Suited To The Role

, , , , , , , , | Right | February 18, 2013

(I work the floor at an independently-owned menswear store. The owner, my boss, spends a lot of time at the shop, and tries to keep prices as low as possible to help our city’s large homeless population get good job interview clothes. A clearly homeless man is wandering around the store. The other patrons are giving him looks.)

Customer: “Excuse me, sir?”

Me: “Yes, ma’am?”

Customer: “I think you may want to call security. That… bum over there, he keeps feeling the suits and muttering to himself. I’m just sure he’s planning to steal one.”

Me: “Well, ma’am, I think that’s quite unlikely.”

Customer: “Oh, come on, you know how they are! I mean, I’d keep an eye on him even if he wasn’t homeless!”

(The homeless man in question happens to be Hispanic.)

Me: “We don’t discriminate here, ma’am.”

Customer: “Well, I’m sure the owner would want to hear about this!”

(I give in and call him over. The customer explains her concerns. As a black man, my boss isn’t happy with her racism, but agrees to talk to the homeless man.)

Owner: “Excuse me, sir, are you finding what you need?”

Homeless Man: “Well, not really. I’m hoping for something versatile in a dark or navy wool, but most of the options in my size are cut American style instead of European, which fits me a little better. Not to mention they’re all pinstriped, which I really don’t have the build for, you know?”

Owner: “I… yes, I understand. I think we may have some options over here, if you’ll follow me. How did you know all that?”

Homeless Man: “Back before I lost my job, I used to be really into this stuff. I’m not looking for anything fancy, just something I can use to look good for a job interview later today.”

(My boss helps him find something he likes, and comes to the counter with him. The suit is priced at $87.)

Homeless Man: *digging in his pockets* “Hang on, I think I’ve got enough.”

Owner: *to me* “Take my card. I’m buying it for him.” *to the homeless man* “Here. The suit’s yours, on one condition. After your interview today, you come back and apply for a job here, too. Got it?”

Homeless Man: “I… oh, my God, thank you. Thank you so much.”

(Two years later, that formerly-homeless man is my manager, and has a little girl with his new wife — the owner’s sister.)

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Praise Cheeses

, , , , , , | Right | February 12, 2013

(Most delis have two slicer machines: one for meat and one for cheese. My coworker is cutting meat for an elderly woman who has placed a very large order, because she’s hosting a book club meeting at her house this afternoon. We’re chatting with her when a 40-something customer approaches the counter.)

Me: “Good morning. Can I help you, ma’am?”

Customer: “Hi. Could I get a half-pound of [brand] roast beef, please?”

Me: “Certainly. I’m afraid [coworker] here is using the meat slicer to fill this lady’s order at the moment. Could I get you any cheese in the meantime?”

Customer: “No, I don’t want any cheese.”

Me: “Okay, then. If you want to do some more shopping and come back in a few minutes I should have your order ready by then.”

Customer: “No, I don’t have any more shopping to do. This is the last thing I’m buying.”

Me: “I see. Then I’m afraid there will be a little wait while my coworker finishes cutting meat for her order.”

Customer: “What do you mean I have to wait? That slicer’s not being used, just use that one!”

(She gestures toward the cheese slicer.)

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am. That’s our cheese slicer. I’m afraid I can’t cut meat with that one.”

Customer: “Why the h*** not?!”

Me: “It’s a possible health hazard. They call it cross-contamination, and that’s what happens if I use equipment to prepare food for you that was just touching something you’re allergic to. Say, if you came to get cheese but were allergic to some kind of meat, the meat juice could get on the cheese you order and make you sick.”

Customer: “Well, I’m not allergic to any kind of meat or cheese. Just use the stupid slicer already!”

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am. I can’t do that. Even though you might not have any allergies, some of our other customers might. On top of that, our management has a zero-tolerance policy for that. I could get fired for doing it.”

Customer: “Well, that’s an idiotic policy! I’m not other customers; I’m me! I don’t care what happens to your other customers! If they’re allergic to meat it’s just proof that God wants to get rid of them so they won’t inconvenience people like me!”

Me: “Well, I do care about our other customers, ma’am. And I’m going to ask you to please lower your voice and not tell them that God wants them to die, or I’ll have to call my manager over.”

Customer: “Go ahead and call him, smart guy! You think you know what God wants better than I do? I’ve gone to [Church] for 10 years!”

