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Probably Should’ve Seen That Coming

, , , , , | Healthy Working | May 18, 2022

I work in an optometrist’s office.

Customer: “Hi. You do glasses repairs, right? The wire snapped. Can you repair it now?”

She takes off her glasses and hands them to me. She has half-frames that use something like a fishing wire to hold the lens inside the frame, and one side has snapped. Hot glue is holding the lens to the frame, but it’s clearly just a temporary fix.

Me: “Oh, yeah, this just needs a new wire fed through. It’s a fifteen-minute job.”

Customer: “Great.”

She then sits at one of the seats, apparently content in waiting

Me: “Uh. Ma’am, you can leave and come back? If you like, you can give me your phone number and I’ll call you when I’m done.”

Customer: “You have my glasses.”

Me: “Yep, I’m just fixing them now. But you don’t need to wait.”

Customer: “I can’t even see the doorway.”

Me: “Oh!”

It actually took twenty-five minutes. The customer waited patiently, paid properly, and then left through the door without any problems.

Way More Fun Than Watching “Red Asphalt”

, , , , , , , , | Related | May 17, 2022

Most people’s first experiences with learning to drive involve an instructor and paid lessons. To fully complete your learner’s Log Book, when I was learning to drive, it was mandatory to have a certain number of hours spent with an official driving instructor and they encouraged you by having those hours count for double — one hour with an instructor became two on paper.

My brother and I, along with two of our extended family friend’s kids had a very different introduction to driver’s education. My parents own forty acres of rural Australian property — bushland, lots of trees, and paddocks. Dad had created a dirt bike track several years prior for us to ride our motorbikes on, and with a little tweaking, he turned it into a decent track a car could run on. It was all dirt and grass winding through trees, zigzagging across the paddocks, and joining into the near-half-kilometer long driveway.

Dad’s old Nimbus was to become our chariot of learning, and I’ll let you know right now that that thing was a beast. It took all the abuse that a young, inexperienced driver can inflict on a car and more. My brother even managed to flip the thing once on accident, and besides a dent in the roof (easily panel-beaten back to normal), the car was unaffected by the ordeal.

Our dad (and our friend’s dad when visiting) were our unofficial instructors, and under their tutorage, we learnt the basic fundamentals of car operation and maintenance.

One day, about two and a half years into this expedition of discovery, our dads decided to give us each a whirl at a “test conditions” run around the track. This was very exciting and a little daunting to us older kids because our real learner’s tests were looming close. They organised amongst themselves a checklist of sorts for what we needed to accomplish during the “test”: reversing, turn signals, parking, and a few other things they set up the course to accommodate.

And because we are Aussies and it was private property, beer was also involved. Not for us kids, of course — oh, no, that would have been a trainwreck of bad decisions! No, our friend’s dad decided to hold a freshly opened bottle of beer for each of our runs and implemented an additional ruling of “if you spill too much beer, you fail.” I’m pretty sure it was to drill into us that how we drive is just as important as following the general rules of the road… or something similar. Looking back, I realise that this strange addition actually added a thin layer of anxiety to the “test” and made us more aware of how our driving affected passengers’ comfort and wellbeing, making it feel a touch more realistic.

I don’t recall the order we went in, but I do remember that the youngest family friend’s kid went last. Let’s call him Callum.

The first three runs went quite well; no trees or safety-cone “people” were struck, and aside from a few minor mistakes with parking and forgetting a turn signal here and there, we were racking up a nice string of “passed” results. We were all in the car for each person’s run (to create a realistic, mildly distracting environment for our years ahead as young drivers) so we were all witness to one another’s successes and failings. Then, it was Callum’s turn.

Callum’s overall run was good, as well, although he did manage to hit a stump at one point that was previously hidden off to the side of the track while taking a turn too wide. Aside from that, he was going great! Soon, the final straight stretch and hairpin turn to the finish line were in sight: we were all going to pass!

But this story wouldn’t be here if everything went as planned.

