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Chaos, Panic, Relief

, , , , , | Healthy | March 20, 2021

I’m a student nurse out for a three-week practicum on a high-acuity hospital ward. Through sheer bad luck, during the first week us students are there, there are a lot of medical emergencies: cardiac arrests, patients found unconscious, comas, and vital sign measurements dangerously out of normal range. On one particular day, the emergency alarm goes off four different times, sending the whole staff running to help and sometimes taking hours to resolve with a whole team present.

Come 2:00 pm, we’re all frazzled and exhausted. Just as we sit down to write the notes for the shift of chaos, from behind the nurses’ station we hear a desperate cry: “Oh, my God, help me! Somebody help! [Nurse], help me!”

Once again, we all go running. A couple of the staff get there before me, and as they arrive on the scene I hear a crowd start laughing, as if someone has fallen for a prank, and the staff who ran to help look relieved and then disperse. I vaguely recall a passing comment I overheard at 7:00 this morning: there was going to be a CPR training happening that day that we had forgotten about because we knew we’d be too busy.

Mystery solved! All was well, everyone was safe! They’re just running a scenario!

Except the CPR training is being run by and for experienced hospital clinicians, and they are all extremely familiar with what a realistic medical emergency sounds like and aren’t afraid to show it.

They somehow manage to last for ten minutes with loud, dramatic, distressed hyperventilating, with the occasional, “Help me!” and, “Oh, no, she’s unconscious! What are you going to do?!” and, “Get help!” 

All the while, the rest of us are huddled down in the nursing station trying to write our notes and failing to tune out the sound of very realistic respiratory distress happening a few meters away.

For some reason, we don’t find that particularly calming after our adrenaline-filled day.

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They Don’t A-peer To Be Very Responsible

, , , , | Learning | March 12, 2021

My school had a fun system where, in your first year at the high school, at thirteen years old, for one hour-long slot a week, you got to have “peer support.” Your class would be taken by a small group of final-year seventeen-year-old students who would basically act as cool older siblings, do bonding exercises, and generally encourage good social behaviour, etc. The final-year students were called “peer support leaders.”

I had a blast with my experience as a newcomer to the school, so in my final year, I was all too happy to sign up to be a volunteer. I got teamed with two classmates and their boyfriends — five semi-adults and a class of around thirty kids. Shouldn’t be too bad, right?

The class was rowdy. Barely any of the kids listened, fewer were interested in the actual fun times we had in store for them. A few actively would try and ruin it for the others. We all grit our teeth and tried to work through it. We were relatively successful and managed to make a dent in some of the bad behaviours.

The funny thing was, at the end of the semester, for the last class of peer support, you were allowed to do something fun with your group. This included taking them out of school! You had to get things signed off beforehand, but if you dotted your Is and crossed your Ts, your group basically got a cool afternoon of whatever fun activity you could devise.

So, of course, no one could agree on what we wanted to do for the outing. The five leaders talked and decided on a plan: on a specific morning, we would go to rōpū (home class) of our class and get them to vote on what they wanted. I got permission from my teacher to miss my own rōpū and then went straight to my peer support’s rōpū before class commenced. The other leaders were nowhere to be seen. I waited for ten minutes… no sign. Rōpū is only fifteen minutes long, so I finally went in on my own and took the vote. About two-thirds of the class was there, but it was enough. I included the whole list I’d been given, which included go-karting, movies, and a few other things.

Movies won by a fairly decent margin. Great! Fun video times. I made my way to the Volunteer Coordinator — a teacher who made sure we knew what “activities” were assigned week to week — and let her know what the kids had voted on. She wrote it down but said we’d left this too late to take them out of the school, so we’d have to do it on-site.

No worries! Still unable to find my other leaders in their designated classes, I used my first break to go and approach a teacher I had an awesome rapport with, who I knew had no class during the peer support slot. I explained to her what was up, and she agreed that it sounded like fun. She simply asked that we keep it down a little as she’d be grading papers in the office next door. Perfect! Kids have chosen an activity and we have a place to do it!

You know I wouldn’t be telling this story if all went right from here.

Fully halfway through the day, after checking at each class-change for my co-leaders, I found one at the start of lunch. I quickly told him that I’d taken the vote — without accusing him or the others of ditching me for that — and let him know the kids had voted for the movies. I also let him know I’d told the coordinator, and since we couldn’t take the kids out of the grounds, I’d also secured us a classroom. So all that was left to do was organise the snacks and the movie.

He looked at me like I’d grown a second head and then told me in a condescending tone that I was an idiot. Didn’t I know they had all agreed that they were going go-karting? I was a moron for running around and doing all of this stuff because they had already done all of this hard work without telling me. He made fun of me in front of several other people until I had to leave to go and hide somewhere in tears from distress. I knew it wasn’t true, thanks to having talked to the coordinator, but I had no idea why my co-leader was being so cruel to me.

