to help them prep for inventory.  Sally was a member of my crew.  What I did not realize before I brought her was that there was a major national Neo-Nazi organization headquartered in this town.
Where the hell is this.
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Eastern CT Retail

In the backcountry of Connecticut (aka Willimantic)

TheFugitive
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« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2017, 10:03:36 AM »

Howell, Michigan
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« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2017, 11:46:50 AM »

Howell, Michigan
That Ames is a courthouse now...wha
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« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2017, 02:28:13 PM »

Nelson Keener - He was a District Manager I worked under briefly.  He had been with the company for many years, and had the reputation of being a ladies man.  OK, a horndog is more like it.  He had been rumored to be involved in liaisons with many female employees over the years, and by the manner in which he dressed and comported himself you tended to believe it.  He was a real slick operator.

He had this woman named Janet who always traveled with him, an attractive, 40-ish brunette.  Her title was Regional Hardlines Merchandise Coordinator, but we in the stores could never figure out WHAT exactly her job was.  (okay.....we had figured it out, it's just that it had nothing to do with the stores  Grin)

Back when Bill Clinton was getting into trouble for this kind of stuff my wife and I liked to joke that he was just "Nelson Keener with a better job".   Mrs. Fugitive had actually filed a sexual harassment complaint against him when she worked at Ames, which turned out to be nearly identical to one filed by a woman in a store forty miles down the road.  She said he backed her down an aisle in the stockroom and touched her inappropriately. Today he would have been immediately fired, but back in the day he was just given a mysterious overnight transfer to another district in Indiana.

They did however allow him to complete the Grand Opening of a new Michigan store he had been overseeing, since he had never missed a Grand Opening in his time with the company.  I had also been assigned temporarily to work this Grand Opening.  Two days before they cut the ribbon Keener suffered an attack of kidney stones and ended up in the hospital, thus missing one of these for the first time in his career.

My one-armed boss, who was always tapped into the store manager grapevine, heard that Keener would miss a Grand Opening for the first time in his career because he was in the hospital.  He also knew that his assistant was dating one of his employees who had filed a sexual harassment claim against Keener, and who was also at this Grand Opening.  He put 2 and 2 together and came up with 37.   If Keener was in the hospital he concluded it must be because I put him there!  I got this panicked phone call from him...."WHAT DID YOU DO???"  Took me awhile to calm him down and convince him that I had done nothing, that the guy simply came down with kidney stones.

Although to be honest, I do now regret having not taken a swing at him when I had the chance.
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