Instead of slowing down in preparation for the hairpin turn, Callum hit the accelerator. We hurtled into the corner at speed, and in a panic-induced state of decision making, Callum ripped the handbrake in an attempt to slow down, which put the car into a powerslide of epic proportions.

On the outside edge of this turn was a tree. A big tree. This tree was of the weeping willow variety with many long, dangling, whip-like branches with slender leaves dripping down in a beautiful green cascade. As the handbrake was pulled and inertia entered the equation, we were all thrown to the left of the car. Callum’s dad’s window was down and, thanks to the seatbelt, only a small portion of this body was now outside of the car. However, that portion was home to, arguably, one of the most important features of a human being: the face.

Callum was screaming, I was screaming, my little brother was cheering with his hands in the air like a deranged roller coaster rider, Callum’s older brother was being crushed into the door by our combined weight and didn’t have enough air in his lungs to join our crescendo of noise, Callum’s dad’s face is being kickboxed into oblivion by the aforementioned whip-like branches… and the beer is flying in all directions, coating everyone in a thin veneer of foam and yeasty goodness.

Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack!

After what felt like an eternity, the car came to a shuddering halt and we all peeled ourselves off the door and off each other. Callum’s dad’s head was now back inside the vehicle, peppered with an impressive collection of shallow cuts, blood, and beer, and his majestic mullet was chock a block full of leaves. He was also still holding the, now empty, bottle of beer in a white-knuckled death grip, and that’s an achievement I’m still in awe of!

A couple of seconds of silence permeated the tension-filled interior of the chariot of learning, none of us daring to break it first. Callum’s dad wiped a hand down his face, hissing as the cuts were touched and more beer was introduced to the wounds. He took a deep breath, and in a soft voice, he addressed us kids in the back seat:

“Would you kids step out of the car for a moment? Callum and I need to have a chat.”

We f****** legged it! No need to tell us twice. We. Were. Outta. There!

About 100 or 150 metres away was the verandah where our mums and Callum’s sister were seated with shock etched across their faces at the spectacle they had just witnessed. We had barely reached the concrete when a gods-awful bellowing came from the car, echoing off into all corners of the property and probably sending more than a few birds winging away in fright. Callum was banned from driving for the rest of their week’s stay with us and no more mention of home “tests” was made again. Ever.

Callum is an amazing driver now and doesn’t even have a speeding ticket on record to my knowledge, but that day and our early years of driving on the track will never be forgotten. It was even a story told at his father’s funeral a few years ago and is now a funny memory we can all share and cherish involving the man.

Notes:

  • Everything that occurred during this and all other driving sessions at the property was in full compliance with Australian laws.
  • No minors, drivers, or fatherly instructors were under the influence of alcohol at any given time while the car was running.
  • Despite the ordeal, none of us were traumatised or otherwise harmed, and the injuries sustained by Callum’s dad were minor: head wounds just tend to bleed a lot because of how shallow the skin is.
  • No-one unlicensed to operate a vehicle ever drove on any actual roads outside the property line or endangered another driver in any way.
  • Please don’t attempt to recreate any of these events, and always follow the rules of the road and laws pertaining to your country when it comes to driving and underage individuals. 
  • And, finally, thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this story, and if you’re just learning to drive, please don’t use the handbrake for cornering, especially on dirt, as it is very dangerous and serious accidents can occur.

Some People Are Incompetent At Just Being Human Beings

, , , | Right | May 16, 2022

CONTENT WARNING: Death

My Nana had recently passed away, which would have been bad enough, but less than a week after her funeral my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer, so I’m in a bad state.

It was a busy day at the store. I was the only senior member of staff working, excluding the manager, and we had about four newer kids, high-school-aged, all working together with me. And by working what I really mean is running around the store, smacking each other with flyswatters that had just arrived in the product loading bay.  

I had a line-up snaking halfway around the store, had been serving non-stop for about five hours, and was hitting the assistance bell more times per transaction than items being scanned, and no one was coming up to help. The manager even popped his head out at one point to yell about the noise I was making with the bell and then slammed the office door shut. So no help there.

