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The Times, They Are A-Changin’. Thank God.

, , , , , , | Friendly | February 11, 2022

I already submitted a few stories about my grandmother, such as “War Will Leave You Cold” and “Unless You’re Dying, It’s Not Worth My Time“, but there are plenty of positive things to say about her.

She went to work as a servant girl at the age of fourteen, and even though her mistress was all right, she also swore that no child of hers would ever grow up to be “staff”. That was a tough proposition for a girl from a family of peasants, who had dropped out of school due to the Great War breaking out (the family house being a few miles away from the frontline).

However, fast forward thirty years, my grandmother is married to a shipyard worker and their firstborn daughter has just completed her primary studies. They discuss with the teachers about enrolling her into intermediate school (a type of school giving access to higher studies), at a time when all but the town’s elite send their children to the technical school.

A few days later, my grandmother receives a visit from the town’s parson. After a few social niceties, the chat focuses on the girl’s studies, and this happens, word for word.

Parson: “Your girl is not really attending intermediate school, is she?”

Grandmother: “Why wouldn’t she?”

Parson: *Huffing* “Because, if the children of the peasants start going to school, who will work as staff anymore?”

We don’t know what my grandmother replied, but the parson left much faster than he’d arrived. The girl — my aunt — went to intermediate school and ended up managing a post office.

War Will Leave You Cold
Unless You’re Dying, It’s Not Worth My Time

This Security Guard Has Some Real Baggage

, , , , | Working | January 10, 2022

In 2015, Italy banned plastic shopping bags from supermarkets, instead replacing them with a compostable version. In between the ban and the widespread presence of cloth-backed shopping bags, there was an awkward period of time where the only way most people could carry their groceries was inside compostable bags that weren’t as sturdy as the old ones, which often meant that, in order to not break them, you either had to live a short distance away from the supermarket or you had to have a car ready to plop the bags in.

As a teen at that time, I figured that the fastest way to solve the issue was to simply use an old backpack. The first few times, it all went smoothly, but one day:

Security Guard: “Stop right there. You can’t enter the supermarket with a rucksack.”

Me: *Nonplussed* “Uh… why? I didn’t see any sign telling me that.”

Security Guard: “It’s not obvious why?”

Me: “Not at all. In fact, nobody ever made a fuss before. What’s up with that?”

Security Guard: “Just because you could sneak out unseen before doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want, whenever you want.”

Me: *Frustrated* “What does that have to do with anything? I asked why I can’t bring in a rucksack inside anymore.”

Security Guard: *Facepalming* “You’re pretty dense. How could you get away with it before?”

It dawns on me that the guy thinks I am going to shoplift by shoving stuff inside my backpack and then leaving.

Me: “C’mon, man, have you seen the bags they give now? How can I carry them on my bike for two kilometers without them falling off?”

Security Guard: “You should be able to.”

Me: “Again, I want to shop, not to steal.”

Security Guard: “Yeah, right. Leave now, kid, while you still can.”

I was tempted to argue, but a glance at a nearby clock told me it was not worth the time. I turned my back and went to shop somewhere else. I know people in some areas shoplift a lot, even teens, but do they do it often enough to turn away people with backpacks on principle?

Hilarious Eggsplanations

, , , , , | Right | December 31, 2021

I’m doing undergraduate research in a lab. Our number shows first when looking up the university phone number, so we get some odd calls.

Me: “Hello, [University] genetics lab.”

Caller: “Hello, I’m a journalist from [Local Newspaper]. I needed some information about the recent eclipse.”

Me: “You probably want to talk to the physics department, then.”

Caller: “No, no, I want to speak to some biologist. You see, a farmer called us today with a story of her chicken laying an egg with a starburst on it.”

I start chuckling and put the phone on speaker.

Me: “Okay, so what do you need to know?”

Caller: “I want to run a piece about this chicken, but I need a scientific explanation about how the starburst may have formed. Is it possible that the chicken was scared of the eclipse, and that she transferred the distress onto the egg somehow? You know, like in that movie.”

Me: “Excuse me, which movie?”

Caller: “The one with the elephant.”

My colleagues have stopped working and are silently cracking up in the background. Meanwhile, the head researcher looks like she’s about to blow a gasket

I have clocked by now what movie he is referring to, but I just want to milk this call for all it’s worth.

Me: “Er, I’m afraid I don’t know what movie you’re referencing.”

