His Brain Is A Beautiful Library

, , , , | Working | January 2, 2020

(We have an odd coworker. We LOVE this guy; he is in his fifties, his work is perfect, and he is just so eager to help. He’s very intelligent, loves to talk philosophy and the like… but he has an anxiety disorder that, however much we try, can get on our nerves. No one ever snaps at him about this. This is an example of one of those days when we smile, grit out teeth and remind ourselves that he cannot help it. He has noticed that a former librarian and currently a volunteer has been weeding things for us. We usually give certain standards that must be met — i.e. if the book hasn’t been circulated for ten years, take it off the shelf and put it on a cart, or if the book is in really bad condition, torn up, dirty, etc., put it on the cart to be checked. He really wants to try his hand at weeding and finally wears me down. I tell him to pull only books from a certain section that, according to the stamp, have not gone out since 2012. He proceeds to bring each book to my office.)

Coworker: “This one hasn’t gone out since 2015. Should I put it on the cart?”

Me: “No, only if the last date is 2012 do you want to put it on the cart.”

Coworker: “Okay.”

(Two seconds later.)

Coworker: “This book is stamped 2012, but there’s also a 2013, five 2015s, and a 2017.”

Me: “Then 2012 isn’t the last date, right?”

Coworker: “Oh, right.”

(Three seconds later:)

Coworker: “This one isn’t stamped at all.”

Me: “And what does the spine label say?”

Coworker: “Oh! It’s a new book. I just shelved this a few minutes ago.”

Me: “That’s right.”

(A second later, [Coworker] presents me with a book that one needs a hazmat suit to touch and I wonder how on earth it ever went out in that condition.)

Coworker: “This isn’t too bad, is it?”

Me: “[Coworker], give me that. I’m withdrawing it right now. And go use some hand sanitizer and bring me some.”

Coworker: “I guess it was in pretty bad shape, huh?”

(This goes on for every. Single. Book. He. Pulled. At the end of the hour, he saya something like:)

Coworker: “I don’t think I’m ready to do weeding after all. I am too afraid of making a mistake.”

Me: “Well, you gave it a shot and that’s what’s important. You shouldn’t be afraid of making a mistake, though, because [Volunteer] and I both look over the cart and decide if we will really toss the book or not, so we’d catch it if you didn’t.”

Coworker: “Oh, that’s right. But I wouldn’t want you to think I was stupid and couldn’t figure out how to decide if a book is too old or not.”

Me: “We never would think that, [Coworker]. I appreciate you wanting to try something new.”

Coworker: “Is it okay if I go back to shelving books? That’s so much easier.”

(That’s what kills me. Most people find the Dewey decimal system a huge challenge — it was for me at one time, as well — but he has absolutely no trouble getting the books in the right order. But figuring out that 2012 should be the LAST date stamped in an old book is a scary process. He is still with us, still greets each of us about fifteen times each morning, and he is still making our lives easier by shelving everything in perfect Dewey order. To be honest, since he gave up on being a weeder instead of a reader, he seems to have calmed down quite a bit. And according to his counselor, he’s doing really well in the world!)

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Be Nice, Get Beer… Why Can’t Everything Be This Simple?  

, , , , , , | Right | December 31, 2019

(My wife and I have found out about a music and local beer festival happening not far from us. We get in the car and find out we’re the first ones to show up for the day. As we get in line, the ladies working the admissions and beer ticket table — in the blowing, rainy weather that is typical of our area of Virginia during the late fall — are having technical issues. Namely, the device they’re using to try to run the debit/credit cards isn’t connecting to the Wi-Fi. As they trying to fix this, they keep apologizing profusely.)

Lady #1: “Hey, we’re really sorry about this! Normally, it doesn’t take this long! We don’t mean to keep you all out there in this weather.”

Me: “Oh, hey, it’s fine. I don’t mind. We’ve got plenty of time, and in a little while, I’m going to get some good beer, and I’m here with my favorite person ever, so it’s totally fine!”

Lady #2: “Most people wouldn’t be so calm about this, you know? Like, they’d be yelling at us.”

Me: “Yeah, I’ve worked in customer service for 19 years; trust me, I know. I always try not to be ‘that customer,’ you know? The one you tell stories about when you go home? Shoot, there’s no reason for that.”

Lady #1: *laughing* “Well, did you want to yell at us even a little bit? Just pretend or something? Might make you feel better!”

Me: “Oh, gods, no! I’d feel terrible. Besides, it wouldn’t even be believable.”

Wife: “Yeah, he’s a terrible actor. I always know when he’s on about something. He wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Lady #1: “You two are probably about the nicest people we’ll have all day. Tell you what. Go on in the bar and have them ring you up in there, and then go ahead and go right to the front of the beer line. They’ll take care of you in there.”

