Suva, So Good

, , , , , , | Hopeless | January 21, 2018

This story takes place over 40 years ago, when I was four. Even though I was so young, I remember it vividly. My parents owned a tobacco farm. This was back when private farmers were allowed to grow tobacco commercially. They’re not, anymore, and the farm is now apples and kiwifruit.

During the harvest, most of the picking was done by workers from Fiji, big men who would come to New Zealand and work impossibly long hours in the fields, earning every cent they could. Their money would be sent home, saved carefully, and made to last until they returned the following year.

In the small town where I grew up, there were no people of any colour, not even Māori (native New Zealanders), so my sister and I had never seen black people before. The workers were huge, ebony-black men with big shaggy afros and deep, booming voices. The first time we met them we screamed and ran away crying. Our parents were mortified. They tried everything they could to stop us being afraid of the workers and to get us to interact with them more positively, but nothing worked.

The workers were more sad than offended. They loved children and missed their own dreadfully.

One day I wandered away from my mother in the tobacco field. Those fields were vast spaces, with tobacco plants in long, long rows, taller than I was. Soon, I was hopelessly lost. My family panicked, but it was one of the Fijians who had the bright idea of climbing onto the roof of one of the sheds so he could look down on the fields. It didn’t take him long to spot me, and he ran towards me.

I was hiding under a tobacco plant, crying. As he got closer, he slowed down and hid behind a plant, too. Of course, as he was so huge, I could see him, and I was scared. I slowly peeked out… and so did he. Then, he let out a gasp and a squeal and hid again. This went on for a few minutes; both of us peeking out and hiding again when we saw each other. I started to giggle and walked shyly out from behind the plant. He jumped to his feet and ran off down the row in a cartoon-like fashion, his arms and legs going in all directions, letting out the same high-pitched squeal. Of course, I ran after him, laughing all the way… and we ran right back to my parents, who were by that stage almost hysterical.

I soon learned that all the workers had the same comic, zany sense of humour where kids were involved, and that they loved to play as much as we did. My sister and I became fast friends with them; in fact, we were probably pains in their a**es, because we kept wanting to play with them while they were picking.

Most of us grow up and learn that racism is a terrible thing. I was lucky in that I learned it very early on, and I have never, ever been able to tolerate the notion that someone is less, or more, because of skin colour. I have always been grateful to my first Fijian buddy for teaching me this incredibly valuable lesson.

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Expecting A Big Fat Apology

, , , , , , , | Related | January 12, 2018

(I’ve recently returned home to New Zealand from overseas travel. I worked in the UK in a pub for over a year and picked up heaps of skills and experience from the job. Now that I’m back home, I need to get a new job to get myself back on my feet. I’ve always had an ability to pull off job interviews well. Now, I’m a chunky girl, but not heinously overweight, and I carry myself well.)

Me: “I saw [Pub] has a sign out looking for staff, so I’m going to go drop CVs in and around them today.”

Mum: “Oh, no, you’re way too fat to work there. I’ve only seen skinny girls working at [Pub]. There’s no way they’ll hire you!”

(Understandably, I am upset, though not surprised as my mum has a massive hang up on my size and is constantly on at me. So, in spite, I apply, and I get called back the same afternoon. After a long, friendly, chatty interview with the manager I get offered the job on the spot. I head home, incredibly chuffed that I’ve not only got a job, but that it’s at the place I was deemed “too fat” to work at by my mum. As I walk through the door, Mum asks where I handed out my CVs today and I tell her, leaving [Pub] till last.)

Mum: “Oh, yeah, and have you heard anything back?”

Me: “Oh, I probably should have started with this, but yeah. I got a new job; I start tomorrow night.”

Mum: “Wow, really? Where?”

Me: “[Pub].”

(Needless to say, her face showed mixed emotions: pissed that I proved her wrong, but ultimately pleased that I was employed.)

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All Paths Lead To A**holes

, , , , , | Related | January 4, 2018

(My mother’s a bit behind the times. She hasn’t long been introduced to the delights of the Internet, but has been sucked into the vortex that is YouTube, with their endless, tempting recommendations. She’s also just got the hang of Skype, but prefers to use the text chat function rather than the phone call. It should be noted that she’s a big fan of the Ice Age movies, having seen them all multiple times with the grandkids. One day she Skypes me and we have the following chat:)

Mother: “You’re not going to believe what I’ve just seen on YouTube! It’s so shocking; I don’t know what to say!”

