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You Met Him In The Flesh

, , , , , , | Right | October 13, 2021

I’m in a crowded café working on a project at my computer, sitting at a table alongside the main aisle that runs down the center of the restaurant from the front door, past the counter, and out to the back door.

I’m very intent on the project and have headphones on, mostly tuning out my surroundings. However, I register the shape of a person moving past me, and as they get right next to my shoulder, my brain suddenly wakes up enough to think, “That’s a lot of flesh color.”

I turn around just to see the nude buttocks of an older man vanish around the corner and out the back door. My eye meets those of a couple of college girls sitting at the booth behind me, who look like they can’t quite decide if they’re horrified or about to burst out laughing.

Right about then, a manager sprints past us, on the phone with (I assume) the cops, and I hear him say, “No, he just came through again! He’s heading out the back door now!”

The stunned silence of the cafe slowly reverts to normal — if probably a bit hysterical — chatter again, and I later overhear the manager talking to a couple of his employees. Apparently, the streaker was a local elderly man who had been passively terrorizing a bunch of businesses in that general area for about two weeks. He’d just walk in, completely nude, and walk out again, refusing to speak to anyone. Turns out he was a dementia patient who was regularly slipping away from his not-so-conscientious “caretaker.”

All I can say is, I am so grateful that my project had me focused enough that I didn’t look up in time to see the approach, only the retreat!

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You’d Think It Was Hogwarts Open Day

, , , , | Right | October 4, 2021

I work in the kitchen of a fine-dining restaurant run by my university, which is unique in that all of the students are also employed by the school. One of my jobs in the early morning is to set out the fake display versions of our desserts so diners can see what they are ordering. Usually, this is a job that doesn’t involve any encounters with guests as the restaurant doesn’t open until just before lunch.

One morning, a bus of thirty or forty early tourists comes in, apparently unaware that the restaurant doesn’t open for several hours. For some reason, the person at the front desk tells them that they can “come in and look.”

Since I am the only student (aka “zoo exhibit”) in view at the time, I am promptly surrounded by geriatric tourists oohing over the school in general, the pressed-copper ceiling of the dining room, the views out the large windows, the flowers on the tables… even my fake desserts. 

I do the whole “smile politely and they’ll let you go” thing, trying to get around the milling group to set up my display, only to have one woman pluck at my sleeve and declare:

Guest: “Oh, honey! This place is so lovely. Do you really work here? And go to school here?”

Me: “Yes, ma’am! I work in the bakery here.”

Guest: “Oh, how nice! And this room, just look at that ceiling! It’s just beautiful.”

I respond while trying not to drop a tray of mini cast-iron skillets full of plaster cobblers.

Me: “It sure is.”

Guest: “And… this dining room. My lands! Do students eat here? Or is it for real people?”

My always loosely-installed filter slips but my tone is still 100% polite and cheerful.

Me: “It’s for folks like you, ma’am.”

I regretted it the minute it came out, but somehow she took it at face value of “folks like you = tourists” and happily went on her way. I nearly died laughing from the entire situation, the fact that I actually got away with that, and relief that no supervisor was around to hear me!

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Hmm, Wonder Why His Girlfriend Left Him

, , , , , | Right | September 24, 2021

As a teenager, I score a job at an international retailer’s store straddled between two highways. It attracts all sorts of interesting people.

A few months in, right after I have turned eighteen, I am tending the fifteen-items-or-less lane when a man in his late twenties approaches with a mini-cart packed full of puréed baby food — we’re talking at least thirty to forty jars. Being that it’s a slow day and I hate confrontation, I smile and started scanning him through.

After a very enthusiastic greeting in response, this man starts talking about his day, his ex-girlfriend, the baby he shares with her, and how tough it is being a single dad. Though it’s a lot of personal information, I figure he needs to talk, so I smile and nod and mmm-hmm along with him. He leans in over the register conspiratorially.

Customer: “You know, I once beat up a man so badly he went to the hospital. And I don’t remember a thing. All I remember is being filled with so much rage that I blacked out, and when I woke up, my friends were pulling me off of him. I guess I’m some kind of psychopath when you piss me off, huh?”

