Shaken, Stirred, And Silenced

, , , , | Learning | July 22, 2021

High schools are noisy places, especially at lunchtime. It is in the early summer of 2011, soon after the huge earthquake in northeastern Japan. We are a ways south of where it happened but still well in earthquake country, which is mostly all of Japan. 

I’m walking down the main hallway during lunch. The hallway and classrooms are bursting with noise as 800 students all try to talk over each other. It is really quite deafening.

Then, the building starts to shake.

And the school is utterly silent. 

Everyone waits to see if the shaking stops or things start falling, maybe even including the school itself.

Luckily, the shaking stops after a few seconds and the noise redoubles in intensity in an instant.  

Only an act of God can make a high school quiet during lunch.

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No Warm Fuzzies Here, Only Cold, Wet, Drippies

, , , | Working | June 3, 2021

It’s the end of a particularly bad, cold, and rainy day, and I am complaining to my coworker while we get ready to leave.

Me: “I just couldn’t really get anything right today. I don’t know where my head is.”

Coworker: “I was gonna say, ‘Up your a**,’ but maybe it’s not the right time.”

Me: “No! No, you’re right! That’s exactly where it is!”

Coworker: “Is it at least warm?”

Me: “No! It’s cold! Because it’s closer to my heart!”

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I Once Had A Spongebob Alarm Clock; It’s Dead Now

, , , , | Related | February 20, 2021

My two-year-old son is very enamored of a popular British children’s show, but it’s not well-known in Asia. I end up ordering him several toys via the UK branch of an Internet retailer, including one noise-making playset that is far too loud for our small apartment. After about an hour and a half of him playing with it nonstop, my partner comes out of the office where he was working, which is separated from the living room by only one door.

Partner: “Is there anything you’d like to say to me?”

Me: “I’m sorry! I didn’t know it’d be that loud!”

Partner: “Did you get that online?”

Me: “Yeah, from Amazon UK.”

Partner: “Have you figured out why they don’t sell that toy in Japan yet?!”

I ended up putting some packing tape over the speaker which reduced the noise to a much more bearable level.

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Their IQ Isn’t Exactly Triple-Digit

, , , | Working | December 30, 2020

I work in the maintenance division of my organization and I sometimes have to fill in at the trouble desk when the person assigned there is off.

Me: “Maintenance, this is [My Name]. How can I help you?”

Caller: “My phone doesn’t work; who can help me?”

Me: “Okay, since this is a communications problem, you’ll have to call the trouble desk at [Communications Division] the number is [three-digit number].”

Caller: “I have to call [Communications Division]? But my phone doesn’t work!”

After a moment of silence…

Me: “Yes, you’ll have to use another phone — the one you’re using now, for instance.”

Caller: “Okay, what’s the number again?”

Me: “It’s [three-digit number].”

Caller: “Okay, because my phone hasn’t been working since this morning. What’s the number?”

Me: *Facepalming* “It’s [three-digit number] just call and give them your number and they’ll assist you.”

Caller: “My number?”

Me: “Yes, the phone number of the phone that’s not working.”

Caller: “Ummm, okay.”

Then, she shouts, “What’s my phone number?” to the rest of the office and another worker tells her the number.

Caller: *To me* “Okay, thank you.”

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Say Sayonara To The Screamers

, , , , , , , | Right | December 25, 2020

My family has just enjoyed a fun Christmas trip to Japan, the final leg of which was in the northern part of the country, Sapporo. The original plan was to fly from Sapporo to Haneda and then catch a connecting flight there back home.

However, this goes a little awry; during our stay, Sapporo gets hit with a historic amount of snow, which has impeded travel. Our flight does eventually get off the ground, but with a delay of two hours, we’re not confident we’re going to make our connecting flight.

Despite our best efforts, we do miss the cutoff for boarding. Another couple who were trying to make the same flight are there, as well, and we’re all understandably disappointed and frustrated with the circumstances.

We all trudge back to ticketing to see what can be done, and here’s where things go really sideways. The young woman of the other couple immediately raises her voice at the ticket agents, saying how unacceptable this is and that they need to be on that flight, and what are they going to do about it?

Of course, we’re in Tokyo still, and these poor gate agents don’t speak perfect English, which is only frustrating the young woman further. Soon, she’s yelling for a manager. She looks to us as though we’re going to back her up, but my brother simply says it’s frankly more likely that their manager speaks even less English than the gate agents, and it doesn’t change that we missed the flight, which was honestly no one’s fault. She huffs and then proceeds to ignore us and continue her tirade.

At this point, another gate agent opens, and we go to speak with her. We explain the situation and ask if there are any other possible flights or routes that might get us home within roughly the same time frame, and if there aren’t, it’s not a huge deal; we can spend the night if need be. The agent is incredibly apologetic, which we gently brush off; it really wasn’t their fault! Even though we aren’t communicating perfectly, we are able to figure out a new route with her that will have us make one more stop but get us home only a few hours later than expected.

We thank her profusely and start to head out with our new tickets, but she calls us back. The other couple is still fighting with the other agents and their manager — who, as expected, doesn’t speak as much English as the customer-facing gate agents — and our agent quietly thanks us for being so calm. She sends us along with passes for one of the nicer lounges where we can grab a shower, free drinks, and a bite to eat while we wait.

We joke around now that the couple is probably still there, uncomfortable and yelling. Truly, just being understanding and kind where you can greases a lot of wheels!

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