You Literally Have To Try To Work This Slowly

, , , , , , | Working | November 10, 2020

In 1951, my mother is a young bride living just off the Air Force Base with my dad. Because she has a background in office work, she is recruited for a job on base. The work is beyond tedious.

I don’t remember the exact nature of the job. Essentially, there is a table with bundles of about twenty-five financial forms that need to be checked against a master list to make sure all information is correct.

Mom is in an office with about five other women who are also doing the checking.

Mom finishes her first bundle of twenty-five and rechecks them, puts a notification that they have been checked and approved, puts them in the collection area, and picks up another bundle. The job is a seven-hour, five-days-a-week position, and by the end of the day, she has finished about half the bundles on the table. When she gets ready to leave, the other wives in the room do not return her “Goodnight” and will not speak with her at all.

The next day, one of the older women catches Mom as she goes to her desk.

Woman: *Bellowing* “YOU! YOU! Are you trying to show the rest of us up?”

Mom: “What do you mean?”

Woman: *Snapping* “You are only supposed to do one bundle a day! One! That’s all any of us are able to handle, so stop making a mess just to show us up. You do one bundle and that’s it!”

So Mom, who wanted to avoid trouble, tried to take all day to do one tiny bundle of forms. She described how she would sit with a single form and match each and every letter to the grand list, then do it again, spending maybe two or three full minutes on each form. She would take a breather between forms. But even doing this, she was still done within two hours.

Meanwhile, she said, the other women in the office were doing their nails, reading magazines, doing crossword puzzles, or just plain gossiping. At the end of the week, no one was talking to her yet and she was planning on quitting.

What saved her was the boss coming into the office and asking if anyone knew steno and touch typing. Mom practically jumped into his arms like an over-eager puppy.

That’s how Mom wound up being a general secretary for all the base big wigs and, happily, making a lot more money than checking financial forms against each other.

I assume that, sixty-plus years later, some of those ladies are still sitting there, checking forms and doing their nails.

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He’s Not That Sharp, But He’s Got A Point

, , , , | Learning | November 7, 2020

When I am a student, I am in the Territorial Army — the UK equivalent of the US National Guard — and every summer, we go away for a two-week training camp, usually in the south of England.

During one particular camp, we are preparing for a large field exercise, and some of us are helping the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) prepare a couple of “enemy” weapons — used AK47s and other Soviet-era weapons, adapted for blank firing and used by “enemy” soldiers during exercises. The RSM is showing us two specimens: a Soviet AK47 and a Chinese copy, the Type 56 Assault Rifle.

RSM: “Okay, so this one on the right is a Soviet AK47, and the one on the left is a Chinese AK47, also known as the Type 56. Does anyone know what the difference is?”

Private: “Sir, the Chinese one says, ‘Made in China,’ on the side!”

We all roar with laughter. Grinning, the RSM looks the private in the eye.

RSM: “Don’t be such a f****** smarta**, [Private]!”

The difference, in case anyone was wondering, is that the Type 56 has a folding bayonet underneath!

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Time To Bite The Bullet, Part 2

, , , , | Romantic | November 6, 2020

As there was another story about Potong Jalan recently, I feel that I should submit my own story on it.

Through the two years of mandatory military service (NS), most of us have lost our girlfriends. There are the lucky ones, like me, whose girlfriends were decent enough to formally break up before gallivanting off, but the majority of the guys only find out that they’ve been Potong Jalan-ed by mutual friends or social media telling them that their girlfriends are cheating on them.

Less than a month before the end of NS, one of the only two guys in my platoon who still has a girlfriend receives a text message from his girlfriend.

It is an invitation to her wedding. To another man. Who she has been seeing for a year. Oh, and she is pregnant with his kid.

Yeah. Ouch. By this point, we’ve assumed that any relationship that has survived is basically inviolable. After all, there are only three and a half weeks left until we end NS.

Needless to say, my platoon mate doesn’t believe it. He immediately calls her, only for her to tell him that she is serious. Oh, and that she expects a nice wedding gift.

My platoon mate immediately breaks down weeping, and the rest of us completely fail at consoling him. In fact, my attempt to convince him to let go and move on ends in me having to physically restrain him. A knife may or may not have been involved.

And that went loads better than the last guy with a girlfriend’s attempt to cheer him up.

I can’t tell you that one. It got classified by our bosses.

Eventually, we got the officers involved and they calmed him down and got him to go shower and sleep. Thank goodness they were trained as breakup counselors.

The rest of the fallout is another story altogether, but needless to say, that was the worst Potong Jalan I have ever had the misfortune of seeing happen.

Our guy basically got the rest of his last month in the army waived by our bosses under compassionate leave. But yeah, that was one traumatic breakup. And by traumatic, I mean traumatic. Even the rest of us were traumatised by it.

Time To Bite The Bullet

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Fighter Jets Versus Entitled Customers

, , , , | Right | November 2, 2020

I work at a locally-owned sports bar. It’s early spring, and it’s just warm enough for patrons to sit comfortably outside on the patio. On this particular day, the Naval Air Station that is about a mile away is doing touch-and-go rehearsals with F/A-18 Hornet jet fighters.

A group of six customers comes in, and they want to sit on the patio. 

Me: “Are you sure? The Air Force has been doing turn and burns all morning.”

Group: “We’re sure.”

I seat them on the patio, give them menus, and take their drink order. When I leave to get the drinks, two jets fly low overhead. They’re low enough that their engines set off every car alarm in the parking lot.

I bring the drinks back and get one person’s order before the jets are back.

Customer #1: “It’s really loud out here.”

Me: “Would you like—” *Interrupted by jet* “Would you like to sit inside?”

Customer #1: “No, it’s really nice out—” *Interrupted by a second jet* “It’s really nice outside.”

It takes me almost fifteen minutes to get their order because of the jets. After I drop off the food:

Me: “Can I get you anything else?”

Customer #2: “Some earplugs?”

They complained to the manager that I did not adequately warn them that fighter jets would be flying so low and so loud.

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Following The Rules To The Letter

, , , | Working | October 26, 2020

I am the watch-stander in Damage Control Central on the midnight watch on April first. Damage Control Central is the primary communications point for any emergency aboard the ship and is manned around the clock. As a result, the watch-standers routinely get sailors wandering in at all hours to ask some extremely stupid questions, like, “What time are eight-o’clock reports?” and, “What deck is the weatherdeck on?”

Since it is April Fool’s Day, I decide to try to limit the Stupid Question Parade by putting a sign outside the door suggesting we’re busy with an emergency situation. In an attempt to avoid getting in trouble for false reporting, I make sure the sign is totally accurate but misleading to anyone not paying attention.

All is well — and blissfully Stupid-Question-free — until the Chief Engineer happens to drop by DC Central to print out a report he’ll be needing first thing in the morning. He is less than thrilled about the sign and yells at me, but he acknowledges that the sign is both accurate and pretty funny.

The sign I posted says, “DC Central is dealing with seawater intrusion in the firemain system. Emergencies Only!”

For non-Navy readers, the firemain is the system that provides fire-fighting water in the event of a fire. On Navy ships, the firemain is constantly pressurized with seawater.

I receive some mild punishment from my Division Officer, but I follow it up the next April Fool’s Day with a different sign: “DC Central is dealing with a Class Bravo Fire in #2 Boiler. Emergencies Only!”

A “Class Bravo” fire means the fire source is a flammable liquid. The ship’s boilers burn diesel fuel, so there is always a “Class Bravo” fire in the boilers when they’re running.

I get in trouble again, of course. For the rest of my tour aboard that ship, I am specifically prohibited from standing any watches on April first.

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