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An Un-Toxic Work Environment!

, , , , , , , , | Working | May 24, 2022

I work at an independent insurance agency. We are allowed to disconnect abusive calls, and the agents and owner will fire clients if the behavior is repeated. We are asked to give at least one warning before disconnecting; I give two.

We have recently hired a new customer service agent. She has many years of call center experience. She has been doing pretty well on the phone and has started taking calls solo. I follow up with her to make sure the files are noted properly after her calls. I’m reviewing some of her notes and notice she has in the notes that a client yelled and cursed at her.

I pull the call and listen to it. It’s vile. She kept trying to tell the client she was trying to help him, but he was yelling over her and cursing up a storm. He finally hung up on her.

I immediately notify the client’s agent and send him the call recording. I then ask the agent to come to my office.

Me: “Hey, I saw the notes from [Client]. Are you okay?”

Agent: “Yes, I’m okay. I’m sorry, I tried to calm him down and help him but…”

Me: “No, no, no, don’t apologize. You did nothing wrong. I know I mentioned it when you started doing solo calls, but I want to reiterate that you do not have to put up with that kind of behavior.”

Agent: “You were serious?”

Me: “Absolutely. I ask you to give them at least one warning; it’s up to you if you want to give more. If they continue to be abusive, tell them their agent will be in touch and hang up. Let the agent know and they will take care of the issue.”

Agent: “I can seriously hang up on people?”

Me: “Well, not for random reasons. But if they are inappropriate or abusive, absolutely!”

Agent: “That’s amazing. We weren’t allowed to hang up on anyone at the call center. No matter what.”

Me: “That’s one of the perks of having an awesome owner. We don’t tolerate abuse.”

I love my job and my boss. Even though it can get stressful, knowing the agents and boss have our backs makes a massive difference.

Hashing Out The Hash Brown Issue

, , , , , , | Working | May 10, 2022

My car is out of commission, so I decide to order enough food from a nearby donut shop/breakfast place to last me through the weekend. My order is one latte, three bagel sandwiches, four donuts, and six orders of hash browns. Their hash browns are little medallions, so a single order of hash browns consists of a little paper baggie of five or six pieces each.

I decide to order on the mobile app as it’s a large order. About fifteen minutes after making the order, I arrive at the shop. There are only two workers: one making food and the other running the drive-thru, manning the cash register, and making drinks. My latte and donuts are ready in the pickup area with my receipt and name next to them. Everything listed on the receipt is correct, so I grab the finished items and sit at a table to wait for the rest of my order to get done.

Ten minutes pass and there is no sign of progress on my order, so I walk up to the counter. I was under the impression they were working on the rest of my order since someone obviously finished about a quarter of it, but boy, was I wrong.

Worker #1: “Are you waiting for something, ma’am?”

Me: *Confused* “Yes, I’m waiting for the rest of my order. I only got the latte and donuts.” 

I show my receipt.

Worker #1: “Sorry, I’ll get right on that.”

Another ten minutes pass as I idle by on my phone. [Worker #1] comes up to me with a bag. From the look and weight of it, I’m certain it’s not my whole order. Sure enough, when I open it, there are only two bagel sandwiches and just one baggie of hash browns. I go back up to the counter again.

Me: “Hi, sorry, my order still isn’t done.”

Worker #1: “What’s missing?”

Me: “There’s a bagel sandwich missing, and this bag only has one of the hash browns. I ordered six.”

Again, I motion toward the receipt, which correctly lists everything in my order. [Worker #1] looks as annoyed as I’m starting to feel.

Worker #1: “Sorry, I’ll fix that.”

I wait another ten minutes. If you’re keeping track, it has been forty-five minutes since I made the order on the app and thirty minutes since I showed up in the shop. The other worker, who has been busy with other duties, comes up to me.

Worker #2: “Sorry, ma’am. I’m making your bagel sandwich now. Would you like something as compensation for the wait? More donuts or hash browns?”

Me: *Like a fool* “More hash browns would be nice, I guess.”

Worker #2: “Got it!”

Five more minutes pass, and [Worker #2] hands me another bag. It has the third bagel sandwich and two more baggies of hash brown medallions, which are the “compensation.” I am still missing the complete six orders of hash browns I ordered from the very beginning. At this point, I think the universe is punishing me for wanting to eat unhealthy food from a donut shop. It’s a sign, but I’m in too deep; it’s been fifty minutes!

Me: *Finally losing my patience* “I’m sorry, my order is still wrong.”

Worker #1: *Angry* “What’s wrong with it?”

Me: “I’m still missing five hash browns.”

Worker #1: *Defensive* “I already gave you that!”

Me: “No, you didn’t.”

Worker #1: “Show me your food!”

I’m floored. I have been in sight of the counter sitting at a table the entire time on my phone and haven’t touched the food, nor do I have any place to put it. I start taking out the items from the order and passive-aggressively counting the contents as I pull them out of the bags.

