Be On Guard For Extra Duty

, , , , , | Learning | April 2, 2018

When I was in elementary school, the students had to take turns acting as crossing guards at those roads near our school which weren’t big enough to have proper crossing lights. We wore yellow vests and held stop signs to “block” the crossing for cars every time a student came by on their way to school.

Every student got a shift of about two weeks per school year. We had to do this for about 40 minutes every morning and every afternoon, standing in pairs at every road. In the morning, we’d walk to school, get the equipment, and go back to the roads, then go back to return the stuff and be late to first class. In the afternoon, we’d leave last class early, get the stuff, go to the roads, then go back to school to return the stuff, then walk home.

As far as I know, we all lived in reasonable walking vicinity, so having to do this wasn’t considered an overt hardship by the school.

Though I now view this as hugely unsafe — as well as unpaid — forced child-labor, unfortunately this was considered normal practice there. I think it was viewed as okay because only the oldest (sixth grade) students were assigned this duty.

We hated doing this duty, because we had to get up so early in the morning. Everyone hated doing it, but my best friend and I didn’t dare skip, because the punishment for skipping was double the guard duty, which compounded if you skipped those. We knew perfectly well that the school was serious about seeing that their assigned punishments were carried out; there was no way to wiggle out of it. Most kids knew better than to try it.

When your assigned partner didn’t show up, there was no one to replace them, so you were just left to do the job alone as best you could. The teachers knew well enough that there would be some kids stupid enough to ditch during every assignment cycle, and clearly just didn’t care enough to do anything about it, like assign extra kids to show up, or, God forbid, go out to the roads and help us themselves.

When my friend and I were assigned to this during the same time-period, we were assigned in pairs with some boys in our class. They were known not to be too reliable, so we weren’t that surprised when they didn’t show up for days on end, and my friend and I were left to each do this alone on our assigned roads instead of in pairs. This was obviously more risky, not to mention quite demoralizing.

The school got wind of things right away and assigned the boys the appropriate punishments; after a few days one of them started showing up.

The other one, however, was notorious for being amazingly lackadaisical. He didn’t care about school, never said a word in any class, didn’t bother to turn in homework or study unless and until he was screamed at, at length, by the teachers, and clearly only showed up at school at all because he was forced to under some kind of threat by his family. If I’d known the term back then, I might have called him a stoner, except he was only about twelve, and I think it’s highly unlikely he was actually “on” anything; he just really acted like it.

He not only didn’t show up for guard duty at first, but he kept not showing up, even after he was repeatedly assigned punishments for skipping. The entire two weeks we were assigned passed without him showing up; we all knew the school was piling more and more punishments on him in the form of extending his crossing guard duty.

While we were upset because of the principle of it — we were all getting up nearly an hour earlier in the morning for this while he was just cavalierly ignoring it — we also knew that he was being amazingly stupid, because there was no way the school would let it go.

We finished our two weeks, and a few days later, when we went to cross the road near school in the morning, what did we see? It was him in a yellow vest with the stop sign stick, grimly doing the crossing guard duty for all the other kids, including us!

And he kept on being there, on that road, in that yellow vest, week after week. After week. After week. After week… You get the idea.

Though we weren’t ourselves given the details, of course, I can only assume the school principal and our class teacher must have “invited” his parents for a mandatory “chat” and threatened them with something as grim as expulsion and outright fails in all his classes, as well as some terrible “behavioral” black mark on his records, if he and his family kept ignoring the school’s punishments. His parents then must have threatened him with something equally grim in turn. I’m pretty sure I’m very close to the truth, because having been in class with him for several years, I can’t imagine anything else that could possibly have successfully forced him to start showing up to do this every single morning.

And he kept on being there, every morning and every afternoon, for two months. That’s how much compounded punishment he wound up getting for skipping as much as he did.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the sweet, sweet karma every morning when I crossed that road and passed him in his yellow vest, with his stop sign stick and defeated expression, knowing I got to sleep in nearly an hour later than him, didn’t have to wear that stupid vest and stand all by myself on a road ever again, and that he’d keep on being on that road, every morning, for a long time to come.

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That’s Some Shifty Excuse

, , , , | Working | April 2, 2018

(My friend goes into a popular fast food place one day and orders four soft-serve cones. We are all travelling together in a car.)

Server: “Could you wait 15 minutes?”

Friend: “Why? Is the machine broken or being cleaned?”

Server: “No, I’ll be done by then and I won’t have to make them. So, are you going to wait?”

Friend: *pause* “No.”

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They Don’t Have High Fidelity

, , , , , | Working | March 31, 2018

(I’m at a well-known furniture store where there’s also a restaurant. Today there’s a special menu that’s cheaper than usual, but you need to have the store’s fidelity card, and only certain dishes are available. It is my turn to get the main dishes.)

Me: “Hi, I’d like two special menus.”

Worker: *happily chitchats with a coworker, ignoring me completely*

Me: “Uh… Hi. I’d like two special menus.”

Worker: *looks at me silently, doing nothing*

Me: “Could I get one of each kind of meatballs?”

(Still without saying a word, she proceeds to prepare three plates with meatballs.)

Me: “Why did you prepare three?”

Worker: “You asked for one of each, and there’s three kinds.”

Me: “Well, yes, but there’s only two available for the special menu.”

Worker: “You wanted the special menu?”

Me: “Yes, that’s what I said.”

(She then takes the extra plate off and again stays perfectly still, looking at me in silence.)

