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A Most Opportune Theft

, , , , , , | Friendly | January 6, 2022

My friend and I were exchanging crazy travel experiences we’ve had with scammers, thieves, etc.

My friend told me this story. He was traveling by subway, and while waiting for his train, he walked away to look at the train-line map. When he noticed his train had come, he quickly hopped on the train and sat down.

As the train was leaving, he realized he’d left his suitcase behind and started panicking about what to do next. Then, across from him sat this guy with his suitcase! He quickly confronted the guy, who denied stealing his bag. After some arguing and with the threat of getting the police involved, the thief eventually conceded the bag.

I then had to point out to my friend that if the would-be thief hadn’t grabbed his bag, giving him the opportunity to get it back, it certainly would have been long gone by the time he could have made it back. So, really, the thief did him a favor!

My friend didn’t appreciate my point of view. Ha!

Insert The Dutch Words For “Adorable” And “Awesome” Here

, , , , , , | Friendly | November 18, 2021

The tram I was on going to work announced the next stop. A little girl — she was three, as it would turn out — repeated one of the words as kids of that age so often do. Carefully and slowly, and with a little roll of her hand, she repeated, “De volgende” — Dutch for “next” — over and over again. Then, I caught on. It was actually the mother repeating the words that the little girl so patiently uttered.

As I overheard the mother explaining to a fellow traveler in a very understandable Dutch, she was of Spanish descent and learning Dutch from her daughter — or with her daughter; the mother certainly could express herself in Dutch but did not grasp as yet the full extent of the language. Being Hispanic, she had problems distinguishing “v” and “b” and when she finally got it (almost) right, the little girl awarded the mother with a thumbs-up.

It was the cutest start of the day, and whenever I needed a little pick-me-up during the rest of the day, I just had to think of the solemn thumbs-up and smile the little girl gave her mother and I had to smile, as well. Apparently, the little girl spoke already three languages and if the little Dutch I heard is any indication, on a level that few three-year-olds have in one. Kudos to her and kudos to the mother, as well, for willing to be taught by her daughter to acquire a new language faster and for raising such a polite and gentle girl.

Too Much Change, Not Enough Patience

, , , , | Working | October 13, 2021

I’ve always suffered from severe anxiety. I have recently moved from a small town to a big city. My friend has come to visit and, as she is from the same small country town, she has never been on a public bus before, so I am trying to impress her with my city slicker knowledge. We get dressed up in our black clothes and spiky accessories and head to the mall.

As soon as we get on the bus, it starts to go awry. The reduced-price ticket I ask for is not available at this time of day and I immediately get flustered, as the bus driver does not suggest what ticket I should be asking for. I ask for a student ticket and hand over $5.

I wait for my change, but as the bus driver turns to my friend, I assume the ticket price is higher than I remembered, so I go and find a seat while my friend pays for her ticket.

When my friend joins me she hands me a bunch of loose change — change from both my ticket and hers.

It is important to note at this point that I have no idea how much my ticket was, no idea how much her ticket was, and no idea how much change the bus driver gave us; I dumped it straight into my purse.

A few stops later, a group of older teens gets on the bus. The driver drives on. Soon the driver stops at a bus stop with no passengers, gets up, and announces to the bus:

Driver: “I accidentally gave too much change to the kids who just got on before.”

Everyone looks a little bit blank, and the driver drives on. He makes increasingly snappy comments every now and then about teenagers trying to steal.

Friend: “Could it have been us he was talking about?”

Me: “It must be the kids who got on after us. That’s what he implied, and he would have said something earlier if it had been us.”

Eventually, a representative of the group of teens goes up to the driver and apologises, saying he didn’t think they’d been given too much change but offering to give it back anyway.

The bus driver snaps loudly and informs him that it was the kids who got on before them — meaning my friend and me.

I am horrified when I hear this, and I immediately take my coin purse up to the driver and ask him how much I owe him. He is terse and unhelpful.

Driver: “You know how much change you should have gotten! You’re just trying to get away with dishonesty.”

