The Power Of A Potato

, , , , , , | Hopeless | October 16, 2017

I’m sharing this, not to show off about how generous I am, but how broken the system is, and how easily well-meaning people can fall through the cracks. This is a message to encourage people to keep an eye out and try to be helpful where you can.

Recently, my wife was admitted to a National Health Service hospital with pneumonia. She’s also eight months pregnant, so it’s all a bit stressful, and we’re hoping the baby hasn’t been affected in any way by the pneumonia, or by its treatment. I visit her after work to take her a few items from home and to speak to her doctor. She’s going to be in for a few days, at least. We also discuss whether she should transfer to a private hospital, as we have private medical insurance.

By the time we decide on what’s happening, it’s nearly 9:00 pm, and I’ve not eaten since midday. My wife sends me down to the cafeteria to get some dinner before they close. In the line behind me is a boy of no more than 11, wearing the uniform of a local primary school, who is doing the same thing. He chooses a cheap sandwich, and looks enviously at my jacket potato with chicken curry. I pay, and move to sit down, but hear behind me that the card the boy is trying to pay with has been declined. It’s at this point I notice there’s only one other table occupied in the cafeteria, by a group of off-duty nurses. This kid is on his own.

He reaches into his pocket to look for change. He has about fifteen pence. By the time he goes to find his parents and comes back, the cafeteria will be shut. Of course, I offer to pay. The poor kid is crying, trying to refuse. The lady running the cafeteria only cares about closing up. I ask if there’s any chance of a cheap jacket potato for the lad, as they’re only going to be thrown out anyway.

“The prices are up there,” she says, pointing at the menu board.

“Fine,” I say to the lady. I turn to the boy and ask, “Chicken curry, or beans and cheese?”

“Beans and cheese, I guess,” he mumbles, tears clearing.

Of course, he’s wary of strangers, as he should be, but I ask him to sit with me. I guess I’m feeling helpless, not being able to do anything for my wife and unborn child, so I’m trying to help in any way I can. After a few bites of potato and a gulp of soda, he tells me that his mum is in the hospital for a second night in a row. None of the family that were supposed to help look after him have turned up, so he’ll be sleeping in the chair by her bed again, and going to school in a dirty uniform again. And of course, he’s worried sick about his mum. This is ridiculous.

I go back with the boy to the ward his mother is on. She is worried, as she just sent him down to grab a sandwich, and he’s been gone about half an hour. I explain what happened, and she tries to pay me back, almost ripping her IV cannula out as she stretches around looking for her purse.

“No need, no need, please!” I protest. She eventually relents, and looks drained from the effort. I have no idea what’s wrong with her, and don’t want to ask. Given the ward she’s on, I doubt it’s life-threatening, but it doesn’t look like fun, in any case. I convince her to make social services aware of her son’s predicament, and ask the ward sister why they hadn’t done so already. They blame shift changes, foreign and new staff not knowing procedures etc.

Eventually, they contact the out-of-hours social services, who promise to send someone home with the boy to get a clean uniform, and to chase up the family for somewhere for him to stay. I tried calling to find out what happened, but of course they couldn’t discuss it with me. I hope it all worked out okay for them.

And in case you’re interested, yes, my wife and baby were fine. A beautiful girl, induced a few days later, and a few weeks early, but absolutely perfect.

Childhood Gone In A Puff Of Smoke

, , , , , , , , | Related | October 15, 2017

(My sister and her family are currently living with us, which results in some hilarious moments when her toddlers, ages two and four, get into things. This happens with the two-year-old. She always brings us our things when she finds them, from phones to shoes.)

Sister: “Yeah, [Sister’s Husband] was just saying– does [Two-Year-Old] have your vape?!”

Mom: “What?!”

(They both run to the living room as I’m bent over, talking to my other niece.)

Me: “[Four-Year-Old], do you want to play Barbies?”

Four-Year-Old: “[Two-Year-Old] got Nana’s vape!”

Mom: “She just hit the button; don’t worry.”

Sister: “No, Mom, she blew smoke out of her d*** mouth! [Two-Year-Old]!”

Mom: *laughing* “What the f***?! She normally brings it to us!”

(By this time, I’m in the living room, doubled over laughing. The two-year-old, who long ago decided I’m her favorite person, waddles up to me.)

Two-Year-Old: “[My Name], more!”

Me: “You want more of Nana’s vape?”

Two-Year-Old: “Yeah!” *claps and hops*

Sister: “H***, no! [Sister’s Husband]! [Two-Year-Old] just sucked Mom’s f****** vape!”

(None of us have any idea how my niece managed to successfully work the vape, but she was unharmed, and this will definitely be a story to tell for years!)

A Crafty Way To Make Money

, , , , , , , | Friendly | October 15, 2017

(I have taken my nieces and nephews out shopping while babysitting. I go to a friend’s business where she has a cafe. It’s a very safe environment; the whole place is only three rooms, and I know most of the people there. There’s a woman that I know there on this day, and she’s got some items set up on one of the tables in the cafe. I leave the kids eating while I go to the second room to pay for our meals, and when I come back I find this woman has approached them. They are all out of their chairs, ready to follow her.)