I go silent, not sure if he’s kidding or high. We’re in the heart of meth country, and I’ve heard a few wild stories from my coworkers. He just smiles at me and nods as if to reinforce his point. I scan his last few items as quickly as I can, put his bags in his cart, and tell him his total.

As he swipes his card, he looks me over and smiles.

Customer: “You’re really cute. I’ll have to remember to come through your line.”

He came back that night to pick up some groceries, and this time, he made a point to beeline straight to where I was now manning a busy, full-sized register at the tail end of my twelve-hour shift.

In a store with eight quick-checks, he chose the longest line possible — the tobacco register — even though he had well under fifteen items. He didn’t ask for smokes and left just as quickly as he’d arrived.

He came back again on my next shift, and the one after that, and the one after that. More than once, I got to hear the story of how he was “some kind of psychopath” again, with additional anecdotes about how he “might even be an undiagnosed schizophrenic” and “could beat someone up without a second thought.”

He’d tell me about the latest anime he was watching and why it was twisted and creepy, which action figures he liked to fantasize about killing each other in gruesome ways, and how he took pleasure in slaughtering all of his friends online in various video games. In a vacuum, his speech might have been harmless — I myself enjoy violent video games and other media — but combined with his seeming desire to share the joys of beating people up and joking about having serious, untreated mental illnesses, eighteen-year-old me started to feel uneasy as soon as he walked in the door, to the point where I tried to get out of every conversation as quickly as possible.

But it didn’t matter how I engaged. If I was friendly and tried to change the subject, he’d swing back around to violence. If I was silent and smiling, he took that as approval. If I was quiet and focused on my work, he talked even faster to impart more details of his fantasy life into my own.

Finally, after two months of him coming through my register at least once every shift, if not two or three times, I started volunteering to take abandoned items back to their shelves so I could avoid him. And it worked, for a time… until one of my fellow cashiers pulled me aside on a break and told me that the guy had been asking my coworkers for the schedule of the “cute cashier who always checks me out.”

At that point, I’d had enough. I talked to my manager and told them I thought I was being stalked, and even if I was not, this man made me very uncomfortable and was flirting aggressively with one of their youngest employees.

I’m not sure what happened after that; I wasn’t on shift the next time he came in, but I didn’t see that man again for almost a year. At that point, I had already put in my two weeks’ notice, so I nodded through his, “I remember you! Do you remember me? I’m the guy who…” speech, wished him a good day, and never saw him again. 

Thank God.

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We’re Beerly Acquaintances, Let Alone Friends

, , , | Right | September 23, 2021

I work in a small town’s only liquor store. Being a small town, we learn our regulars and know some of their names. I have one couple that comes in and the husband has somehow come to believe that we’re friends and this gives him an “in.” Because of that, he’s always asking for a discount which I never give.

They come in and the wife immediately makes eye contact and subtly shakes her head no, so I know I’m in for something.

Husband: “Can you do me a favor?”

Me: “Possibly.”

Husband: “I get paid tomorrow; can I get a six-pack now?”

Me: “If you have the money.”

Husband: “You won’t let me pay tomorrow?”

Me: “I absolutely am not risking my job for that.”

Husband: “What if I leave you my phone?”

Me: “Your six-pack is not worth my children’s food.”

This isn’t the only time someone’s tried to get credit here, but I haven’t seen them since.

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It’s A Little Early In Their Lives For That Lesson

, , , , , , , | Romantic | September 11, 2021

I’m an elementary school teacher. During the quarantine, I was moved to teaching online from my home and struggled to keep coming up with engaging lessons for my remote learners.

One day, I decided to incorporate our two cats into my lesson for humorous effect. The cats were not cooperative, of course, but after numerous takes, I finally managed to film the lesson to my satisfaction. I showed the video to my wife.

Me: “Well, it took forever and my legs are scratched to h***, but I really think my kids will get a kick out of this.”

Wife: “You realize your big poster for [Marijuana-Themed Movie] is in the background of every shot?”

Me: …”

Me: “Okay, [Cat #1] and [Cat #2], time for a reshoot!”

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