Suva, So Good

, , , , , , | Hopeless | January 21, 2018

This story takes place over 40 years ago, when I was four. Even though I was so young, I remember it vividly. My parents owned a tobacco farm. This was back when private farmers were allowed to grow tobacco commercially. They’re not, anymore, and the farm is now apples and kiwifruit.

During the harvest, most of the picking was done by workers from Fiji, big men who would come to New Zealand and work impossibly long hours in the fields, earning every cent they could. Their money would be sent home, saved carefully, and made to last until they returned the following year.

In the small town where I grew up, there were no people of any colour, not even Māori (native New Zealanders), so my sister and I had never seen black people before. The workers were huge, ebony-black men with big shaggy afros and deep, booming voices. The first time we met them we screamed and ran away crying. Our parents were mortified. They tried everything they could to stop us being afraid of the workers and to get us to interact with them more positively, but nothing worked.

The workers were more sad than offended. They loved children and missed their own dreadfully.

One day I wandered away from my mother in the tobacco field. Those fields were vast spaces, with tobacco plants in long, long rows, taller than I was. Soon, I was hopelessly lost. My family panicked, but it was one of the Fijians who had the bright idea of climbing onto the roof of one of the sheds so he could look down on the fields. It didn’t take him long to spot me, and he ran towards me.

I was hiding under a tobacco plant, crying. As he got closer, he slowed down and hid behind a plant, too. Of course, as he was so huge, I could see him, and I was scared. I slowly peeked out… and so did he. Then, he let out a gasp and a squeal and hid again. This went on for a few minutes; both of us peeking out and hiding again when we saw each other. I started to giggle and walked shyly out from behind the plant. He jumped to his feet and ran off down the row in a cartoon-like fashion, his arms and legs going in all directions, letting out the same high-pitched squeal. Of course, I ran after him, laughing all the way… and we ran right back to my parents, who were by that stage almost hysterical.

I soon learned that all the workers had the same comic, zany sense of humour where kids were involved, and that they loved to play as much as we did. My sister and I became fast friends with them; in fact, we were probably pains in their a**es, because we kept wanting to play with them while they were picking.

Most of us grow up and learn that racism is a terrible thing. I was lucky in that I learned it very early on, and I have never, ever been able to tolerate the notion that someone is less, or more, because of skin colour. I have always been grateful to my first Fijian buddy for teaching me this incredibly valuable lesson.

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Their Cold Heart Is In Need Of Some Heating

, , , , , , , | Working | January 19, 2018

(I work in an office with two coworkers. [Coworker #1] is a nightmare to work with. She constantly needs nudging, telling, reminding, you name it, about her tasks. One afternoon on a freezing day, the phone rings.)

Me: “Thank you for calling [Business]. How can I help you?”

Elderly Woman: “Oh. Is that not [Nationwide Gas Supplier]?”

Me: “No, I’m sorry; it’s [Business]. What number did you dial?”

Elderly Woman: “Oh. I’ve been trying to find their number for a while, and it’s so cold here. I put it down somewhere. Hang on… It was [number].”

Me: “I’m very sorry, but our number’s [number with one digit different]. It’s very similar.”

Elderly Woman: *sounds like she’s about to cry* “I see. Okay. I’ll try again. Thank you so much.”

Me: “No problem; goodbye.”

(Twenty seconds later, the phone rings.)

Me: “Thank you for calling [Business]. How can I help?”

Elderly Woman: “Hello, dear, I can’t get my boiler working. Would you send someone, please?”

Me: “Hello again, madam. This is [My Name] at [Business]. We spoke a minute ago? Did you misdial again?”

Elderly Woman: “Well, I thought I did it right.” *starts dialing the number with me still on the line* “There’s zero…” *presses zero for about five seconds* “And eight…” *presses eight for a few seconds* “And—”

Me: “Madam? I’m sorry, I’m still on the line so it won’t work; plus, when you do redial, you only need to tap the numbers, not hold them down for so long.”

Elderly Woman: “Ah, I see. Okay. I just tap the numbers and it’ll work.”

Me: “Yes, it should do. Good luck!”

(We say our goodbyes, hang up, and then twenty seconds later, the phone rings.)

Me: “Thank you for calling [Business]. How can I help?”

Elderly Woman: “Oh, hello again, dear. I seem to be struggling here, don’t I? I’m so sorry to trouble you again. I’ll just go and—”

Me: “Hello again. No, don’t worry; it’s fine. Did you say your boiler was broken before?”

