Needs To Attend Electoral College

| WI, USA | Right | March 30, 2017

(I’m an elections inspector; which is just a fancy way of saying I work at the polls during election days. This election, we are expecting enough of a crowd that we put the registrations and the actual voting in two separate rooms. Furthermore, we separate the registration process into three different steps, each at a different table, to try and minimize bottlenecks. I’m working alongside my mother at the first table. A woman comes in to register, clearly ticked off already. Mom starts asking questions to make sure she has the necessary paperwork for the process. It goes smoothly until the woman shows us what she has for her proof of residence: an ad from the local pizza joint. The law is very clear on what we can and cannot accept as POR, and advertisements are in the “cannot” category.)

Mom: “I’m sorry, I’m afraid advertisements aren’t valid for proof of residence. Do you ha—”

Woman: “You’re saying I can’t vote?!”

Mom: “That’s not what I’m saying; we just need to have something official as proof of residence. Now that could be a utility bill, a bank statement, maybe a—”

Woman: “Everything’s in my husband’s name.”

(I silently cringe at that. Having her husband’s name on the documents also won’t qualify for POR, because there’s no proof that she herself lives there.)

Mom: “Is there anything on this list that might be in your name?” *shows her the list of acceptable documents — she doesn’t even look at it* “Is it possible your car’s registration might have your name and current address on it? Or maybe you have a—”

(The woman snatches up her papers and storms out of the room in a huff. Mom and I just shrug and focus on helping the next people in line. About 20 minutes later the woman comes storming back in.)

Woman: “HERE!” *slams a very crumpled sheet of paper onto the table*

Mom: “Perfect! Okay, now you’re ready for the next step. If you could go to—”

(Without waiting for the rest of the directions, the woman grabs her papers and gets in line. Unfortunately, she skipped step #2 and went straight to the line for step #3, which is for people who already have their registration form filled out. While some people do bring the form in with them, most don’t, and so step #2 involves filling out that form. Mom tries to redirect her.)

Mom: “Ma’am, that line is for if you already have the form filled out. Just to be sure, did you—”


(Just then, the person manning step #2 gets her attention and directs her to a console. I turn to my mom and mutter.)

Me: “Well, since we don’t have X-ray vision…” *shrugs*

(Mom has already noticed another voter coming in and so has turned her attention on them. I do the same, but out of the corner of my eye I do see the woman spin back around to face us.)

Woman: “You know, you’re a b****!”

(After she was gone (she did finally get registered and was able to vote) and the rush had slowed to a trickle, I wrote everything up in the incident report, just in case she tried to claim we’d been blocking her from voting. Mom reads over my shoulder.)

Mom: “Is that what she said? I wasn’t even listening at that point.” *thinks about it* “You know, I do believe that’s the first time I’ve ever been called that to my face. Considering I’m tech support, that’s a pretty good record!”

(Fortunately, that woman was the nastiest person we had to deal with that day. Later on, we helped a brand-new citizen register to vote for the first time ever. She was grinning from ear to ear, and showing off her citizenship certificate to anybody who stood still long enough. It was a nice reminder of why I put myself through this every election!)

Bin There, Done That

| Wales, UK | Right | March 24, 2017

(One of many things we do is help with the management of refuse and recycling facilities for local residents. The county is a popular retirement destination and most of our callers are elderly. Unfortunately this means we get a high volume of calls where we just can’t help people because no matter how hard we try, we cannot coax their requests out of them:)

Me: “Bore da, good morning, [Local Government].”

Elderly Caller: “BINS!”

Me: “You’ve got a query about your refuse or recycling?”

Elderly Caller: “BINS!”

Me: “Have you missed a collection? Would you like me to send some staff over to come and help empty your bins?”

Elderly Caller: “BINS!”

Me: “Was it that you needed a replacement bin? Did one of your bins get broken?”

Elderly Caller: “NUHHH. BINS. MY BINS!”

Me: “I’d like to know how I can help you with your bins, sir. Do you know your address? Or is there somebody in the room who can help you with your call? I really want to help you if I can.”


(I heard the phone clatter to the table or floor and the line went dead shortly thereafter. I have set up regular direct debits to dementia charities since I started working here. We get several calls like that every day and I always wish I could do more! I especially wish we had 999-style call location technology so we could trace calls and call people back who’ve hung up on us by mistake. Maybe one day…)

Your Employment Is History

| Winnipeg, MB, Canada | Working | January 18, 2017

(I am renewing my daughter’s passport. My daughter used to be a cashier for a well-known American chain of stores that had famously opened with much fanfare in Canada, and just as famously closed two years later after failing spectacularly.)

