Whatever She Saw, They Had It Comin’

, , , , | Healthy | August 1, 2020

I’m usually pretty chatty with my doctors; I’ve learned that they have seen and heard much more shocking stories than mine since I live a pretty boring and standard life. Every time I get a new doctor, I’m sure to be honest and unashamed because they kind of need to know things like that.

I start rambling this point to a new doctor and point out how she’s probably dealt with more embarrassing things than someone being a virgin when asked about their sexual history.

She gives me a knowing look and then says, “I was an ER doctor in Chicago.”

Now I definitely know that there’s no scaring her!

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That’ll Teach Them To Hog The Sandbox

, , , , , , , , | Learning | July 9, 2020

Back when I was in elementary school, my fifth-grade teacher was a gruff older man universally loved by the students, well-known for giving his students nicknames that lightly poked fun of them and taking no nonsense from anyone. In contrast, I was a retiring, tiny nerd girl who loved nothing better than to curl up with a good book.

One day, near the end of the year, my teacher found a book about a popular sandbox game on the floor outside the classroom. He put it on the table just outside the room and made an announcement asking the owner to claim it. Weeks went by and no one did, though I did sneak glances at some of the pages when I could since I was a huge fan of the game.

The end of the year came and the book was left unclaimed. On the last day of school, my teacher made another announcement: if anyone wanted the book, they had to come inside right before the class kickball game and he would give them the book.

Needless to say, I showed up, only to find at least six other kids from my class who wanted the book — all boys with at least four inches of height on me. As soon as I walked up to take my shot at getting the book, they began to complain. My teacher said nothing as they told me to go away because girls didn’t play that game, with all the standard game-based sexism. Even though no one had ever told me video games weren’t for girls before, I stubbornly protested and told them that even if other girls didn’t play that game, I did, and I had just as much chance of getting the book as they did.

While they were still arguing and I was getting progressively more flustered, my teacher handed me the book. The boys stopped complaining, I started beaming, and I got to take the book home. I still play that game today, and the book — which I’ve read several times — has a permanent place on my shelf. Thank you, fifth-grade teacher, for not letting a couple of bullies ruin my day.

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Going From Zero To Hero With A Splash!

, , , , , , | Learning | July 8, 2020

Our swimming club usually gets the kids who have behaviour issues and can’t be handled elsewhere. Since we are used to — untrue — negative stories, we usually don’t have opinions formed before seeing a child. But sometimes, even we get fooled by experiences from the past.

A mother asks if her thirteen-year-old son can join the swimming club. They just emigrated from an Asian nation. They speak little Dutch and a bit more English. It’s not much of a problem, so our contact person asks if he has any swimming diplomas. 

The boy has none. That country doesn’t do swimming diplomas, nor do they teach swimming classes. So, how did he learn? He taught himself! This usually sets alarm bells off because we have had plenty of parents who’ve said their angel children could swim like fish and all they could do was barely avoid drowning. 

Our first plan is to let him start at level zero as a beginner, which means, for him, knee-deep water. But, since there’s a global health crisis going on, that class hasn’t started again yet. 

The mother asks if we can please, please, give him a chance. She knows it doesn’t sound good, but he really can swim well and if we only gave him a chance, if he wasn’t good enough, she would never bother us again. Since something just feels… different from the other entitled parents, the contact person arranges a test swim. 

Seven teachers are present, ready to jump in if needed. The boy is shy and nervous, but he also looks happy when he sees the pool. One teacher will act as his “primary teacher” for the day and she asks him to show what he can do. 

Our jaws drop. Of course, he’s not an Olympic champion but… he’s good! Considering his technique, I mumble that he probably watched Olympic swimming videos as teaching material. 

It turns out that he did!

The teacher then asks him to dive. The boy looks confused; what is diving? The teacher shows it with poses — teachers are not allowed to swim yet — and the boy tries to dive. It is a good dive. He has never swum on his back before, and he does, including the backstroke! He picks it up immediately. 

Then, our most senior teacher arrives. He’s approaching ninety and has taught for around sixty years; keeping him away from the pool would be torture for him, so we’re very careful around him. “Hey, new kid?” he asks us. “So, which class will he be in? Level five?”

After class, I see the boy waiting outside. He walks up to me and asks, in broken Dutch and English, when the next class will be. I tell him to send an email to our contact person and please, please, please come back, because he swims wonderfully! A shy smile appears on his face and when I get home, I contact our contact person to say that the boy seems interested in returning. 

Due to experiences in the past, we expected someone at less than level zero. We got someone close to level five. We hope he will return — if he wants to! — because he can grow into a wonderful swimmer, perhaps even a champion!


This story is included in our Feel-Good roundup for July 2020!

