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This Is A Lying-Doesn’t-Fly Zone

, , , , , , | Working | December 31, 2020

I work in a department that creates graphics and presentations for the rest of the firm. We have regulars that routinely use our services, but we’re available to anyone in the company.

I’m alone in the center overnight two days before Christmas when I get a call from an unfamiliar employee asking if we can edit a PDF. It’s not an uncommon request; sometimes documents are converted to PDF for sharing or printing, only for a typo or alignment problem to be discovered at the last minute.

Me: “Sure, that’s most likely not a problem.”

Employee: “Great!” 

The employee emails me the file.

I open the file and stare at it, aghast. It’s a note from this employee’s doctor. Evidently, a long-scheduled plane trip over the holidays had been imperiled by a serious injury a few weeks back; the note states that the employee is cleared to fly.

The instructions are to add the word “not” into the note so that it would appear to read that the employee was not cleared to fly.

I’m ready to refuse this outright when I hear the internalized voice of my boss. Like most “cost centers,” our department doesn’t have a lot of cachet within the company, and recent complaints involving a few of us trying to enforce certain standards that not all of the senior officers care about have led to firm instructions from our boss not to refuse anything our requesters ask for.

Basically, our option to say, “No, we don’t do that,” has been taken away, leaving me wondering how best to handle this employee’s request to help them scam their airline without violating departmental directive.

I call the employee back.

Me: *Politely* “I’m sorry, but I do not feel I can ethically handle your request.”

The employee persists.

Employee: “It’s just inserting a word! I simply want to get my plane tickets refunded now that I’ve decided not to take the trip.”

After going back and forth a while, I finally have to say outright that I’m not comfortable falsifying medical documents on the employee’s behalf.

The employee tells me they understand and hangs up, only to call back to say they’re going to try to do it themselves, and asking if I can tell them how to do that.

I’m thinking about PDF-tampering permutations of the old “feed someone a fish” adage as I take another look at the document. It’s an image, not a text-based PDF, so modifying it isn’t as simple as clicking “Edit” and typing in “not.” I tell the employee that the change is not something they can do themselves; they accept this and hang up. I then document everything for my boss, wondering what the response will be.

After the holidays, I hear back from my boss. My refusal to do the job was supported, not because the request was unethical but because it was personal and not business-related.

The Nightmare Before X. M. A. S.

, , , , , , | Right | December 21, 2020

I’m working holiday retail in a fancy-shmancy accessory and “lifestyle” store in lower Manhattan. 

One of our services is that if you buy a journal, we will imprint three — and no more! — characters on it for free, using an old-fashioned, hand-operated imprinting press. Once a journal has been imprinted, it cannot be changed, and if the customer rejects it, we have to mark it as “damaged” and make them a new one. The imprint doesn’t take very long to do, but given that there are six journal covers, two font sizes, and eight color options, and the imprint can be made anywhere on the cover, it’s one of those things that are best done in person.

The following call happens thirty minutes before we close.

Customer: “Hello? I’d like to purchase three journals and have them imprinted. I’ll come by at 6:45 and pick them up.”

Me: “All right, ma’am, but I should inform you that we close at seven, and the journals are best selected in person to be sure that you get exactly what you want.”

Customer: “I don’t care about that. Get me three journals.”

Me: “Do you want regular or large, and grid paper, plain paper, or ruled?”

Customer: “Regular and ruled.”

Me: “All right.”

I rattle off the color options for the journals.

Customer: “Just… black! Make them black!”

Me: “Yes, ma’am. Now, about the color of the imprint—”

I list the colors we have available, none of which are true white.

Customer: “White. I want true white.”

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but we don’t carry true white. The closest we have is a cream color.”

Customer: “What color is that?”

Me: *Pause* “Like an off-white, or an ivory.”

Customer: “Ugh, fine.”

Me: “Now, what letters do you want on the journals? We only take three characters, including punctuation and spacing.”

Customer: “I want ‘ABC,’ ‘A.B,’ and ‘X.Y’. Do the first two in gold and the last one in white.”

Me: “I’ve written it down. Now, where would you like the imprints to be made?”

Customer: “Why so many questions? Can’t you just do it?”

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’m just trying to make sure you get what you want. If it helps, most people put the imprint on the bottom right corner or in the dead center of the journal.”

Customer: “Put the first two in the bottom right corner and the last one in the center.”

Me: “The dead center?”

Customer: “Yes, the dead center.”

