Don’t You Speak Asian?, Part 2

, , , , | Right | March 10, 2021

Me: “Thank you for calling [Store]. This is [My Name] speaking. How may I help you today?”

Caller: “Hi. I would like to speak with an associate who can speak Chinese, please.”

The caller says this with an unusually high degree of certainty. His English sounds adequate to me, and I have no reason to doubt his ability to converse. And my store is located in a city that isn’t exactly known for its Chinese population.

Me: “I’m sorry, sir, but none of our staff speaks Chinese.”

Caller: “Yes, you do! I saw one when I was in your store the other day!”

My store has a surprisingly small staff for a chain retailer, and I happen to know everyone who works here on some personal level. Again, we do not have any Chinese-speaking employees.

Me: “Sir, are you talking about the heavy-set Asian male in his early twenties?”

Caller: “Yes! Him! Put me on the phone with him!”

Me: “Sir, that’s me, and I speak Korean.”

The caller shouted something unintelligible before hanging up. Welcome to Canada, buddy.

Don’t You Speak Asian?

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The Soy Saga Of The Mocha Guy

, , , , | Right | March 7, 2021

This story takes place over the course of most of a year at the coffee shop at my university. I work the most shifts there, partially because I am taking fewer courses than some of the other staff — all of us were students — and partially because I am always up for an extra buck.

Being a university coffee shop, we have a ton of regulars with easily predictable schedules; nearly everyone is a student, professor, or other university staff. I get to the point where I know probably a good 60 or 70% of the morning rush customers by face and order, if not by name.

I’m on the afternoon shift when a fellow I don’t recognise comes in.

Customer: “I’ll have my usual.”

Me: “Sorry, I don’t think I’ve served you before; what’s your usual?”

Customer: “You know, my usual. I have it every time I’m here.”

I look to my coworker to see if she knows his order, and she just shrugs. 

Me: “I guess we’ve never managed to be here when you’ve ordered before. Could you just let me know, and we’ll try to remember for next time?”

He seems a bit put out that we don’t know his order.

Customer: “It’s a large mocha, extra sweet, with a shot of vanilla, hazelnut, and coconut.”

Me: “All right, that’ll be [amount].”

My coworker is already working on a couple of drinks for another customer, and we don’t have a queue, so I head over to make it. Just as I’m steaming the milk, he speaks up.

Customer: “Oh, and that’s with soy, by the way.”

I put down the 2% and go get our soy jug. By the time I put the double amount of chocolate syrup for the extra sweet, the three shots of syrups, and the two shots of espresso, the cup is about two-thirds full. It smells absolutely rank, but whatever; it’s what he ordered and paid for!

I hand the drink out to him and turn to serve another customer who’s just turned up. He then stands there for a good five or ten minutes trying to chat with my coworker and me, as we’re trying to serve the late afternoon rush that’s just started. Finally, he leaves and I think that’s that. 

He does turn out to actually be a regular customer, and he does always order his usual. Well. Sort of.

I have a bit of a spotty memory, so while I can remember “large soy mocha, extra sweet, three shots of syrup,” I can’t always pull to mind which shots those were. Every time I ask him, I get a different set of flavours. (I’m pretty sure he can’t remember, either.) And he always comes in just before the afternoon rush, and he always tries to chat with us as though there is no one else we need to serve.

My coffee shop is right next to the part of the university that gets used for graduation ceremonies. Twice a year, we get SLAMMED with all the families there to see their kids graduate, as well as all our regular customers. Management has come up with a pretty brilliant plan: we set up a side section in our normal seating area with a cash-only till and our plain drip coffee urns, tea, and pastries. That way, the regulars who just want a plain coffee and a croissant and know the exact price can pop over to the other line and be out in a few moments, rather than waiting in the line with all the parents and grannies and cousins from out of town who all have to pay on card and have orders for the whole family of like six or seven drinks.

This works pretty well for us. I frequently volunteered to work the cash line because I’ve memorised the cost of large coffee and pastry and can get people out of there quickly.

It is June of 2011 and Vancouver loses the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs to the Boston Bruins, on home ice. The city goes nuts, and we have the Vancouver Hockey Riot. I stay in that night and watch the game on TV, and I read about the riot the next morning in the news. This just so happens to be the week of our graduation ceremonies.

I end up on the cash line again, and whenever I get a slow moment with a regular, we end up chatting about the riot, because, uh, what the heck?! Most of us are just embarrassed by it, and some folks have stories from friends of friends who were out there. Pretty normal customer service conversation. Then comes the regular.

He looks at the long queue for speciality coffees and comes over to me.

Me: “Hey, not having your mocha today? Just so you know, it’s cash-only over here.”

Customer: “Nah, I’ll just have a large coffee.”

Me: “Cool, that’s [amount].”

As he’s pouring his coffee, there are no other customers in my line.

Me: “Crazy thing last night, after the game, huh?”

Customer: “Oh, yeah, real wild. But really, I’m not surprised.”

I am suddenly very tense.

Me: “Oh?”