Read the next Feel-Good Story here!

Read the July 2020 Feel-Good roundup!

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Dropping A Conversational Bomb

, , , , , , , | Right | July 6, 2020

This story happens in the early 2000s. I am backpacking through Germany, and I have a few days in Berlin before I move on. I decide to take a bus tour of the city, having never been there before.

On the bus tour, the tour guide is a man who appears to be in his twenties or early thirties. Most of the bus is filled with a group of elderly British men and women. The bus pulls away from the curb, the tour guide introduces himself, and then he asks if anyone has been to Berlin before. 

All of the British men raise their hands.

Guide: “Wow, this is more than usual. When were you all here?”

The British men mumble among themselves for a few seconds.

British Man #1: “Well, if it’s all right with you… we would rather not go into detail.”

Guide: “Oh, come on. Please, share your experiences.”

British Man #2: “If you insist. We were all in the Royal Air Force Bomber Command during the Second World War. We flew bombing raids over Berlin, and other cities, of course.”

British Man #3: “We’ve all seen documentaries about old soldiers who travel to their battlefields one last time, so… here we are.”

The tour guide is at first caught off guard by this response, but he recovers brilliantly.

Guide: “Then I believe we have you, gentlemen, to thank for Berlin being such a unique mix of the ancient and the modern! I do hope you enjoy seeing the city from the ground this time!”

Best bus tour ever. Every time the tour guide pointed out a historic building or landmark, the British gentlemen would share stories about the times they used those buildings as guides and targets for their bombing runs. The tour guide genuinely enjoyed having someone who could share so much insight into what was already a key piece of his lectures, and hearing so many different perspectives and stories made the tour well worth it for the rest of us, as well. I’m pretty sure the tour guide earned at least ten times his normal tips for that tour.


This story is part of our July 2020 Roundup – the best stories of the month!

Read the next July 2020 Roundup story!

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Independence Is Nice, But Being With Friends Is Better

, , , , , , , , | Friendly | July 4, 2020

I have moved into a small apartment in an old building in a “rough” part of town. As far as I can tell, my neighbors are very diverse, mostly immigrants, and all lovely.

The Fourth of July is coming up, and since money is tight, I’m not able to make it home for the holidays. I will be working a shift at the gas station I work at the night before, anyway, so I would be too tired to travel on the day.

I get home one day and see my neighbor’s door open; they’re an Iranian family. The mother is doing laundry and has the door and windows open to make a breeze on this hot and humid day. We get talking, and she asks me what I know about the Fourth of July, as she has heard it in conversation recently. I explain about Independence Day and what American families usually do — BBQ, fireworks, etc. She seems satisfied with the answer and goes back to doing laundry.

The next day another neighbor, this time a Chinese man, knocks on my door. He asks my help in translating a government form he has to complete, and he doesn’t understand certain words. We have spoken before so it didn’t come out of the blue, and I am happy to help. Funnily enough, afterward, he also asks about the Fourth of July and what it means. Again, I am happy to explain.

The day before the Fourth of July, I am heading out to my long night shift and bump into another neighbor coming into the building, a Ugandan woman. She doesn’t ask me about the Fourth of July, but asks if I am working all night, as I sometimes do. She is shocked, asking why I am not celebrating one of my holidays with my family, and I have to explain I have moved far away and money is tight. 

I go to my shift, which is 6:00 pm to 6:00 am, and it goes by without incident, just lots of people on the road traveling to see family and last-minute purchases of party supplies. I finish, head home, and get some sleep.

I wake up around midday on the Fourth of July and see a piece of paper at the bottom of my front door. Someone slid it under while I was sleeping.

It reads:

“Hi, [My Name]! We felt sorry that you couldn’t celebrate with your family today, so we’ve made some food for you. Come across whenever you’re hungry.”

It was sent by the Iranian mother across the hall. Very surprised, and more than a little touched, I freshen up and go over. I discover that their whole apartment has been turned into an international potluck! 

Their apartment is the only one with a terrace, and there I find most of my neighbors! Some are wearing tacky Fourth of July plastic glasses, some are drinking from red party cups, but all are having a good time. Without realizing, I had assisted or befriended most of my neighbors over the previous months, and I had been one of the few US citizens that had treated them nicely and with respect, so they wanted to say thank you.

That afternoon, I celebrate an All-American holiday with Iranians, Chinese, Ugandans, Filipinos, Uruguayans, and Vietnamese, who all contributed their cultural food for the occasion. It is the best Independence Day I have ever had! I miss living in that crappy old apartment!


This story is included in our Feel-Good roundup for July 2020!

Read the next Feel-Good Story here!

Read the July 2020 Feel-Good roundup!

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