I’m stressing out, alone with increasingly annoyed customers, and seriously concerned about killing the electronics in the assistance bell when SHE arrives.

SHE was a regular customer. Always brash, never patient and for some reason seemed to believe we existed only to burden her life with incompetence, which also seemed to be her favourite word.

She’s huffing, rolling her eyes, tapping her feet, and grumbling the whole way through the line up.

When she was about five customers away from being served she started the running commentary: nit-picking every move I made, exclaiming in mock shock at the fact I could in fact walk more than a few steps when retrieving requested behind-the-counter items, and verbally abusing me every time I rang the d*** bell. 

I was over it.

Once she was my current customer, I had resolved to simply scan everything, accept whatever money she decided to hand over and simply cover anything she was short by out of my own wallet just to yeet her out the doors as quickly as possible. But no, I couldn’t even do that.

She outright refuses to let me touch her products to scan them and instead clutched them to her chest and screamed at me. 

I finally broke.

I started crying, ugly crying, and tried to explain the situation I was in with being the only one serving between sobs and globs of mucus now strangling my windpipe. She wasn’t having any of it. Other customers in the line at least had the decency to look sheepishly at the floor when they heard that the other workers are goofing off and I’m trying my best alone. Not HER, she just went in for the kill instead.

Customer: “Your best isn’t good enough. Surely you can’t blame your entire incompetence on your workmates? What else had you so d*** stupid today? Huh?! Huh?!”

So I told her…

Me: “No, that’s not all. My mum has cancer and is dying… that combined with today’s roster of idiots has led to this stupid situation. I’m sorry it has taken so long but I really am just trying my best, I can’t do everything alone but I’m trying.”

Other customers have awkwardly left, or muttered condolences, or otherwise shut their complaining mouths after listening to my broken tale of woe, but not HER…

Customer: “If you can’t handle your job or your emotions then you shouldn’t even be here. F*** off out of here and bring someone actually competent up to the service desk.”

Me: “I can’t… this bell you keep hearing me ring is meant to call up coworkers to assist me but they’re all ignoring it. I’m not ringing it for the fun of it, you do realise that, right?”

Customer: “Then maybe your mum deserves to die then. Gets rid of the shame of having you for a daughter at least.”

I don’t really remember what happened next. Apparently, a couple of customers violently escorted her out the doors while the rest swarmed the desk to hug or otherwise assist me. I don’t remember sitting down, or having a mug of tea made but suddenly it was in my hands and all these random customers are asking if I’m okay.

I wish the story ended there with me surrounded by the support and love of total strangers but this is the real world and instead we were all written up for playing with flyswatters, yes me included, and the customer wrote a lovely letter to corporate telling them I was “abusive to customers, throwing things around and laughing at how much time I was wasting and then had the audacity to taunt her when it was her turn to be served”.

I was written up twice and then had to defend my right to remain employed for about a month while corporate conducted their investigation. I think I still have a photocopy of that damning letter somewhere in my moving boxes, I was given the copy to read and “make adjustments to my attitude” during the write up.

So yeah… f*** you customer. The rudest customer to ever disgrace my area.

At Odds With The Fabric Of Reality

, , , , , | Right | May 6, 2022

I work in a craft store. We don’t have a lot of fabric types, so we don’t have a lot of sections that are a specific price. We do have a few areas with signs that say “X fabric — $Y,” but most of our shelves are assorted, and about 70% of the fabrics have the price on the tag.

An old woman brings a fabric to the cutting counter.

Customer: “What’s the price? I got it in the $5.99 section.”

I don’t know what she’s talking about, but I just scan it.

Me: “That’s actually $18 and not on sale.”

Customer: “That’s false advertising!”

She moans a bit more and leaves with nothing. Later, when I am returning fabric to the shelves, I realise she had looked at the rack in front of the table that said “X fabric $5.99” and thought it was for the whole table. So, she can’t read.

The next day, she brings a fabric to the cutting counter.

Customer: “This was in the $5 section.”