Me: “Thank you for your patience, ma’am; that’s all I need.”

I ring her up via the phone and then take my written notes on the items she wants over to the imprinting machine, and I quickly make sure all of the imprints are completed. Then, at 6:50, she comes bustling in and demands to see the journals, which I take out of their decorative bag to show her.

Customer: “These two are okay, but this last one is all wrong. I said I wanted true white!”

Me: “We don’t carry true white, I’m afraid. We carry cream, which is what I put, because it’s the closest to white.”

Customer: “I also told you I wanted it to say, ‘X.Y.’!”

Me: “Ma’am, we don’t typically go beyond three characters for our imprinting because we’ve found it damages the journals, but I’ll make an exception just this once.”

I redo the impression, which requires a whole new journal and for me to reload the press. Around me, my colleagues are sweeping up and closing the shop for the night. I finish and hand over the completed journal.

Customer: “No, this is still wrong! People like you are why Christmas is always a nightmare. I’m trying to get gifts for everyone at my office, and this one is supposed to be for the head creative director! I had all of them done at [Other Location] except these three, and this one is the most important! I just forgot about it until now!”

Me: “I’m sorry, but what’s wrong with this one?”

Customer: “I said I wanted this in the center! You put it here in the middle!”

I have put the initialing exactly where we agreed, in the dead center of the journal. She indignantly jabs her finger into the center… at the bottom of the cover.

During this time, my colleagues are walking out the door for the night, which has already locked because it’s past seven. My manager turns out the lights in the back and closes down the registers, leaving just me and this customer and the imprinting machine, which I will have to clean and turn off by myself. She seems to notice absolutely none of this and continues to rant.

Me: “Let me get another one, and I’ll redo it.”

Customer: *Sniffy voice* “I don’t know what’s so hard about three letters.”

At this point, this was technically four characters, but I bit my tongue.

I grabbed another journal from the dark back area, came back, unwrapped it, and re-pressed it to her satisfaction. Rather than letting me put these journals back in their decorative bag with a bow, she shoved them all into her purse and stormed out… or would have, if I hadn’t had to go and unlock the door for her.

Despite the fact that I had told her this was best done in person, had worked after closing for her, had to go through three separate journals because of her miscommunication, and was ultimately making up for her forgetfulness and saving her face to her boss, she never once said thanks. Lady, people like you are why Christmas is a nightmare.

Gotta Love Helicopter Managers

, , , , , | Working | October 27, 2020

I am only a month into a new job in a small but high-pressure company. My boss is proving to be someone who not only can’t maintain a professional appearance under stress but bullies me to get a little sense of power satisfaction. I’m tired of it and am joyful when my cubicle is moved to the other end of the building.

We communicate by chat and most of my work is independent, and I send files, emails, and updates to my boss for review. However, any time I make even a tiny, easy-to-remedy mistake, the following happens.

Me: “I sent that email with the design and production notes to you. Please let me know if they are approved so I can move onto the next set.”

Boss: “Why did you send me this like this?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

My boss goes idle.

Five minutes later, she appears at my cubicle, adopting a frustrated and patronizing tone of voice. It would have taken her nearly five minutes to walk all the way to my station.

Boss: “Open the email you just sent me.”

I do.

Boss: “Open the files.”

I do that.

Boss: “See anything wrong?”

I scan all eleven files.

Me: “Oh, it looks like this one image got cropped a bit somehow when exporting to PDF.”

Boss: “Exactly. I can’t believe you sent me this like this. Did you even look at them before you sent them? You have to, have to, have to double-check everything. I can’t send this to my boss like this. It’s a mess! What happened?!”

Me: “Uh… it just looks like something glitched in exporting. I’ll re-export that page and—”

Boss: “You can’t keep making these mistakes. You have to double-check everything!”

Me: “Right. So I’ll just—”

Boss: “Please redo it and send me a new email so I can finally send this off. This is taking way too long.”

Me: *Deep breath* “Sure.”

It took me literally thirty seconds to re-export that page, check it for errors, and resend the email. 

The whole ordeal lasted about ten minutes and it happens too often. She could have just said, “There’s an error on page eight; please resend,” and it would have taken one minute. How are these people even allowed to be managers?!

Two’s Company, The Whole Family Tree’s A Crowd

, , , , , , | Romantic | September 8, 2020

Shortly after finishing college, a boy I am dating invites me to spend a week in New York City with his family. It falls over our three-year anniversary, so he promises to take me out for a fancy dinner.

