He’s Getting Warmer… And Colder

, , , , | Healthy | October 26, 2020

I’m an IT technician in a factory. My female colleague is heavily pregnant at the moment and has been suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, so she’s doing a mixture of remote working and on-site working with significantly reduced hours. She only comes on-site if she feels well enough to do so.

Today is one of her better days, so she’s on-site. I’ve just come back from a job. My female colleague is nowhere to be seen, but all her stuff is sitting on her desk so she can’t be too far away. We have a placement student in our office at the moment, a lad in his early twenties. He’s a very capable IT technician but not yet very world wise.

Me: “Hey, [Student], where’s [Female Colleague]? Is she okay?”

Student: “She’s in the bathroom throwing up again.”

I flinch at his apparent lack of sensitivity and realise that, as the most senior person in our office, I may have to have words with him about this.

Student: “Hey, [My Name], I’m worried.”

Me: “Oh, about what?”

Student: “[Female Colleague] has been vomiting a lot. Every day she’s in, she keeps running to the bathroom to vomit. I’m worried about her; that’s not normal.”

Me: “No, [Student], you’re right. It’s not normal. But she has Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which means she’ll vomit a lot because of her pregnancy.”

Student: “But I don’t get it. When my sister was pregnant with my niece, she had morning sickness and it was nothing like as bad as this!”

Me: “Yeah, but this isn’t morning sickness, mate. It’s worse. A lot worse. Oh, and try and be a little bit more sensitive about it, yeah? It can’t be easy for her.”

Student: “Yeah, but it’s not normal!”

Me: *Sighing* “Of course, it’s not normal! That’s the point. She has… Look, just never mind, okay? Try and show a bit of sensitivity.”

I sat down at my desk, having given up trying to explain it to him. [Student] sat for a few minutes muttering, “It’s not normal…” until [Female Colleague] came back, red-faced, tearful, and feeling sorry for herself. I sat her down and got her a drink of water.

To [Student]’s credit, he DID later leave the room and come back with an ice lolly (popsicle) for [Female Colleague]! Clearly, in spite of his cluelessness, he’d been paying enough attention to realise that ice lollies were one of the few solids she was actually able to keep down. He later told me that he felt sorry for her and wanted to try to make her feel better. She seemed to really appreciate the gesture.

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The Only Good Things About The Fifties Were The Music And Fashion

, , , , | Working | October 20, 2020

My dad came to the USA from Germany in 1953. He was working in a factory in Oklahoma. As he was single, a black friend from work invited him for Thanksgiving with his family. A good time was had by all.

The next day at work, he was called into the manager’s office.

Manager: “So, I hear you had Thanksgiving at [Friend]’s house.”

Dad: “Yes, he has a nice family.”

Manager: “Now, you listen here. [Friend] is a [racial slur] and you’re a white man. You don’t like them, and they don’t like us. If you want to work here, you’ll remember that!”

My dad left the company soon after.

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An American Tale In Reverse

, , , | Working | September 18, 2020

I am a manager at a factory. A shipping container comes in from the USA, which is a regular enough occurrence that I leave it to the floor workers without too much trouble.

My radio goes off.

Me: “Go for [My Name].”

Floor Worker: “Uh… boss? It’s about that shipping container that just came in.”

Me: “Is there an issue?”

Floor Worker: “It was supposed to just be big bags of powdered milk…”

Me: “…and?”

Floor Worker: “Maybe you should come down and see.”

Incredibly curious, I head straight down. The shipping container is open, and a group of the guys has gathered around the door. They make room for me and I peer inside to see…

…a terrified cat.

Me: “How long was this container at sea?”

Floor Worker: “Two weeks.”

I spy one of the bags ripped open.

Me: “It survived on the powdered milk. You can’t make this s*** up!”

Eventually, we managed to coax the little guy out of there with some tuna – cliché, I know, but it was from someone’s sandwich for lunch. He seemed pretty resilient and was quite happy to hang around the factory, petted and fed by pretty much all the workers. He’s become a diligent rodent-hunter!

We named him Schrödinger.

This story is part of our Best Of September 2020 roundup!

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Don’t Know If We’re Incompetent Or Gassy, But We’re Somewhere In That Zone

, , , , , , | Working | August 27, 2020

When our teams work in certain high-risk sites, each worker must wear a gas detector. Due to a number of failures and calibration occurring at the same time, one of our workers needs a detector, and we’re all out of spares. I check who’s on layoff and not needing a detector in the next weeks and start making phone calls. The first guy is a fresh hire and he confesses he left a detector in the shack at a site a hundred miles away.

The human resources coordinator blows a fuse when I tell her. “What? This is not admissible! I’ll write him up!”

“I’d really suggest you don’t, boss.”

“Why not? He signed when we gave him his personal—”

“He didn’t sign because he never got one. He was always meant for [low-risk] site, but a third man was needed at the refinery, so we gave him a random one and sent him with God. Moreover, he was supposed to get safety training within ninety days of being hired, and despite several occasions and several reminders, the term expired five months ago. Of course, you could still write him up, but there’s a chance it comes back to bite us in the back.”

So far, no letter.

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Glowing With Confusion

, , , , | Learning | August 19, 2020

I’m teaching a radiation safety course for workers doing a project in a Belgian nuclear plant.

Me: “…while the average dose for the general population in Belgium is two mSv per year—”

Worker: “Oh.”

Me: “Why’d you say, ‘Oh.’?”

Worker: “Those poor people.”

Every attempt to explain failed. It’s a small dose, it’s the value for the natural, background radiation, and it is actually lower than our own country. No joy. To this day, [Worker] is convinced that the Belgians inhabit a deadly radioactive wasteland. Eventually, he failed the test, and I wonder if he did it on purpose.

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