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Dust Off That Jacket For The Brain, Too

, , , , | Right | July 6, 2021

It’s a quiet weekday, around lunchtime, and I’m doing a shift at the cash register. I see a man in a business suit come in with one of our store bags and head in my direction.

Me: “Hello, sir! Did you have a return or exchange you wanted to do today?”

The man sets the bag on the counter and pulls out a hardcover book. The whole time he speaks to me, he’s perfectly polite and never raises his voice, but his tone shows his frustration and annoyance.

Customer: “Yes, I bought this book on Saturday, and when I sat down to read it, I found that it was bound upside down. I know I could just turn it over, but if I spend this much on something, it shouldn’t be messed up. So now I’ve had to use my lunch hour to come all the way back here…”

As he’s speaking, I slip the dust jacket off, see that the title stamped on the book’s spine is upside down, flip the book over, and put the dust jacket back on.

Customer: *Notices what I’ve done* “Oh, good grief. Am I the stupidest customer you’ve ever seen?”

Me: *Laughing* “No, sir, sorry. This is not even in my top ten! Since you’re here, maybe you’d like to stop by the café, so you don’t miss lunch?”

Customer: “Hey, good idea!”

He submitted a good survey for me!

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This Book Is Mein Now

, , , , | Working | July 5, 2021

When I’m thirteen, my family is on a trip together and we stop at a small village for lunch and some fresh air. My whole family is ethnically Chinese, and this whole village only has white people in it.

As we are strolling through town, my seventeen-year-old spots an old books shop and decides to take a look inside. I follow her in. As we enter, the bookshop owner looks up and just stares at us. He’s a bald old man that looks like the exact image of an “old, white academic.”

My cousin immediately spots a book she wants to read and pounces on it. I stand beside her and browse the bookshelf. It’s full of Nazi stuff, which my cousin is interested in. She does history in school and is really disappointed that finding surviving Nazi literature is difficult back home, so she is really excited to find their books, especially translated versions.

She reads it for five minutes or so before the bookshop owner comes up to us. He still hasn’t stopped staring.

Owner: “Are you enjoying that book, miss?”

Cousin: “Yes, I am. How much is it?”

Owner: “For you, sixteen pounds.”

My cousin nods and pulls out her wallet.

Owner: “Where are you from?”

Cousin: “Singapore.”

She passes him the bills, but when he takes them, he holds her hand for a very long time.

Owner: “Ah. China. It’s good that you’re learning a second language.”

Cousin: “Singapore isn’t in China. And English is my first language.”

Owner: “Of course.”

He is still holding her hand and staring right into her eyes. My cousin pulls her hands away, placing the money on a nearby table.

Cousin: “Uh, [My Name]. I think it’s time to go now.”

Me: “Okay.”

Owner: “No, please, stay. I’ve never met someone from China before.”

He reached out and tried to grab her as he said that. My cousin turned white as a sheet and batted his hand away with her book, grabbed my wrist with her other hand, and practically ran out of the shop.

There has to be some irony in a Chinese female using a Nazi book to defend herself against a racist creep, but at that point, we were too busy running for our lives to notice it.

We found my dad and aunt, and my cousin quickly filled them in and demanded that we get in the car and leave ASAP. My dad looked like he wanted to punch the bookshop owner’s teeth out, but my aunt had the car keys and overruled him, so we all piled in and hightail it out of there.

It was only an hour later that I realised that I was still holding the book I was reading before our hasty retreat, but my aunt and cousin were adamant that we were never stepping foot within a twenty-mile radius of that village ever again, so I wound up keeping the book.

And that’s how I stole my copy of “Mein Kampf.”

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A Classic Item In The Racism Catalogue

, , , , , | Right | July 1, 2021

I work in a fairly well-known bookstore chain in my country. I’m a fairly new hire, which means that I don’t have the authority to do some things, like ordering.

I’m standing behind the counter — not at the register because we only have one working and our manager is using it. A customer clears her throat loudly and I look up.

Me: “Sorry, ma’am, but this register doesn’t work. If you wait for a second, my manager can help you with your purchases.”

The manager is of Indian descent and very dark-skinned.

Customer: *Smiles nastily* “Oh, I was hoping you could help me, if you know what I mean.”

Me: *Gritting my teeth* “I can help you find something, sure, but this register doesn’t work. I can’t ring you out.”

Customer: “Oh, that’s okay. I need to find something.”

Me: “Sure, what did you need?”

