Never Too Old To Fly High

, , , | Hopeless | April 28, 2019

(The main building in the Military Memorial Park has several modern exhibits, amongst them one about aviation. I’m on duty in that station in this day, manning the MIG-29 simulator. The day is slow, and I’m starting to get bored, when a sweet old couple walks in. The husband looks at the simulator, which consists of a real cockpit with the booby-hatch from a MIG-27 plane, and a control panel in front of a big screen, and cheers up.)

Old Gentleman: “Honey, look at this! This seems like just the real deal! And I suppose you, young miss, are the pilot? You will take us on a journey?”

Me: *smiling* “Almost, sir. I will assist you, but you will be the one piloting! I’m just a navigator for you. Would you like to take a seat? Or you, ma’am?”

Old Lady: “Can we both try it? Is it even possible for old farts like us to do this?”

Me: “But of course! Fun has no age limits!”

Old Gentleman: “And what happens if we fail? Will we crash and die?”

Me: “No, sir, I’d never let it! You see, I can operate the catapult here, so if I see that you are in danger, we just leave the plane… Would you like to try it?”

Old Lady: “I think I will die from happiness! This is fantastic! Let me try!”

(They both tried it, screaming in childish glee, admiring the game’s realistic view, and generally behaving like kids in a candy shop. They both failed the mission first, but as it was a slow day, I confirmed with the receptionist and let them play with the simulator as long as they wanted, helping them using the controls. After a while, both of them managed to safely land — not an easy feat for anyone! They were really nice and genuinely happy, really cheering me up. Even just dealing with them already made my day, but later they came back with sweets and a small pendant for me. They insisted I have them, and the old lady even gave me a hug!)

You Give Me Butterflies

, , , | Hopeless | April 27, 2019

(The hotel I work in is right next to the ocean, and we have beach chairs spread out along it.  One day while I’m monitoring the beach, I notice a girl, about 14, fast asleep on a chair. She looks pretty sickly, big bags under her eyes and all.  Her dad is sitting watching her, looking worried.)

Me: “Sir? Is… everything all right?”

Father: *distracted* “Yes, yes, fine. Thank you.”

Me: “Sir, I can’t help but notice that you look upset.  Is something wrong?”

Father: *quietly* “Actually… yes. My daughter. She… She’s a very smart girl, and a hard worker.  A little too hard working. She’s been quite busy lately. Very busy. She’s been pulling all-nighters to get all her work done, and if she does sleep, it’s about two or three hours. She bites off so much more than she can chew, but she gets it all done somehow. For some reason, she’s still crazy insecure. I… I found out recently that she’s been bullied at school recently, and she’s developed social anxiety, making her even more insecure. She passed out in the halls a week ago, and the doctors recommended that I try to get her away for a bit, so she can de-stress. I’m worried about her. I want this vacation to be nothing but fun for her, to relax. She can’t relax properly, though, and I don’t know how to help. Her mother’s gone, and I can’t ask. What makes a girl tick?”

Me: *pauses to think for a moment* “Sir? What room are you guys staying in?”

Father: “[Number], why?”

Me: “That’s one of my rooms. Tell you what. In my experience, chocolate always seems to help.  I hope she likes ice cream!”

(We chat a bit more, and then I leave. I come up to their room later with a small chocolate sundae. I’ve added little chocolate swirls and decorations and made it as fancy as I could. The girl answers the door, surprised.)

Me: “Hello. I believe you need a sundae?”

Customer: “Um… well… I’ll go grab some money.”

Me: “Don’t worry about it. This is on the house. You look like you could really use it.” *smiles and hands it to her*

Customer: “T-thanks… Thank you! Thank you so much!”

(She beams at me before closing the door.  A few days later, when they leave, I go into their rooms to clear up.  I find a note.)

Note: “Thank you so much for taking care of us, and especially for the sundae! I’ve had a somewhat stressful time at school, and it really made me feel better that somebody noticed and cared.  A little chocolate goes a long way! You are really the best staff member I could have hoped for. The butterflies are for you!”

(Next to the note, I find $15 in one dollar bills, each folded into a butterfly shape. It’s really nice to think that in the midst of her own troubles, she took the time and trouble to make my day special. To the girl, thank YOU!)