Me: “No, ma’am. I don’t think I know what God wants. Actually, I don’t believe in God.”

Customer:You’re an atheist! No wonder you won’t just cut my f***ing meat! You were sent here by Satan himself to stop me! You’re just like Hitler or Saddam Hussein! Call your manager over here right now, so I can tell him there are demons casting spells over his meat!”

(Fed up, the elderly woman my coworker is serving slaps her own forehead and turns to the raving customer.)

Elderly Woman: “Miss, you need to hush your fat mouth up and let these folks do their job. They don’t need you hooting and carrying on. And I’ll have you know I’ve been attending [Church] for 40 years, and I know that over there they teach you to have some respect and decency! No wonder you don’t have any, because you can’t hear anything over the sound of yourself screeching! And whatever that young man believes about God is between God and himself, but God loves him no matter what.”

(The customer is silent, and then stammers angrily for a few seconds.)

Customer: “Well, he, uh… he should have just cut my d*** meat!”

(She storms out of the store.)

Elderly Woman: “Some people have no tact.”

Me: “Would you like to try a free sample of our [most expensive cheese], ma’am?”

Elderly Woman: “I’d love to, young man. God bless you.”

Me: “He already does, ma’am.”


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She Crossed The Line

, , , , | Right | February 7, 2013

(I am a customer at my regular hardware supply store, which most local contractors have accounts at. I’m standing in a large queue at the cash register with a few items for a job I’m working on. The customer in front of me seems annoyed and is asking many questions about a special light bulb for her house.)

Cashier: “I’m sorry, but from what you’ve told me, I don’t think that particular bulb will work with your fixture. However, the row of bulbs above where you got it will work!”

Customer #1: *more annoyed* “So, I have to pick out another one? Can you at least show me?”

Cashier: “I’m sorry, I can’t leave the register right now. But [Employee] can help you.”

(She points to her coworker twenty feet away in the lighting section. The customer begins heading there, but first asks…)

Customer #1: “Will I have to stand in line again?”

(The cashier and I look at each other and shrug, so we both wait out of courtesy. However, the customer is gone for quite a while although the aisle she went to is very close, so the cashier decides to help me first. However, halfway through my transaction, [Customer #1] comes back and goes straight to the front of the line.)

Customer #1: “Excuse me! I believe I was first!”

Cashier: “Oh! Ma’am. I’m sorry. You were gone for a while, and he only had a few items and I thought–”

Customer #1: “Whatever! Just ring me up!”

(The cashier nervously looks at me and I nod that it’s okay for her to go first. By now, there are at least six people standing in the queue behind me. The cashier begins to ring her up.)

Customer #1: “You know, that was really rude! You should all be more helpful here!”

Me: “Ma’am, she was only doing her job. This is a small business and they are very courteous and helpful here.”

Customer #1: *turns around to me* “I don’t care! They need to be more efficient and shouldn’t be so rude. I’m on my break. I don’t have time for this!”

Me: “Ma’am, I’m a contractor; I lose money for every minute I am away from the worksite. Your time is no more valuable than anyone else’s, and [Cashier] works very hard and is very good at her job.”

Customer #1: “W-well… I was only saying that so they know that they are wasting a customer’s time!”

(A customer behind me interrupts her.)

Customer #2: “Hey, lady! We’re all contractors. You are wasting our time and money!”

(Everyone else in line verbally and visibly motioned in agreement. The first customer finished her transaction and quickly left, embarrassed. The cashier was so thankful that she went and told the store manager, who gave everyone in the queue a keychain flashlight for free. I love that store! Remember to support your local businesses!)


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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Powers

, , , , , , , | Right | January 14, 2013

(I’m half-Chinese, but with my sunglasses on, people usually can’t tell. I’m fluent in Mandarin. One day I get a text from my friend, a grade-school teacher.)

Friend: “You speak Chinese, right?”

Me: “Yeah, why?”

Friend: “Come down to [intersection] around noon and explain what the f*** is going on.”

(At my lunch break I head down there. On one side of the street is a crowd of school kids, while on the other side an elderly Chinese man with an ice cream cart.)

Kid #1: “I’m gonna do it.”

Kid #2: “No way.”

Kid #1: “Yeah way. I’m fast enough!”

Kid #2: “You’re not Chinese.”

Kid #1: “So?”

Kid #2: “Only [Chinese Name] can do it.”

