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Getting In Grandma’s Good Graces

, , , , , , | Related | April 7, 2022

My boyfriend is in town visiting me. My grandmother, who lives in a nursing home after several strokes, invites us to have tea with her so she can meet him. After several polite inquiries about his family, what he’s studying in grad school, etc…

Grandmother: “So, you’ve been seeing my granddaughter for how long?”

Boyfriend: “We’ve known each other for almost six months now.”

Grandmother: *Fixing him with a gimlet eye* “What are your intentions?”

Me: “Grandma!”

Boyfriend: “Well, ma’am, I think it may be too soon to have intentions, but I have hopes!” 

He smiles and takes my hand. My grandmother looks at me.

Grandmother: “Oh, he’ll do! Keep him!”

She was his staunchest family supporter from that day forth, and she was able to attend our wedding the following year before she passed away.

Everything’s Falling Apart!

, , , , , , | Working | April 27, 2022

My old manager decided to leave, which left our store in the weeds. We’ve had a succession of five temporary managers since, none of which have lasted more than two months, one of which ended up having a heart attack… again.

As we’ve also had five people out for various reasons, we’ve been majorly understaffed. [Temporary Manager #6] realises quite quickly that he needs a team leader to cover some more evening shifts, as he is down to only one associate, and company policy states that we can’t be open unless at least two staff are on site.

Cue stupid, gullible ol’ me.

Temporary Manager #6: “Can you do some overtime for me this Thursday, [My Name]?”

Me: “Um, I’m not sure, [Temporary Manager #6]. I’ve got a lot of coursework to work on…”

Temporary Manager #6: “Come on. If you don’t, I’ll end up working six days this week. And open and closing. You have to do it.”

I have to, [Temporary Manager #6]? Really? But those extra five hours of pay would cover my trains to and from Uni for around two weeks, so I give in. After all, it’s only a Thursday in Britain! There’s no lottery, it’s not payday, and it’s not a huge night for beer runs, general theft, or teenage shenanigans. This may all be true, but I make one fatal mistake.

Me: “Is it always this quiet on a Thursday, [Coworker]?”

Yes. I DARED to utter the immortal jinx. A little before 9:00 pm, I’ve dragged the entire store, I’ve started facing up, and I’ve even got waste done nice and early. All that is left is general closing, scratchcard and lotto counts, papers, and a quick clean, with two hours to go.

Coworker: “As we’re ahead of schedule, do you mind if I run out for a quick cig?”

Me: “Sure! No problem. I’ll cover tills; you go ahead.”

Fast forward two minutes.

Coworker: “Ummm, [My Name]! What happened out here?”

Me: *Puzzled* “What’s wrong?”

I’ve already emptied the bins, put away overs, and done the washing up the earlier shift forgot to do (as freaking usual).

Coworker: “I think you need to look at this.”

I go out to the biggest OMG scenario I’ve ever encountered. Part of our CEILING has FALLEN DOWN!

Now, our building is only around twenty-five years old. However, since I started three years ago, I’ve noticed that the plaster on one of the main beams out back seemed to be cracked. It’s a bit concerning; when it rains, as it tends to do during the good ol’ English winter, we have a fairly bad leak from that crack. Apparently, it’s been like that for at least five years, but [Old Manager]’s predecessor never bothered to call it in, and no one since has either noticed or cared.

In the weeks leading up to this night, we actually flooded in our stockroom on three separate occasions. Last Sunday, we ended up calling a company with an industrial vacuum to come and get rid of the water — only AFTER a box of eight wine bottles fell and smashed on my foot while I tried to sweep the water out by my lonesome.

As you can understand, I am a little panicked. The freaking CEILING is on the FLOOR. A metal beam is exposed. A metal bracket has fallen. One of our security cameras is hanging by a single wire, next to a sheet of wet plaster that is still dripping on our floor.

Me: “Er, [Coworker], can you get back on tills? I need to call this in.”

I call eight. Different. Numbers. No one picks up. Literally, no one! [Temporary Manager #6] didn’t leave his contact details, we have no deputy manager, our alarm company won’t pick up, our insurance emergency numbers don’t call back after I leave three messages on their answerphone, our area manager’s phone goes straight to voicemail — nothing!