Woman: “Oh, hi, [My Name]! I was just asking the kids if they want to do some crafts with me!”

(She talks to them, getting them excited about doing the crafts. I’m hesitant about letting them, as we have to leave very soon to get home in time for their father to pick them up, but the kids are so excited about it and I don’t want to let them down.)

Me: “Okay, just something real quick; we have to leave in ten minutes.”

(I finish my meal and then tell them we have to leave.)

Woman: “Okay, [My Name], that’s four children at $15 each.”

Me: “What? You never said anything about payment to begin with.”

(My friend who owns the business always runs free crafts for children during school vacation time, and I have donated craft things myself.)

Woman: “Oh, didn’t I? You can give a donation if you want; whatever you think is fair.”

Me: “All I’ve got is $10.”

Woman: “Okay, that will do as a donation.” *turns to kids* “Okay, pack up your stuff now.”

(The only thing they have done is draw on a piece of paper. She turns back to me.)

Woman: “You can bring the rest to me next week.”

Me: “That $10 was all I could afford; I’m sorry.”

(As we left, I saw her at another table inviting more children to do crafts with her. They were the children of staff members, including the owner’s son. I mentioned what happened to the owner, who told me I wasn’t the only one to make a complaint about her approaching children and then trying to make the parents pay.)

Sword In The Stone-Faced Grandma

, , , , , , | Right | October 12, 2017

Little Girl: “But, Granny, why can’t I have the sword?”

Granny: “Because swords are for boys and you’re a girl, so have the [Doll] instead.” *gestures to me* “I’m sure that she had [Doll]s as a girl.”

Me: “Actually, I had cowboy pistols and a [Gaming Console].” *while handing sword to the little girl* “Be careful ruling the high seas!”

(Granny was furious.)

Oh, Mother!

, , , , , | Related | October 5, 2017

(I work in a reception class at this time, for kids aged four to five. We have just finished saying goodbye to all the children when we hear a noise from the toilets. We investigate, and find the little brother of one of our students happily playing with the water in the sink. All the parents have gone at this point, so I am sent to go and call the parent while my colleagues entertain the child. I try the first number we have for our student, but get no answer, so I leave a message:)

Me: “Hi. This is [My Name] from [School]. When you have picked up [Student], you left [Brother] behind. He is safe and I didn’t want you to panic. Can you call me back when you get this message?”

(After five or ten minutes of no response, I try the second number, listed as “Grandma.”)

Me: “Hi, [Grandma], this is [My Name] at [School]. I was hoping you could help. I have got [Brother] here; I think [Mother] has left him here when picking up [Student], but I can’t get through to her. Can I just check her number with you?

Grandma: “I ain’t dealing with that b****; she can f*** right off.”

Me: “I’m sorry to hear that, but do you have her number so I can get in touch?”

Grandma: “I deleted that b****.” *hangs up*

(I go and explain the situation to my colleagues and relieve the colleague watching [Brother], who needs to pick up her own children, leaving me and the teacher. I try the first number again, and this time there is no answer at all. The phone just rings out. Finally, over thirty minutes after the children were all collected, we decide to find the mother’s old contact information, which includes a work number.)

Me: “Hi. Is [Mother] there, please?”

Employee: “No. I think she used to work here, but I have only been here about six months.” *shouting in the background* “Yeah, she used to work here. Why? What’s up?”

Me: “This is [My Name] from [School]. I don’t suppose she left any contact information?”

Employee: “I couldn’t tell you if she did.”

Me: “I understand that. If she did, could someone ring her and let her know she has left something important at School], and ask her to ring me?” *trying to stress the importance of the matter, without outright saying she forgot her kid*

Employee: “Yeah, I will try.”

(I explain the situation to the teacher, who is cutting up some of her lunch to share with [Brother] as he is moaning he is hungry. It is now nearly an hour after school has finished.)

Me: “Should we be ringing social services?”

Teacher: “Give them a call and see what they think.”

(The phone suddenly rings. It’s [Mother].)

Mother: “I got a call to ring [My Name].”

Me: “Yeah, that’s me. I’m glad you got my message. I am at [School] with [Brother]. Are you on your way back to get him?”

Mother: “What? He’s not in his pushchair?” *noise in background as she checks* “Oh, well, I am in town at the minute with [Student]. I will be there in 10 to 15 minutes.” *hangs up*

(Twenty minutes later, there was still no sign of [Mother], no answer on her phone or [Grandma]’s, and social services advised to just wait for her. Nearly two hours after school has finished, the lights started going off and they began locking the doors. I left a message on [Mother]’s phone explaining the situation, and telling her that the teacher found a car seat and we were going to bring [Brother] to her at home. We reached the address we have on file, and wouldn’t you know, according to the new tenants [Mother] hadn’t lived there for at least two months. Eventually, two-and-a-half hours after school closed, we ended up sat in social services’ reception, waiting for [Mother] and/or the police to collect the child. [Mother] eventually turned up and collected [Brother] without so much as a thank you or explanation, and proceeded to shout at the social workers and storm out when they tried to find out what had happened. I wish I could say that this was the worst family I ever worked with.)

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