Wait Until You Meet John Smith

, , , , | Right | April 10, 2018

(I’ve changed the name for the sake of privacy.)

Me: “[State Agency] Services, how may I help you?”

Caller: “Yeah, my name is Terri Brown. I need to know who my worker is.”

(I proceed to look him up. It is a state-wide search so a few results under “Terri Brown,” and the longer version of his name, “Terrance Brown,” show up.)

Me: “Okay, there are a few Terri Browns on here. Can you please give me your date of birth?”

Caller: “TERRANCE Brown. T-E-R-R-A-N-C-E.”

Me: *as nice as possible* “I understand, sir. There are multiple entries in our state search. I need to make sure which one you are.”

Caller: “There are other Terrance Browns? Really?”

Me: “Yes. It is a state search. Can I have your birth date please?”

Caller: *gives birthdate* “I can’t believe it. Other people with my name. Crazy, right?”

Me: “…”

The Usual Line-Up

, , , , | Friendly | March 27, 2018

(My fiancé and I are at our local administration building to get a marriage license. We fill out the form on the computer, and everything is going smoothly. We get in line where two parties are also waiting. One is a very upper-class-looking woman, and the other is a mother and father with a kid who is about five or six years old.)

Woman: *just realizing* “Ugh! I got in the wrong line!” *approaches the mother and father ahead of her* “Can I go in front of you? I’ve been waiting in the wrong line.”

Mother: *somewhat confused* “Uh… No. It’s our turn.”

Woman: *huffy* “Well, that’s a wonderful example you’re setting for your child!”

(I repress the urge to point out that her whining is setting a worse example for this child, and just try to mind my own business. However, this woman seems desperate for sympathy.)

Woman: *to me and my fiancé* ”Can you believe her? What an example she’s setting!”

Me: *nervously* “Heh… Yeah…”

Woman: “Hmph! Some people…”

(A few seconds later, the woman got her turn, and thankfully left us alone. It’s one thing to be huffy about not being given charity. It’s another to rope strangers into it. Just wait your turn like everyone else.)

They Must Have Been High(lands)

, , , , , | Working | September 13, 2017

(I have applied for Universal Credit and have to attend a compulsory interview for it. I get the email telling me that my interview is not only 400 miles away, but also in another country. I call the helpline to ask them to reschedule my interview.)

Helpline Employee: “How can I help you today?”

Me: “I’ve been given a date for my interview, but it’s in Edinburgh, and I live in London. I was just wondering if that was a computer glitch or something?”

Helpline Employee: “Would that be a problem?”

Me: “Well… yes. I live 400 miles away. In London, England.”

Helpline Employee: *as though I am stupid* “Edinburgh is in Scotland, not in England. Can you attend the interview or not?”

Me: “No. As I have said, it’s 400 miles away, so I have no way of getting there. I’d like an interview closer to my home, please.”

Helpline Employee: “I can send you the public transport options to get you to your interview. It’s really important to go to it!”

(I don’t want to hang up and call again, as I was on hold for so long. I decide to go with it and see if she spots the problem.)

Me: “Can we talk through transport options now?”

Helpline Employee: “No, all I can do is email them to the email address you provided.”

Me: *getting frustrated* “I have already looked at transport options. As I don’t have a car, I can only go by train. A train from London to Edinburgh takes about five hours, usually longer. I can’t afford that kind of trip, and even if I could, I don’t want to spend more than ten hours on a train in one day. Can I change the location of my appointment, please?”

Helpline Employee: “How far away do you actually live?”

Me: *thinking we’re finally getting somewhere* “About 400 miles.”

Helpline Employee: “I can move your appointment to the afternoon. That will mean you will have time to attend!”

(I just hung up and resolved to be on hold again. I gave it a minute and called back. After being on hold for ages, I spoke to someone who changed my appointment to the branch that was 20 minutes walk from my house. He had no idea why I was sent to the Edinburgh branch, but at least he understood the concept of distance.)

When Threat Makes You Fret

, , | Right | September 10, 2017

(I work on the homeless team for the local council dealing with temporary accommodation. These are very basic properties that we place homeless families in if they meet certain criteria, and I am then responsible for keeping an eye on them and helping them find permanent accommodation. This customer is placed in one of our units, and then causes us nothing but trouble for over six months, including threatening to stab one of my colleagues and to shoot me. As a result, I can only visit if the police come with me. I have to go and change the locks at the property, after a report that the door is wide open and no one is there. Four days later, after a report that the customer has now broken a window to get into the property, I receive a phone call…)


Me: “They are at the area office. I did put a note through the door and on the window to tell you.”

Client: “That’s too far!” *It’s literally a five minute walk, if that.* “Can’t you deliver them?”

Me: “I’m sorry, but I can only visit if the police come with me, so you will need to go to the office.”

Client: “Yeah, why do you always have to bring them with you? I don’t like police.”

Me: “I have to bring them with me because you threatened to shoot me when I visited before.”

Client: “Yeah, I know, I know I did, but I threatened to shoot the police, too!”

(I struggled to see the logic to that one! He then went on to complain I hadn’t fixed his broken window… the one he had broken and was using as a front door…)

Addressing A Real Issue

, , , | Right | September 5, 2017

(I work at a town government office, responding to phone calls from residents.)

Me: “Hello, [Department Name]. How can I help you today?”

Customer: “There is a dead raccoon in front of my property. I’d like you all to come pick it up.”

Me: “Sure, I can have our clean-up crew there within an hour. What is the address?”

Customer: “Why should I give you my address? Why should I tell you where I live, huh?”

Me: “Well, because otherwise the team won’t know where to go.”

Customer: “I just said, ‘in front of my house!'”

Me: “Yes… but what’s the address of your house?”

Customer: “I just told you! I won’t give you my address! You have no right to know!”

Me: “All right, ma’am… but then how will the team know where to go?”

Customer: “I can’t believe my taxes pay for people like you! You’ll be hearing about this at the next town meeting!” *hangs up*

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