Worker 1: “Give me the bags!”

Fed up, I hand them to her. At this point, [Worker #2] comes over and starts counting the baggies of hash browns.

Worker #2: “Ma’am, there are three orders of hash browns here.”

Me: “That’s not all of the hash browns. I only got one from my original order. There’s supposed to be six.”

Worker #1: “I gave you six!”

I stare at her. It finally dawns on me: she literally put six medallion PIECES of hash browns in the first baggie she gave me and didn’t realize I wanted six ORDERS of hash browns.

Worker #2: “Ma’am, we’re going to have you charge you for those if you want extra.”

Flabbergasted, I pull up the receipt of the order on the shop’s mobile app and hold it up, barely keeping myself from shoving it in her face.

Me: “I wanted six orders of hash browns. I only got one.”

From the food now spread out on the counter, it is now obvious what has happened.

Worker #2: *Long pause* “Sorry, ma’am. [Worker #1] didn’t tell me that. I’ll start on them right away.”

[Worker #1] has gone silent. I don’t even look in her direction anymore.

Five more minutes later, [Worker #2] gives me four more baggies of hash browns. I sigh, but I’ll take it.

Worker #2: “I’m really sorry, ma’am. She really did mess that up.”

I murmured a half-hearted thanks and finally got out of there almost a whole hour after I’d ordered the food. When I get home, I gorged myself on the hash browns and donuts. Was it worth the hassle? Debatable, but d*** if those things weren’t delicious.

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys (Unless They Want To)

, , , , , , , , | Related | April 30, 2022

I was visiting my goddaughter, and I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up.

Goddaughter: “I want to be everything, except for a bad guy or a cowboy.”

Me: “Why not a cowboy?”

Goddaughter: “I don’t know. I just don’t want to be a cowboy.”

Me: “But you want to be everything else? You’re going to be a plumber, and a cop, and a doctor? Isn’t that a lot of things to do at once?”

Goddaughter: “No, I’ll do them all.”

Mother: “It’s too bad she won’t be a cowboy or she could be all of the Village People at once.”

My goddaughter stayed true to her claim for my whole visit, repeatedly telling me she didn’t want to be a bad guy or a cowboy. Poor cowboys get no love.

This Stuff Only Happens On TV… And NAR

, , , , , | Learning | April 29, 2022

I’m a biology teacher at a high school. Back when I was a much newer teacher, we had reached the point of learning about genetics and Punnett squares, which are used to show how dominant and recessive genes will be inherited from parents to children. Usually, the second most common example used for these — next to Mendel’s original example with peas — is eye color. However, I didn’t like this because it’s not accurate; eye color is actually controlled by sixteen different genes and is more complex than simple Punnett squares can handle.

Thus, I decided to use blood type as an example for our Punnett squares. It’s a slightly more complicated example, due to A and B types being codominant, but at least it doesn’t require lying to students.

Then, one day, a girl came up to me before the start of class.

Student: “Mr. [My Name], I think I’m doing the squares wrong.”

Me: “What’s the problem?”

Student: “My dad is AB and my mom is A, but I’m O. I can’t make the squares work.”

Me: “Oh, yes, that wouldn’t usually work. Are you certain you have everyone’s blood types right?”

Student: “Yeah, I asked them last night.”

Me: “Oh, I see.”

Student: “An AB parent can have an O kid, right?”

There was a hint of anxiety behind this question, as if she was pleading with me to tell her they could.

The answer — as I found out only after I was put on the spot with this question and Googled it — was that it is possible but exceptionally rare for this to happen. Still, even if I didn’t know that for certain yet, I knew there were usually exceptions to most genetic rules of thumb, so I hedged a little.

Me: “Usually not, but genetics are strange; there are always mutations or unusual recombination happening, so most of the stuff we teach in genetics is how things usually work, not a promise it will always be that way. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are times when AB parents have O children.”

Student: “But how often does that happen?”

Me: “I’m not really certain.”

Student: “But is it common?”

Me: “I don’t think it’s common, but it could happen.”

The student was quiet for a bit while thinking, looking increasingly worried. Eventually, she spoke up again.

Student: “What about eye color? Brown is dominant, right?”

The girl had brown eyes.

Me: “Eye color is more complicated since it’s controlled by many genes; Punnett squares don’t really work with them.”

Student: “So, brown really isn’t dominant?”

Me: “It kind of is. If you have one parent with blue eyes and one with brown, you’re more likely to end up with brown eyes, but it doesn’t always happen that way.”

Student: “But parents with blue eyes can have a brown-eyed daughter?”

Me: “Yes, definitely!”

Student: “Okay, good. Is that common?”

Me: “Well, it’s not exactly common, but it definitely can and does happen. I’m afraid I don’t know the exact odds without looking it up.”

Student: “Oh, okay. Thank you.”

She still looked worried and a bit dejected as she wandered back to her seat. I was not at all happy with how the conversation had gone, but I couldn’t think of anything else I could say or do, other than lying to her, to make things better, so I had to just leave things be and get on with starting class.