(She sends me the link. It’s Dennis Leary’s song “A**-hole.”)

Me: “How did you end up at this video from all the ice dancing, gymnastics, and opera you usually watch?”

Mother: “Why would anyone want to be this nasty, and then sing about it?!

Me: “Actually, Mum, I think you’ll find that the song’s an allegory. It’s what Dennis Leary thought about American foreign policy at that time. He’s taking the p***.”

Mother: “I don’t understand how someone as brave and nice and funny as Diego could say things like that.”

Me: “Mum, you can’t be serious. Diego’s not real. Dennis Leary is an actor. He can be an a**hole or he can be Diego; that’s what actors do.”

Mother: “Of course I know that; I’ve just never seen anyone proud of being an a**hole before.”

Me: “Mum, it’s not… You know what? Never mind. Just dial down the YouTube for a while. There’s a whole lot of talk show stuff on there you’ll find quite baffling.”

Mum: “Oh, I’ve seen some of those! I saw Kate Winslet and Stephen Colbert being hilarious and showing how Jack could have fitted on that door in Titanic. That would have been a much better ending to the movie! Although, I did see another video about how it’s not really Titanic that sank in the Atlantic after all; it was a completely different ship—”
Me: “Mum, you’ve been sucked into videos about conspiracy theories. There’s no coming back from those; they’re like a cult. I’m ending this conversation before you start telling me how JFK is alive and well and living on the moon with Princess Diana.”

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Forking Over The Good Presents

, , , , , | Related | December 27, 2017

(It is Christmas Day, and my brother and I have given our Mum gifts.)

Mum: *opening my gift* “A pizza stone? And a set of [kitchen utensils that make cooking easier]? Thank you, [My Name]. I was going to buy these for myself.”

(She gets handed a present from my brother. She shakes it and hears no sound. Deciding to open it, she uncovers layer upon layer of newspaper. Her face slowly darkens and we hear her muttering “…box full of air…oh, no, wait… it must be full of love,” but she gets to the gift and stares at it blankly before pulling it out.)

Mum: *holding up fork* “Is this it, [Brother]?”

Me: *reaching over and laughing* “No, no, look.”

(I extend the fork to five times its original length. Mum bursts out laughing.)

Mum: “Oh, an extendable fork; that makes everything better!”

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Your Refund Idea Doesn’t Even Work On Paper

, , , | Right | December 20, 2017

(A woman comes up to our counter with a return. She pulls out packets of designer papers. I am serving other customers and keeping an eye out just in case it gets out of hand.)

Customer: “I want a refund on these; I’ve used some of them.”

Coworker: “These have all been opened.”

Customer: “Yes. I used what I needed from each pack. I just want you to work out what each sheet costs and give me the refund on them.”

Coworker: “That’s not how it works. These are sold as a pack; we only refund full packets”.

Customer: “I don’t want a refund on the full packs; I just want a refund on what I haven’t used.”

Coworker: “I can’t do that.”

Customer: “Why not? I shouldn’t have to pay for what I don’t use.”

Coworker: “We do not refund leftover items. If these papers were bought individually then we can, but they are in a packet, and we can not resell the packet if it is missing items.”

Customer: “I don’t understand why you won’t help me. I need a refund on these items I am not going to use. It’s a waste of my money when I only needed a couple of sheets out of each packet. There’s still ten in the packet. Just work out the price for the individual sheets.”

Coworker: “We can’t do refunds on partially-used items. Would you take back a box of cereal to a supermarket because you only wanted one bowl of cereal out of it?”

Customer: “Well, that’s just idiotic. No, I would not. What’s cereal got to do with it?”

Coworker: “It’s basically what you want me to do: take back a partially-used product that we can no longer sell for full price. I can’t do it.”

Customer: “Get me the manager.”

Coworker: “I am a supervisor. The manager is not in.”

Customer: “Well, get me your supervisor, then.”

Me: “That’ll be me, and I can’t do it, either.”

Customer: “I’ll be calling Head Office about this.”

Coworker: *handing the receipt back* “The phone number’s just there. Good luck with that.”

Customer: *to me* “Oh, but can’t you just do it?”

Coworker: “As I have already explained, no, she can’t. Now, if you would just move on; you are wasting your time and mine, and there are customers waiting. NEXT!”

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