Kid #1: “I’m gonna do it.”

(Kid #1 dashes across the street, yanks back the cover of the cart, and grabs a handful of ice cream. He takes off, but the vendor catches him, pinning both arms behind his back.)

Vendor: “Ah, three bars? Your total is $9.28.”

Kid #1: “Lemme go!”

(The vendor removes some money from the kid’s pocket with his free hand.)

Vendor: “Cash paid is $20.”

Kid #1: “Yeah, yeah, I know the drill.”

(While still holding the struggling kid, the vendor deposits the $20 in his till and takes out change.)

Vendor: “Your change is $10.72.”

(The vendor puts the change and ice creams in a bag and hands them to the kid, who takes off.)

Vendor: “Have a nice day!”

Kid #2: “Told you.”

Kid #1: “Fine! Okay, [Chinese Name], you do it!”

(A short Chinese boy steps forward. His clothes are patched and despite the weather, he’s not wearing a coat.)

Chinese Kid: “Let us meditate… on the way of the wind.”

(He strikes a ridiculous pose and exhales loudly. The other kids jump back.)

Chinese Kid: “…on the way of the snake…”

(New pose, hissing loudly. The others back away even more.)

Chinese Kid: “…on the way of the hawk.”

(He flaps his arms and jumps in a circle. The kids are a good twenty feet away now.)

Chinese Kid: “The meditation is done.”

(He runs up to the ice cream vendor and grabs a handful of bars. The vendor strikes him with an exaggerated karate chop which the kid easily blocks.)

Chinese Kid: *flees, speaking Chinese* “Thank you, Mr. [Vendor]!”

Vendor: *shakes his fist angrily, also in Chinese* “Sorry we are out of lime today!”

(The Chinese kid kicks towards the vendor from across the street.)

Chinese Kid: “My mother says she hopes your leg feels better!”

Vendor: *red-faced with rage* “It does! Tell her thank you for the tea!”

(The kids are enthralled. As they eat the ice cream, I approach the vendor.)

Me: *in Chinese* “What just happened?”

Vendor: “Oh… you understood. That little boy is a new immigrant, and all the other children mocked him because he is small and weak. He told them Chinese people have special powers, and they beat him up and told him to prove it. But I overheard and whispered to him to rob me. Now we have a deal.”

Me: “How wonderful!” *pointing behind him* “Hey, can you tell what that is?”

(As he turns around, I drop some money on the cart and grab a bar of ice cream, fleeing.)

Vendor: “You forgot your change!”

Me: *shakes my fist* “It’s a tip!”

Kids: “Whoa! How did you do that?”

(I slip off my sunglasses. The Chinese kid bows to me and I bow back.)

Kid #2: “Told you they have special powers. Never bully a Chinese kid, man. Never!”

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This Boss Gets More Than Just The Check

, , , , , | Right | January 10, 2013

(A young gay couple has become my favorite regulars at the small restaurant where I work. One day as I am talking with them, an older, more conservative-looking man walks past us to the To-Go pickup area. He stops short next to us, and in the same moment, I see one of the young guys look down with a panicked expression at where he is holding his boyfriend’s hand.)

Older Man: “[Name]! I didn’t know you ate here!”

Young Man: *uncomfortable* “Oh, yeah, um… it’s half way between work and my… boyfriend’s work, so.”

Older Man: *glances at James’ boyfriend* “Oh.”

(There is an awkward pause, where we all just stare at each other.)

Older Man: “I’m sorry, I’m being rude.” *offers his hand to James’ boyfriend* “I’m [Older Man], [Young Man]’s boss. Very nice to meet you. We all love James in the office.”

Young Man’s Boyfriend: “Oh! Nice to meet you, too! You know, [Young Man] is always talking about how much he looks up to you.”

(The young man is so visibly relieved that he is near tears. The three makes some more small talk before the older man heads off to pick up his lunch. I end up taking his payment and he quietly asks me to pay for James and his boyfriend’s meal as well.)

Older Man: “You know… when I was growing up, I was taught that being gay was bad, a sin. But that young man is the brightest kid I’ve ever known, and I can’t see a d*** thing wrong with him…” *pauses* “…or his boyfriend.”

(He smiled at me and then walked away without another word. To this day, I can’t think about the look on James’s face when I told him that his boss paid for his nearly $100 meal without wanting to cry.)


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