Reenact: Take Two

, , , , , | Hopeless | April 3, 2018

When I was in high school, I was a serious history geek. My Civil Air Patrol unit volunteered to help out at an airshow every year, and when we weren’t doing volunteer shifts, our time was our own. The first year I went, I was struck by how cool the reenactors were, and I decided that I wanted to do some reenacting, too. I did my research, and decided on a persona that I thought I could accurately portray. I tried to find a unit local to me but had no luck. I saved my money to rent a uniform and equipment, and I had to talk my parents into letting me do all of this.

The second year at the air show, after my volunteer shift, I changed into my persona’s clothes and went out to wander around the reenacting units, hoping to meet up in person with some groups I’d read about online. I was (and am) a bit socially awkward and shy, so it took a serious amount of investment to make myself get out there and try to talk to people.

To my dismay, one of the units I’d read about on the Internet was a lot more standoffish than I’d hoped, and one member even pointed out some discrepancies with my uniform. I was able to explain that I knew that what I was wearing was different from what most of the unit was wearing, and what that signified (artillery vs infantry, if anyone cares!), but it really didn’t seem to help, and I left the encampment feeling like a total failure at both reenacting and talking to people.

Still in uniform, thinking about how I’d never reenact again, I went to get food and sat down at a long table by myself. A total stranger took a seat across from me, correctly identified that I was supposed to be in the artillery, and complimented me on my unusual but totally valid choice of persona. We started talking, and he said it was so nice to see a younger person take an interest in history like this. We talked for a good twenty minutes, and I’ll never forget how he totally changed my mind on reenacting. He re-convinced me! While I didn’t go back to that event (or that time period), I still do reenacting, and I’ve come to realize that if you do your research, people will appreciate it.

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Could Have Cosplayed That Better

, , , , | Working | April 2, 2018

I work for a government-owned, construction-based company, which takes a tax from construction companies paying a certain amount to employees. My job is to find the companies who are trying to dodge this tax by rejecting mail, changing location, etc. I do this initially by Googling the company name to see if they’re still running.

I also play a popular worldwide MMO, known for its players’ saltiness.

Whilst at this job, I have to look for a construction company called “[Character from MMO] Builds.” I laugh, as I play that character in the MMO. I then put the name into Google.

Of course, what comes back is a list of builds for that character and nothing for the construction company.

Not my smartest moment.

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Be On Guard For Extra Duty

, , , , , | Learning | April 2, 2018

When I was in elementary school, the students had to take turns acting as crossing guards at those roads near our school which weren’t big enough to have proper crossing lights. We wore yellow vests and held stop signs to “block” the crossing for cars every time a student came by on their way to school.

Every student got a shift of about two weeks per school year. We had to do this for about 40 minutes every morning and every afternoon, standing in pairs at every road. In the morning, we’d walk to school, get the equipment, and go back to the roads, then go back to return the stuff and be late to first class. In the afternoon, we’d leave last class early, get the stuff, go to the roads, then go back to school to return the stuff, then walk home.

As far as I know, we all lived in reasonable walking vicinity, so having to do this wasn’t considered an overt hardship by the school.

Though I now view this as hugely unsafe — as well as unpaid — forced child-labor, unfortunately this was considered normal practice there. I think it was viewed as okay because only the oldest (sixth grade) students were assigned this duty.

We hated doing this duty, because we had to get up so early in the morning. Everyone hated doing it, but my best friend and I didn’t dare skip, because the punishment for skipping was double the guard duty, which compounded if you skipped those. We knew perfectly well that the school was serious about seeing that their assigned punishments were carried out; there was no way to wiggle out of it. Most kids knew better than to try it.

When your assigned partner didn’t show up, there was no one to replace them, so you were just left to do the job alone as best you could. The teachers knew well enough that there would be some kids stupid enough to ditch during every assignment cycle, and clearly just didn’t care enough to do anything about it, like assign extra kids to show up, or, God forbid, go out to the roads and help us themselves.

When my friend and I were assigned to this during the same time-period, we were assigned in pairs with some boys in our class. They were known not to be too reliable, so we weren’t that surprised when they didn’t show up for days on end, and my friend and I were left to each do this alone on our assigned roads instead of in pairs. This was obviously more risky, not to mention quite demoralizing.

The school got wind of things right away and assigned the boys the appropriate punishments; after a few days one of them started showing up.