Employee: “I’ll need your daughter’s employment history for the last two years.”

Me: “Well, she used to work for [Store], but — heh, heh — it’s closed now, of course.”

Employee: *dead-eyed stare* “I still need the store’s address and phone number.”

Me: “Um, I have no idea what the address or phone number would be, and I can’t look it up, because they’re closed.”

Employee: “Look, you need to put SOMETHING there.”

Me: “…”

(I was able to remember the address, and my daughter still had the phone number saved on her phone, so I gave them the information they wanted. I still don’t know what they expected to do with it. I would have done just as well to make something up.)

Needed To Concentrate Harder

| Auckland, New Zealand | Working | January 10, 2017

(I am at a government department that “takes care” of the unemployed and job seekers.)

Officer: *after reading a list of things I can’t do and/or need to report to get my money* “And don’t forget, we have people monitoring all the other departments — Tax office, police, and Immigration, so if you put even a toe out of line—” *laughs* “—we’ll be coerced into cutting your benefit!”

Me: “Sounds a little harsh, but—”

Officer: *smiles* “Well, just think of it THIS way: sooner you get yourself a job instead of being idle, sooner these restrictions are lifted!”

Me: “So… ‘Work Means Freedom,’ as they say?”

Officer: *stares in surprise, then joyfully* “What a COOL motto! Yes, exactly. Wow, where did you get that motto from? It’s so good!”

Me: *stunned she’s not heard of it* “Er… it’s an old one… from Europe.”

Officer: “Gosh, that’s good! ‘Work Means Freedom.’ Oh, I’d love to suggest we use it, but I suppose it’s still copyright?”

Me: “Wouldn’t think so, no.”

Officer: *overjoyed* “Oh, cool! I’ll raise it at our next staff meeting! We should SO have it as a motto!”

(I’d have loved to have seen that meeting take place.)

Caught In The Middle (Name)

| Toronto, ON, Canada | Working | November 7, 2016

(I’m renewing my passport at the passport office. I have a bit of an unusual middle name that is more like a last name.)

Worker: “Okay, I just need your old passport and three pieces of photo ID.”

Me: *hands her the documents*

Worker: “Oh, honey, you’re going to have to re-order all of your IDs! They’ve spelled your name wrong on everything! How have you even been able to use this old passport?!”

Me: “Excuse me? I’m pretty sure that they’re all correct.”

Worker: “No, they’re all wrong! Look!” *points out my middle name* “See? They didn’t hyphenate your two last names!”

Me: “No, those are correct. That’s my middle name.”

Worker: “No, it’s not! No one has that for a middle name! You obviously don’t have a middle name and they’ve messed up all your documents!”

(By this point she has raised her voice significantly and is drawing the attention of almost everyone in the office.)

Me: “Ma’am, I’m serious. That is my middle name and there is nothing wrong with any of my IDs!”

Worker: “NO, NO, NO! I need to fix all of this right now!”

Me: “Please do not enter any different information than what’s already there! That IS my middle name and I need my passport to show that!”

Worker: “NO! You’re wrong! No one has a middle name like that! You’ve been lied to!”

Me: “Okay, this is getting crazy! Can I please talk to your supervisor about this?”

Worker: “No, you can’t! You don’t need to! You just need to let me fix this!”

(Luckily another worker has gone to get the supervisor while this is happening.)

Supervisor: “[Worker], what are you doing?!”

Worker: “They’ve messed up all of this poor girls IDs!! Her name isn’t correct on any of them and I need to FIX THIS!”

(She is basically screaming by this point and everyone has stopped what they’re doing and started to stare.)

Supervisor: “Lower your voice right now! You never talk to a customer this way. What honestly makes you think that a 24 year old woman doesn’t know her own name?”

Worker: “Because no one has that for a middle name!”

Me: “I do! It was my grandmother’s maiden name. It may be an unconventional middle name but it is still my middle name nonetheless.”

Supervisor: “[Worker], go take your break now. I’ll handle this and we can have a chat about this later.”

Worker: *starts yelling as she is walking away* “You’re wrong! You’ve been lied to! No one has that for a middle name! It’s a last name!”

Supervisor: “I am so sorry about this! I can honestly say I don’t think that she will be working here after today. She always has something to say if someone has even the slightest different spelling or an unconventional name.”

Me: “Thanks for intervening. I didn’t know how else to explain it!”

Supervisor: “No need. Now let’s get you a new, CORRECT passport.”

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