Caller: “This guy’s mother saw an elephant and caught a fright, and the baby was born looking like an elephant. Is it possible that it happened with the chicken?”

Yes, the movie “Elephant Man” does discuss the theory… as a clue to how backward was the science in those days. Quoting that to a lab full of people who are specialising in genetics, however, will only get you laughed out of the building. The head researcher reaches the end of her tether and comes up to the phone.

Researcher: “For God’s sake, mister, educate yourself! John Merrick suffered from a genetic disease; those were growths on his body! And chickens don’t get scared of eclipses; they just go to sleep!”

Caller: “B-but… what about the starburst?”

Researcher: “There are several factors that will impact on the eggshell appearance, from chicken age to viral infections to mineral imbalance. There is no mechanism for a chicken to record distressing events onto the eggshell, and what would be the evolutionary benefit—”

Caller: “But it’s starburst shaped!”

Researcher: “That’s all you know.”

The caller quit it at this point. We had fun coming up with “scientific explanations” in the following days. My favourite was that the chicken, frightened by the eclipse, had clenched her “egg hole” so tight that it had left an imprint on the shell…

DNA Sampling Was Supposed To Be Getting Easier

, , , , | Right | December 23, 2021

I’m doing undergraduate research in a genetics lab. Among several other things, the lab also routinely does paternity testing. The phone rings.

Researcher: “[University] genetics lab, hello.”

I can only hear her side of the conversation.

Researcher: “Yes, you’re speaking to her.”

Researcher: “We’re at [Address].”

Researcher: “Yes, right down the street from the bus stop. See you later, then. Bye.”

Five minutes later, the phone rings again. Again, I only hear one side of the conversation.

Researcher: “[University] genetics lab, hello.”

Researcher: “Yeah, it’s me again.”

Researcher: “The address is [Address]. Are you at the bus stop?”

Researcher: “Do you see a statue next to you?”

Time passes in silence. The statue she’s mentioning is ten metres away from the bus stop, and at five metres tall, it dominates the plaza.

Researcher: “Yeah, no… not that way. Turn your back to the stadium. Do you see the statue now? No, don’t walk away from the bus stop. Just turn. Turn your head.”

Researcher: “Okay. Do you see a blue building, past the statue? That’s [Road]. We’re [number].”

She ends the call. Five minutes pass and the phone rings again. The researcher does an eye-roll and picks up.

Researcher: “Yeah?”

Researcher: “Yes, the blue… No, we’re not in the blue building, of course; it’s a bank. We’re at [number]. The brown building next to it. We’re… I can see you outside the window, sir. Turn around and you’ll see me. The other way. Yeah. Can you see me waving in the window? Yeah. You’ve found us. Great. As soon as you get here, we can get started. Bye.”

She ends the call with a massive sigh.

Me: “For the child’s sake, let’s hope the father is someone else.”

Forcing Cake On A First-Grader Is Chestnuts

, , , , | Learning | November 29, 2021

When I was in first grade, my school organized a long series of events where each class participated in downscaled versions of typical farmer activities. One of the activities involved families cooking a typical dish from the area. One day, a classmate brought a chestnut cake to class for this exact purpose. The teacher invited everyone in class to cut a slice each, but being a bit of a picky eater still, I took the thinnest slice I could manage and tasted it. Whether because it was done badly, or because I didn’t like chestnuts yet, I didn’t like the taste and sat out from taking more.

When everyone had taken a second slice each, there was still some left.

Teacher: “All right, class, can anyone who has already taken two slices raise their hands?”

Everyone but me raised their hands. The teacher brought the plate to my desk.

Teacher: “[My Name], would you like to finish it?”

Me: *Crossing my arms* “No, thanks. I didn’t like it.”

Teacher: “You didn’t like it? Why?”

Me: “It tastes weird, there’s no chocolate in it, and—”

Teacher: “But do you wanna make your celiac friend over there cry? She can’t eat chocolate cake; it would make her happy to see you eat this.”

If you are thinking this is a non-sequitur or something is missing, don’t worry: she actually jumped directly to random allergy guilt-tripping.

Me: “I don’t care. I don’t like it.”

Teacher: *Sounding irritated* “Oh, c’mon, do it for her. You can’t only eat chocolate cakes; you need to learn to eat other things.”

Me: *Upset* “But it tastes bad. I did try it. Why do I have to eat it two times?”

I, and by extension my parents, got a warning letter for “Uncooperative Behaviour”. Even in hindsight, I fail to understand what she was trying to accomplish with her charade.