Customer: “Oh, yeah, all hockey fans are violent.”

Me: “Uh, woah, now. Hey, I like hockey, and I’m not violent!”

Customer: “Oh, well. Most of them are.”

Me: “Well, what about that guy who got put in hospital trying to help out?”

Customer: “He should have tried harder.”

Me: “What, so you think everyone who was there should have been putting themselves in danger to stop the riot just to prove they aren’t violent people?”

Customer: “Yeah.”

Me: “There were folks out there with little kids! Come on, man. Clearly, there were some people who just wanted a fight, but you can’t just label all hockey fans violent.”

Customer: “Well, if they weren’t violent, they would have stopped it.”

I realise I’m not going to win this one, and I am unwilling to have a proper fight about it with a customer.

Me: “Well, I gotta go refill this pot of coffee. You have a good day.”

I tell this story to my coworkers.

Coworker: “Okay, we thought he was just kind of awkward and a bit of a weird guy, but this is just rude.”

We’re now all a bit on edge with him whenever he orders, worried he’s gonna say something super rude that we have to try to roll with.

A few months pass, and we’re now in September. We have a hometown hero in my neck of the woods: Terry Fox, a young guy who lost a leg to cancer, who decided in 1980 to run across Canada to raise money for Cancer Research. He never finished the run, due to the cancer spreading, and now every year schools across Canada do a campus run to raise money.

Terry Fox went to my university before his run, so we make a pretty big deal of it. As you can imagine, on the day of the run, the topic of conversation with the customers is, “Oh, hey, you doing the run today?”

Enter the regular:

Me: *As I’m making his drink* “So, you doing the run this afternoon, man?”

Customer: “Nah, it’s just raising money for a dead guy.”

Silence. You can hear a pin drop in the shop. It’s like everyone heard him and is now holding their breath.

My mum works at the university and is, in fact, fairly well known and well liked. She was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was in high school and worked throughout her cancer treatments. Almost everyone knows I’m her kid, especially all my coworkers.

Me: *In the midst of steaming the milk for his mocha* “Woah, man, the money isn’t for him; it goes to cancer research.”

Customer: “Nah, it’s all a front. If people just ate better and didn’t fill themselves with chemicals, they wouldn’t get cancer.”

I put the steam jug down.

Me: *Getting emotional* “Hey, man, my mum had cancer, and she’s one of the biggest health nuts I know.”

Customer: “Well, she must have deserved it somehow.”

I turn to my coworker, who is staring, wide-eyed.

Me: “I’m sorry, I can’t serve this customer anymore. Can you finish this drink up?”

I then went into our little back room to sit down for a minute. My coworker finished the drink and then came to check on me. I managed to chill and get back to work.

A few weeks later, when I was back on an afternoon shift, I noticed our regular outside our shop. I steeled myself, took a deep breath, and vowed to put my customer service face on and just deal with him. I watched him look into the shop and peer over at the till. Our eyes locked.

He turned and walked away.

For the next two years that I worked at that coffee shop, he never again came in while I was there.

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When Reading Is The Hardest Exercise At The Gym

, , , , | Right | February 26, 2021

I walk up to the desk of my rec centre after work to renew my gym membership. A world-weary woman behind the counter looks up at me.

Attendant: “Are you here for the gym or pool?”

Me: “Umm, I’m looking to renew my gym membership. The pool’s closed for two weeks.”

Attendant: “Wait. You know that?”

I look at her strangely.

Me: “Yeah. There’ve been signs in the parking garage and on the doors for weeks. I was staring at three signs about it as I was waiting in line. I saw it in big letters on your webpage when I checked your hours. I mean, my hand is resting on a Sharpie-written notice right now.”

Attendant: “So… some people do see them…”

Me: “I am so sorry about your next two weeks. Here’s my card to renew.”

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The Man Is Gettin’ With The Times, Man

, , , , , , | Friendly | February 15, 2021

Since marijuana has been legalized federally in Canada, provinces have been allowed to regulate it more or less as they will. In my province, they’ve gone basically the same way as alcohol, with private shops and government board-run shops, with the addition that you can order from the government-run website.

Friend: “Hey, I was going to ask you… Can you recommend a cannabis shop that’s good about social distancing and whatnot?”

Me: “I get mine online.”

Friend:Right! We can get pot from The Man now, can’t we?”

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RIP In Peace

, , , | Related | February 14, 2021

This takes place when my sisters and I are children. We are on a family road trip, with the three of us stuck in the backseat. We are all close in age — there are less than three years between me and my youngest sister, and I’m the oldest — and we end up, as siblings who are close in age AND close in physical proximity are wont to do, arguing and fighting with one another.

My parents are getting quite fed up with this, and after repeatedly telling us to knock it off, my dad finally loses his cool.

Dad:That’s enough! What would you do if one of you was to die?!

Youngest Sister: *Wide-eyed* “I’d cry!”

Middle Sister: “I’d cry, too!”

I look back and forth between my two sisters.

Me: “Well, then, I guess I’d be the dead one.”

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