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And That’s The Historical Tea

, , , , , , , | Right | February 12, 2021

The cafe I work in sits near several major transport links, so we get a lot of travelers, national and international, on a daily basis. One of my coworkers is somewhat notorious for having little to no brain-mouth filter and fairly anti-establishment views.

It’s late November and we have an American guest who’s making small talk after receiving her coffee. She starts talking about Thanksgiving and how the UK doesn’t have a comparable day.

Guest: “I just don’t understand why you don’t celebrate anything like it. Are you not thankful for your country?”

Coworker: “We are, but if we celebrated every time we exterminated a native population and stole their country, we’d only need to work twenty days a year.”

Guest: “…”

She made a hasty retreat to her table afterward.

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An Excellent Philosophy For Life

, , , , , | Related | February 5, 2021

I am young when the Berlin Wall is nearing its deconstruction, and my parents try to explain it to me in terms I can understand. Apparently, my vibrant imagination is a strong force in my life, and this conversation happens.

Me: “What’s wrong with the Berlin Wall?”

Mom: “It’s built between two halves of a city.”

Me: “So, why don’t people just climb over it?”

Mom: “It’s got guards who will stop people from doing that.”

Me: *After pondering* “Do the guards stop birds from flying over it?”

Mom: “No, just people.”

Me: “So why don’t people just turn into birds and fly over it?”

Mom: “People can’t really do that.”

Me: *Irritated* “Then grownups need to invent a way. You’re adults, after all!”

Apparently, I was disappointed to hear that the Berlin Wall had been knocked down. I made it abundantly clear that “turning into birds and pooping on the stupid wall as they crossed” made a much better statement.

Putting Up Posters Here Is Contraindicated

, , , , , | Working | February 1, 2021

For those who don’t know, contra dancing is a social folk dance for couples. It started in New England and has spread over the US in the past few decades.

In 1987, a group of us were trying to establish a contra dance club in a large sunbelt city. We needed to advertise and a local natural food store in town looked like an obvious choice. It had a bulletin board for community announcements and we put a flyer up.

The flyer disappeared within a few hours. We assumed someone had taken it for information; encouraged, we placed another one there. This, too, vanished quickly. Rinse and repeat: four flyers went up and were immediately removed.

Finally, we realized that the store itself must be taking them down, so we asked the manager why our flyers were not welcome.

Manager: “We don’t support the Contras!”

The Iran-Contra affair was a secret US arms deal that took place during Ronald Reagan’s presidency where they traded missiles and such to free American hostages in Lebanon. The US also used funds from this deal to support armed conflict in Nicaragua, where anti-communist Contras were fighting with the communist Sandinista government.

Obviously, it had nothing to do with our dance club!

It’s A Battle To Get Through To This Customer

, , , , , , | Right | December 16, 2020

A mom and dad come into the library with their daughter who is maybe nine or ten years old. I know that appearances should not matter, but I have to point out that these parents don’t look much older than their daughter. Also, it’s the mid-nineties.

Dad: “She has to do a report on a famous battle that took place in Connecticut.”

While I am by no means a history maven, I do know that there are maybe two battles that took place in the state and one of them wasn’t a battle so much as combatants marching from one state through ours to get to another.  

I recommend the other one, which was a brief incident during the Revolution.

Dad: “Naw. That sounds boring. She wants to write about an exciting battle! Don’t you got anything from newer times? Like, like, say, what’s that war about slavery?”

Me: “Sir, while many men from Connecticut served in the Civil War, none of the battles — major or minor — took place in this state.”

The daughter is looking embarrassed and bored, twirling her hair around her fingers and staring at the ceiling. I ask her if her class is reading about the Revolution. She nods.  

Me: “Well, then, your teacher wants you to write about [Town].”

She nods again.

Dad: “But what you said isn’t even a battle. They just fired on a ship. I want her to learn about a big, fancy battle.”

He turns to his wife to confer. He turns back to me.

Dad: “What about one of them what they call World Wars. You’re telling me we didn’t fight in either of them?”

Me: “We did, indeed, fight in both the World Wars, sir. But they were fought in Europe, and in the case of the second World War, also in Asia.”

Dad: “What’s Europe?”

Me: “The continent where Germany and France, Portugal, Spain, and Belgium are — to name a few countries.”

Dad: “No battles here in Connecticut.”

Me: “No battles here in Connecticut, sir.”

Mom whispers in Dad’s ear.

Dad: *With a big grin* “What about Desert Storm? That was a big war. No battles here in Connecticut?”

I have had it with this bozo who doesn’t even understand his daughter was told to write, specifically, on the Battle of Groton Heights.

Me: “That was just a couple of years ago. Do you remember there being any battles here?”

Dad: “No. But— What?”

Me:That battle took place in the Middle East, sir.”

Dad: “But that other thing is so boring.”

Me: “But apparently, it was what your daughter was assigned.”

I got her the only book we had that had a chapter on the specifics of the Battle of Groton Heights. The family left, but Dad was complaining bitterly that the Revolutionary War wasn’t sexy enough. I suspect from his enthusiasm that he really, really wanted to bond with his daughter over tanks, guns, and live ammo, and that cannons firing on a British ship wasn’t as exciting, but cheese marie, people… it’s what the teacher asked your daughter to do! Bond by helping her write the darned thing.

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It Pays To Know Your History

, , , , | Right | CREDIT: Minigun_Mittens | December 1, 2020

I live in the UK but I’m from former Czechoslovakia. I don’t have the usual Slavic accent for people to immediately know, but it’s strong enough to leave people guessing where I’m from. It is fun most of the time.

I’m also interested in history, so I know that the UK, France, and Italy pretty much sold Czechoslovakia to Hitler in 1938 to prevent a war.

It was a normal day at the café where I work. I am at a cash register and this man walks in. Everyone who works in customer service eventually develops that feeling for people who will cause trouble. I have that feeling the moment I see him enter. He looks like he’s in his sixties, and at first, he is nice when he comes up to order.

But as soon as I speak, his smile vanishes. He looks me up and down.

Man: “Where are you from?”

Me: *With a smile* “Oh, I’m from [Former Czechoslovakia]. I study here—”

Man: “How dare you be here?! You leech on our economy and take our jobs!”

I don’t leech on the economy any more than any British person on minimum wage, and I’m here legally. I am shocked for a bit as panic and disgust start to storm inside me. The man does on about how immigrants ruin his country and his town — one of the most culturally various towns in the UK — and how we should all go back to where we came from.

After what feels like an eternity, I get the idea for a perfect comeback. I smile.

Me: “Well, it’s the least I could do to say, ‘Thank you!’ for selling us to Hitler in 1938!”

This time, the man was shocked. His expression was priceless. He stood there and looked around for some support, and when he realised he wouldn’t find, it he stormed off.

I’m not very good at confrontation. but I’m proud of this one, and I didn’t even get in trouble because, as I learnt that day, my boss has Jewish Ukrainian heritage.