Eye of the Storm

By Kit Goldman, President of Workplace Training Network, Inc.

Eduardo: Hispanic facilities manager at a fictional university campus
Curtis: African-American groundskeeper
Mary Lee: Caucasian new supervisor

SCENE: Eduardo’s office. He’s at his desk waiting for Curtis to arrive for a meeting.

E: (rises) Curtis. Good Morning.

C: I sure hope it’s good. Figure I’ve got good news coming.

E: Is that right?

C: Sure. After doing so well as “acting” supervisor, especially solving that water runoff mess with the folks out there in the president’s “communiversity”. (Pause. Eduardo says nothing) Yup. Good news about the promotion (Pause. Eduardo says nothing). To Grounds Supervisor.

E: Right. (Grabs cup, moves to coffee) Coffee?

C: Sure. Yeah. 2 creams. 3 sugars….. stir it up real good, OK? I like this. Manager getting me coffee. Yup. (sips coffee). That’s what I figured you called me in about. The promotion.

E: That’s right. Believe me, Curtis, these decisions are tough for managers. Takes lots of time and thought. So many factors to consider. And the pressures, man, people above you wanting one thing, people below you another….

C: (good-natured) Hey, if being a manager’s too tough for you, man, I’ll take over. You know I can handle things.

E: Yeah. Like the way you handled the last 3 Grounds Supervisors. I guess what I’m saying, Curtis, there’s a lot of considerations. Hey, you could be the best groundskeeper in the state – which you probably are –there’s still the whole issue of people skills….

(Mary Lee, a Caucasian facilities employee, enters. Eduardo greets, shakes her hand)

E: Mary Lee! Thanks for coming. Mary Lee McElroy, this is Curtis Banks. (They shake) Mary Lee’s the Grounds Supervisor at the Central State campus – was, I should say. I’m happy to say she transfers here on the 15th. (to her) Curtis is the senior groundskeeper on the crew. Really knows his stuff.

(Curtis is stunned, speechless)

M: Hey, believe me, it’ll be no problema. After a huge campus like Central, this is a piece of cake.

C: (regains composure) Size ain’t everything, little lady. (to Eduardo) Transferring here? Naw, this can’t be true, man. I woke up this morning, birds were singing, sun was out. I knew it was going to be the best day of my life. 13 years of hard work and dedication about to pay off. Finally, I’d be supervisor. Not “acting” supervisor, like before. The real supervisor. You saying it’s gonna be her, not me?

E: That’s what I’m saying. Pat Murphy, the Deputy Operations Vice Chancellor, personally recommended Mary Lee for the spot.

C: Pat Murphy, huh? Yeah, I know who he is. Good ol’ Irish boy. He damn sure wouldn’t be recommending the likes of me, now would he?

M: …(to Eduardo) Excuse me, Ed, I’m confused….

E: …I prefer Eduardo…

M: Sorry – Eduardo – was Curt here a….

C: …It’s Curtis, ok?…

M: …whew, you boys are sensitive… (to Eduardo)… was Curtis here up for the supervisor job? Pat said the reason you needed me was no one in the department here was qualified.

C: How very interesting.

E: It’s not that black and white. Ok, maybe that’s a bad choice of words, but you know what I mean. Let’s cut to the chase. (to Curtis) I called you in to meet Mary Lee because as lead you’re her right hand, you can’t be fighting her at every turn…

C: Why you talking to me about fighting?

E: Because it’s no secret to anyone in this room you that you’ve been hell on your supervisors…

C: …hell on them? I trained every last one of them. Made them all look good, then they showed their appreciation by turning on me. Treating me like some stupid grunt….

E: (rolls over him)… whatever. The point is, this time it’s going to be different. We’re going to sit down right now and make sure we’re all on the same page about what’s got to be done so that what happened with your last 3 supervisors doesn’t happen with Mary Lee!

M: (to Eduardo) Hey, I hear what Curt is saying…

C: …it’s Curtis. Like I said….

M: …Picky, picky.(to Eduardo) You can call me anything — except late for dinner! (she chuckles, they don’t) Hey, I hear what he’s saying. I’ve had to train my own boss and it’s a pain in the butt. You think, “If I know more then they do, why aren’t I in charge?” (speaks directly to Curtis for first time) Right, Curt?

C: (clenched teeth)… Curtis….

M: Ok, ok. (to Eduardo) He always this uptight?…(to Curtis) But we won’t have that problem. I’m totally up to speed. You do your job. I’ll do mine. Everything’s good in the ‘hood. (Back to Eduardo) You know, 50% of my crew at Central were black guys. They thought it was totally weird having a white woman for a boss. But once they saw I knew what I was doing and wouldn’t take any crap, we were one big happy family.

E: All right. Good. That’s very positive. (speaks to audience) Things are going pretty well, don’t you think? (audience interaction)

Eye of the Storm Scene 2

Eduardo, Curtis and Mary Lee from scene 1

SCENE: Eduardo at desk working on laptop. On other side of “wall” is a Facilities Dept. indoor work area where Curtis sits eating a sandwich.

M: (strides in) Curtis! There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you!

C: Obviously not all over. Anyway, you found me. Why you still look like you ate something rotten?

M: You and Haroko were scheduled to trim and renew the ground cover over at the palm grove at 1:00. You don’t show, don’t call, cell phone’s off. Where were you? What the…heck… were you doing?