As you might guess, this genius was lying. No plans had been filed, no permission slips signed. So, come the morning of the treat day, the other three finally decided they should come back to school — never found out where they’d been all that day— and told me that they’d handle the movie and the snacks and pizzas, since I’d already done everything else. I was a little reluctant, but they assured me they would get a good one. I figured the miscommunication about the vote must have been a mistake and they’d found out they weren’t able to just whip thirty kids out of school on a whim.

At lunch, they told me they’d gotten the movie. Perfect! Now to wait until the last class of the day to go grab them.

The previous week, I’d made a list of the kids. This was a treat, after all, so it was supposed to only be for the kids who’d been receptive and learned, while those who’d been antagonistic or disruptive would stay in the math class they’d normally get out of. I made my way to the movie classroom to get everything set up, and five minutes later, everyone was there. Everyone.

Okay, fine. Maybe the others had made a judgement call that even the naughty kids should be allowed this treat, too. Fine, I just wish they’d bothered to tell me before I went to the trouble of the list. As the kids were filing in, though, one of them turned to me and said, in a really snotty tone, “I hear we’re not going go-karting because you went and had a little crrrry.”

I had no idea how to respond, so I just muttered something about the vote, and figured that was the end of it. Time to watch a movie and relax.

Then, I found out what movie the others had thought was perfect for these thirteen-year-olds.

American Pie.

The kids went absolutely nuts. They started running around, drumming on the desks — hands, feet, drumsticks; you name it, it was hitting the desk — banging the fire-escape door repeatedly, howling… actual, kid-you-not howling. I started rushing around, trying to calm them, as I knew that there was someone next door trying to grade. As you can imagine, this only encouraged them. Meanwhile, the other four people in the room, my former allies, my supposed co-leaders? They were just sitting there and basically laughing at my attempts to stop this chaos.

It got so bad that the teacher stormed into the room and had to stay there for the rest of the period. I don’t know if she ever realised what movie was playing, which is one small mercy.

I’m pretty sure the other four did not get their certificates saying they’d done this volunteer program. It also took me a long time to trust people on group projects again, especially when others failed to turn up to arranged meetings.

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Freight Fright

, , , , | Right | February 28, 2021

The furniture store I work in functions mainly as a showroom, as most of our pieces bigger than a dining chair need to be shipped to customers. We have signs everywhere explaining that and all the price tags mention that the price is [amount] plus a shipping and handling fee.

We have two promotions running: one that is the seasonal sale, and the other where several colours of product have been moved to clearance. A woman comes to the counter to ask about the colours a sofa bed comes in.

Me: “[Colour #1] and [Colour #2] you can see on the floor here, and it also comes in [Colour #3] but we only have a swatch of that one.”

Customer: “And they’re all that price?”

She gestures at a sign saying, “Double [amount], single [amount], and then shipping fee applies.”

Me: “Actually, [Colour #2] is on clearance at the moment so it’s actually [price almost $100 less than the sale price].”

Customer: “Well, I think that one’s mine! Gosh, that’s great.”

Me: “Awesome! Let’s get that sorted out for you, then!”

I take her back to the counter and make small talk as I check the stock and prepare to make an order.

Me: “There’s plenty in stock so it will be with you in five to ten working days. What suburb are you in? I’ll give you the freight cost.”

Customer: “I can pick it up.”

Me: “Okay, well, the sofa bed is too large to be delivered to the store due to health and safety, so you can pick it up from [Depot] for $20 or home delivery starts at $50.”

Customer: “But I can pick it up. Why should I have to pay extra for something that’s right there?”

Me: “Unfortunately, our warehouse is in [City on a different island] so there is a freight charge associated with any large items.”

The customer is talking to me like a child being naughty.

Customer: “So, you’re saying it’s not actually [amount], because I have to pay extra now.”

Me: “The item is [amount], but it does say on the tag that there is a shipping and handling fee associated with it.”

Customer: “No. Well, I think that’s actually quite unethical.”

Me: “I apologize but—”

Customer: *Cutting me off* “That’s just ridiculous. I won’t get it.” *Snaps her purse closed* “You’re morally questionable. This is just wrong.”

She turns on her heel and stalks out of the store.

Me: *Quietly* “Have a nice day?”

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Homo Defectus

, , , , | Right | February 15, 2021

I’m a customer in this story. I don’t live in the best part of town but I have a good relationship with many local store owners. I get to the counter just behind another customer. He has a four-pack of mixed drinks, which he holds in his hands instead of putting on the counter. The cashier reaches out to get them to scan, and the guy loses it.