Me: “Okay, for seconds, it’ll be one salad and one chicken.”

Worker: *keeps silently looking at me*

Me: “Um… I said I want one salad and one chicken.”

(She prepares the plates and starts taking somebody else’s order without saying another word. I go to the cashier to pay for the food.)

Me: “Hi, this will be all. But there’s a bit of a problem; I forgot my fidelity card at home. Instead, I got this code on a machine that I’m supposed to use for this kind of thing? I’m not sure how that works.”

Cashier: *rings up my food* “It’ll be 16,98€.”

Me: “Is that the special menu price? I have this code I got on the machine, because I forgot my fidel—”

(The cashier starts talking with a coworker, ignoring me completely. After she finishes talking, she looks at me in silence.)

Me: “As I was saying, I forgot my fidelity card and I don’t know if this code I got will work for th—”

Cashier: “It’ll be 16,98€.”

Me: “Okay, but is that the special menu price? Because, as I have said, I forgot my card an—”

Cashier: “Oh, it’s a special menu? Then the price is…” *checks a bit* “…16,98€.”

Me: “So, it was the correct price. Good. Now, how does the code thing work? Because I d—”

Cashier: “I don’t need the fidelity card.”

Me: “Uh… Okay, I guess.”

(In the end I got exactly what I wanted, but I felt like I was talking to badly-programmed robots the whole time.)

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Lazily Urgent

, , , | Right | March 30, 2018

(I work at a call centre for a logistics company. Situations tend to escalate a bit on Friday afternoons, when clients realize they have missed the driver and will have to wait until Monday for their packages. The other option is for them to come to the package centre, which is usually located out of town. Since we try our best to accommodate requests that are really urgent, some clients try to test our flexibility.)

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am. Your package will be re-delivered on Monday.”

Client: “Please, can’t you make the driver come back? This is really urgent! I need this for the weekend.”

Me: “Unfortunately, that would not be possible, but you can come by the package centre this afternoon and take your package. Would this work for you?”

Client: “Are you kidding me? I’m not driving all the way there for two phone cases!”

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Dye Hard

, , , , , | Working | March 29, 2018

I am stuck at home, mostly in bed, due to severe health issues. I decided to order some dyes and dyeable clothing, to have something low-energy to do to amuse myself.

There was a special detergent — made by the company themselves — to get clothes ultra-clean so they would dye evenly. Since I bought a lot of dyeables, I got a whole gallon of the detergent to prep it all.

When I went to the post office to get the shipment, one of the boxes was leaking powdered dye. I got it all over my clothes, hands, and car. The car took almost two hours to clean once I got home; this was absolutely exhausting when the monthly trip to town was already pushing my limits. I apologized to the postal workers, because I suppose they wrecked their clothes handling it and had a mess to clean up in their storage area. I’m sure the delivery driver had a mess, too.

When I had rested up a couple days and was ready for more hassle, I opened it — creating another big mess to clean up — and saw the problem. The dye was in thin, brittle, and extremely fragile plastic jars, and they put the gallon jug of detergent in the same box, almost guaranteeing the dye jars would be crushed. I also saw that they’d put all the dyeable clothing, shopping bags, and scarves I’d ordered in there, so that they were at high risk of getting stained when the inevitable happened.

I emailed the company, thinking I was complaining about an incompetent newbie in the shipping department, and was shocked to hear back that they didn’t consider this a mistake. This was their policy — to put heavy objects in with crushable dye canisters and vulnerable white cloth — because “it was would cost more to ship in several boxes.” So, they willingly do this to people, to save a couple bucks? Weird.

Also, she scolded me for accepting the parcel. Apparently, you can refuse a damaged package and it gets sent back. A: How would I know that? Since they habitually sabotage their own parcels, maybe they should have “in case of leaks” instructions on their invoices or FAQ page. And B: If I had done that, numerous other trucks, facilities, and handlers would have been stained, so I am glad I didn’t. At least one person in this story tries to protect others from preventable problems!

The rep hinted that I could still send the dyeables back for replacement if they got stained. I hate wastefulness. I didn’t want a big pile of items going in the garbage if I could help it, so I did what I could to rescue them.

I can’t express how messy this dye is. A teaspoonful would likely tint a swimming pool full of water. And the powder is so light that it flies everywhere when jostled. It’s very hard to clean up.

I set up a garden hose to flow next to the floor drain in the basement. I rinsed the plastic bags everything came in — very carefully, to reduce splashing, and nude, to avoid wrecking my clothes — and hosed the spilled dye down the floor drain. Then, I removed the plastic bags to rinse the products where dye had gotten through the bags through little tears. I was left exhausted, with stained hands and feet, and a mess in the basement that took another hour to clean up, but I succeeded in rescuing almost all the products!

You’d think the seller would be grateful they didn’t have to replace the products. You’d think they would feel ashamed at the idea of a disabled person spending four to five hours cleaning due to their weird shipping methods. Nope. They offered me a coupon for ten dollars off next time I buy from them. Of course, we all know I would never risk buying from them again in a million years after this nightmare! And ten dollars is practically nothing. Way, way under minimum wage for all the hours of work they caused me. If the ten dollars had even been given directly to me, in cash, it would have been an insulting amount. But they cleverly avoided having to actually give me a dime.

What they should have done is refund me for part of my purchase, maybe 20% or something, to make amends for the trouble. I can’t believe they put me through all this and did nothing to apologize.

All I wanted was a fun little craft project.

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