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When You Don’t Suffer Fools, You Attack Them

, , , | Right | March 18, 2020

(I work in a museum, and one of my colleagues told me this story. He’s known for being a kindly man with an impeccable work ethic. He is, however, not known to suffer fools gladly. A woman is about to change her baby’s nappy — diaper — right in the middle of an exhibition area, on the floor.)

Colleague: “Excuse me, madam, we have a baby care room nearby. Let me show you where it is.”

(The woman stares crossly but lets my colleague guide her to the baby care room without saying a single word. After a while, she exits the facilities with the dirty nappy in her hand. She dumps it in a dustbin in the exhibition space. The whole room starts to reek instantly. She hurries away.)

Colleague: *calling after her* “What kind of pigsty did you escape from, madam?!”

(On another occasion, a visitor is trying to figure out how our BCI — brain computer interface, a technology that allows you to control software with your brain waves — exhibit works without our assistance, which he clearly needs because he has no clue what he’s doing. He shoves the two large signs that block the access to the computer aside. The signs inform our visitors that they have to book an appointment if they want to try the BCI because the whole process is lengthy and not all employees know how to operate it. He puts on one of the BCI caps and is rummaging around, trying to find the rest of the equipment. The caps look like bathing caps with lots of colourful plastic bits on them and look kind of funny. My colleague approaches him.)

Colleague: “Well, somebody clearly didn’t read the signs.” *points toward the signs, laughing*

Visitor: *gets startled, scurries away with cap and all, looking hilarious*

Colleague: “Hey! Punch! Get back here with that cap!” *still laughing*

Visitor: *returns with the cap, fuming* “Did you just call me ‘Punch’? This is outrageous! I will not be treated in this disrespectful way!” *throws the cap at my colleague*

Colleague: “Then don’t make a joke of yourself, sir.”

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Enough Of This Song And Dance!

, , , , , | Healthy | March 14, 2020

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains content of a medical nature. It is not intended as medical advice.

I am a musical theatre major, meaning that I spend the better part of my day in a ballet studio dancing or working out, and during what’s left of that day I’m either singing, acting, or both. After having an inherent heart condition fixed as a young teenager, I am proud to say that I am mostly healthy, a couple of minor-ish issues — as well as notorious unresponsiveness to most kinds of medication — aside. 

About fifteen months ago, though, I get sick with something that is labelled “minor, superficial pneumonia” at first, and after sitting in my body for about two weeks turns into “asthmatic-spastic bronchitis.” Later, it becomes full-blown asthma bronchiale which, thanks to hyperreactive bronchia, I am very used to catching around twice a year. Usually, after a couple of weeks, it’s gone again, and my asthma falls asleep into insignificance once more.

Not this time. 

The weeks come and go, and nothing happens. I’m fully incapable of doing anything at the conservatoire — but thankfully most of my professors are amazing and give me all the support they can possibly give me — and I’m getting more and more frustrated. My pulmonologist, after failing to succeed with several more antibiotics and cortisone therapies, is unwilling to give up on me and refers me to all possible colleagues. I get tested for pertussis, even for tuberculosis — and pretty much everything else — but they can’t find anything. 

After just barely passing my semester with the worst possible acceptable grades, I go home for my semester break. By that time, this has gone on nearly two and a half months already. My pulmonologist tells me to continue my treatment, or rather, the search for a concrete diagnosis, as she is at her wit’s end. 

I do, and they actually get the idea to do a bronchoscopy where, at last, they find not only a virus, but also bacteria that seem to cause all the trouble, sending me into a spiral of a constant asthma attack, which expresses itself with the symptoms of a chronic, constant bronchitis. They send me home with more antibiotics, telling me I can’t do much more but “sit it out and hope it’ll be gone in four to six months,” and put me on sick leave for my upcoming semester, since I can neither sing, dance, nor do anything on the acting front. I move back in at home with my most amazing, most supportive parents, and I begin my journey of doing not much of anything at all. 

All throughout the time, I’m feeling flu-ish sick, with often insufferable headaches and horrible sore throats, short- as well as flat-breathed, and I obviously also cannot get rid of that cough. I have better days and worse, but the worse days definitely outweigh the good ones. Basically, I’m knocked out of my life entirely, and I often even have to think twice if I want to take a brief trip to town. 

The months pass and nothing happens. There’s no improvement that lasts longer than two weeks and doesn’t follow a massive breach again. I lose another semester, as well as a fair share of friends. And, due to lack of movement, unsuccessful medication treatment, and, as I only just recently found out, my hypothyroidism acting up again, as well, I gain quite some weight; I’m not obese and still fit into most of my clothes, but you wouldn’t believe me the dance student, either. 