Customer: “What the f***?! You touched my hand! Don’t touch me, you homo! I don’t want those; I’m not buying anything from this homo shop!”

The cashier thinks the guy is making some off-colour joke and gives a half-hearted laugh.

Customer: “Why are you laughing?! What is wrong with you, you homo?! Everyone in this shop is a f****** homo! I’m not buying s*** from this homo shop!”

The awesome owner comes out of the backroom:

Owner: “Good, get out! We don’t want your money! Piss off!” 

The customer stormed out, got in his car, and gunned it, screeching out of the carpark and screaming out his window about how no one should go to this shop because it’s a “homo shop.”

I turned to the cashier and both of us just had “What the f***?” expressions on our faces.

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“It Isn’t My Language; I Only Speak It” Is Such A Mood

, , , , , | Working | February 5, 2021

I live in New Zealand. Most of my work colleagues are Europeans aged eighteen to twenty and their standard of English varies. One colleague takes the cake. Her English is less than fluent, but she is enthusiastic about improving. She has asked our colleagues to correct her English.

I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I need good English with clear pronunciation to understand something, even if the context is obvious. I am the only colleague to pester [Colleague] for good English, per her request. We have become close friends. I am male.

On this occasion, we are hiking up a mountain on our day off. This is a new topic of conversation.

Colleague: “Do you have special force?”

Me: “Pardon?”

Colleague: “Special force, do you have?”

Me: “What are you talking about?”

Colleague: “Like, hostage, James Bond, bang gun bang?”

Me: “What is special force?”

Colleague: “My friend is in Spanish special force. He is very strong.”

Me: “Oh, the Special Forces! You mean, ‘Does the army have special forces?’! Yes, they do.”

Colleague: “Do you have special forces?”

Me: “Yes. Now I understand. In English, ‘special forces’ is always plural. We never say, ‘Special force.’”

I checked this later. Apparently, it makes more sense in Romance languages.

Colleague: “Are you taken?”

She has a boyfriend back home.

Me: *Without missing a beat* “That means, ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’”

Colleague: “No… Have you taken it? The food?”

I look at the picnic she made; I am eating a sandwich.

Me: “Oh! Do you mean ‘finish’?”

Colleague: “Yes, finish.”

Me: “Oh, no. I haven’t finished. You can say, ‘Have you finished eating?’”

Colleague: “Have you finished eating?”

That is the only time a woman accidentally propositioned me.

On another occasion:

Colleague: “Put out your headphone.”

Me: “Pardon?”

Colleague: “Put out your headphone!”

I wear bone-conduction earphones. I can still hear fine with them in my ears, but sometimes people aren’t comfortable because they think I am listening to music.

Me: “Yes, these are headphones?”

Colleague: “I think you listen music. Put them out!”

Me: “Oh! Like this?”

I take off my headphones.

Colleague: “Yes!”

Me: “Say this with me: ‘Take off your headphones.’”

Colleague: “Take off your headphone.”

Me: “Who taught you this?”

Colleague: “Me. You say, ‘Put on T-shirt.’ ‘Put out’ is the opposite. I am wrong?”

Me: “Hmm… Put on, put out… That’s difficult to argue with, but we actually say, ‘Take off your headphones.’”

Colleague: “English is stupid.”

Me: “Very.”

On another occasion:

Colleague: “What if you take a belly?”

In the name of all that is holy and unholy, what could this mean?

Me: “Huh?”

Colleague: “But what if you take a belly?!”

When [Colleague] misuses the verb “take,” it is usually unambiguous, like “Take a coffee.” This one sounds like it is dangerous or urgent.

Me: “I… What are you talking about?”

I consider the conversation so far. [Colleague] likes surfing. She wants to teach me how to surf, which involves a wetsuit.

Colleague: “You don’t have belly, but maybe you take one.”

Me: “A belly? What… Why is belly important?”

Colleague: “Because of the wetsuit. You do not buy a wetsuit. Because you have no belly now, but the future? Instead, hire!”

Me: “Oh! You mean I should hire a wetsuit instead of buying, because if I put on weight then a wetsuit I have bought might not fit me. Instead of ‘take a belly,’ we say, ‘Put on weight.’”

Colleague: “Put on weight! Like put on clothes!”

Me: “Yes!”

Colleague: “And don’t ‘put out weight’ like clothes, you ‘take off weight’!”

Me: “No, we ‘lose weight’.”

Colleague: “Confused!”

Me: “It isn’t my language; I only speak it.”

[Colleague]’s English has improved tremendously, thanks to some very hard work!


This story is part of our Best Of February 2021 roundup!

Read the next Best Of February 2021 roundup story!

Read the Best Of February 2021 roundup!

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