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Sometimes The Least You Can Do Is The Best Thing You Can Do

, , , , , , , , | Friendly | May 6, 2022

When I was fifteen, I caught the same bus every Saturday to get to my flute lesson. I usually left early so I had some time to spare. One such Saturday morning, I left even earlier than usual. It was fairly cold and there was a light rain, so I was wearing an long, red coat and had a decent-looking umbrella. I’ve been told before that this outfit made me look around eighteen, so maybe that’s why the things that happened the way they did.

I made it to my bus stop and sat down to wait. The only other person there was a girl in her twenties. She was crying and clutching a single piece of paper. I also noticed that she wasn’t wearing anything warm, despite the weather. I felt really bad for her.

Me: “Are you all right?”

She looked at me, swallowed, and said:

Girl: “I just got some bad news.

Me: *Concerned* “Do you want to talk about it?”

That seemed to be the tipping point, and she broke down in front of me. She explained through tears that she’d gone to her doctor to check a lump on her neck and that she’d just gotten the results back. It was a tumour. She didn’t know if it was malignant, but her doctor wanted her back immediately for more testing.

I sat with her for about ten minutes. She told me that her friend was picking her up to take her to the appointment, but she didn’t know how long they would be. I didn’t really know what to do, but I just wanted to make sure she was all right. Then, my bus came. The girl waved me away, trying to smile, saying that she would be fine. Feeling guilty, I got on. I was the only person on board. The bus driver looked equally worried.

I didn’t even make it a single stop before I felt bad about leaving her in the rain by herself. I asked the driver to stop early. Since I was the only person there, he let me off, telling me to make sure the girl was all right. I ran the whole way back. Luckily, the girl was still sitting there waiting. She looked shocked that I’d come back but a little glad, too.

Me: “I really don’t think you should be alone right now.”

I sat with her for another ten minutes, talking with her and trying to distract her until her friend came. When her friend’s car finally appeared, she started thanking me profusely. Her friend pulled up and leaned over from the driver’s seat, asking what was going on.

Girl’s Friend: “Thank you so much for staying with her. [Girl] called me and I came as fast as I could, but the traffic was terrible. Do you want a lift since you missed your bus?”

Me: “No, it’s all right. I was early anyway. I just hope everything turns out all right.”

Girl: *Through tears* “Thank you. It really means a lot that you did that. I’m sorry to have just dumped it all on you. Thank you so much.”

Me: “It’s fine. That’s just something you shouldn’t have to sit alone with. I only did what I thought was best.”

Girl’s Friend: “Are you sure you don’t want a lift?”

I shook my head, wished [Girl] good luck, and waved them off. They thanked me again multiple times and then slowly drove away. Even though I ended up being a few minutes late for my lesson, I’ll never forget the way [Girl] thanked me for simply sitting with her and listening. [Girl], if you’re out there, I really do hope you’re okay and that everything turned out all right in the end.

In Danger Of Being “Left” Behind

, , , , , , | Learning | April 19, 2022

Back in 2002, I was in Sydney training a group of people on how to use our software. The training took five days and involved the use of Windows XP, keyboards, and mice. It was expected that the trainees would be familiar with the use of Windows, etc.

After the first two days, one gentleman was having huge difficulties with making his mouse work correctly. After checking the mouse wheel — not optical in those days — and the surface he was using and using it myself, I could find no real problem.

Then, he asked:

Trainee: “Am I allowed to use my left hand on the mouse?”

He was profoundly left-handed and had spent two days using the mouse with his right hand as that was how it was set up on day one.

Once he changed, he was fine.

It’s A Good Friday Somewhere, But Not Here

, , , , , | Right | April 17, 2022

I work in customer service for a bus company. We have different service schedules/timetables for weekdays, school holiday weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Public holidays operate on the Sunday timetable.

Me: “[Operator], this is [My Name]. How can I help you?”

Caller #1: “Yes, I wanted to know, is tomorrow a normal timetable?”

Me: “No, as tomorrow is Good Friday, it will operate on a Sunday timetable.”

Caller #1: “Oh, so is Saturday a Sunday timetable, as well, then?”

Me: “No, ma’am, Saturday is a normal Saturday timetable, and Friday, Sunday, and Monday are all on the Sunday timetable.”

Caller #1: “Oh, so is today a Sunday timetable?”

Me: “No, ma’am, as today is Thursday, it is a normal weekday timetable.”

Caller #1: “Is today Thursday?”

Me: *Banging my head on the desk* “Yes, ma’am, today is Thursday and therefore a normal weekday timetable.”

Caller #1: “Oh, thank you.”

A bit later:

Me: “[Operator], this is [My Name]. How can I help you?”

Caller #2: “I’m looking up the timetables on your website and it says, ‘Bus operates public school days only.’ Does that mean that it operates today?”

Me: “Yes, ma’am, as today is the last day of public school, that bus will operate today.”

Caller #2: “I’m just trying to understand, if it says, ‘Bus operates public school days only,’ does that mean that it operates on days when public school is on, or on the school holidays?”

Me: “That means that it operates on the days when the public schools are open, and as today is the last day of term one for public schools, then that bus operates today.”

