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A Good Head On Your Well-Toned Shoulders

, , , , | Learning | May 2, 2020

I spent four years rowing in college and I keep it up on rowing machines once in a while. Today at the gym, I sit down next to a guy with horrible technique and start passive-aggressively impressing and challenging him by pulling better numbers with lower resistance and waaay fewer strokes per minute.

Two guys are having a look at the machine on my other side. One sits down and starts pulling.

Me: “Hi. Can I give you a tip?”

Curious Guy #1: “Sure!”

Me: “The motion goes: legs-back-arms, arms-back-legs. Make sure your hands come forward before your legs bend; that way you’ll never hit your knees with the handle.”

I repeat a couple of times and demonstrate slowly. The guy starts to pick it up and then switches with his friend. The man with horrible technique stands up from the machine on my other side and approaches the Curious Guys.

Horrible Technique Guy: “You should be pulling the handle up high into your chest.”

Me: “I rowed for four years, and I pull it right at my bra strap — not that you have a bra strap, but… right here.” *Demonstrates* “Pulling it up so high gives you what we call chicken arms.”

Horrible Technique Guy: “Yes, but the trainer here told me that.” 

Me: “Yes. How long has the trainer spent rowing?”

Horrible Technique Guy: “All I’m saying is that everyone will have different advice, and you just have to find a way to do it that makes you comfortable.”

Curious Guy #2: “You have four years of experience; I’m going to trust you.”

Me: “Thanks. And when you’re ready, relax your shoulders!”

How Many Languages Can You Tell Her To “Shut Up” In?

, , , , | Right | February 5, 2020

(I’ve always been friendly with this customer and she has been coming into the store for at least a month. My coworker doesn’t speak any English. This happens while I am serving another customer nearby. Note, most Germans do understand English and many speak it very well. They are often happy to help someone in English, as long as that person isn’t being unpleasant. This customer gives a pile of change with some paper money to my coworker and tries to explain something in English. My coworker looks confused as there is no obvious sense for all the change.)

Me: “[Coworker] doesn’t understand any English!”

Customer: “I’m sick of being harassed for not speaking German! I’m not here long enough to bother learning any. Why are you being rude to me? Every time I come here, you are rude to me!”

Me: “I’m not being rude to you. Every time you have come here, I have served you nicely and in English. I’m just telling you that my coworker doesn’t understand English. She speaks German or Turkish.”

Customer: “I don’t care; translate for me!”

(I quickly translate for my coworker while trying to still serve my own customer in German.)

Customer: “I’m the customer; you should respect me! You’re always rude to me! Why should I learn German when I’m not going to be here long enough?”

(By this point, the other customers are just staring at her as most of them know me and know that I am usually very friendly and will serve people in both German and English, depending on their requirements. Then, the customer storms out while yelling about how I am rude to her and that I should respect her because she’s the customer.)

Coworker: *in German* “What was that about?”

Me: “Apparently, I am rude because I told her that you don’t understand English.”

Tablets And Wi-Fi and Money, Oh My!

, , , , , | Right | January 28, 2020

(I get out of the underground train chatting with my brother on my ten-inch tablet; we are in the middle of some exciting banter. Since it is kind of awkward, walking while chatting on a tablet, I sit down on the station bench next to a young lady who is busy with her own iPhone. Some five minutes later, I hear someone clear their throat and turn around to face the lady who has been looking at me expectantly since who-knows-when. I am confused but try to be polite and ask her what is wrong.)

Random Lady: “You must go away.”

Me: *taken aback* “I’m sorry?”

Random Lady: “You must go away; I want you to go.”

Me: “Why?”

Random Lady: “I don’t feel safe talking with you near me; you can eavesdrop.”

(I think, “Why would I want to eavesdrop on a stranger’s phone call?”)

Me: “I’ll be off in a minute.”

(My brother just told me he would be off soon.)

Random Lady: “No, you are not allowed to sit next to me with that.” *pointing to my tablet* “I’ve worked there and I can sue you.”

(I’m now even more bewildered, as I honestly have no idea what she’s talking about. She then points to my tablet’s brand, one of the big and well-known electronics brands.)

Random Lady: *holding out her phone* “This is [Famous, Well-Known Phone Brand which is my brand’s competitor]. You are not allowed to bring [My Tablet’s Brand] near [Her Brand]. You have to go unless you have cash.”

Me: *starting to get annoyed, also wondering if I heard the last part right* “This is a public place. I have the right to be here.”