(I was able to get right to the front of the beer line and got a nice tall cup of the seasonal beer I’d been waiting most of a year for! Being nice to customer service folks can really pay off!)

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Sub-Standard Behavior

, , , , , , | Right | December 30, 2019

(I work in customer service. Today is a particularly hard day for me — difficult customers and the like. All I want to do is grab a sub and get home to watch some TV.)

Employee #1: “Cash or debit?”

Me: “Cash.”

Employee #1: “Okay. Because the debit machine is down.”

(At the cash, [Employee #2] is on the phone with the store owner who is obviously not being any help or offering any direction. Also at the register is a man in his early 40s and his son who is about five. The man storms out with his son in search of cash. I go through the sandwich building process, awkwardly stepping around a family who also need to pay by debit waiting for cash to arrive, very patient, quiet people. It comes time to pay for my sub. [Employee #1] rings it in as [Employee #2] hangs a “Cash Only” sign on the door. The computer freezes at the point that the cash drawer is supposed to open. We stand there for ten minutes making small talk. [Employee #1] is apologising profusely. [Employee #2] is on the phone with the store owner, explaining that people are waiting. Nothing is working. The owner hangs up, offering no direction. The man and his kid come back. The man pushes in front of me, slamming his money on the counter.)

Employee #1: “The cash system is also down now.”

(This is when the man pitches the hissy fit to end all hissy fits. Everything about my crappy day comes flooding back to me. And it occurs to me: they work there but I don’t.)

Me: “What is your problem? They are doing everything they possibly can do.”

Man: “This is f****** ridiculous.”

Me: “Sure. But it’s not their fault. Tell me, what do you think they should do? They can’t give you free food. Their store owner hung up on them. Pull up your big-boy pants and set a good example for your son! Be an adult!”

([Employee #1] and [Employee #2] pool their tips and come up with change. The man storms away, slamming tables out of his way with the child following. To appease this “grown man” child, the employees gave him change out of their OWN TIPS! Teenagers making minimum wage sacrificed to appease an adult driving a fancy truck. Another few minutes pass and finally:)

Employee #1: “Screw this. I am taking the change from below.” *a float of some sort*

(It took roughly twenty minutes to pay for a sub that was now cold and gross, but it was not their fault. I thanked them, reminded them that it was not their fault, and wished them luck.)

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It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Ear

, , , , , | Right | December 26, 2019

(It is December, the busiest month of the year. I love December because I love getting into the spirit of Christmas. In doing so, I wear elf ears when I work. These are just two of my favorite interactions so far:)

Customer: *as I am gathering the product I am working with for the day* “Oh, my God, I love your ears!”

Me: *turning to him with a giant smile on my face* “Thank you!”

Customer’s Wife: “Oh, those are so cute! Where did you get them?”

Me: “The renaissance festival last year. And thank you! I love wearing them in December; children love it.”

Customer’s Wife: “Well, we love them, too. They’re super cute.”

Me: “Thank you. Adults have liked them a lot this year, too. Actually, I think more adults have commented than children!”

(A few minutes later:)

Customer: *walks up sheepishly* “I’m sorry if this sounds creepy, but could I please get a photo?”

(I cosplay, so this isn’t a creepy question to me if I’m in some sort of costume.)

Me: “Not creepy at all! Let me just take off my hat and apron.”

(I do so and the man takes a quick photo.)

Customer: *while I’m putting my uniform back on* “Now that, that’s the Christmas spirit. Thank you so much. Merry Christmas!”

Me: “It’s no problem. Thank you!*as he’s walking away* “Merry Christmas!”

(When working, I wish everyone whatever holiday they wish me: “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” “Blessed Yule,” etc. Another time, a family stops at my cart: a mom, a dad, and two daughters. [Girl #1] is the oldest and [Girl #2] is the youngest.)

Girl #1: “Your ears! Your ears!”

(I turn my head slightly to give her a better view and twitch my ears.)

Me: “What about them? Is something wrong?”

Girl #2: “She’s an elf! She’s an elf!”

(The girls are super excited.)

Girl #1: “You are an elf, right?”

Me: “Very perceptive of you, little ones. Yes, I am.”

Girl #2: “Why’re you here? Shouldn’t you be helping Santa?”

Me: *looking around like I’m about to tell them a secret* “Do you two want to know a secret?” *both nod vigorously* “Santa has thousands of us hidden around the world, mostly working in stores like this one. But in December, the Christmas magic is too strong, and we find it hard to hide our ears.”

(The girls stare at me, wide-eyed, practically bouncing.)