Wheelchairs, Trains, And Automobiles

, , , , | Hopeless | April 26, 2019

My parents came to visit me in Japan. On the second day of us all being together, we were walking through the hotel garden and my mom hurt her foot. She iced it as soon as we got back to our room, but an hour later she couldn’t put any weight on it. The hotel we were staying at organized a taxi for us to a local hospital that had an ER open at midnight. We got there and the doc and nurse that cared for my mom spoke English. It was midnight and they had English-speaking staff on duty!

When they wheeled my mom into the ER from the waiting room, she had an anxiety attack, so back to the empty waiting room we went for the rest of her care. In the end, she had broken her foot — her big toe really. There was nothing that could be done for that but for her to stay off it.

Yeah, right. Day two of a two-week vacation in Japan? Ha! We rented crutches for the next two weeks and borrowed the hotel wheelchairs wherever we stayed.

After getting back to the hotel, the staff there were able to organize a rental wheelchair for us for our week in Kyoto.

Before Kyoto was Hiroshima. Our hotel was basically connected to the train station by a long walkway. Dad contacted the hotel, and two employees met us at the ticket gates with a luggage trolley and a wheelchair. At the end of our stay, one pushed Mom to the station as Dad and I had the luggage. Dad used the wheelchair to get Mom up to the shinkansen waiting room and returned the empty chair to the hotel staff member.

In Kyoto, the rental company delivered the wheelchair to the door of our B&B and collected it from Kyoto station, after we wheeled Mom up to the shinkansen platform.

After returning to Tokyo from Kyoto, Mom made her way to a waiting room. I went from ticket gate to ticket gate to get a wheelchair to get her from the shinkansen waiting room to the local train line. The employee wheeled her from the waiting line to the ticket transfer gate where two local line employees met us. One pushed Mom and the other lead the way, breaking traffic. It was over 700m to get to our train and Mom would never have made it on her crutches.

At the train, Mom was asked to sit on the train seat and the ladies took the wheelchair. At our exit, another employee was there with a wheelchair. She took us to the Tokyo Monorail line where we had another employee and chair. He got Mom onto the monorail where yet again there was an employee waiting with a chair for Mom.

Japan is nowhere near as wheelchair friendly as the US. People here have smaller personal bubbles and got too close to my mom for her comfort, but the level of care my mom got from train and hotel employees was amazing.

Making A Return You Can’t Refuse

, , , , | Hopeless | April 25, 2019

(This happens around Christmas back in late 2001 when DVDs are just starting to overtake VHS tapes. I am with my younger sister doing Christmas shopping in the mall. I have only been to one store so far to get items for my family. I walk into a now-defunct video store that is connected to a music store. My dad is upgrading his VHS tapes to DVDs and wants me to buy a number of movies. One movie that he wants me to get is “The Godfather” DVD set that recently came out. The price is over 100 dollars, but he also wants me to get a number of other DVDs that are on his list. I get most of everything he wants except “The Godfather” and one other DVD set as it is behind the counter due to the high price. Since it’s Christmas, the mall is a zoo and this store is no different; people are walking all over the place, the security alarm is going off non-stop when people walk by it, and the checkout line is long. I get in line behind seven other people. I get to the front and meet the cashier, a girl who is around the same age as me — I am 19. I can tell she is trying her best to be happy but she’s clearly tired.)

Cashier: *smiling* “Hi. How are you doing today?”

Me: “I’m doing just fine.” *places about ten DVDs on the counter* “I would also like to get The Godfather and [Other DVD Set] that are behind you.”

Cashier: “No problem.”

(She turns around and grabs the two DVD sets.)

Me: “Thanks. My dad is upgrading his VHS tapes and wants these for Christmas.”

Cashier: “That is getting pretty common nowadays.”

(She is ringing me up fast as there is still a long line. Another employee comes over and asks her for something. Due to the number of DVDs she has to scan into the computer, putting them into the bag as fast as she can, and how busy it is, she appears to be swamped.)

Cashier: “Your total comes up to $389.45.”

(I knew it would be a lot of money. My dad gave me a lot of cash that day to pay for everything. I give her the money, say thanks, and walk out of the store. About an hour later, my sister and I are sitting in the food court eating lunch. I go over everything we bought while I’m eating and notice that “The Godfather” is missing from the receipt.)

Me: “Hey, sis, can you look this over while I dig through the bag? I think a movie is missing.”

