Future ‘Not Always Hopeless’ Editor In The Making

, , | Germany | Hopeless | August 23, 2016

(A few weeks ago, I started working as an intern at our local newspaper, and after the internship, I agree to work as a freelancer. I often publish columns which deal with a funny and/or personal experience. One day, when I enter the editorial office, a coworker approaches me.)

Coworker: “Oh, hey, [My Name], I’ve got a letter for you! I put it on your desk.”

(I get quite nervous as she announces this because my colleagues already told me that sometimes we get “hate-mail” with insults in it, since people disagree with us. As I said, my stories can be quite personal, so I am afraid to get affronted by someone when I open the letter.)

Reader: “Good afternoon, [My Name]. I just read your story, [Story], and I just have to say: You took the words right from my mouth! I really liked your text and your point of view, so I just had to write to you. I can understand you so well, and I’m glad that I’m not alone. Thank you for your beautiful story!”

(I later found out that one of my friends knew her and that she was a really nice old lady. I know it is not much, but I was just so affected by this nice and encouraging response, because everybody warned me of mean people. So, thank you very much, lady. You made my day!)

A Deadly Mistake

, | Nara, Japan | Learning | June 20, 2016

(I’m the unfortunately dense student in this situation. I’m an exchange student from the U.S., and it is Valentine’s Day. My class is very small, and to show them gratitude for them helping me through my classes, I buy vases and flowers and place them on my classmate’s desks. When class begins…)

Teacher: “[My Name]! You’re the only student without a vase and flower! Did you do this?”

Me: “Yes! It’s Valentine’s Day and I wanted to thank everyone for being so kind to me this year!”


Classmate #1: “…Did you ever get a lesson on what placing a flower on a student’s desk means in Japan?”

Classmate #2: “You only do that if a classmate has died, and doing so if they’re still alive is basically giving them a death-wish”

Me: *realization* “Oh, my goodness!” *addresses whole class* “I’m SO sorry! I completely forgot that it was offensive to do that! Please forgive me!”

(Thankfully, everyone laughed it off and thanked me for the (somewhat) kind gesture. Next time, I’m just going to give out chocolates!)

Racism = Stupidity

, , , , | TX, USA | Hopeless | May 30, 2016

(My husband and I are in line to order behind this older redneck-type man with a sour attitude. For the most part, I’m paying no attention, because I’m sharing work-related conversation with hubby, though it’s easy to see that the conversation is tense. Suddenly, the older guy explodes on the young, Hispanic cashier.)

Customer: “D*** it! I just want to order a d*** burger. Is that so f***ing hard to do?”

Cashier: “Sir, I just want to know if you want curly fries or regular fries.”

Customer: “I don’t speak wetback, boy! You need to learn American.”

Cashier: *visibly upset now* “I asked if you want curly fries or regular fries.”

Customer: “Can’t understand a f***ing thing. Need to fire all of your a**es and hire some d*** Americans.”

Me: “Wait, what seems to be the problem here?”

Customer: “I can’t understand the d*** wetback behind the counter. He’s got a f***ing thick accent.”

(This is a complete lie; the kid has no accent at all. We’ve understood every word that he has said clearly.)

Me: “Well, maybe I can help. I know a little Spanish.” *I turn to the cashier, and in perfect English, ask:* “What was the order number and what comes with it?”

Cashier: “He ordered a number eight. It comes with mayo, mustard, and ketchup. I wanted to know if he wanted curly fries or regular with it.”

Me: *turns to the older customer and as loud and slow as I can* “HE WANTS TO KNOW IF YOU WANT CURLY FRIES OR REGULAR FRIES!”

Customer: “What the f***?! Why are you f***ing yelling at me?!”

Me: “Oh, I thought you were deaf. So, is it a stupidity problem, then? Or just racism?”

(He got red in the face and stormed out, still muttering about how Mexicans were taking over Texas. The cashier and his fellow workers were laughing the whole way. I got a free small shake out of it, but I’d have done it with or without the shake.)

Making Sure The Survivors Are Surviving

, , , | Chicago, IL, USA | Hopeless | May 19, 2016

(My family is 100% German, and came to the US around 1900. Shortly after WW II ended, my grandma, who was working on getting her nursing certification, decided to volunteer at an aid center for recently arrived Holocaust survivors. My grandma was born in Chicago, and English was and is her first language, but she spoke German because her parents and grandparents spoke it, and had a slight accent. She’d been bullied about it all through the war, and was worried it’d be the same at the center, but decided to volunteer anyway. Sure enough, some of the other nurses started making snide comments, until one of the patients, a woman in a wheelchair, beckoned her over.)

Patient: *in halting English* “You… German?”

Grandma: “No.”

Patient: *disappointed* “You no speak German?”

Grandma: *in German* “Ja. I speak German. My parents are from Germany.”

Patient: *in German* “Oh, thank the Lord! English is such a hard language, and everyone here is so brusque, and there are no trees anywhere! I miss the mountains! What part of Germany are your parents from? Do they miss it? Have you ever been?”

(As soon as they found out my grandma spoke German, all of the other survivors came right over and started chatting away, completely dumbfounding the rest of the nurses! To my grandma’s relief, none of them held it against her that her family was German; most of them just wanted to talk about their homes and families, and were relieved to find someone who spoke their language. It wasn’t long before some of the other nurses and the aid center director asked her for help learning German themselves!)

Pizza In Multiple Languages

, , , , | Canada | Hopeless | April 29, 2016

(I am on a long international flight from Canada by myself. It is a flight journey of over 26 hours and I have just gotten off at the Montreal Airport. There is a five hour layover there, and I realize that I have left my cards back home and I have absolutely zero cash except for some local money of the country I am travelling to. At this point, I am sitting at the boarding gate, my stomach growling because I have barely eaten, and I have a whole 4 hours more to go for my next flight. There’s an old Indian lady who is frantically trying to talk to people in Punjabi, an Indian language. I walk up to her and try to talk to her in Hindi, another Indian language which is sort of similar.)

Me: *in Hindi* “Are you okay? What do you need? You seem upset.”

Old Lady: *in Punjabi* “My son told me to go and ask for the boarding gate. I am flying to India and I don’t know who to ask. Nobody understands what I say, and I don’t understand what they say.”

(As the languages are fairly similar, we attempt to communicate through gestures and common phrases to communicate to each other.)

Me: “No problem. Let me see your boarding pass. Ah, you are headed towards Delhi.”

(I make small talk and I take her to her boarding gate.)

Old Lady: I am hungry. Could you show me vegetarian places I could buy food at?

(I take her to different food stalls and list out options. I try to make sure I show her completely vegetarian options. She settles on a pizza.)

Old Lady: “How much is that pizza?”

Me: “It should come to around 15 Canadian Dollars.”

Old Lady: “It is so expensive. I will barely have enough left. And it is so small.”

(I smile sadly at her, my own stomach growling. The lady buys the pizza and invites me to sit with her.)

Old Lady: “Won’t you have anything?”

Me: “No, thank you. I am quite full.”

Old Lady: “No, no. This won’t do. You must take some of the pizza.”

(Despite my protests, she makes me take about a quarter of her already quite small pizza.)

Old Lady: “Now we are both full. I feel happy.”

(The old lady proceeded to thank me and bless me to have a great trip ahead. We sat together and talked until she had to board. The old lady made my day so much better!)

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