C: Dang, woman. You sound just like my wife! “(mocks her) “Curtis, where were you? What were you doing?” “Nowhere, honey. Jes’ hangin’ at the hardware sto’”!

M: I’m certain your wife is nothing like me. If she was, why on Earth would she have married you?

C: That’s right. You’re nothing alike. She’s a real woman.

(Voices get louder, Eduardo starts making his way over to see what’s going on)

M: Yeah, well I was a real woman to 3 ex-husbands! But you know what, bucko? I’m not here to prove my womanhood to you or anyone. I’m your supervisor. I set the schedule. I authorize changes. I did not authorize you disappearing. This has happened before. I should write you up.

C: Aren’t you too old to still be on the rag?

M: I will write you up.

C: I told you yesterday I had to replace the bushings on the trimmer bits before doing the palm grove or we’d screw up the equipment. That stuff is expensive. We’d all be hearing you whine about your precious bottom line. They’re not stock bushings. It’s hard to find them, took all morning. Finally found them way out east, drove out on my lunch hour, hit traffic coming back. Just came in, grabbed a bite and was heading over to the palm grove. You know I’ll get it done.

(Eduardo comes to door unnoticed. They’re .in each other’s face)

M: We’re getting ready for 6 major events on campus tomorrow! The schedule’s already tighter than 2 coons in a can…

C: …Coons? Who you calling coon, you nappy haired, Irish racist….

M:…Irish? McElroy’s Scottish! ….and did you say racist? 2 of my husbands were black, OK? Ya know, Curt, it’s like the sign I used to have on my office wall before everything got so PC, “I’m trying to see things from your point of view but I can’t get my head that far up my…”

E: All right! Hold it! Round’s over. Go to your corners. I want to see you both in my office pronto (they follow him to office) It’s like the Jerry Springer show around here. You’re doing it again, Curtis. Why?

C: Whoa, whoa, whoa now. I’m doing it again? You’ve got no facts, but you’re assuming it’s me. How can you assume it’s me after what she said?

M: Whoa, boy, this is getting old!

C: You calling me boy? (to Eduardo) You heard that, right?

M: It’s a figure of speech! I didn’t mean it that way? Why would you take it that way? .

C: Oh, man, here we go again. (to Eduardo) That’s how she operates. Says something she knows will push my buttons, then says I took it wrong and she didn’t mean it. (to her) You know you meant it. If you didn’t mean it, you’d stop doing it. Right? RIGHT? (to him) How you gonna blame everything on me after this?

E:  Because it’s the 4th time it’s happened. Same thing. How else can you explain it? You gotta take some personal responsibility, man. Take some steps.

C: Yeah, bro’, I plan to. You know, back when you were on the crew you wouldn’t take crap from anyone. Now you’re a bureaucrat. Me, I’m the fly in the ointment. The troublemaker. You’d like to dump me but you can’t because I got more groundskeeping skill and experience in my left…whatever.. than all those sorry supervisors combined. You’re putting pressure on to shut me up, go along being the whipping boy, maybe retire early so your nice little brown and white facilities kingdom isn’t disturbed by a proud, pain-in-the-rear black man speaking the hard truth.

E: I’m always up for the truth, man. You got some? All I hear is a lot of disrespect for me, Mary Lee, some other good folks, and your non-stop “nobody loves me everybody hates me I’m goin’ out & eat worms” routine.

C: Naw, man. I’ve spoken the truth. You won’t hear it. You’re gonna have to, though. Spoke with the shop steward. I’m filing a grievance about the whole stinkin’ enchilada. The truth will out.

M: You know what? When I see Pat Murphy, I’m breaking his knee caps. 3 years at Central, no grievances, no one calling me a sorry incompetent racist, I liked coming to work, it wasn’t like plunging headfirst into a cesspool everyday – like here. Eddie, you…

E:…It’s Eduardo…Do I need to put up a billboard?….

M:….Whatever….you made assurances. To Pat Murphy AND me. That Curt here….

C:…Call me Curt again & you’re……

M: …fine….(to Eduardo) told us – swore on the Blessed virgin of Guadalajara….

E: (clenched teeth)….Guadalupe (mutters an insult in Spanish)……

M: …That HE was under control! Plus, little did I know you’d turn out to be another one of those typical, macho, Latino men who only respects a woman if he’s forced to…

E: …yeah, well little did I know when Pat Murphy jammed you down my throat as supervisor that you had all sorts of problems at Central, or that you don’t know your big behind from a backhoe!…(stops, shocked by his own behavior. Mary Lee is silent, hurt, fighting back tears.. Curtis starts to “pile on” verbally, sees her face, stops, embarrassed) Oh, man. I didn’t mean to go there.

M: Oh, right! (speaks to audience one side of the room) I can’t believe I started to cry! Now, on top of everything else, I look weak! I don’t know what to do. I’m been so depressed. Work’s a nightmare I can’t seem to wake up from.

C: (Speaks to audience other side of the room) She’s not the only one. Man, I’m so stressed I have high blood pressure for the first time in my life! It’s getting to me. Gotta stop or its going to affect my work. That can’t happen. My job means everything to me.

E: (Takes swig from jumbo Pepto Bismol, speaks to audience in the middle) How about it? You’ve been watching this mess. Could you help us out? What’s the problem here? What do I need to get these guys to do to fix it? (Audience Interaction)

This script is the copyrighted intellectual property of Workplace Training Network and may not be reproduced or used for any purpose without express written permission by WTN, La Mesa CA