For Librarians, They Sure Don’t Read Enough

, , , , , , | Working | September 21, 2020

About two decades ago, I started to do extensive research about true crimes. It led me to write my first book, and several of them since. Being the early 2000s, digital cameras were still very expensive, so, when I went to archives or libraries for documentation, when I couldn’t do copies — which happened a lot, because old documents were too large or fragile — I pretty much had to integrally transcript on a notebook each and every newspaper article I needed for my stories. That was long, and sometimes exhausting, but totally worth it.

When I left my folks to live near Paris, I did buy a digital camera and a laptop, and man, did it radically change my efficiency!

But when I went to the main French library, I was scolded like a child by librarians when I tried to take pictures of newspaper articles. I was very surprised; that was the first and only place I was reprimanded for it, so I thought there were special rules I didn’t know about. Since I didn’t like their tone, the place, and a few other things about it, I stopped going there for almost a decade. 

But to be honest, the library was the best place to go to find pretty much every French newspaper ever published without having to drive hours to go to local archives, where staff were usually way nicer and none used such drastic rules! Since one of my books truly needed every piece of information available, I drove to about sixty different places throughout the country to complete my files during the next few years.

Meanwhile, some colleagues confirmed for me that no other study place in France worked that way — only official archives, and even then, only with files containing sensitive information, and absolutely not newspapers. So, I tried my luck again in the library, only to be rebuked once again when they saw I brought my camera. I tried to ask if they were sure they weren’t wrong, but it was like talking to a wall, so I called it a day and used my laptop to type the articles.

I went there about ten times in two months, and a librarian eventually noticed that I was ordering about twenty newspapers on each visit. He asked me about my work, and when I explained I had to copy articles, he asked, “Don’t you ever bring your camera? It would be way faster!

“But every time I’ve tried that, your colleagues have told me it’s forbidden!” I exclaimed.

“Not at all!” he assured me.

The truth was that about a week before that precise day, library management did realize that laws had changed about photographs in libraries and did accordingly apply them. The problem was that my very first try at that library happened… about six months after the law was effective.

I honestly couldn’t repeat each and every curse word that came right away to my mind about these bureaucrats without being censored definitely there.

But believe me, there was a huge bunch of them.

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Meet My Alter-Ego: Sober

, , , | Right | September 11, 2020

I work in a hotel. It’s a slow Sunday around 2:00 pm. A guest I recognise from his check-in yesterday comes to the front desk from the outside. 

Guest: “Hi! My name is drunk. Can you give me my key card, please?”

Me: “Yes, sure.”

I hand him his key. He drops his key twice, and he falls twice trying to get onto the elevator.

Guest: “Can you please tell me my room number?”

Me: “It’s 234.”

Guest: “Thank you so much!”

He finally gets onto the elevator. My coworker is dumbfounded.

Coworker: “Did that guy just say, ‘Hi! My name is drunk.’?”

Me: *Laughing* “Yup!”

A few hours later, the guest comes back from his room.

Guest: “Hi! Uh… sorry to bother you, but… when did I come back here?”

Me: “Around 2:00 pm.”

Guest: “Gosh… I left at 11:00 am. I don’t remember anything, nor how I ended up in my room.”

Me: “Well, you weren’t at your best.”

Guest: “How bad?”

Me: “I’d say really tired!”

Guest: “Please be honest.”

Me: “You came in and said, ‘Hi! My name is drunk.’ And you fell twice in front of the elevator.”

Guest: “Oh, my… F***, I’m so, soo sorry about that!”

Me: “Don’t worry, it’s calm today; you made my afternoon!”

Every time I saw this guest for the rest of his stay, he kept apologizing. But it was so funny how he was too drunk to know his name but stayed polite all along!

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This Esthetician Raises Some Eyebrows… Or Was It Lashes?

, , , , | Working | September 10, 2020

French is not my first language; however, I am certain that the events in this story are not the result of a language barrier because I am confident in the distinction between “cils” (eyelashes) and “sourcils” (eyebrows). Additionally, this is not the first time I’ve visited a salon in France. I know it takes a special certification to do eyelash tinting, even in my country, so I always call ahead to make sure they have someone who can do it that day.

Me: “Hi. I just wanted to ask if you have someone who can do eyelash tinting today.”

Employee: “Yes, we do.”

Me: “Until what time?”

Employee: “Until seven pm.”

I go into the salon with my friend that afternoon.

Me: “Hi. I’d like to get an eyelash tint and a bikini wax, please.”

Employee: “Eyebrow tint?”

Me: “No, just eyelashes, please.”

I point at my lashes.

Employee: *Concerned* “Oh, was it you who called a little while ago?”

Me: “Yes, that was me.”

Employee: “I thought you said eyebrows. I’m not sure we have someone who can do lashes, but I will find out for you.”

My friend and I sit down until the first employee comes back with someone else after about ten minutes.

Employee: “It turns out we can do a tint for you today.”

Esthetician: “Did you just want your eyebrows done?”

Me: “No, not eyebrows. Just eyelashes, please.”

Esthetician: “Oh, okay. What colour would you like?”

Me: “Blue-black, if you have it.”

They both look confused, so I tell them that black is fine, too. A few minutes later, they take my friend in for a facial, and they finally call me back another forty-five minutes after that. As I am lying down on the table:

Esthetician: “Would you like your eyebrows tinted, as well?”

Me: “No, just eyelashes, please.”

Esthetician: “What colour would you like?”

Me: “Blue-black, if possible.”

Esthetician: “I don’t think I have that. Do you want me to add some brown to it?”