I haven’t been idle over that time; I’ve been looking into common and alternative medicine and am in the middle of a doctor marathon, to not much avail except for the revelation of several more issues to work on, and about a month ago — as this has been going on for longer than a year already, and I’m beyond frustrated and only very desperately trying to scratch the final pieces of my patience together — I am referred to the pulmonologist department of my local hospital to finally treat my set-in-stone asthma diagnosis, as many doctors seem to purposefully ignore the bacterial aspect of my issues. 

I have so many hopes for this appointment. But when I walk in, I see that, instead of [Doctor #2], who I am supposed to have the appointment with, I am met by a super young, and super overwhelmed-looking [Doctor #1]. 

I present him with all kinds of older to recent-ish but not super recent bloodwork and diagnoses and some very real proof that there are indeed physical issues to be resolved.

I explain, “…and this is why your colleague from the immunology department referred me over to you. It’s a rather pressing issue because my new semester is about to start, and I’d hate to miss the third one in a row. I really can’t do any dancing, singing, or much of anything at all, so I’m quite desperate about making progress. But unfortunately, I have issues with medication showing proper effect; it’s been like that since my heart issues way back as a child and starts with super simple things like common painkillers needing super high doses to start working.” 

The doctor doesn’t even seem to listen properly. “Well, we couldn’t find anything physical in your test results…”

All they did was a basic lung function test, the results of which often fluctuate depending on my day. 

I respond with confusion, “Um… But… I am officially diagnosed with asthma bronchiale already. Also, my lung function results fluctuate really badly, from unacceptable to–” 

The doctor cuts me off. “There are no physical issues, and your lung function seems to be low but not concerningly so.” 

“Well, as I explained before, it really fluctuates and–” 

He interrupts again. “Well, this is definitely not a physical issue, and your lung function is–” 

I cut him off this time. “But I really just said…”

[Doctor #1] ignores me and gets up to get [Doctor #2], who doesn’t even bother to sit down, and very clearly looks like she has no interest whatsoever in being here or helping me. 

“Well, as my colleague already informed you, we cannot find any physical issues to work with, and clearly, you are not asthmatic.” 

I sigh inwardly. “I really just explained to your colleague before that I have my official asthma diagnosis; I just need treatment for it, which is difficult because most kinds of medications have a really hard time to show any kind of effect besides the side effects, if they even work at all–“

[Doctor #2] says, interrupting me harshly, “If you were asthmatic, we would be able to treat you with cortisone inhalers, and those never showed any effect, so all you really have is a hyperresponsive larynx.” 

I’m absolutely stunned at how they both have so successfully ignored anything I’ve said in the past couple of minutes. “But… as I said… and my lung function… I know it looks better now but it really, really depends on the day and… It’s really not only the cough; there are so many other issues that–” 

Cut off again! “And your lung function isn’t that bad. I’ll just give you [super intense nervous system medication that is usually prescribed to epilepsy and severe anxiety patients, neither of which I even remotely suffer from] for your hyperreactive larynx. As for the fatigue, here’s a referral to outpatient rehab.”

[Doctor #2] gets up and leaves again without giving me the chance to say anything at all. 

“It’s really not just the cough; it’s–“

[Doctor #1] proceeds to explain the effects of the just-prescribed medication without listening. 

My mum, who had accompanied me, hasn’t had much of a word, either, so we just decide to give up on that lost cause and leave, both of us boiling inside. Not for one second do I consider having that prescription filled and taking this stuff, no matter how desperate I may be. Looking on the piece of paper, I was handed, I also find out that [Doctor #2] put “fatigue,” “chronic cough,” and “obesity” on my rehab prescription, which I am still livid about. 

Later that day, I have a routine follow-up appointment with a new cardiologist, who not only is as appalled by this behaviour as we are, but also draws blood and reveals several very physical indeed issues, among them high inflammation signs, my hypothyroidism being at a not-dangerous-but-alarmingly-low level again, and the bacteria still being very, very present within my body. I’m referred to another pulmonologist immediately.  

While I am, indeed, missing my third semester in a row, quite unsurprisingly, that new pulmonologist has not only found out that my lung function is currently at a new low point, but confirmed a “clearly asthmatic reaction and movement,” put that into the diagnosis, and promised to investigate if there is anything else behind it that I need to be treated for. 

