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If You Can’t Be On Time, Be Obscenely Early

, , , , , | Working | CREDIT: theoryofrelativetea | September 13, 2021

I get a summer job at my university working for professors that I have worked with before, and they ask me last-minute to teach a summer workshop to ninth- and tenth-graders.

So, with less than two weeks before the camp starts, I have a bunch of paperwork to do first, including “clearances” that say I can work with kids. One of these is an official FBI check, for which they need my fingerprints. I need to do the physical fingerprinting right away in order to get the result in time. Luckily, I am able to book a fingerprinting appointment for that Friday — booked twenty-four hours in advance, as required — which will be just barely enough time to get the result.

That Friday, I catch the subway to campus and it’s atrociously slow. I’ll admit that I should have planned for this; the subway here is always behind. I end up slightly late getting to campus, so I literally run to the police station and enter the front room exactly five minutes after my appointment time. I know this because, as I step through the door, I feel my phone buzz with what I later learn to be a “Your appointment has been cancelled” email.

I speak to the cop behind bulletproof glass inside and I learn that my appointment was cancelled; apparently, they are automatically cancelled if you’re not checked in within five minutes. Obviously, this is outrageous, but I’m usually a patient guy. I ask if I can book a new appointment. That’s no good, since it would have to be Monday or later.

I grab a coffee from across the street and return to sit inside the police station. I try and solve this with some Googling while I slip into a more and more frantic state of frustration. I can’t find anywhere in the city that can fingerprint me before Monday.

But here’s what really pushes me over the edge. While I’m sitting there, at this point thirty minutes past my appointment time, someone else comes in for fingerprints. She shows up five minutes early. They take her in immediately and she’s out before her appointment was even scheduled to begin. The entire thing took her about two minutes. I point out to the cop behind the glass, as politely as I can, that clearly someone could see me right now because her appointment is already over. Why can’t I have the current slot? But the cop insists that since my appointment was cancelled, my registration info is “no longer in the system” and I can’t be seen today.

That’s when the idea comes to me and I confirm with him that showing up early is not a problem, because they would have my appointment and registration info in the system. You see where I’m going with this.

I quietly sit back down and take out my phone. About ten minutes later, I calmly approach him again and say, “Hello, I have a new appointment to be fingerprinted. I’m about seventy-two hours early.”

I have never seen such an exasperated sigh in my life. But the cop checked my new confirmation number and everything was in order. Within ten minutes, I was walking back out after getting fingerprinted.

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Further Train(ing) Is Required

, , , , , , | Working | September 13, 2021

I worked for a while at a railway company. We had a big, busy office where customers could call in for help. Our network covered the Norfolk Broads, a National Park of rivers, waterways, marshes, and large, shallow lakes created by peat digging in the middle ages. Like all National Parks, the Broads is a popular summer tourist destination but has many fewer winter visitors. The result of this was that we had a summer timetable with more trains that stopped at more stations and a winter timetable with fewer trains and fewer stops. Unfortunately, that meant that sometimes visitors would be caught out when the timetables changed.

That was what happened one evening in September. An elderly couple had been out bird-watching in the reed marshes, and on returning to the station, their expected train had not arrived because the timetable had changed. They called our office and asked for help.

We called the head office since we had no one from senior management in. The problem was explained to the senior person at head office.

“Just tell them to walk along the tracks to the next station; there’s a train that calls there in just over an hour,” they said complacently.

Apparently, they didn’t think of the fast-fading light, the rising tide — yes, the river was tidal! — and the fact that, although no more trains would be calling at [Station] that evening, there would still be trains using the line!

We called a taxi for the couple and told them to send the bill to the rail company.

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¡Que Embarazada!, Part 3

, , , , , , , | Friendly | September 13, 2021

Over the summer holidays, my class lost a member. [Classmate] is now a mother to an adorable little girl. The birth was in August, right before the school term started.

She spent a great deal of the last school year pregnant. And once she began to show, it exploded into a big scandal, and [Classmate] was expelled in May due to her pregnancy.

She eventually argued her rights to an education and reached a settlement with the school, where she was allowed to return and continue studying, but she was still relentlessly mocked by basically everyone for her pregnancy and motherhood — including, shamefully enough, my girlfriend and me. Both of us were her classmates, and we were rather nasty about our opinions on her pregnancy. We needled her relentlessly through most of September.

Six months or so later, in March, my girlfriend gave birth to our own adorable little girl. Turns up I knocked her up in June. That meant she was three months pregnant when we were mocking [Classmate]’s pregnancy.

The irony wasn’t lost on either of us. We learnt our lesson and promptly apologised to [Classmate]. She forgave us, thankfully, and our daughters are now playmates.

¡Que Embarazada!, Part 2
¡Que Embarazada!