Me: “No, just black is fine, thank you.”

She starts applying a clear gel to my eyebrows and tells me it’s to protect them. It’s a little abnormal, but I can see it’s not dye so I let her continue. She asks me to close my eyes and begins applying something to my eyebrows again.

Me: “Is that still to protect them?”

Esthetician: “No, this is the colour.”

Me: “No, I wanted an eyelash tint! Just eyelashes!”

Esthetician: *Wiping the dye off* “Oh, good thing you said something. I asked you when you came in if you wanted eyebrows and you said yes.”

Me: “No, I said no. Just eyelashes.”

She leaves the room “to look for something” and comes back with more dye, telling me it turns out she does have blue. She finally applies the dye to my eyelashes.

Esthetician: “Is the wax for a half-leg?”

Me: “No, it’s a bikini wax.”

Esthetician: “Then why didn’t you take your pants off?”

Me: “I thought we were just going to start with the tint.”

Esthetician: “If we do them at the same time, we can be done sooner.”

This is extremely weird because when the dye is on your eyelashes, you can’t move your eyelids for risk of getting it in your eyes and burning them. Nevertheless, while my eyes are closed, my lashes are covered in dye, and I’m lying down on the table, she has me remove my pants and put on the disposable paper underwear. Then, she does a bikini wax while I am trying hard to keep my eyes completely closed. When everything is finished and the dye is removed, she comments on the colour of my lashes.

Esthetician: “Wow, that actually looks really good! I never thought to put blue in the dye before.”

It was definitely one of the weirdest salon visits of my life. My friend said in the other room, they did a facial and pedicure on her at the same time while she was completely lying down.

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The Internet Cannot Cycle Up

, , , | Working | September 10, 2020

I work IT support for an optician. They have stores all over France and in a few other countries. They also have a subsidiary with a production site some distance away, but still in Paris. This site is comprised of two buildings.

August is an “off month” for the whole company. Most activities go down, and more than half the personnel is on vacation, including the entire personnel of one building in the distant site, meaning that the building is closed off.

Of course, that’s when the troubles begin!

We get a warning that the Internet has gone down on the production site. Worse, the network material that we need to check is in the closed-off building. Of course, the most mobile tech of the team is yours truly, as I am on a bicycle and everybody else depends on public transportation.

Going there takes me twenty-five to thirty minutes, in 38 to 40° C (about 100-104° F) heat. Sadly, I have to wear dark trousers because of the dress code.

I grab the keys to the closed-off building only to find that, while it opens the metal curtain, it doesn’t open the main door. After searching a bit, the only option is to go back to the main site to find the other key, another twenty-five minutes in the scorching heat.

Turns out the guy who handed me the key thought he had four identical keys. Wrong: he had two sets of two different keys and only gave me one. I gulp down a half-litre of water and stash another in my bag, courtesy of the company. Back to the production site I go. Again, twenty-five minutes of rather intense pedaling under the merciless sun of early August.

Of course, opening the main door and the metal curtain does not end my troubles. The alarm is on, and the guy who controls the alarm remotely can do so only when the Internet works, which, of course, is the one thing that has gone down.

He finally gives me a code that will get me in. Of course, the d*** thing is super-sensitive, and if you take five more seconds than needed, you get your ears blasted. Ah, well. It only lasts less than a second.

Finally able to get to work, I do the usual IT checkups. I power everything down, wait a bit, power it back up, and so on. Nothing budges. I do note that the modem is stuck at a step in its power-up sequence. I take note of everything and then go back to the main site. Once there, I task one of my colleagues with contacting the Internet service provider to see what’s wrong, since that error code is for them. I, for my part, am done with my day and quite happy to be rid of this situation! I’ve spent my whole afternoon either on my bicycle or waiting for stuff to happen, with little or no AC anywhere.

A couple of hours after I get home, my colleague tells me he’s found the crux of the matter:

The contract with the ISP has not been renewed, and of course, the service has been cut. Even better, the service will take up to a week to get back up. It’s a vital part of the still-active production team’s work, and it is now completely inoperable!

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Tourists, I Swear…

, , , , | Learning | August 25, 2020

It’s 2006 I’m fifteen and on a big school trip through Europe to practice our newly-learned German and see some of the countries where German is spoken. For whatever reason, the trip plan includes a few hours of free time and an overnight stay in Strasbourg, which might be right near the German border, but is still in France.

My classmates and I have had a long day, with a start in Cologne and a stop in Heidelberg. Because of this, and because we’re fifteen and hungry most of the time, we split into groups and start looking for street food or grocery shops. It is important to note that we’re all Bulgarian and we all speak at least one other language.

A few of my classmates are trying to find a popular burger chain restaurant; again, we’re 15 and it doesn’t occur to them to just find local food. They stop a man to ask him for directions, since smartphones are not a thing yet and nobody has a map. They first ask him in German, as we all have spoken primarily in the German on the trip. The man shakes his head and tries to go on his way.

Here is where my classmates might be jerks. They don’t let him go and ask the same question in English. The man, again, doesn’t understand. One of the group speaks Spanish and tries this language; again, no luck, and unfortunately, nobody can speak French.

One of the group is frustrated and hangry at this point and just swears under his nose in Bulgarian that they just want to go to the [string of expletives] chain burger restaurant. However, the man overhears, turns around, indicates the right direction with his hand, and goes on his way. My classmates find their burger place.

Was the man another Bulgarian or simply someone who understood that language enough? We’ll never know. But I occasionally snicker to think how multiple foreign languages didn’t help my classmates, but swearing in their own language did.

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