Fascinatingly enough, he has also listened to my medication issues and prescribed me two new inhalers that he’s hoping will help me as one of the 5% who actually do not react to common cortisone treatments.

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Proving Them Wrong Is An Endorphin Rush  

, , , | Right | January 6, 2020

(I’m working part-time in a small, privately-owned store that specializes in Austrian sweets and generally high-quality products. Because we are located both in the historic part of the city and near a rather posh, well-known big store, we get a lot of tourists, as well as rich people. One night, a sophisticated-looking gentleman in his 50s enters; he seems to be in a hurry.)

Me: “Good evening, sir. Are you looking for something special today?”

Customer: *says nothing, but is looking at our chocolate truffles from an Austrian producer*

Me: “Here we have our chocolates from [Producer]. Are you interested in them? We’ve got some new flavours.”

Customer: “Why are they called ‘endorphins’?”

Me: “Oh, [Producer] has two kinds of chocolates. One comes in squares and the round ones are called ‘endorphins’. For example, we have strawberry endorphins, pumpkin seed endorphins, and lemon endorphins. [Producer] likes to give his products special names. Can I get you some of them?”

Customer: “Can I get two of those eggnog chocolate sticks?”

Me: “All right, of course, here you go.” *hands him his choice and finishes the transaction*

Customer: “You know, you really shouldn’t use foreign words if you don’t know what they mean!”

Me: *dumbfounded* “Are you talking about the endorphins? I’m well aware that those are the so-called happiness hormones. I’ve just assumed you know this, too. Have a nice evening!” *turns around*

Customer: *leaves*

(Although he seemed to be in a hurry, he took his time to “test” my general knowledge and wanted me to fail. You know, just because I’m working to pay my rent while studying law doesn’t mean I’m dumb. And even if I was a full-time cashier, there is no need to assume that those guys are, just to be clear.)

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Schrödinger’s Phone

, , , , | Right | December 12, 2019

(This happens way too often, but I still understand that some people don’t want to or can’t keep up with technology. An elderly person enters the store.)

Elderly Customer: “This phone I have… I’ve had it for several years now, and the way this specific button blinks… I can hardly sleep as this button blinks all night; it bothers me all the time, no matter what I do or press on the phone. I’m out of options and don’t know what to do anymore.”

Me: “Just press the blinking button for two seconds.”

(The customer slightly taps the button. If it were a cat, it would start to purr.)

Me: “Please press and hold the button for two seconds.”

(The customer taps the button harder, still too short. If it were a cat, it would probably look at them funny.)

Me: “Sir, when the light flashes on your phone or this specific button, you have to keep it pressed for two seconds to see your missed calls. Please try again.”

(Usually, with a little time I do it myself, but to help them learn it I let them try it themselves.)The customer taps and holds the button with all of his might. At this point, they have a face like having a workout with heavy weights. If the phone were a cat, its eyes would probably pop out. Suddenly, it works. They look at the screen, exhausted and terrified at what they did.)

Elderly Customer: “Oh, my… the light… it stopped! How did you do that?”

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Sealing The Deal

, , , , | Working | November 22, 2019

(Back in 1996, I get a summer job in the media section of a department store. Downloading music or video games isn’t really a thing yet; CD burners are a bit expensive but not totally uncommon. My coworkers are all a lot older than me and not really tech-savvy. One day, I see a customer, about 16, return a huge pile of video games and music CDs. After he leaves, I walk up to my coworker and ask what that was about.)

Me: “He didn’t like his birthday presents, I guess.”

Coworker: “Oh, no, he is a regular. He always buys a lot of CDs and games but returns most of them within a week. Very picky, I guess.”

Me: “Like, how often does he do that?”

Coworker: “Once or twice a week. It kind of sucks but it’s store policy to get your money back if you return your items within a week.”

Me: “Ahh, have you considered that he might actually take them home, copy them, and then return them?”

Coworker: “Nah, you can’t really copy CDs at home. That’s why they switched from cassettes and floppy disks.”

Me: “Yes, you can. It’s called a CD burner. I read an article about them in my dad’s computer magazine. I can bring it tomorrow if you like.”

Coworker: “Well, maybe they have something like that in America or Japan, but not here in Austria.”

Me: “I think we should tell our manager. I am sure he is copying that stuff.”

Coworker: “Okay, knock yourself out, but I’m not gonna bother him with such a silly story.”

(The next day, I brought the magazine with me and went to our floor manager, who was much more interested in my hunch. He took me to the store manager, who was also quite interested. They changed the return policy the same day and after that, storage media had to be returned in their original sealing.)

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