The Power Of A Potato

, , , , , , | Hopeless | October 16, 2017

I’m sharing this, not to show off about how generous I am, but how broken the system is, and how easily well-meaning people can fall through the cracks. This is a message to encourage people to keep an eye out and try to be helpful where you can.

Recently, my wife was admitted to a National Health Service hospital with pneumonia. She’s also eight months pregnant, so it’s all a bit stressful, and we’re hoping the baby hasn’t been affected in any way by the pneumonia, or by its treatment. I visit her after work to take her a few items from home and to speak to her doctor. She’s going to be in for a few days, at least. We also discuss whether she should transfer to a private hospital, as we have private medical insurance.

By the time we decide on what’s happening, it’s nearly 9:00 pm, and I’ve not eaten since midday. My wife sends me down to the cafeteria to get some dinner before they close. In the line behind me is a boy of no more than 11, wearing the uniform of a local primary school, who is doing the same thing. He chooses a cheap sandwich, and looks enviously at my jacket potato with chicken curry. I pay, and move to sit down, but hear behind me that the card the boy is trying to pay with has been declined. It’s at this point I notice there’s only one other table occupied in the cafeteria, by a group of off-duty nurses. This kid is on his own.

He reaches into his pocket to look for change. He has about fifteen pence. By the time he goes to find his parents and comes back, the cafeteria will be shut. Of course, I offer to pay. The poor kid is crying, trying to refuse. The lady running the cafeteria only cares about closing up. I ask if there’s any chance of a cheap jacket potato for the lad, as they’re only going to be thrown out anyway.

“The prices are up there,” she says, pointing at the menu board.

“Fine,” I say to the lady. I turn to the boy and ask, “Chicken curry, or beans and cheese?”

“Beans and cheese, I guess,” he mumbles, tears clearing.

Of course, he’s wary of strangers, as he should be, but I ask him to sit with me. I guess I’m feeling helpless, not being able to do anything for my wife and unborn child, so I’m trying to help in any way I can. After a few bites of potato and a gulp of soda, he tells me that his mum is in the hospital for a second night in a row. None of the family that were supposed to help look after him have turned up, so he’ll be sleeping in the chair by her bed again, and going to school in a dirty uniform again. And of course, he’s worried sick about his mum. This is ridiculous.

I go back with the boy to the ward his mother is on. She is worried, as she just sent him down to grab a sandwich, and he’s been gone about half an hour. I explain what happened, and she tries to pay me back, almost ripping her IV cannula out as she stretches around looking for her purse.

“No need, no need, please!” I protest. She eventually relents, and looks drained from the effort. I have no idea what’s wrong with her, and don’t want to ask. Given the ward she’s on, I doubt it’s life-threatening, but it doesn’t look like fun, in any case. I convince her to make social services aware of her son’s predicament, and ask the ward sister why they hadn’t done so already. They blame shift changes, foreign and new staff not knowing procedures etc.

Eventually, they contact the out-of-hours social services, who promise to send someone home with the boy to get a clean uniform, and to chase up the family for somewhere for him to stay. I tried calling to find out what happened, but of course they couldn’t discuss it with me. I hope it all worked out okay for them.

And in case you’re interested, yes, my wife and baby were fine. A beautiful girl, induced a few days later, and a few weeks early, but absolutely perfect.

Chocolate Cures Everything

, , , , , , | Hopeless | October 14, 2017

I used to be a girl scout. Cookie season rolled around, and my troop was scheduled to sell them outside of a convenience store sometime very early in the year. Of course, this meant it was very cold outside.

Not many people bought cookies or even walked into the store, and we were freezing, tired, and miserable.

After a while, I went into the store to go to the bathroom and warm up a bit. When I came outside, my troop leader was holding several steaming cups of hot chocolate.

I asked her where she had gotten them, and she said that she didn’t buy them. Apparently, a woman had seen us outside the store and decided to buy them for us from a nearby fast food joint. I completely missed her!

Thank you, random woman! You made my dreary day much brighter, and the hot chocolate was delicious.

Good Pizza Is Worth Talking About

, , , , | Hopeless | October 12, 2017

(I work as a hostess at a bustling Italian restaurant and bar. I have just dealt with some a**hole customers, when I see a lady waiting at the host stand. She has been waiting there for a few minutes, because I have been too busy running around to help her right away. I go to the host stand, certain that she is going to complain. She looks at me with a serious expression on her face.)

Lady: “I just had to tell you…”

(I brace myself.)

Lady: “…that that was the best pizza I have ever eaten. We had such a good time; thank you so much!”

(I was so relieved and touched that she would stand there and wait all that time just to tell me that. It really put a smile on my face.)

Transitioning To A New Wardrobe

, , , | Hopeless | October 10, 2017

(At my hotel, we occasionally have guests that stay with us for very long stretches of time, usually because of some issue with their homes. One such couple has at this point been staying with us for a few months, and has gotten to know the front desk staff very well. While they are staying with us, a member of our front desk staff officially comes out as transgender, identifying as female, and changes her name to suit. This couple is a bit caught off guard by it, but are very accepting, just like the staff is. One day, when my coworker is off, about a week after her transition, the couple comes up to me at the desk.)

Guest: “Um, hey, [My Name]. I wanted to ask you something.”

Me: “Sure. What’s up?”

Guest: “I don’t want to be presumptuous or offend her or anything, but do you think it would be okay for us to buy [Coworker] some clothes?”

(The guest’s wife and I both look a bit confused.)

Me: “Um… I would ask her that first, but why?”

Guest: “I’ve just noticed that she wears the same thing all the time, and I thought maybe she doesn’t have much to wear.”

(At this point, the penny drops, and the guest’s wife and I both start laughing.)

Guest: “What? What’s funny?”

Guest’s Wife: “You dip! That’s her uniform! All of the girls wear that! Haven’t you noticed [Coworker #2] and [Coworker #3] wear the same thing all the time too?”

Guest: “Well, [My Name] doesn’t wear it!”

Guest’s Wife: “Because she’s the manager!”

(We all had a good laugh about it, and they went on their way, but I thought it was super sweet that he’d offer to support someone like that through their transition, even if his concern was misplaced!)

Cashing Out Some Kindness

, , , , | Hopeless | October 8, 2017

(I work for a bulk store that also has a little eatery inside where you can purchase freshly-made food like pizza and hotdogs. I am wearing slacks and a polo shirt, which is the requirement for my area. I don’t have on my lanyard with my name tag, because I’m on my lunch break in line for the eatery. There are two older ladies who are in front of me, with three or so people in line in front of them, and they look me up and down a few times before it clicks in their minds.)

Lady #1: *with a sound of concern* “Do you work here?”

Me: “Yeah, I’m on my lunch break right now.”

Lady #2: “Then you have to go in front of us!”

Me: “Oh, no, that’s fine. You don’t need to—”

Lady #1: *cutting me off and gently taking my arm to move me in front of her* “Yes, I do! You’re on a time limit; you go right ahead!”

Me: “Are you sure?”

Lady #1: “Oh, yes. We used to work for a living, too; we know how it is.”

Me: *touched, because this has never happened before* “Thank you! You know, in almost five years, you two ladies are the first people to ever let me go ahead of them.”

Lady #2: “I bet that’s because you’re not wearing your vest or your name tag! You should try that; I bet it’ll happen more often!”

(I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I don’t usually wear my name tag on my lunch breaks, because every time I forget someone sees it and spends the whole time either trying to ask me about what specials we’re going to have in six months, which they’ll know about before we do, or complaining about someone who made them wait five minutes while they helped another customer. These two ladies lit up my entire week with that little show of kindness on their part.)

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