The Age Of Innocence

| WA, USA | Right | April 22, 2017

(The museum I work at has five price brackets: Senior (65+), Adult (16-64), Youth (age 6-15), and Child (age 3-5), with under 3 being free admission. These are listed on the sign above the cashier’s heads at the admission desk, but it’s confusing enough that to save time I usually just ask guests for the ages of their kids instead of listing them all. The following happens about once a day.)

Me: “Okay, so that’s one adult for general admission, and how old is the kiddo?”

Guest: “She’s—” *stops and peers at price list* “Uh… five.”

Daughter: *looking outraged* “NO! Mommy, I’m SIX and a HALF.”

Guest: *refuses to meet my eyes* “Oh, sorry, honey. Right. She’s six.”

Daughter: “—and a HALF!”

Me: “Great! So one adult and a youth will be [amount]!” *smiles sweetly*

What A Waste

| Alphen a/d Rijn, The Netherlands | Working | April 21, 2017

(My first day in the history park is not like I imagined. The weather is very bad and it’s the first day of the opening season, so there are virtually no visitors. Also, no historical clothing has been arranged for me and two other new colleagues yet. Since there isn’t much to do and we look “normal,” the three of us get some odd jobs to do. As the day progresses, I start to notice that the park’s director/owner is not a normal boss. He gives orders all around. Some of them are even countered by our team leader, who tells us to wait, while he is going to have “that discussion.” In the afternoon we’re doing some raking in the playground with a veteran colleague. He starts telling stories.)

Colleague: “One time he even fired almost everyone. We had thrown a party in one of the buildings, but apparently that wasn’t allowed. Then he realised that he needed people for the park, so he came running after us, like: ‘Stop! Stop! You can keep working here!'”

(Then the boss comes up and starts talking to me.)

Boss: “I have something for you to do. Come.”

(Without waiting for me, he starts walking towards the office building. I’m following quickly. He opens a door. Behind it is a pile of old wooden poles and dirty rope.)

Boss: “This can be taken out.”

(He already starts walking away before he’s finished his sentence. No explanation what do with the stuff. I assume that it’s garbage, so I and another new guy get a wheelbarrow. With that, we move all the stuff to the back. We don’t know where to put it, so we ask some coworker walking by.)

Me: “Do you know where to put this?”

Coworker #1: “Erm… Dunno… I’d put it in the waste container.”

(So we do. Later in the afternoon, still doing odd jobs, the boss even compliments us.)

Boss: “Really good that you guys are so devout and fanatic! Take one advice from me; always stay on your own level.”

(To me it’s unclear what he means with that. The compliment is nice, but very exaggerated. Finally, I and the other new guy prepare to leave. In the hallway, we meet two coworkers.)

Coworker #2: *almost whispering* “Get out! Out! Quickly!”

New Guy: “What’s wrong?”

Coworker #2: “You put the old wood in the waste container? It wasn’t supposed to go there. He’s enraged. If he finds you he will start scolding and stuff.”

(Hearing this, we try to leave quietly. But then the boss comes running after us. Since he is over two metres tall, this is quite an intimidating sight.)

Boss: “Come back! You two! Come back! Sort it out! Now, please! Only household garbage is supposed to go in the container! Come on, take it out!”

(With leaden feet we walk back to the waste container. Our team members of the day are standing around it, while the team leader is getting the wood out of it. The scene is like that of an entire class being berated by an enraged teacher. The boss seems to be totally mad. He singles out another new coworker.)

Boss: “I have a question! I’ll ask you! Can I just throw away stuff in your home?!”

New Girl: “No.”

Boss: “See, that’s what I mean? You throw away the obvious garbage from the waste baskets. Apart from that you discuss EVERTHING before throwing it away! The rope is good, so don’t do that! The wood goes over there on the pile! Come on, make it happen! And fast!”

(We make it happen. The boss runs off to be somewhere else, much to our relief.)

Me: “He didn’t tell me what to do with the stuff or where to put it. He also wasn’t clear on the point that I only had to throw away the wood. He didn’t say anything about the rope.”

New Guy: “Oh, weren’t we supposed to throw away the rope? I just put it back in the waste container.”

Me: *pause* “Good. It’s his own fault for not being nice.”

A Towering Pile Of Stupid Questions

| USA | Right | April 21, 2017

(I cashier at a museum that is very near our city’s most well-known tourist attraction, a very famous retro-futuristic tower. Despite the fact that it is 600 feet tall, distinctively shaped, internationally recognizable, and not physically connected to the museum in any way, we have conversations like this on a regular basis:)

Me: “Hi, welcome to [Museum]. What can I do for you?”

Tourist: “Is this the [Tower]?”

Me: “No, sorry, this is [Museum]. The [Tower] is a little farther down that way.”

*gestures towards unmistakable 600-foot-tall tower*

Tourist: *peers around in confusion without looking upwards* “But where do you buy the tickets for the [Tower]?”

Me: “You can buy those at the [Tower]; they’ve got a ticket booth right at the base.”

Tourist: “Okay. So, can I make a reservation for [Restaurant on top of Tower]?”

Me: *at this point, struggling to keep a straight face* “They can do that over at the [Tower] as well! It’s just down there.” *points AGAIN at the enormous tower visible from my register*

Tourist: “Thank you!” *wanders off in a different direction*

Coworker: “Was that another ‘where’s the [Tower]?’ question?”

Me: “HOW do they not SEE IT?!”