I am so excited! I pack a suitcase and drive to his house, expecting to see their minivan packed with bags and everyone getting ready to go. What I see, instead, is a bunch of vehicles parked in the yard and a bunch of people going back and forth between the house and the largest vehicles — mostly two fifteen-passenger vans.

My boyfriend comes out to greet me. 

Boyfriend: *Sheepishly* “Hey. Uh, so, you can say you don’t want to go if you don’t. I totally get it.”

Me: “What is… I thought this was a family thing?”

Boyfriend: “Yeah, but then [One Of His Brothers] found out you were going, so he wanted to take his girlfriend. And [Aunt] and [Uncle] wanted to come, but they have to bring their kids. It kind of… blew up?”

I nod, slowly taking it all in.

Me: “Uh-huh. So, how does this change things up there? Our reservations are for your immediate family and me.”

Boyfriend: “Yeah, well, we’ll have our own room, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

It is, but I don’t want to say so because it seems shallow to not want to share a hotel room when I’m invited on a trip.

Me: “Okay, well, I already took off work, so I might as well go, right?”

The trip was an absolute disaster. We did not get our own room — even though we paid for it by ourselves — because the hotel was completely booked and the added family members didn’t want to stay elsewhere; we ended up sharing our room with his aunt and uncle and their three children. I’m pretty sure it was against policy to have seven people in a room that sleeps four but they never got caught and never offered to split the cost of the room, either.

We also never got our anniversary dinner date because his brother and girlfriend wanted to do a double date and wouldn’t take no for an answer; it later came out that they wanted to get away from their annoying, clingy family members. The irony escaped them.

My boyfriend was truly sorry and did his best to make it up to me when we got back. We dated for a while after that, but when the next family trip came around, I made my own bookings in my own name and put my foot down on sharing.

My Two Cents Is Free; Two Bucks Will Cost You

, , , , , , | Legal | September 2, 2020

I am a paramedic in the New York City 911 system. We deal with a lot of abuse towards us, but this course of events had everyone there baffled.

Depending on the night, we sometimes have to fuel up the ambulance at the gas station instead of our actual station, like when it’s really busy or we are out of our main response area. We carry credit cards that are assigned to the truck and can only be used for gas/diesel.

My partner and I are at the gas station at pump seven. I go inside the store for drinks, and when I come back out, a driver is screaming at my partner. I run over and ask what is going on. 

Apparently, the driver had gone inside and put $40 on pump seven — he was actually at pump eight on the other side — so when my partner swiped the card, it didn’t activate. He pumped around two dollars of the other guy’s forty before the driver started screaming and he realized there was a mistake. He hadn’t noticed because the pump had still asked for the odometer reading and truck PIN, even though it didn’t take the card; we’re not sure why.

My partner is trying to apologize and give the guy $2 from his wallet, but the guy isn’t giving him a chance to speak. He is just screaming, “You scammed me! You use your card to fill my tank all the way!” It’s a flatbed, so it has a big tank. We obviously can’t do that, but my partner says that since he didn’t notice and it was his mistake, he has no issue reimbursing the guy from his own wallet and then filing a “petty cash” claim at the end of the shift.

This guy is not having it. He just keeps screaming to the point that one of the store employees comes out to see what is going on. By this time, I have already landlined dispatch, briefly explained, and asked for a boss to come to try and rectify the situation. Dispatch heard the screaming in the background and decided to dispatch another unit to our location, as well as a boss and police for our safety.

The guy goes inside to yell at the clerk for stealing his money. I follow him to make sure the clerks are safe. We are on really good terms with the night manager, so we always feel like we need to keep her safe. The guy starts screaming at her, even after she offers to give him the $2.

That’s where it goes from bad to “oh, s***.” This moron decides since he’s angry, he’s going to pull out his pocket knife and threaten everyone. It does not work like he wants it to, though. I quickly hit my radio emergency button — which my partner hears and comes running — and speak over the air, “[Distress code], I need PD now; he has a knife.”

In my area, when an ambulance calls a distress code, you get literally everybody. Every available ambulance, boss, and sometimes chief show up to help. We end up with something like twelve ambulances and two bosses at our location within two or three minutes. We get almost the entire police precinct within five or six minutes.

The guy does not have a good day after that; he ends up arrested because of the weapon — all over $2 that we said we would gladly give him.