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Refusing To Validate Their Excuse

, , , , | Right | July 15, 2021

In London, you have one card that can be used on public transport within the London area, regardless of kind of transport.

On the bus I take each morning are two young women who are clearly used to getting their way. They hug four seats and nurse hot drinks — open drink containers are not allowed — each day. They also have distinct English accents. Although in principle, passengers are required to show proof of payment, most people just get on the bus.

This morning is a bit different, as a control unit boards the bus. They close exits and check if you’ve paid your fare.

Controller: *In Dutch* “Tickets, please.”

Woman #1: *Looking very innocent* “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you had to pay for the bus in Belgium. Where I come from, you don’t need to.”

Me: “Strange. I’m pretty sure that last month in London, I had to pay for the bus.”

Woman #1: *Throwing me a look to shut me up* “Well, we only have tickets for the subway.”

Yes, she did have a ticket she had to validate upon boarding, valid for ten fares.

Controller: *In English* “It is the same ticket for the subway and the bus.”

Woman #2: “Oh, I’m sorry, we didn’t know. It is different in London. We will use it next time.”

Me: “Hmm. I’m pretty sure that I used the same ticket on the bus as well as on the subway in London.”

Both women glare at me, sending a clear message to butt out. I just smile, friendly.

Woman #1: “We are just here for a month and these tickets are expensive.”

Controller: “You can take a season ticket for a month and take as many trips as you like.”

Sadly, the controller let it slide this time and didn’t make them validate the ticket, either, as I’ve seen on other checks. On the plus side, I didn’t see them on this particular ride anymore.

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She Must Be Thinking In Double-Dutch

, , , | Right | April 7, 2021

I’m eating at a fast food place in Belgium. A couple next to me is discussing something in English. When it is their turn, the guy orders in Dutch, the local language.

Girl: “Did you just now order in Dutch?”

Guy: “Yes.”

Girl: “You’re an idiot; they all understand English here.”

The guy shrugged it off and I tried to process what I’d overheard.

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That Deal Came About Organ-ically

, , , , | Right | August 27, 2020

I’m picking up my bike after scheduled maintenance.

Me: “Will I have to sell my soul to pay the bill, or can I get away with just a few organs?”

Mechanic: “It’s not that bad. Rip off your dealer and you’re set.”

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Puffin And Puffin Until You’re Blue

, , , , , | Friendly | July 13, 2020

With lockdown slowly relaxing, I’m able to visit the zoo again, albeit with restrictions; for instance, you need to reserve a time slot. I take one later in the day and happen to be at the sea lions just after they are being fed.

A few years ago, a blue heron — and a flock of seagulls — learned the sea lions’ teatime, as well, and as a protected species, got the occasional fish — not so the seagulls. Through the years, it took up permanent residence in the zoo — still a free bird, though — and, as such, got used to people but keeps its distance.

I am admiring it from fairly close, a one-meter-wide hedge between us, when I overhear some French-speaking visitors exclaim that it is a “perroquet de mer” or, literally, a sea parrot.

I’m telling this to a few friends a few days later.

Friend: “What? Is that even a thing?”

Out of curiosity, I do a Google search and immediately recognize the bird but cannot think of the name in Dutch, nor in English.

Me: “Well, yes, it turns out that it is a thing. It is a… a… Well, it is a penguin that isn’t a penguin.”

My friends got what I meant and had a good chuckle about it. It took another search to find that a “perroquet de mer” is a puffin which, incidentally, in Dutch, also has the word for parrot in its name.

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The Belgian Government Is An Emotional Roller Coaster

, , , | Working | February 19, 2020

(In Belgium, we all have state-issued IDs and nowadays they come with a chip. This is, for example, used when filing your taxes — to identify yourself to the computer — and it has your address stored on it, which police and official services can enter with a specific reader. This also comes with a PIN and PUC code. If you lose your codes, you need to ask the government to resend it and they will send it to the city. I recently moved and need to officially change my address. In the city where I live, you need to process it first via the computer, a police officer might check if you’re really living there, and you get an email when your new address is registered. At this time, you need your PIN code and the address to be changed on your ID. This needs to be done in person.)

Me: “Hi, I moved and need to change my address. I already registered it on the computer and received your confirmation mail.”

Civil Servant: *very bright and obviously in a good mood* “And you now need to put it on your ID?”

Me: “Yes, please.”

Civil Servant: “Do you have your PIN code?”

Me: “Unfortunately, no, and it hasn’t turned up yet since the move.”

(Her shoulders start to droop, and she sighs inwardly and opens her mouth, undoubtedly to start a spiel she repeated a hundred times before, but I cut her off.)

Me: “I read the email and knew you would need it, so I requested it again.”

Civil Servant: *shoulders lifting again and almost back as bright and chipper as when I entered* “And did you receive the confirmation?”

Me: “I wouldn’t be here, otherwise.”

Civil Servant: *good mood fully restored* “Well, let’s take care of that first.”

(The rest of the transaction went smoothly after that. The mood changes were quite dramatic and as a regular reader of this website, I can imagine what she was expecting. I hope that with the next oblivious customer, there is the silver lining in the memory that at least one person actually read the requirements.)

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