Girl #2: “Do you see Santa?!”

Me: “Every Wednesday!”

(At this point, the parents start to herd them away, as they ramble about my ears.)

Mom: *as she passes me she whispers* “Thank you so much.”

(It’s days like these that remind me why I love my job.)

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Your Christmas Can Become Magical Between Lunch And Dinner  

, , , , , , , , , | Right | December 25, 2019

(Unlike in the States, pretty much everything is closed on Christmas Day in the UK, with the exception of hospitals and hotels. I work in the latter, and we are putting on a special service in the restaurant for the holidays. Many families not staying at the hotel book tables months in advance to avoid cooking on Christmas Day, so we have been sold out since early November. I notice an older woman, looking a bit forlorn and tired, approaching my service stand.)

Older Woman: “I don’t suppose you’re serving Christmas Day lunch, are you?”

Me: “Yes, do you have a reservation, madam?”

Older Woman: “Oh, no. Do I need one?”

Me: “I’m afraid so, madam. We’re fully booked all day.”

Older Woman: “Oh, I see. I’m terribly sorry to be a bother.”

(Normally, I would just smile politely and say goodbye, but there is something about this woman, alone on Christmas Day, that makes me do something different.)

Me: “Excuse me, madam, are you dining alone?”

(She doesn’t say anything, but I can tell by the pained expression on her face that she is. She nods silently.)

Me: “Please excuse me a moment; I will see what we can do.”

(I go and find my manager and explain the situation.)

Me: “She’s dining on her own, and I feel bad about sending her away. We have room at the bar, if she’s willing, and I am sure one more plate isn’t going to stretch the kitchen.”

Manager: “If [Head Chef] and [Bartender] are fine with it, then it’s not a problem with me.”

(I quickly check that it’s okay with the head chef and the chief bartender, and go back to find the woman.)

Me: “Madam, if it’s okay with you, we have space available at our bar area for Christmas Day lunch?”

(She beams a huge warm smile that immediately lets me know that I have made the right decision. I get her seated comfortably and leave her with a menu. Once all our other diners are settled for the service, I check in on her to find her having an animated conversation with the bartender. Upon seeing me, the bartender pulls me aside quickly. She is fighting back tears as she is talking.)

Me: “What’s the matter?”

Bartender: “Oh, my God, that poor woman! I simply mentioned that I really liked her earrings, and then noticed they matched her wedding ring. Her husband would always buy her matching jewelry to go with her wedding ring and it sounded lovely… until she told me that he died in a car accident three months ago, and this is her first Christmas alone!”

Me: “Oh, my goodness! That’s awful!”

Bartender: “It gets worse! All the family came in for the funeral, but because they had to take time off for that, they can’t come and visit for Christmas! She’s all alone for the holidays!”

Me: “I see.”

(I come back to the bar and start talking to the woman, who, after some gentle conversational prodding, tells me the same story told to the bartender. She sounds emotional during the exchange but is able to hold back the tears. She even shows me some photographs of her late husband. It is then that I have an idea.)

Me: “Madam, what are your plans for the rest of Christmas Day?”

Older Woman: “I was just going to go home and watch the telly.”

Me: “I see. Madam, pardon me if this is too forward, but to say thank you for working on Christmas Day, my manager has allowed my family to come in for the dinner service at 6:00 pm today, when my shift is over. I will get to have my Christmas dinner with my family, and I would be honoured if you would join us.”

Older Woman: “Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly be such an imposition! I just wanted to be out of the house for lunch, which you’ve been ever so kind to organise for me, but I wouldn’t dream of being more of a bother than I already have.”

Me: “It would not be a bother, or an imposition, madam. You see, the moment you showed me the photograph of your late husband, I realized that having you join us for a family meal would be appropriate. You see, three months ago, my father attended a funeral for an old friend he used to work with many years ago, who he remembered very fondly, and even gave him a roof over his head in his younger days when he was having a rough time at home. Your husband and my father used to be friends, and I know he would love to see you for dinner tonight.”

(Her eyes narrow as if she is looking at me for the first time. Then, they widen as she says:)

Older Woman: “You’re [Father]’s little girl?”

Me: “The very same, madam.”

(She screamed happily — enough that she made a few nearby diners jump! — and gave me a huge, tearful hug. I took a little break and caught up with her, and then reminded her to be back at 6:00 pm sharp; she was welcome to stay by the bar, too, but she insisted on going home to put on a more festive outfit! She joined us for my family dinner, my father recognized her immediately, and from that moment on she became great friends with most of the family she met at Christmas dinner that day. On the years when she doesn’t spend Christmas Day with her family, she instead spends it with us.)

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