Dysentery At The Dance Camp

, , , , , , , | Working | January 22, 2018

I attended a dance camp; there were bunkhouses, separate shower buildings, a cafeteria, etc. When I got there, folks directed us to drive “round Robin’s barn” from the entrance to the parking area. I didn’t understand why at the time, but later noticed that the shorter driveway traversed some 4″ PVC pipe; rainwater drain pipes, I assumed.

A couple of days into the camp, I was in the cafeteria getting some salad, when a particular leaf of “lettuce” struck me as odd. It wasn’t lettuce at all, but a paper towel thoroughly saturated in some greenish fluid.

I reported this to an uninterested employee, and thereafter ate only thoroughly cooked food.

To cut to the chase, about a third of the attendees came down with some sort of dysentery. The situation was bad enough that the state health department got called in. I managed to escape with no significant ailment, but vowed never to return to that camp.

I heard later that the camp was on shaky financial footing and had hired locals with no professional food prep experience. In addition, those 4″ PVC pipes were apparently sewer lines, and at least one had broken.

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.

The Last Jedi Meets The Last Straw

, , , , , , , | Working | January 19, 2018

Over the winter break I went to see the new Star Wars movie with my brother and his fiancée. I was staying with our parents for the break, and my brother and his fiancée live thirty minutes from there so we decided to meet at a theater halfway between those locations. Neither of us had been to it before.

Ten minutes before the movie was to end, three people walked in and sat in a row in front of us. They all took out their cell phones and started checking texts and Facebook, and chatting with each other. It was incredibly distracting. I finally decided to stand up and get a manager to deal with them. On my way back into the theater I leaned over their seats and told them a manager was on the way. They all leapt up like they were on fire. When they turned to face me, I realized they were all in their late teens or early twenties and were wearing uniforms. They worked for the theater.

It turns out they were the cleaning crew. When we exited the theater, they were all standing by the door, looking down at their feet.

Not A High Chance Of Getting The Job

, , , , , , , , | Working | January 18, 2018

I am 17. I see a “Help Wanted” sign across the street from my high school. The shop is also across the street from a large university campus. I go in and ask for an application. This all proceeds as normal; the barista gives me an application and offers me a free drink.

The next day, I return to the coffee shop to turn in my completed application. The barista directs me to the manager and I turn my application in to him. While busy, he seems friendly enough, and offers to give me an interview at 4:00 pm the next day.

I show up the following day about ten minutes early. The manager is nowhere in sight, so I inform the barista that I am ready for him, and once again, I am offered a free drink. I sit in the coffee shop and wait for the manager to come.

And wait.

After an hour with no sign of the manager, I ask the barista if my interview has been cancelled. The barista, who seems to have forgotten I was there, yelps in surprise and tells me that the manager isn’t in. She then goes to the back and calls him. She returns and tells me that he stepped out to run some errands and should be back in about 20 minutes.

The manager finally arrives, and after getting directions from the barista, comes over to me with a stack of applications. He shuffles through the papers, finds my application, and skims over it. He looks up at me and says, “You’re in high school?”

I answer, “Yes.”

“Sorry, we’re actually only looking for college students right now, because they have more availability.” The manager then dismisses me before I even have the chance to explain that I only take classes in the morning.

Oh, Brother!

, , , , , , | Working | January 17, 2018

I am job hunting and end up waiting tables at a new, fancy, family-owned Italian restaurant run by two brothers. For the first week or so, everything is perfect; friendly coworkers, good food, fast service, nice pay, etc.

However, about a month into the job, the two owners start bickering with each other. At first it’s just snips and snipes, but over the next week it gets into full-blown screaming. Coming from an Italian family, I can safely say there isn’t a more volatile argument than two Italians from the same family going at it. They go all out, complete with swears and threats, right in earshot of our diners, several of whom have children. Predictably, we get swamped with complaints and demands for refunds, and unfortunately, I even catch a few people recording the outburst on phones. When a coworker goes to tell the brothers that their fighting is ruining the night, the argument gets even louder as they start accusing each other of sabotaging their business. By the time it’s passed, the dining room is basically empty, with a handful of bemused people sitting around, enjoying the “dinner and a show.”

This continues for another week, and unfortunately, the restaurant gets a reputation for the brothers fighting to the point that guests start showing up just hoping to watch. The wait staff and chefs run themselves ragged trying to keep the business afloat, as the owners are now more concerned with their feuding. Eventually, they do make up, but only by reaching the conclusion that the business is failing, not because of them, but because of the staff.

We have all dealt with their crap long enough when it wasn’t directed at us. The first night they try to pick fights with us, the majority of the wait staff walks out without a word, myself included. Before long, the rest of the staff quits as well, either out of defiance, or out of a desire to avoid being the only target left.

I drive by the next week on the way to get groceries and see the restaurant with a “Help Needed” sign on it, and the week after that, it is shut down. I feel bad for them, but if you’re going to start a family business, you should probably do it with a relative you don’t absolutely despise.

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