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No Nonsense, No Cut Corners, No Worries

, , , , , , , | Working | September 11, 2021

To put myself through college, I worked fraud protection for a retail store’s credit card. We would call out to people with suspicious charges or take calls from people we had blocked and basically try to confirm that the person on the other end was who they said they were and that their purchases were legitimate.

The job jumped between hectic times of non-stop calls and complaints, during peak hours, and extremely boring times later in the day leaving messages on answering machines. To try to alleviate the boredom a little, I made a game out of figuring out how to be as fast as possible, and I came up with lots of tricks to try to make myself a little faster.

At one point, our manager was dragged away on short notice to work on a new team, leaving us without a manager. We went a good five to seven months without a proper manager. The employee with the most experience on the floor acted as a quasi-manager when customers inevitably demanded to speak to one.

Eventually, we got a somewhat strict woman who had just retired from the military. Others complained about her no-nonsense approach, but I’ve had enough military friends to recognize it as pretty standard officer behavior and didn’t take offense. That being said, I did get an odd feeling that she didn’t like me whenever I talked to her, more than just her usual no-nonsense behavior, but too ambiguous for me to place exactly what it was or if I was imagining it or not.

A few months after she started working, I noticed this new manager standing a bit behind me. I glanced back, but she didn’t ask me for anything, so I went on with my business at first. When she didn’t move, eventually, I asked her if she needed anything, but she insisted she was fine and I should just go back to work. I tried to do so, though I couldn’t get past the odd feeling of being watched with my manager hovering behind me for so long, even if she claimed everything was okay.

A week later, one of my fellow employees was escorted out of the building. Management wouldn’t say exactly why she was escorted out, only that she wasn’t coming back. About the same time, the strange hostility I had been sensing from my manager disappeared; in fact, now she seemed to really like me, though I still didn’t know why.

That is, until our monthly team meeting came up. During that meeting, the new manager suggested that there were a number of steps she thought everyone should learn to help improve their speed at handling calls, and she suggested that I could potentially give tips to other employees. Eventually, she even had me do a brief twenty-minute visit with each of the slower team members to give suggestions for helping them to improve their rate at handling calls.

It was around then that I finally put together what had been happening. During the time we were unsupervised, two employees had noticeably higher metrics for their number of cases handled compared to everybody else: me and the woman who was escorted out of the building. I realized the manager likely suspected that both of us had taken advantage of the lack of managerial supervision to find a way to cheat the system to get our numbers high enough to earn rewards associated with high call volume.

In the case of the woman escorted out of the building, I’m quite sure she was “cheating.” She would publicly announce that she didn’t want to handle some of the more annoying — and thus slower to process — accounts and was going to skip them. In her defense, I don’t think she realized how much skipping them was artificially inflating her metrics or why that was such a bad thing. Surely she wouldn’t have been quite so blatant at admitting to everyone what she was doing if she had?

In my case, my high numbers were warranted. My tricks gave me a decent boost to the rate I could handle accounts in the later evenings. As an accidental side effect, my ability to make calls out so quickly resulted in my rarely getting the much slower to handle inbound calls during the evening, further inflating my metrics.  

I assume it was only after my new manager watched me working for a while that she saw what I was doing and generally decided that I had earned the numbers my metrics showed fairly. Thus, I got to stop being a suspect to her and instead became a manager’s pet that could help boost team productivity by sharing my “secrets” with the rest of the team.

I left only a few months after that to focus more on school work, and I got a much better paying job once I completed my degree, but after my many years’ — and managers’ — worth of work experience since then, I still occasionally find myself wishing that I could have that no-nonsense woman, who made sure that employees who met standards were rewarded and those that slacked off punished, as a manager again.

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Egg On Your Face, Bikes In The Lake

, , , , , , , , | Friendly | September 11, 2021

A couple of teenage boys have been annoying the neighbourhood, mostly doing stupid kid stuff: knocking on doors and running, shouting and being stupid in the road, hanging around the shops making stupid comments to people, etc.

All the people who’ve complained have been labeled as entitled and dismissed. The police can’t do much to minors.

As time has gone on, it seems getting away with stupid stuff long enough has made these boys feel a bit braver and untouchable. Now there are reports of the kids egging houses, letting down car tyres, and chasing other kids on their bikes, threatening to run them over. Still, no complaints can get past the Entitled barrier.

One comment on social media has stood out. A pensioner is getting constant harassment. They ring her doorbell several times throughout the night, throw stones at her window, take her milk, anything to get a reaction. Still, the ignorant don’t care. They say, “That’s what we did as kids,” and, “Don’t you have real problems to deal with?”

Then, the pensioner comments one more time, tagging her sons, two burly men.

“My sons saw two bikes, two pairs of trainers, and some keys thrown into the lake. If anyone has a concern with this, my boys will be with me for the near future. You can find my house; it’s the one covered in egg.”

The boys must have learnt their lesson, as all antisocial behaviour stopped after that.

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