Making A Stranger’s Day A Little Lighter

, , , , , , | Friendly | May 20, 2021

I’m fourteen years old and going to a convention. I’m going with friends but I’m also quite independent. I’ve made a costume that includes ribbons, but when I get it out at the hotel to steam before the con, I realise I’ve forgotten to seal one of the edges. I seal them by carefully melting the edge of the ribbon to stop it fraying. I also realise I’ve forgotten the lighter Mum gave me that I use to do this, so I decide to head down to the local corner shop and head straight to the counter.

Clerk: “Hi, how can I help?”

Me: “Could I just buy a lighter? I don’t mind what colour.”

The clerk gives me a funny look and a man walks up behind me. Totally oblivious to the funny look, I hold up my ribbon.

Me: “I need to seal this, or it might fray, and my fabric shop doesn’t stock this ribbon anymore.”

Clerk: “Yeah… but you have to be eighteen for me to do sell a lighter to you.”

There’s a really long pause.

Me: *Whispers* “But my ribbon…”

Clerk: “Sorry.”

They don’t really sound sorry. I step out of the store and contemplate my life; naturally, fourteen-year-old me feels that this is a disaster.

Man: “Hey, girl.”

I turn and it’s the man who came up behind me. He’s holding out a lighter.

Man: “Stupid enough not to be a lie, so I bought you one.”

Me: “Ooh! Thank you so much! Really! Thank you! How much do you want?”

Man: *Handing me the lighter* “Don’t worry about it; just sort your costume!”

He heads off and I head back to my hotel. I note that the lighter looks very different from what Mum uses; it’s heavier, generally bigger, and much much easier to use. I don’t think much of it. I fix my ribbon and pack away the lighter. I enjoy the con and head home.

Whilst helping me unpack my stuff, Mum comes across the lighter.

Mum: “How much did you spend on this?!”

Me: “Huh? Oh, a man gave it to me.”

Mum: “What do you mean, a man gave it to you?!”

Me: “I forgot to seal the ribbon and went to buy a new lighter, but the clerk said no. The man behind bought me one instead.”

Mum: “This is a [Brand] lighter. They’re £5!”

Me: “Oh… Is that a lot?”

Mum: “Mine are 50p!”

Thanks, random man who helped a random fourteen-year-old. I still have that lighter fifteen years later.

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Take A Little Taste Of Humanity

, , , , , , , | Friendly | May 20, 2021

I’m visiting my friend in London; we’re both women who prefer to wear smart-looking clothes over casual. I’m a low-income earner whilst she earns much higher, but we are both working class. We’re walking down a street when we are approached by two men a bit older and a lot taller than us who appear to be homeless.

One man is looking somewhat hopeful whilst the other looks wary; both look very desperate. My friend immediately tenses and looks uncomfortable. The men stop.

Hopeful Man: “We don’t mean any harm or anything. We don’t want money. Just… can you spare anything? Please? A chocolate bar or… crisps… or even like… deodorant or something so we don’t immediately get shooed out for smelling when we do have some cash to buy stuff?”

Wary Man: *Almost inaudibly* “Come one, [Hopeful Man]. Look at them; they’re not gonna care.”

My friend is pulling at me to leave but I take my handbag off my shoulder.

Me: “I don’t carry cash, and I know it’s not much, but I’ve got some drinks and some chocolate?”

I offer the men two bottles of drink and two chocolate bars that I have in my bag. They take them.

Hopeful Man: “Thank you! Thank you so much!

Wary Man: “Yeah… Yeah, thanks!”

They leave. I feel good. My friend, however…

Friend: “Why did you do that? They were probably druggies!”

Me: “I… What?”


Me: “One, you don’t know that. Two, even if they were, that doesn’t mean that they should starve. And three, it’s £1.50 worth of drinks and chocolates — hardly breaking the bank.”

Friend: “Still!”

Me: “No. It was my food; I can do with it what I want.”

We still chat, just not nearly as much as we did before.

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I Hear You Loud And Louder

, , , , , , , | Working | May 10, 2021

Lockdown has just started and everyone is still getting used to only meeting with colleagues via video calls. I swear, this happens several times a day…

Me: “Sorry, your signal’s going. I can’t hear you very well—”

Boss: *Shouting* “CAN YOU HEAR ME BETTER NOW?!”

Thanks. Now your signal sucks AND I’m partially deaf.

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It Would Be Better Explained If You Lip-Synced It For Your Life

, , , , , , , , , , | Right | May 7, 2021

I am selling something online. I provide my Whatsapp number for messaging but I am surprised when I get a call from an American number claiming interest in my item.

Caller: “I figured since I will be in San Francisco this weekend I could just swing by and pick it up?”

Me: “That’s great, except I’m in London. Nothing in my ad says I’m in San Francisco.”

Caller: “So that’s like… what, East Bay?”

Me: “What? No… London. London, England.”

Caller: “So down near Mountain View?”

Me: “No! London. With the bridge. The Queen lives there.”

I hear someone else on the caller’s side speak up.

Person With Caller: “What’s going on?”

Caller: *Replying* “I don’t know. They’re saying they’re a queen in San Francisco.”

Person With Caller: “Drag queens, honey. They’re called drag queens in San Francisco.”

I wonder if there is a confused-looking woman now wandering the streets of San Francisco looking for a drag queen with a used toaster oven.

This story is part of our Best Of May 2021 roundup!

Read the next Best Of May 2021 roundup story!

Read the Best Of May 2021 roundup!

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Priorities, Priorities

, , , , , , | Friendly | April 28, 2021

My friend and I, both in our early twenties and from the rural countryside, have decided to visit London. We’re walking down a residential road past a community centre around 1:00 pm, thinking about food, when a tall man who is at least twice our age appears and speaks with an accent I don’t recognize.

Man: “We’re having a barbecue! Do you want to have some?”

My friend and I look at each other and exchange some non-verbal communication.

Me: *To the man* “Yeah, all right!”

Man: “Fantastic! Follow me!”

We follow the man down an overgrown side road, round some twisty corners, and through a tunnel.

Friend: *Casually to me* “This would be a really good place to murder someone.”

Me: *Giving her a side-eye* “Why do you say that? Now I’m wondering whether there is food at the end of this.”

We round one last corner and there’s a large group having a barbecue. The man ushers us in and gets us sorted with food. This woman about our age comes over and speaks with a London accent.

Woman: “You two have no self-preservation!”

Friend: “But we do have free food!”

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