I end up calling [Team Leader], who is a bit rough around the edges but really has a heart of gold and is very protective of us girls.

Team Leader: “I’m sorry, I’ve been drinking. Just keep calling numbers and keep me updated. Whatever you do, don’t touch anything. Make sure you and [Coworker] are safe. And keep trying to call numbers.”

Me: “Do I have permission to lock up? I know it’s about an hour and a half until closing, but I’m worried that another part of the ceiling is going to come down on us.”

We’ve had several leaking panels on the shop floor since before I started, a few of which have crumbled and fallen.

Team Leader: “If you try to shut early, that’ll be gross misconduct and your butt will be fired.”

I go back to the list of numbers. It’s a quarter past ten by the time someone finally calls me back.

Security Camera Dude: “So, yeah… No one can come out until at least Monday. You should close the shop and make sure customers are safe.”

“Great,” I think!

Security Camera Dude: “Oh, wait! I’m just looking at the security feed. Is that your stockroom?”

Me: “Yes. I said this like an hour ago.”

Security Camera Dude: “Oh. In that case, just clean it up. Someone will be over Monday.”

Me: “Wait. Clean it up? No, no, no. I’ve been advised by [Team Leader] not to touch it. I can see a security camera still plugged in, hanging by a single cable, on wet plaster. I’m not touching it.”

Security Camera Dude: “You have to.”

Me: “No. No, I don’t. It’s not safe.”

In the end, they agree to send someone out immediately to look at the ceiling and reattach the camera. I call [Team Leader] back, who is now angry with me. She goes on a rant.

Team Leader: “Why didn’t you just tell them to wait until Monday?!”

As I’m not a keyholder, apparently I can’t stay to deal with the repair guys being sent around. So now, [Team Leader] is mad that she has to come in.

By the time I finally get to go home at half-eleven, the area manager calls us back. I hear [Team Leader] trying to defend me, as [Area Manager] wants to somehow blame ME for what’s happened.

Do you want to know the real gem, though? I come in for my long shift on Saturday, only to run into [Temporary Manager #6]. He wants to hear the whole story from me. I tell him.

Temporary Manager #6: “Oh, well, you should have just cleaned it up. It’s not like it would have hurt you if it had hit you, anyway.”

WAIT A MINUTE! Who says something like that to their employee? I was so shocked that I couldn’t really think of how to respond.

It turns out that I only missed being hit by the ceiling by less than a minute. The lady who trained me showed me the security footage. If I hadn’t gone out to let [Coworker] off for a quick cigarette break, I would have been out back tidying the stockroom when it came down.

I know it wouldn’t have done a huge amount of damage in all likelihood, but it still could have hurt me. Metal fell, along with wet plaster, all of which was touching electrics. We never were told if they were damaged or not, but we did see a few plug sockets right by the crash site being taped over the following week.

Really. In this day and age, where the lawsuit is more common than chocolate, who practically dismisses their employees’ safety like that?

There’s A Wide Gap Between Caution And Racism

, , , | Learning | April 17, 2022

I’m standing outside with my daughter, waiting for her school bus. Near us is another mom with her child.

The bus rolls up, as usual; however, the driver today is different. This happens occasionally when the usual driver is ill or whatnot. I don’t think anything of it, but being that this substitute driver just so happens to be black, this doesn’t rest well with the mom next to us.

She lurches forward, blocks my daughter from entering, and barks at him.

Woman: “Excuse me, what do you think you’re doing? Who gave you permission to be driving this bus?”

Driver: “Oh, nothing, I just thought I’d get up at seven in the morning and steal a bus full of screaming kids. What do you think I’m doing?!

Woman: “What is your first and last name?”

Driver: “First name, Bus! Last name, Driver! Are you going to put your child on or not? I need to get going!”

My daughter moves to enter the bus, but the woman blocks her again.

Woman: “Don’t! Not until I say it’s okay.”

Me: “Ma’am, would you get out of her way and let her get on?”

Daughter: “Come on, I have a field trip!”