Customer: “Oh, I want to know about a book in your catalogue.”

Me: “Sure! My coworker can help you with that.”

My coworker is also Indian.

Customer: *Sighs and taps her foot* “Can’t you help me?” *Brandishes a catalogue* “I want to order this book.”

Me: *Internally laughing* “I’m so sorry, but I don’t have the authority to do that. Let me get you my manager.”

I motion as if I’m going to get my manager, literally two meters away, but before I can, the customer huffs and storms out of the shop.

Me: *Under my breath* “And stay out.”

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Bookstores Abhor A Vacuum

, , , , | Right | June 30, 2021

I work in a popular bookshop chain in my country. We do sell things like board games and stationery and gift-related things, but that’s it. It’s a bookstore.

I’m tidying the display in front of the counter when a man approaches me, looking confused. He’s holding a vacuum cleaner, which I assume he bought from the appliance shop next door.

Me: “Hi, sir, can I help you with anything today?”

Customer: *Holding out the vacuum cleaner* “Can I buy this?”

Me: *Thinking I’ve heard him wrong* “What?”

Customer: “Can I get this?”

Me: “Um… I’m fairly sure we don’t sell those here.”

Manager #1: “What do you need, sir?”

Customer: “I want to get this!”

Manager #1: “Uh… Okay. Come over here?”

The man follows him around to the other end of the counter. Then, as I’m watching in disbelief, he walks BEHIND the counter and puts his bag down. 

Customer: “So, how much for the wrapping paper?”

Manager #1: “Oh, you wanted this… wrapped?”

Customer: “Yeah!”

Manager #1: “I don’t think we have enough wrapping paper here. Would you like to buy some?”

Customer: “Okay.”

[Manager #1] goes to get more wrapping paper. The man follows him, BEHIND THE COUNTER the entire way.

Manager #2: “Does he know he’s not supposed to be behind here?”

Me: “I… honestly don’t know.”

[Manager #1] comes back. The man acts as if he’s going to follow him behind the counter again.

Manager #2: “Sir, you can’t be behind the counter.”

Customer: “I’m just getting my stuff.”

Manager #2: “Then go around.”

The man huffs and goes around. By this point, I’m hiding behind a display so he can’t see me trying not to laugh. The man spots me.

Customer: “Don’t be scared.”

Me: “I’m not. It’s just the first time someone’s come into a bookshop and asked me if they can buy a vacuum cleaner, that’s all.”

I very quickly turned and walked away so he couldn’t see me cracking up again. I ended up laughing so hard I cried once I’d made it into the break room. I don’t know what happened next, but when I came out, he was gone.

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The Details Alma Matter

, , , , , , , , | Working | June 23, 2021

A few years ago, I went to visit my best friend from college. We decided to take a nostalgia trip to our alma mater.

First, we visited the Alumni House. We decided to sign up for the alumni program and purchase a couple of sweatshirts from them. We paid cash. The individual staffing the Alumni House counted our change back to us incorrectly; she gave us too much money. We pointed out the error and she recounted it back to us, again incorrectly. We tried one more time. When she did it a third time, we gave up. Before we left, we were given coupons for free double-scoop ice cream cones at the Dairy.

Our next visit was to the bookstore. At the time, I was collecting wine glasses from places I visited. I found one and purchased it. They had only been open for a few minutes when we arrived. I paid for my purchase and the clerk gave me my change. She had not set up her till completely and so the change came out of the bank bag.

Me: “Since I’m traveling, can I have the glass wrapped, please?”

Clerk: “Of course!”

And she went to the back to wrap it for me, leaving the till open and the bank bag sitting on the open drawer. I was stunned but didn’t choose to walk out with the bag or any of its contents.

Finally, we made our way to the Dairy. Their ice cream is famous, and we were really looking forward to our treat. While the coupon was for a free double-scoop, I only wanted a single scoop.

Cashier: *Puzzled* “But the coupon is for a double-scoop.”

Me: “I only want a single scoop.”

Cashier: “Are you sure? The coupon…”

Me: “Okay, how about you put the second scoop in a bowl and you can eat it?”

Cashier: “That’s not possible because the coupon is for a cone.”

I was barely containing my laughter at this point and so was my friend. I finally convinced the cashier that she could give me one scoop and she could give my second scoop for free to the next person that wanted a single scoop.

They say things come in threes. I guess that may be true. All of these at a well-respected university. I doubt I will go back again.

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