This time, I am really tired, so I can’t stop the confused expression on my face.

Customer: *Scoffs* “You should know what’s in the store!”

Me: “I do, and we don’t have a $5 section. Could you please show me?”

She leads me to one of our assorted sections and pointed at some tags that say, “$5.” I then point at other tags that have other prices like $8 and $12 and so on.

Me: “This is an assorted section, and while the fabric that you found was in the wrong place, it doesn’t change the fact that there is no $5 section.”

She goes off again about how it’s “false advertising” and “confusing to customers.”

If she wasn’t so rude, I would try to find some fabric in her budget for her to use, but she is so rude. She keeps going on about how she has been a customer since the beginning — but doesn’t know how the store works? — and how she is never coming back if “we do it again.” And I am thinking, “Is that a promise?”

Then, she asks if we have a specific thing that we don’t have, and I list off some other stores nearby that might, including a Japanese dollar store.

Customer: *Immediately* “Oh, no, I don’t go there; they’re Japanese.”

So, not only can she not read, and she’s rude, but she’s racist, too. And no, she’s not senile or having trouble with English; she’s just rude.

Sometimes The Least You Can Do Is The Best Thing You Can Do

, , , , , , , , | Friendly | May 6, 2022

When I was fifteen, I caught the same bus every Saturday to get to my flute lesson. I usually left early so I had some time to spare. One such Saturday morning, I left even earlier than usual. It was fairly cold and there was a light rain, so I was wearing an long, red coat and had a decent-looking umbrella. I’ve been told before that this outfit made me look around eighteen, so maybe that’s why the things that happened the way they did.

I made it to my bus stop and sat down to wait. The only other person there was a girl in her twenties. She was crying and clutching a single piece of paper. I also noticed that she wasn’t wearing anything warm, despite the weather. I felt really bad for her.

Me: “Are you all right?”

She looked at me, swallowed, and said:

Girl: “I just got some bad news.

Me: *Concerned* “Do you want to talk about it?”

That seemed to be the tipping point, and she broke down in front of me. She explained through tears that she’d gone to her doctor to check a lump on her neck and that she’d just gotten the results back. It was a tumour. She didn’t know if it was malignant, but her doctor wanted her back immediately for more testing.

I sat with her for about ten minutes. She told me that her friend was picking her up to take her to the appointment, but she didn’t know how long they would be. I didn’t really know what to do, but I just wanted to make sure she was all right. Then, my bus came. The girl waved me away, trying to smile, saying that she would be fine. Feeling guilty, I got on. I was the only person on board. The bus driver looked equally worried.

I didn’t even make it a single stop before I felt bad about leaving her in the rain by herself. I asked the driver to stop early. Since I was the only person there, he let me off, telling me to make sure the girl was all right. I ran the whole way back. Luckily, the girl was still sitting there waiting. She looked shocked that I’d come back but a little glad, too.

Me: “I really don’t think you should be alone right now.”

I sat with her for another ten minutes, talking with her and trying to distract her until her friend came. When her friend’s car finally appeared, she started thanking me profusely. Her friend pulled up and leaned over from the driver’s seat, asking what was going on.

Girl’s Friend: “Thank you so much for staying with her. [Girl] called me and I came as fast as I could, but the traffic was terrible. Do you want a lift since you missed your bus?”

Me: “No, it’s all right. I was early anyway. I just hope everything turns out all right.”

Girl: *Through tears* “Thank you. It really means a lot that you did that. I’m sorry to have just dumped it all on you. Thank you so much.”

Me: “It’s fine. That’s just something you shouldn’t have to sit alone with. I only did what I thought was best.”

Girl’s Friend: “Are you sure you don’t want a lift?”

I shook my head, wished [Girl] good luck, and waved them off. They thanked me again multiple times and then slowly drove away. Even though I ended up being a few minutes late for my lesson, I’ll never forget the way [Girl] thanked me for simply sitting with her and listening. [Girl], if you’re out there, I really do hope you’re okay and that everything turned out all right in the end.