Woman: “Let me find out if he’s supposed to be driving this bus.” *Takes out her phone*

Driver: “MISS! I GOTTA GO! I HAVE KIDS WAITING TO BE PICKED UP! MOVE OUT OF THE WAY!”

Woman: “No, you stay right there!” *Playing on her phone*

The door hisses shut and the bus roars away.

The woman and I ended up exchanging some loudly spoken and unkind words before I ended up hurrying my daughter back to our house and driving her to school, thankfully in plenty of time to make it for her field trip.

Meanwhile, I sent a letter to the school superintendent explaining the incident in the (highly likely) event that the other mother would contact them to give her own completely inaccurate version as to why her son and my daughter were not picked up for school that morning, resulting in that gentleman getting in trouble for nothing other than trying to do his job while black.

Some Customers Are Great, In A Fashion

, , , , , | Right | April 11, 2022

I work in the women’s clothing section of a department store. It’s a slow midweek afternoon and my department is empty when I get a call.

Customer: “Hello. I was wondering if you could give me some advice about an outfit?”

While the customer is speaking softly with a feminine pitch, the voice sounds masculine to me. I have just been warned by security that morning about men calling the lingerie department to sexually harass the female employees under the guise of “asking advice,” so I’m polite but on my guard.

Me: “Sure. What can I help you with?”

Customer: “Well, I’m going to be performing in a nightclub downtown soon. It’s my first time. I’m so excited! I have a black dress, but I’m not sure what jewelry to wear with it.”

To my delight, what follows is a very pleasant conversation about accessorizing, matching earrings and necklaces, matching jewelry with shoes, how much is too much, etc. As one of those people who kept her Barbies well into her teen years, being asked for fashion advice is my favorite thing ever. The customer thanks me for my time, and after hanging up, I immediately go to my coworkers to brag about my good fortune. As they were also raised on the “Barbie Fashion Designer” game, they are all suitably jealous and share their own stories about customers who were willing to become dress-up dolls.

A manager comes by and listens to our conversation, and her eyes go misty in fond remembrance.

Manager: “I had a customer who had just started her transition. She needed a whole new wardrobe and had no idea what she wanted. Complete blank slate. I got to spend hours putting outfits together for her. She let me pick everything.”

There’s a lot I don’t miss about working in retail, but the rare customers who would make me their fashion guru were the best part of that job.

This Is How You Lose Staff

, , , | Working | May 5, 2022

In the summer of 2021, I was looking for work and came across a vacancy at a new vegan cafe that was opening in an upmarket area of the city. Health crisis restrictions at the time were still in place but not very strict, so whilst it was brave to set up a new business at the time, it wasn’t crazy, and the owner was a local who already owned a few pubs in the area and seemed optimistic that the cafe would be successful. I am vegan, so I was really excited to work there. I did all the training and arrived for my first shift, by which time the cafe had been open for a few weeks already.

From the beginning, the whole thing seemed chaotic. When my colleague was showing me the ropes, it soon became clear there were no clear protocols in place for… anything. I was shown how to make various coffees and dishes by different colleagues during my training, each time slightly differently. Fortunately, (maybe), not much of the food was made fresh, so it was mostly a case of cooking frozen pastries and breakfast items in the oven, but we had some paninis on the menu which we would make the fillings for, to no specific recipe and with no measuring equipment. The kitchen area was tiny with limited equipment, and things were constantly being knocked over or clean utensils mixed with dirty ones.

Over the next few weeks, business was slow. The owner would often stop by, and one time he was present when a couple came in, realised we only had plant milk and no dairy milk, and left immediately. He was annoyed and decided we should start serving dairy milk. All the (female) staff told him this was a terrible idea; this had only happened a handful of times and more often people came in expressing delight at there being a fully vegan cafe in the area at last. 

Of course, he didn’t listen. I didn’t want to work for someone so fickle, so I quit, but I heard the rest from my colleagues. After that, apparently, the owner had some conversations with the (male) bartender from one of the pubs he owned, who also told him the dairy milk was a terrible idea. And guess what? He changed his mind. It might be a coincidence, or I might have dodged a bullet; I also wouldn’t have wanted to work for a misogynist. Either way, I guess whatever else he tried didn’t work, because when I passed the cafe a few months later, it had shut down.