Dropping An Awkward Bomb

, , , , , | Friendly | August 14, 2018

(A coworker told me this story. They have friends over from Germany who were born in the 50s. My coworker shows them around the city of Rotterdam. While they love the city, they keep on comparing it to other cities. The text below is the latest of a string of complaints about the historic center of Rotterdam. My coworker is getting fed up with it.)

Friend: “I went to Utrecht and saw the lovely old center. And Amsterdam, oh, that too had a lovely historic center. But Rotterdam… Rotterdam has no historic buildings at all! Such a shame; why don’t you have a historic center like the other towns? It’s all so modern. I thought Rotterdam had such a rich history, but all the historic buildings are gone! Such a shame. Why is that?”

Coworker: “Because you guys bombed it!”

(There was an awkward silence, and the friend no longer mentioned it. Later on, the friend apologized, having learned that most of Rotterdam was bombed during the beginning of World War Two. Even though the friend wasn’t born back then, she did understand why my coworker didn’t appreciate the comments about the lack of a historical center from a German person. They are still friends to this day.)

Fighting The Cold War With Ignorance

, , , , | Learning | June 29, 2018

(We’re in history class, learning about the Cold War.)

Ditzy Girl: “Wait, wasn’t there already a cold war? Like, they invaded Russia and everyone froze to death?”

(We determined she was talking about Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. Well, it was definitely cold!)

Don’t Be So Draft

, , , , , | Friendly | June 26, 2018

I go to a colonial fair at a working 18th-century living history farm in Northern Virginia about once or twice a year. The fairs, which are pretty popular, run once a season except in the winter. Because the fairs are popular, the farm tends not to have enough costumed interpreters for each station of the farm.

Once, I went with my family and there weren’t any living history interpreters at the old tobacco barn station. The tobacco barns of the 18th century looked pretty much like modern barns. However, there were roughly six-inch (15-centimeter) gaps between the boards that made up the siding of the barn. This was to allow air to pass through so the tobacco, hanging up above, could dry out properly.

My mom and I went inside the barn to check it out. A lady and her young daughter were looking around as well. It looked like a typical barn with just the barn doors, no windows, and the tobacco hanging up above our heads.

The young girl asked her mom why the boards were so far apart. The mom stated she didn’t know. What got me was what came out of her mouth next. She spoke to a man I’m pretty sure was her husband and stated, “No wonder they always complained that these old houses were so drafty! You can stick your hand between the boards!”

I really wanted to follow her to the actual house, a half-mile away from the barn, to see what she thought that was.

The Worst Of Times Brings Out The Best In People

, , , , , , | Hopeless | June 15, 2018

(I live in New York. It’s the evening of September 11, 2001. I am eleven years old, in middle school. The teachers let us watch the news, but my parents are working late, and the elementary school my eight-year-old brother goes to has not let the kids see. I am at a loss to explain things to him, and really worried, myself. The phone rings. I pounce, thinking it’s my mom, but it’s a very long, unfamiliar number.)

Me: “Hello?”

(I hear a voice I haven’t heard in ages, and realize why the number on the caller ID was so long. It’s my mom’s colleague, from Germany.)

Colleague: “[My Name]? You’re okay! You know about the terrorist attack, don’t you? I’m so sorry. Let me talk to your mom, all right?”

Me: “I’m fine… I don’t know where my mom is… Still at work I guess. Dad, too. I haven’t been able to reach them. And my brother doesn’t know. They haven’t told the little kids. I don’t know what’s happening.”

(I start to cry.)

Colleague: “But you and [Brother] are okay. Don’t let him turn on the TV or radio. I’m sure your mom and dad are fine, too. The phone lines are just so packed with people calling; it takes several times to get through. You’ll be okay. Hug [Dog], all right? Don’t cry… Shh, don’t cry… Give the phone to your brother, okay? I’ll explain.”

(I get my brother and turn on the speakerphone; the colleague explains in a way a kid can understand, without scaring my brother too much.)

Colleague: “Okay, I have to go to bed, but I’ll let your mother’s other colleagues know you’re all okay. You’re home alone?”

Me: *sniffling* “Yes.”

Colleague: “Don’t cry. I’ll pass the news on.”

(From then on, I ended up fielding calls from everyone my mom knows overseas; I was prepared to tell them that yes, we were all fine, but instead, people I hadn’t seen since I was a toddler just seemed to want to comfort us, since we were alone. To top it off, I realized that by the time the calls ended, it was nearly two am German time; they stayed up, just for us.)

He Was Right The First Time

, , , , , , | Learning | June 12, 2018

(I am taking a constitutional law class, and the professor is discussing equal protection and how the Constitution was used to end segregation.)

Professor: “So, this case involved a coffee shop, called the Eagle, that wouldn’t serve black customers. According to the Interstate commerce clause, private businesses can’t discriminate. However, the Evil coffee shop continued to racially discriminate…”

Class: *laughing*

Professor: “What’s funny? I’m trying to teach!”

Student: “But you called it the ‘Evil’ shop!”

Professor: “Really? Freudian slip, I guess. Anyway, the Eagle coffee shop discriminated… stop laughing! Segregation is evil!”

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