Caller #2: “I’m just confused. Does it mean it operates on public school days or public school holidays?”

Me: “Ma’am, as it states, ‘operates public school days only,’ that means it operates on public school days only.”

I’m not sure how else to spell this out.

Caller #2: “Are you sure?”

Me: “Absolutely, ma’am.”

Caller #2: “O-okay, then.” *Hangs up*

Cue more head-desking.

Apparently… He Didn’t Know

, , , , , , | Right | April 15, 2022

I’m in the back sorting through orders when I hear the sound of someone up the front. I’m the only person working today, so I go up to check on the customer.

I arrive just in time to see this man MOVE a very heavy sign that I’ve placed in front of the door, for the express purposes of keeping customers out of the store. He makes a beeline for the counter, where there is clearly no one to be found.

Me: “Sir! You can’t be in here. I’m going to have to ask you to leave, please.”

He stops dead, looks at me, and then slowly starts backing away.

Man: “I didn’t know.”

Me: “That’s okay, but I’m still going to have to ask you to leave.”

Man: “I didn’t know.”

I’m ignoring the fact that the sign he moved to get in was very obviously placed in front of the only entrance. It turns out the man wants a refund for an order he placed yesterday. Now that I’ve got the guy’s name, I know exactly who it is. He’s a regular. I KNOW he knows that customers aren’t allowed inside.

Man: “I didn’t know.”

I processed his refund and he left, still muttering “I didn’t know” as he went.

Talk Fast To Fight The Slowdown

, , , , , , , | Right | March 31, 2022

I am the shift manager, and it has not been a good day. We are in a food court and the only other store selling burgers and fries is closed for some sort of construction, so we are unexpectedly busy. It’s a Tuesday, so we only have a couple of employees working. This would usually be no problem, but with the extra customers, we are struggling.

Lunch rush has just begun when the power everywhere noticeably flickers for a second — I would say because of the construction two shops down. The lights in the food court go off but all come back on quickly. Our equipment all restarts straight away, but the order screens in the kitchen all stay off. I run out the back and restart them, but instead of the orders, they are only showing our company logo. Without these screens, the order-taker has to yell out to the kitchen what burgers to make, so things are slower than normal. I am on the phone with the national IT helpdesk, following their instructions to fix the problem. If I don’t fix it, things will be very slow all day.

Out the front, there is one person taking orders at a register and making drinks and one person making fries and bagging and handing out orders. The workers out the front are apologising to each customer for the delays, as we are already busy with our competitor’s customers coming to us, and the line keeps growing. The customers have all seen the lights go off everywhere so should not be surprised that there are problems.

I am standing on a ladder in the kitchen shining a light on the back of a screen, unplugging and plugging cords in, and using tools to follow the steps to fix the order screens. I am clearly visible to all customers waiting. After two or three minutes, I notice burgers collecting where they wait to be bagged, so I climb down from the ladder and go out the front to clear some orders before I continue trying to get the kitchen systems working. I get out the front and see the girl who should be bagging the orders and handing them out standing there being screamed at by a customer.

There are over fifteen customers waiting, all watching. This angry customer is right in her face yelling that the wait is too long and to hurry up, telling the girl that she’s stupid and an idiot for working at this fast food place, and just being horrible. The poor girl is standing there sobbing. She’s holding an order, clearly trying to hand it out to a customer when this lady approached her. My employee’s shoulders are shaking, tears are running down her face, and she’s taking big noisy breaths. The angry lady just keeps screaming, berating her for crying and for being slow and stupid.

I am enraged.

I jump in, put my arm around the sobbing employee to silently comfort her, and turn to the customer.

Me: “HEY!”

I shout to be heard over her yelling.

Me: “HEY!”

She stops screaming at the girl and looks at me. I am quite loud because I want all the waiting customers to hear this, too.

Me: “I understand that you have waited longer than normal. We all can see that there are lots of you waiting and we are really very sorry. As you can see, [Neighbouring Competitor] is closed, and I know you saw the power just go off everywhere. We are doing our best. Screaming at the only person packing and handing out orders is not going to make your service any faster. In fact, you are slowing down the service for yourself and every other customer here. We could have had your order and these other people’s orders made and handed out, but instead, we are standing here doing this. I understand that you are frustrated. I am frustrated, too. This is clearly not a normal day. Now, if you do not stop yelling at us, I will call security. If I have to go and call security to come and help me, everybody is going to wait even longer. Are you going to let us do our jobs? Or are you going to continue yelling?”

Other customers waiting were glaring at this lady, realising that she was making the situation a whole lot worse and delaying their orders further.

The lady said nothing and stepped back to wait with all the other customers.

I took a bottle of water from the drink fridge and handed it to my sobbing employee. I sent her to go and to sit down and told her to come back when she felt ready. She ran out the back, still sniffling and crying.

Thanks to this lady, I was now missing one of my two service employees and had to rush around packing the orders myself. As you’d expect, things were even slower than they would have been if I’d had the crying girl to help me.

I get that it was slow. I was stressed and annoyed, too. But screaming at the only person who’s trying to pack your food is not going to make the situation any better. How is that not obvious?