Sister: “Let me see.”

(I give her the receipt and tell her what movie it is. She reads it over while I’m digging through our seven bags.)

Sister: “Do you have anything else? I don’t see it here.”

Me: “Yeah, I don’t see it, either.”

Sister: “Well, you got it for free, then.”

(My sister laughs, but I just don’t feel right about it. I decide to go back to the video store. The line isn’t as long this time; there are only two people. I get the same cashier. I know she won’t remember me, as it has been so busy.)

Cashier: “Hi. Can I help you?”

Me: “Yes, I came in earlier for a number of DVDs and this here earlier.” *pulls out “The Godfather”* “It appears that you forgot to scan it in.”

Cashier: “Oh, my God.” *her eyes start to water and her attitude changes a bit* “Thank you so much for coming back. You don’t know what this means to me. Here, let me get that for you. I’ll let you use my employee discount.”

Me: *taken aback a bit* “No, no, that’s okay. You don’t have to do that. It’s okay. It was just a mistake.”

Cashier: “Well, I’ll let you use this coupon I have for 5% off.” *also puts a few other coupons in the bag* “I really thank you for coming back. A high-price item that big would have gotten me in a lot of trouble.”

(I didn’t get much else about the trouble from her until I saw her about a week later when she was off duty at the mall. She remembered me and told me that she had been working there for less than a month and that her boss was a very hard-nosed guy who blames everyone for everything and would have gotten her in serious trouble for letting a high-ticket item walk out of the store like that. The store closed down in the mall years later when the parent company downsized, but I kept in contact with her throughout the years. I still have the original receipt as a joke nowadays whenever we see each other.)

This Train Will Be Terminating At Your Hearts

, , , , | Hopeless | April 24, 2019

Mumbai, India has two major arteries for its public commutes: its railway lines. They’re overcrowded, overloaded, and held together by sheer force of will and prayer, but they still carry the city on their shoulders. An average intra-city train with a capacity of 1,900 passengers will, on a normal run, carry over 5,300 at a time. Trains are identified by the time they are scheduled to arrive at the station, and even if they’re running a few minutes late, they’ll run the exact same route every single day. Platforms at each station can range from 300 metres length at the shortest, to over half a kilometre long elsewhere. They’re connected using a warren of tunnels and overhead bridges, so it wouldn’t be out of order for commuters to walk over a kilometer or two to reach the exit gates.

I commute using one of these lines. This time, while I was waiting on the platform, an old, blind man, hard of hearing and holding a crutch, was asking if the 12:15 to [Terminus] had arrived. The train prior to that, the 12:04, hadn’t arrived yet, and the passengers around him were saying so. He probably wasn’t getting the answers he wanted, so he kept asking. I gently told him it was the 12:04 next, and I’d put him on the train.

He then asked if he could be helped to board the 12:15, since the 12:04 would mean a walk of over two kilometres from the platform it ended at to the main gates at [Terminus]. The 12:15 landed on the platform closest to the gates. I had time on my hands, so I agreed. The poor guy was so overwhelmed that he held on to me for the ten minutes or so it took for the train to arrive. “My keeper is with me; I have no worries,” he kept chanting. I gave my bags to him to hold, as an assurance that I wasn’t going anywhere until he was on the train.

The 12:15 arrived and I helped him to the doors of the train. People on the train immediately held on to him, pulled him up, and held on behind him so that he wouldn’t fall. A few people immediately emptied their seats for him and he sat down on a corner, trying to occupy the least amount of space. I moved on, finding luggage space for my bags and then a seat for myself, so I lost track of what happened to him after.

When I was alighting at my stop, two halts before [Terminus], I caught sight of him once again. He was asking around if someone would help him alight at [Terminus]. A group of teenagers, heading home from school, told him they would do that. He was still worried and kept repeating his request to the compartment. So, they just created space in the middle of their own seats and got him to sit there safely, telling him, “Uncle, we’re all alighting at [Terminus] only. We’ll make sure you, too, reach it comfortably.”

I alighted at my destination with a smile, realising one thing: Mumbai’s regular commuters never lack empathy. They will give answers to everything you ask, even delaying their own journey if someone is in need. They’ll look out for everyone with more difficulties than them. No matter how uncomfortable the journey, if you’re less able than the rest, we’ll make sure it’s comfortable for you at least.

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