Start By Studying Their Own Conversations

| Learning | July 30, 2013

(I travel to University three days a week on public transport. I’m always on the same carriage, and so are a group of high-schoolers. For most of the year, I have listened to them talk about how they always ‘jig’, or skip certain lessons. One of them reveals they hardly ever go to English or Math. It’s clear they’re all quite proud of themselves and think they’re really cool. Then it comes time in the year for exams to begin, and I hear the conversations change.)

Teen #1: “Oh-em-gee! Exams make me so nervous.”

Teen #2: ‘Oh, I know, right? I’m like, so worried that I won’t pass math.”

Teen #1: “Yeah! And like, I don’t understand anything that’s happening in English, and no one wants to explain it to me. It’s like they’re too busy studying.”

Teen #2: “That’s so rude! Why do exams even have to happen? Ugh!”

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Please Mind The Gap Between The Bigot And All Reason, Part 2

| Working | July 16, 2013

(I am studying abroad in Ireland for the summer. I decide to take a tour to see some castles. The tour leaves Dublin at 8 am. The train takes 45 minutes to get into Dublin from where I am staying, so I need to be on the train at exactly 7 am, or I will miss my tour. The next train won’t come until 7:15, which would make me late. I purchase my ticket, and am just fine until the ticket inspector gets on the train. He makes a direct bee-line to me; he doesn’t check any other tickets along the way.)

Ticket Inspector: “Ticket.”

(I hand the inspector the ticket. He looks at it for less than a second.)

Ticket Inspector: “This is the wrong ticket. You’re going to have to get off at this stop.”

Me: “Sir, what’s wrong with my ticket?.”

Ticket Inspector: “It’s the wrong ticket; get off at this stop now.”

Me: “Sir, I need to be on this train. The next one will be—”

Ticket Inspector: “No. You need to get off.”

Me: “Sir, please, I’ll pay for a new ticket right now if I have to!”

Ticket Inspector: “Are you not from around here?”

Me: “No, sir, I’m a student here.”

Ticket Inspector: “So this is your first time on the train?”

Me: “Yes, sir. Please, just let me buy a new tick—”

Ticket Inspector: “No. You’re lucky I don’t fine you. Now, get off the train.”

Me: “Please, I—”

Ticket Inspector: “NOW!”

(Almost crying, I gather up all my things, and quickly run off the train. I have to wait at the station for 15 minutes, crying and alone, for the next train. Someone looks at my ticket, seeing me crying.)

Stranger: “Honey, I don’t know why he forced you off; this is the correct ticket.”

(We both get on the next train. After a few stops, I see the same ticket inspector get on the train. I try to seem invisible.)

Stranger: “Wait! Is that the guy who checked your ticket?”

Me: “Yes… why?”

(It turns out that ticket inspector has a reputation for being incredibly racist, and had kicked me off only because I was darker skinned. For some stroke of luck, the tour bus was still waiting for me when I get to Dublin, despite my tardiness, and I had an amazing time! I don’t know what happened to the ticket inspector, but he sure as heck did a fine job of nearly ruining my weekend.)


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Not The Breast Self-Awareness

| Related | July 14, 2013

(My brother and I are sitting across from each other on the train, on the way to work. I am reading a book, when the gentleman next to me nudges me.)

Gentleman: *whispering* “I don’t want to scare you, but the man across from you has been staring at your chest for a while.”

(I look at my brother, who is in fact intensely staring at my chest.)

Me: “[Brother]? What are you doing?”

Brother: *looks up, surprised* “One of your shirt buttons is open.”

(I close the offending button.)

Me: “You could have just said so.”

Brother: “I thought it would be awkward.”

Me: “So, you just decided to stare at it instead?”

Brother: “I thought maybe you would notice on your own.”

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Please Mind The Gap Between The Bigot And All Reason

| Right | July 1, 2013

(My partner and I are on the escalators in a train station leading to the platforms. We are standing to one side to let people through on the other. An older woman is standing on the other side, blocking the way for rushing people. Two younger women approach.)

Young Woman: “Um, excuse me, miss, could you please move over? We’re running late for our train.”

(The older woman sniffs and looks offended, but neither moves nor acknowledges them.)

Young Woman: “Ma’am, could you move? We need to get home, and another train doesn’t come for half an hour.”

(She tries to get around the woman, still to no avail.)

Older Woman: “What do you brats think you’re doing? I’m an older citizen, and you don’t belong here. Look at you, you little [racial slur], with your tiny shorts, and boobs everywhere!”

(The older woman continues her tirade for 10 seconds, before I’m fed up.)

Me: “Look lady, move over and shut up. You’re obviously on the wrong side of the escalator, and you aren’t their mother. Move. Now!”

(She moves, and both the girls smile, say thanks, and keep running. She now turns her foul mouth on me, even as I step off the escalator and head for the platforms, hand in hand with my partner.)

Older Woman: “Nasty b****! You came here on a boat too, did you? Defending all that filth!”

(I just smile at the two girls, who have just stopped, and are speaking to the guard. They point at the woman, and we watch as she’s removed from the station.)

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Happy Is As Happy Does

| Working | June 25, 2013

(On the way to the train station to head home, I stop by a kiosk to grab a bite. Note: In Holland it’s quite uncommon for the person behind the counter to look at you, let alone make small talk.)

Cashier: *merrily* “So how are you today miss?”

Me: “I’m great, thanks! How much are these sausage rolls?”

Cashier: “Hmm, the sausage rolls! Good choice! They’re 1,70 ma’am.”

Me: “I’ll have one, then.”

Cashier: “So, where is the trip heading today?”

(I tell him my destination.)

Cashier: “Ah, going to see the dolphin park there, then?”

Me: “Haha, no I live there. I used to work at that park, though.”

Cashier: “Oh, really? Hey, you don’t happen to know [name], right? He also lives in [town].”

Me: “No, I’m sorry; I don’t know anyone by that name. Anyway, I gotta catch my train! Have a nice day!”

Cashier: “You, too ma’am! Have a good ride home!”

(About a week later, I stop by the kiosk again, and see the same guy behind the counter. This time the place is packed, but he greets every costumer with a huge smile and makes small talk with everyone. )

Me: “Just these two today, please.”

(I place a chocolate bar and a pack of gum on the counter.)

Cashier: “Ah, something to snack on the way, heh?” *checks me out*

Me: “Hey, just a question, are you always this happy?”

Cashier: “Oh there are so many reasons to be happy! Look, the sun is shining, and I have a JOB! How many people can say that these days? I consider myself lucky! I mean, I get paid for making coffee for people all day. How can I not be happy with that?”

Me: “Wow, you are really thankful for what you have! You don’t see that so often anymore. And your happiness makes me happy too! Just so you know, you made my day!”

Cashier: “Haha, well, I’m happy I make you happy!”

Me: “We’re making each other happy!”

Cashier: “H*** yeah!”

Me: “Well, gotta catch my train again. You stay happy now!”

Cashier: “I sure will!”

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