The next Monday, I saw the student again. She was looking very upset while looking at me as if she couldn’t decide whether to approach me or not.

Me: “[Student], are you okay?”

Student: “No! You were right!”

Me: “Right about what?”

She looked like she was considering answering, but she glanced around the classroom that was starting to fill with students, some of whom were clearly interested in our discussion in front of the class.

Student: “I don’t want to talk about it here.”

Of course, I respected that, but I found her to talk in private later. It turns out the man who raised her was not her biological father after all. He had fertility issues, and in the end, his brother ended up donating sperm for them to get pregnant, but they had never told their daughter. The blood types not adding up was the thing that made my student start thinking, but ultimately, she had come up with lots of other things, like eye color, that didn’t quite add up, and so she had decided to confront her parents during the weekend. They admitted the truth when she confronted them.

She was very upset at having this hidden from her, especially since, apparently, her biological father had moved to another country shortly after she was born, so she barely knew anything about him. I did my best to reassure her and remind her that anyone who cared for and loved her all her life was her real father, regardless of genetics, but she was less concerned about that and more about feeling like she had been lied to her entire life.

She would eventually come to accept the news, but not until she had time to deal with her feelings and emotions. As for me, I decided that I wasn’t going to be teaching any blood type-related Punnett squares after that year. I’ll still sometimes use the old standard of eye color but only after stressing that it’s an oversimplification. I figure, that way, if I ever have a brown-eyed student asking why their parents are both blue-eyed again, I can at least honestly say that is a real possibility and that I had already warned them we were oversimplifying eye color. I’d prefer not to be the cause of any more children getting unpleasant realizations.

This Is A Game You Are Not Going To Win

, , , , , , , | Learning | April 14, 2022

I go to a university that focuses on art, including fields like visual effects/special effects, game design, concept design, and animation. Two of my roommates are also game design majors and thus attended a forty-eight-hour game jam at my school, which basically means they and a group of however-many-people they wanted had to make a game following a theme within forty-eight hours. 

Usually, for the game jam they participated in, all concepts, characters, and everything from modeling to coding to even a video trailer that is used as “grading” criteria is done within said forty-eight hours after the announcement of the theme. 

However, this year, due to makeup classes that fell during the game jam, the school delayed it by a week but still announced the theme. This meant that all teams had up to a week to at least think of a concept that fit the theme; as long as no assets were previously made, it technically wasn’t against the rules.

My two roommates were in a team of fourteen people and had already grouped up together and taken over a classroom when a different group asked to use some computers in the classroom at the back. They reluctantly agreed, mostly since there were still free computers.

Along came this girl who started asking nosy questions. When they questioned her, she claimed that she was a game jam official and was thus looking around at the games. This was later proven a lie, as she was mostly looking at the concepts and trying to pick and choose a group to participate in the game jam with. This was very short notice, as my roommate, the overall team leader, had compiled the fourteen-person group at least a few weeks in advance.

The nosy girl made her first mistake by trying to kiss up to a guy that she thought was the lead, ignoring my roommate who kept answering her questions as the actual team lead. 

By the time she figured it out, my roommate had already rejected her, as they already had a solid team and my roommate also could not figure out what in tarnation her major was; her answers fluctuated from animator to a user-interface designer. Later, we found out her major was special effects — bearing a passing resemblance to animation but nothing like user interface.

Eventually, this girl (who managed to bother almost everyone else participating in the game jam) joined the group that was in the same room as my roommates, which turned out to be a fairly obnoxious group, as they would do loud cartoon voices without caring about the other people who were working. 

Even worse, at one point, when a professor walked through, they blatantly lied that my roommates’ group had had “weeks of preparation”. (One week. They had one week, with no models done beforehand or even more than the concept discussed and finalized.) The professor attempted to be a diplomat by telling them that while my roommate’s group had better gameplay, but the obnoxious team had better art.

Eventually, the final day rolled around, and the girl walked up to my roommate’s group and commented on how similar their game was to another group’s and how she sometimes forgot it was a different game. 

Not only were the games not similar except for both having the same word in their title and having animals as protagonists, but this was incredibly rude to do, considering she essentially insinuated that their hours of work didn’t matter due to the games “being similar”.

Nobody reacted. This tactful, diplomatic, and absolutely not at all petty girl proceeded to say it louder, and then had the audacity to go, “Oh, oops, I shouldn’t have said that.” Sure.

Eventually, the game jam finished, and all of the groups were tallied up. Not only did the obnoxious group’s game not fit the theme at all, but my roommate’s team won Best Art. (What was that about their art being better, professor?)

What got me about this whole situation was how extremely quickly this girl burned several possible future professional bridges in less than a single weekend. My roommates are pretty well-connected, and a lot of their friends who also participated in the jam complained about this girl. Even I preemptively blocked this girl without participating in the jam or having met her.