Elderly Woman: “Yes. It broke last night, and I can’t seem to find anyone to come and have a look at it for me. It’s cold today, isn’t it? Boilers always seem to go when you need them the most, don’t they?”

Me: “They certainly do, yes. Look, give me the number you were going to call, and I’ll call them for you. And if you give me your name, address, and number, I’ll get them to send someone round to you. How does that sound?”

Elderly Woman: “Would you? You will? Oh, my word. That sounds fine; thank you so much!” *then she hangs up*

(Luckily, I have the 1471 service on my phone line, so I get her number, call her back, explain who I am, that I need her details to pass to the boiler people, and so forth. I then call the boiler people, explain the situation, tell them there’s a confused and vulnerable elderly lady there without a working heating system, and that she can’t even manage to use her phone. The call centre chap is fine with it and tells me he’ll sort it out. I give it 15 minutes, then call the old lady back. She’s been contacted by the boiler chap, and a visit is scheduled for later in the day. All done; old lady is happy, and we end the call. I put the phone down.)

Me: *to both coworkers* “Phew. I’m glad to be getting back to typing, after all that.”

Coworker #1: *in a snappy tone* “I don’t know why you did that! It’s not your job to do that! You wasted your time doing all that!”

Me: *looks at her for a second* “Right. First of all: are you telling me you’d leave a vulnerable person with no heating when there’s something you could do about it? And secondly, since when did you, you, of all people, get to tell me what is and isn’t my job, when you don’t even know what your own is? I’ll tell you what; when you start pulling your weight, we’ll discuss what my job entails.”

(I stomped off for some fresh air; I was so annoyed.)

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Politeness Gets You Donuts And Wi-Fi

, , , , | Right | January 17, 2018

(I am the customer. I’ve been having the worst week ever, fighting with my cable company to get Internet in my new place, and for some reason I have to be online to activate my online access! It’s pretty late when I come into what I hope is a 24-hour coffee shop with Wi-Fi.)

Me: “Hey, what time does the lobby close?”

Barista: *looks worried* “Um, we close in about ten minutes.”

Me: “Oh, man. Oh, that figures.”

Barista: “Why?”

Me: “I was hoping to get online. I don’t have Internet and I need to handle some stuff.”

Barista: “Well, if you don’t mind us listening to music really loud, we’ll be here until 10:30. You’re welcome to stay.”

Me: “Are you sure? I don’t want to hang you guys up.”

Barista: “It’s no problem; don’t worry about it!”

(Not only was I able to get through to the online services and activate my Internet, but the baristas gave me free doughnuts when they cleaned out the cases! Way to make the worst week ever turn into the best night! Thanks, guys!)

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The Notion Of This Potion Is Magic

, , , , , | Working | January 17, 2018

(I work as a secretary for a busy lawyer. Towards the end of the year the office is incredibly busy as clients remember all the “urgent” things they had lying around for weeks, but which now can’t wait till after the holidays. As per his wishes, I’m trying to keep people away from my boss, but even so, his schedule is completely full. When an important client calls, I make no promises to the client, but let my boss know that in this case the customer may be right, and it does seem urgent. It is, so they arrange for a phone call. During the day, I often tiptoe into my boss’ office to get signatures, and I happen to walk in while he is talking to this client. I only catch this gem:)

Boss: “Gosh, no. We’re incredibly busy, that’s all; Ms. [My Name] is fighting tooth and nail to get me some breathing space, but it’s just not happening. So far, no one’s invented a magic potion or anything.”

(I get an idea, so I leave quickly and return a few minutes later to place a fresh cup of coffee on his desk. My boss glances at it and starts laughing.)

Boss: *still on the phone* “I’m so sorry! Ms. [My Name] has found the magic potion and brought me coffee.” *pause* “No, you can’t have her. I found her and I’m keeping her.”

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Making A Beautiful Mocha-ry Of It

, , , , , | Working | January 15, 2018

(My mother and I are driving home from a long trip. It is evening and we still have a ways to go, so we decide to go through the drive-thru of a nearby coffee shop. Note that the time is about 15 minutes to close for this location.)

Order Taker: *in a bad accent* “Hola! What can I giggity-get started for you?”

Mom: *chuckles* “Two mochas, please; hold the whipped cream.”

Order Taker: “That’s two chocos minus the sweet top. Anything else?”

Mom: “No, that’s all.”

Order Taker: “Bea-ooootiful. That’ll be 80 kabillion dollars at the next window.”

(My mom and I cracked up laughing. Thanks, silly order taker, for making our long drive a little less tiring!)

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