The other one, however, was notorious for being amazingly lackadaisical. He didn’t care about school, never said a word in any class, didn’t bother to turn in homework or study unless and until he was screamed at, at length, by the teachers, and clearly only showed up at school at all because he was forced to under some kind of threat by his family. If I’d known the term back then, I might have called him a stoner, except he was only about twelve, and I think it’s highly unlikely he was actually “on” anything; he just really acted like it.

He not only didn’t show up for guard duty at first, but he kept not showing up, even after he was repeatedly assigned punishments for skipping. The entire two weeks we were assigned passed without him showing up; we all knew the school was piling more and more punishments on him in the form of extending his crossing guard duty.

While we were upset because of the principle of it — we were all getting up nearly an hour earlier in the morning for this while he was just cavalierly ignoring it — we also knew that he was being amazingly stupid, because there was no way the school would let it go.

We finished our two weeks, and a few days later, when we went to cross the road near school in the morning, what did we see? It was him in a yellow vest with the stop sign stick, grimly doing the crossing guard duty for all the other kids, including us!

And he kept on being there, on that road, in that yellow vest, week after week. After week. After week. After week… You get the idea.

Though we weren’t ourselves given the details, of course, I can only assume the school principal and our class teacher must have “invited” his parents for a mandatory “chat” and threatened them with something as grim as expulsion and outright fails in all his classes, as well as some terrible “behavioral” black mark on his records, if he and his family kept ignoring the school’s punishments. His parents then must have threatened him with something equally grim in turn. I’m pretty sure I’m very close to the truth, because having been in class with him for several years, I can’t imagine anything else that could possibly have successfully forced him to start showing up to do this every single morning.

And he kept on being there, every morning and every afternoon, for two months. That’s how much compounded punishment he wound up getting for skipping as much as he did.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the sweet, sweet karma every morning when I crossed that road and passed him in his yellow vest, with his stop sign stick and defeated expression, knowing I got to sleep in nearly an hour later than him, didn’t have to wear that stupid vest and stand all by myself on a road ever again, and that he’d keep on being on that road, every morning, for a long time to come.

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The Language Of Romance

, , , , , | Learning | April 2, 2018

When I was in high school Spanish class, we had progress sheets that we would mark every day. They used one- and two-letter codes, depending on what we had done that day: “ME” (“mucho esfuerzo,” much effort) for going above and beyond in class; “V” (“voluntario,” volunteer) for volunteering, A (“ausente,” absent) if we weren’t in class that day, and PP (“poca participacion,” little participation) for doing poorly in class. The word for, “give yourself,” in Spanish is “date,” (pronounced “DAH-tay”), so the teacher would say “Date [Mark]” to students who had earned a certain mark.

He told us of one time when he wrote the phrase out on the board in order to tell a student to give themselves an “ME” mark. When he realized he’d written, “DATE ME,” on the board, both he and the student were embarrassed. At least they got a good laugh out of it.

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When Frauds Collide

, , , | Working | March 31, 2018

When I was 22, I was working for a prominent theater company in Philadelphia as a shop apprentice, building sets. As an apprentice, I was paid very little money, so I lived with my parents, about 45 minutes away. Because of the commute, I had to leave my parent’s house before 7:00 am to avoid city rush hour traffic. I also had to work really long hours, which meant that I frequently got home around 2:00 am.

One night, while driving home after a 17-hour day, I hit a deer. Being young, inexperienced, and without collision insurance, I thought nothing of it since I collided with a deer. A week later, my dad told me that I should contact my insurance carrier, a large, well-known national chain, to see if deer weren’t actually covered under “comprehensive.”  (They are.)

An agent came out to the house to assess the damage, and I asked if I could file a claim in spite of a week passing. The agent assured me that I could. However, the report he filed said that “no deer matter” had been found on my car, but they did find a scrape of paint on the underside of my front bumper. The company then decided that I was trying to defraud them of the $400 cost of repairs.

Over the next year, I had to provide character assessments, a police record of the deer removal, statements of my hours at work, and various depositions, all to support my claim that I hit a deer and was not committing insurance fraud. Meanwhile, the company kept sending me vicious letters, threatening me with significant fines in the hundred thousands, jail time, or both.

The last thing was a formal “hearing” in the city to determine, once and for all, if I was committing fraud. My dad was incensed and insisted on going with me. Once there, I repeated my story about hitting a deer. They asked about the paint, to which I replied that I didn’t know, and that I had probably bumped a parking block. I was then asked where I worked. When I told them, “Downtown Philadelphia,” the response was, “Oh. Okay. We see this kind of thing all the time.”

My charge of fraud was dismissed, and the insurance paid me my $400. I was so angry that I was even suspected of fraud. Were I to actually try it, it would have been for way more than $400.

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