I am on the very brink of a panic attack and am trying valiantly to explain that I don’t know how much change he gave us. Eventually, he tells me how much I need to give him, and I hand it over.

The rest of the ride is punctuated with glares from him, my friend is embarrassed, and I am trying not to hyperventilate. When we get to the mall, he is still icy cold, and my friend and I jump off the bus through the door furthest from him.

An older lady also quickly jumps off the bus and catches up to us.

Lady: “I saw the whole thing. That driver’s behaviour was inappropriate. I saw him give your friend all of the change instead of giving it to you separately. His wording was confusing, and I could see you weren’t trying to do the wrong thing.”

It was such a terrible experience for me, but I am so grateful that that lady decided to talk to us. It really helped me avoid a full-blown panic attack and showed me that not all adults will assume the worst (even if you’re wearing spikes and all black).

Literally Nobody Is Having A Good Time

, , , , , , | Working | September 9, 2021

I work in public healthcare admin in the next town over from mine. There’s no direct bus, so I take a train. I get to and from the bus station by local bus, and things are generally quite efficient.

I was doing this job when the health crisis hit, so getting a new job is virtually impossible, and by the time of this story, I’ve been commuting for almost a year under the conditions. I’m exhausted, I’m paid very little compared to the people who get to stay at home, and I am a month away from a broken ankle due to the stress of it all. At the other end, when traveling from work to the station, I get off work at the same time as the kids get out of school, and with social distancing on buses, I often sit there for half an hour until there’s a bus with enough space on it. Fair enough.

The station is full of posters that demand to know if your journey is necessary, even though a sizeable proportion of the population has no choice but to go out to work to keep the other part able to stay home.

It’s the typical British winter — raining cats and dogs — so this isn’t a good day at all.

I see my bus disgorge the passengers, and when they’re clear of the bus, I try to get on. The driver looks daggers at me.

Driver: “Wait there.”

I step back and he shuts the doors. Five minutes later, he opens them again after rearranging his cash boxes. Most drivers allow passengers on with app tickets, which we simply show to the driver, so it’s not necessarily an accounting problem. But fair do’s, this guy prefers to set up the next trip without passengers on board. Makes sense.

When I go to get back on after he opens the doors, I apologise for my hastiness. He snaps back at me.

Driver: “I choose when people get on, not you.”

I didn’t argue, and I understand other people are grumpy, too, but in seven years in a business customer service role, I’ve learned never to take that grumpiness out on actual customers. I wasn’t even upset about not being allowed to get on at first; it was about being shamed for doing so later on. It just made things a whole lot worse unnecessarily.

Thankfully, I haven’t encountered that guy since. I didn’t complain, since I was just exhausted and I’d already registered my general discontent with the company earlier and gotten a sufficiently reasonable explanation for the problem, but someone else must have helped out there.

The Time When Actually Having ID Gets You Into Trouble

, , , | Right | August 5, 2021

I am a UK expat living in Gothenburg, a cosy town on the West Coast of Sweden. I get a job in “Biljettkontroll,” which roughly translates to a ticket inspector in English. We basically board the town busses and trams and make sure all aboard are paying for their transport. The penalty for not having a valid ticket is rated at 1500kr, which is roughly £130. We are all dressed in work uniforms, so it’s hard not to spot us. My team and I board a tram, and I make my way to a younger chap who’s on his phone.

Me: “Hi, can I see your ticket, please?”

Young Passenger: *In an English accent* “Oh… yeah, hello! I’m going to [Town Destination], please.”

This is a very common tactic most people try to employ: feigning being a tourist or unfamiliar with the rules in order to get out of a penalty. He’s not faking his accent, but straight away I know something’s not quite right with his routine. We go back and forth for a bit, and he says he’s “in town to see his friends.” I point to his phone wallet.

Me: “Okay, so what’s that?”

I pointed at his Swedish identification card, which he would not have had if he was “in town to see his friends.” He sighed and I issued him a penalty fee. If you’re going to lie, at least make some effort to make it believable.