Random Lady: *angry* “NO! I am here because I need a safe place to make a call without someone overhearing! You owe me money; you have to pay me cash or go away!”

(I am thinking, “You didn’t want anybody to listen to your call and you chose one of the biggest and busiest underground train stations in Berlin?! And what the h*** with suddenly demanding I pay her?”)

Me: “I just need the Wi-Fi for a moment longer.”

Random Lady: *even more ticked off* “You can’t use the Wi-Fi for free.”

(The public Wi-Fi in the station has been provided by the government for free since 2016; I’ve checked their website again just in case.)

Random Lady: “You have to pay! You owe me money or I’ll sue you. That is the law; you have to pay me cash!”

Me: *getting fed up and packing my tablet* “Even if the Wi-Fi is not free, I am sure I do not owe you anything.”

(I left at that point, still bewildered and not really sure what had just happened. The lady was still rambling about lawsuits, money, my tablet brand versus hers, etc.)

Only Those Without Babies Can Understand What It’s Like To Travel With Them

, , , , , | Working | November 7, 2019

I’m currently on maternity leave, two or three months before I’m due back to work, and I realise that I still have a lot of vacation days left over. I ask a colleague who I should talk to about scheduling my vacations — there have been some personnel changes while I was gone — and she tells me to talk to [Superior #1]. She also tells me that technically, all vacation times had to be planned by last November — I was already on maternity then and it’s now June — which nobody told me about. No big deal since we don’t have any trips planned; I figure I’ll just talk to [Superior #1] and get some time off scheduled when nobody else is on vacation. Whatever works. 

I email [Superior #1], asking if I can come see her about when to schedule my time off. She emails me back saying, of course, I can come to the office about that. 

I make an appointment, take my baby with me, ride through half the city, and go to the office. 

When I arrive there, [Superior #1] greets me warmly, and then proceeds to tell me that while she can show me the schedule of who is going away when, I really need to talk to [Superior #2] about when I want to take my time off. 

I just stand there, flabbergasted, with my baby in a carrier, wondering why exactly she couldn’t have told me from the start that she wasn’t the person to talk to about that issue.

A Very Bear-able Service

, , , , | Hopeless | June 5, 2019

(I am staying at a large — several hundred rooms — four-star hotel in central Berlin, co-organising a congress for over 800 people. Our crew, including technicians, artists, and the like, could very well be sixty-something people. We almost take over the entire hotel for four days because we have rented all of the conference rooms, and our boss has requested that we get breakfast served earlier than usual — 5:30 — so that we can get to work early preparing everything. Needless to say, we are known. I am twenty-five at the time. I’m my boss’s second-in-command, a translator and interpreter in a foreign country working for a crew that does not know the local language. Through this, I get to know almost all of the hotel staff and I am very much known, too, because whenever something needs doing or taking care of, I am the one to contact anybody else in the hotel, and vice-versa; whenever anyone from the hotel wants anything from us, they come to me. This is the last day, it’s three or four am, the congress is almost over, and the people are just dancing in the main congress hall. I see my boss asleep at the sound mixing table, so I figured I’m permitted to hit the sack myself. I take the long elevator ride and walk up to my room, only to find that my key card is not working. I find my way down to the reception. Mind you, it’s been a very long few days.)

Me: *very tired* “Hello. My card seems to not be working anymore. Could you recode it for me?”

Clerk: *definitely older than my father* “Certainly. What is your room number?”

Me: “Room [number].”

Clerk: “Here you go. Can I get you anything?”

(I pause. At first, I don’t say anything; I don’t move because I am so very tired. The clerk is very, very polite with me. I notice a shelf with memorabilia from Berlin. As is the usual case with hotels, they are all VERY pricey. I notice a small teddy bear costing 32 Euros, which is a small fortune for me at the time, but I want to bring home something nice.)

Me: “Yes. Could I see that little bear, please?”

Clerk: *hands me the bear* “Here you are.”

Me: *looking at the bear, then slowly* “I will take it. Please sell it to me. I will pay cash.”

(The clerk takes the teddy bear from my hands, looks at it, and looks at me, and I don’t know why, but he says:)

Clerk: “I’m giving it to you as a gift.”

Me: *almost too tired to be surprised* “Really? Thank you very much, sir. Have a good night.”

(I walked off, very much stunned. The staff at this hotel were always very, very helpful. I felt the clerk took pity on me because I was so beat up, and he really didn’t have to make that gesture, but he did.)