Not Quite The Summer Of Fun

| Alphen a/d Rijn, The Netherlands | Working | April 18, 2017

(It’s October. I have been to the park’s office to get the key of our staff room. Suddenly my mobile phone rings. It’s the park manager.)

Park Manager: “Hi, could you come back to the office. [Director] wants to talk to you about the expiration of your contract.”

(With leaden feet I go back. The director is an unpredictable man, over two metres tall, suddenly aggressive and very bad at empathy. For all I know, the man might be a light form of a sociopath. I enter his office and sit down.)

Director: “Sorry, your contract expires next January. And according to the law, it can be prolonged only three times, which we did. If I prolong again, I have to give you a permanent contract. This means I would have to give you a permanent amount of working hours in the week, and put in pension money. You’re a great guy and I would really love to do all of this, but I can’t afford to. There is of course a law that three months after termination of the contract, we can start over again. Stupid law, but we have to obey. And after those three months, of course, I’ll take you back!”

Me: “I see.”

Director: “Of course I’ll give you as much work as possible in the last weeks, so that you can get a higher unemployment check! And maybe… well, it’s kinda illegal, but I could even give you work during the three months out and then put it on for the time after. I don’t see why it shouldn’t be possible.”

Me: “Ehm… well..”

(I don’t like the sound of committing fraud, but don’t dare to protest it. So I just put on a sour face about it.)

Director: “And I think you should get a higher payment then, and vacation money. You’re a good guy, really, despite being a man of few words.”

(The only reason he thought me to be “a man of few words” is that I’m scared of him and don’t dare to speak. In reality, I talk so much that I annoy people. A few months later, my contract expires and I become unemployed. After some months, the start of the new season gets near. Suddenly, lots of old employees aren’t asked back, due to a new law. This law says the “new start” can’t be made after three months, but after six, together with a so-called “transition compensation” in case of redundancy. These rules will not apply until half a year later, but they will work retroactively. Therefore, lots of old employees aren’t taken back, but I receive the document for returning employees anyway. When the end of the three-month period comes, in April, I still haven’t got any response. I send an e-mail and am invited in the park’s office again. Here are the park manager and the HR manager.)

Park Manager: “Sorry, [Director] isn’t here. He had a meeting.”

HR Manager: “The story is as follows. If he takes you back, it will be a new start, a first contract in a row. But [Director] still will have to pay you a transition compensation if he fires you later. Unfortunately, he has to make the decision himself.”

Park Manager: “You’ll hear tomorrow.”

(Next day I receive a phone call by the park manager. The director decided that I should wait three months longer. It is an emotional blow to me. Three months later I put out an e-mail again. The answer is that the park has enough staff, yet there might be a chance that I can start again after summer vacation, when several employees might go back to college. Halfway through  August, I contact them again and I am invited for another talk with the park manager.)

Park Manager: “I’m warning you that if you return, there won’t be much work for you. I have to call people off everyday now. Business is bad.”

Me: “All right, but what I really need is a clear answer. A yes or a no!”

Park Manager: “[Director]’s answer is yes. Really. But I’m just warning you, you won’t get a full-time job from it.”

Me: “Hmm… that’s tough…”

Park Manager: “Need time to think it over? That’s okay. You can send me a message this weekend.”

(Next day, a Saturday, I send the man a message that I will take the job anyway. On Sunday, my phone rings. It’s the park manager.)

Park Manager: *sounding ashamed* “Erm… I have sad news. [Director] came back on the deal. I’m sorry, I really feel in sad telling you this. He says he wants to treat everyone equal and that it isn’t fair to other old employees.”

Me: “I was already surprised by this generosity.”

(By next February I received the return document once more. Since my unemployment dole had expired last September, I had been living off my savings for months, so I filled the document in and applied again. When I hadn’t heard anything back at the start of the season, late March, I sent an e-mail to the director telling him I was done with the situation and that I considered his behaviour very unprofessional and un-charming. His response showed that he didn’t understand my complaint at all. I never loathed anyone so much.)

You’ve Been Benched

| Alphen a/d Rijn, The Netherlands | Working | April 12, 2017

(We are clearing out a room to make space for a school class who are staying over for the night. We have taken out the benches and put them on each other in a corner next to the room. The plan is to decide what to do with it later; first, we want to finish the dorm, which we are filling with mattresses for the kids. Then the director of the park arrives. Saying the man is a loose cannon is an understatement. He is known to be short-tempered, distrustful, and easily stressed.)

Director: *angry, almost aggressively* “Guys, come on! Don’t put that stuff all on a heap like that! You can’t do that! This is an outrage!! All these benches have to be put apart with the cushions on them, one here, one there, one there! Not like this! This is a disgrace to the park!”

(He angrily storms away. My colleagues and I start to handle all the benches like he “asked.” The school kids look really bewildered by what they just saw.)

Kid #1: “Who is that man?”

Kid #2: “Yeah, and why was he so angry?”

Me: *trying not to make a fuss about it to the guests* “Oh, that’s our boss, the director.”

Kid #2: “Gosh, he should really relax. He’s really letting himself overcome by the stress.”

Kid #1: *to me* “Now I know why I saw you picking up all the litter outside. He was so angry, of course.”

Me: *smiling* “Oh, no, picking up the litter is just daily routine.”

(Still I couldn’t help wondering what was a bigger “disgrace”: a few untidy benches and cushions, or the owner/director lashing out at his employers in front of those school kids.)

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