To Teach Geeks, You Have To Think Like A Nerd

, , , , | Learning | February 27, 2020

This happens during my first year of studying English at university. One of the first courses I take is Introduction to Linguistics, which consists of one lecture and one seminar per week. The three-hour-long seminar is on Friday afternoon, in one of the stuffiest, most cramped classrooms on campus, neither of which are beneficial to students’ concentration. So, maybe we can be forgiven for being more dense than usual one afternoon, as the teacher is explaining allophones and phonemes. She’s wrapping up an explanation.

Teacher:
“So /c/ and /k/ are allophones of the same phoneme that are in complementary distribution.”

The struggle to comprehend must be clear on our faces, because after one look he decides to simplify it.

Teacher:
“…which means that /c/ and /k/ are different versions of the same sound that never occur in the same place.”

We’re starting to get it, but not quite. The teacher thinks for a moment and then comes up with the most brilliant analogy ever.

Teacher:
“Think of /c/ and /k/ as Clark Kent and Superman; they’re different versions of the same person that are never seen in the same place.”

Class:
“Ooooh!”

Everybody laughs, but we finally get it. From that point forward, the seminar has a new theme.

Teacher:
“So, these phonemes are in parallel distribution, which means they’re different sounds that can occur in the same place. Basically, they’re Superman and Batman — different people who can be seen in the same place.”

There’s more laughter.

Teacher:
“Phonemes can also be in complementary distributions, so different sounds that do not occur in the same place. Like, say, Batman and Spiderman.”

Quick-Witted Classmate:
“That could still happen, if DC and Marvel decide on a crossover.”

Me:
“That already happened, in the eighties, I think.”

Teacher:
“Okay, something more radical, then. How about Batman and Care Bears?”

Quick-Witted Classmate:
“That could still be a crossover.”

Classmate #2:
“Not sure I’d read that, though.”

Classmate #3:
“You kidding? That’d be hilarious!”

Teacher:
“Okay, this analogy is going off the rails, so I need something new: an apple and a book. Satisfied with that? You don’t read an apple, and you don’t eat a book.”

Sassy Classmate:
“Well…”

Teacher:
“No, I don’t wanna hear it. Does everybody at least get it now?”

Class:
“Yes!”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the difference between complementary and parallel distribution.

1 Thumbs
312

Mothers Die, But Oedipus Complexes Live On

, , , , | Right | February 25, 2020

I work at a housing company. We have over 50,000 houses, so it happens once in a while: tenants die on us.

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

The caller is an adult male.

Caller:
“My mother died.”

Me:
“I am so sorry to hear that, sir, my condolences. What can I do for you?”

Caller:
“I want to cancel her contract.”

Me:
“Of course, sir, let me pull up her contract and help you. What was her name?”

Caller:
“Mom.”

Me:
“Yes, but I mean her name on the contract.”

Caller:
“Mom.”

Me:
“I see… and where did she live; what was her home address?”

Caller:
“[Address].”

Me:
“Thank you. I see that the contract was under the name of Mrs. [Tenant], is that correct?”

Caller:
“Yes, but that was not her name.”

Me:
“I have the wrong address?”

Caller:
“No, it’s right… but her name was Mom! I keep on telling you that!”

Me:
“All right, I understand now. Now, to cancel her contract I need a [form] and a death certificate. Could you send that to me?”

Caller:
“Yes, but they listed the wrong name!”

I have a feeling where this is heading.

Me:
“Did they list [Tenant] as a name?”

Caller:
*Sounding upset* “Yes!”

Me:
“That is exactly the one I need. Please send it to me and we’ll cancel your mother’s contract for you.”

This issue gets dealt with and the contract ends nicely for both us and her son. I think this situation is an exception and think nothing about it. However, two weeks later, I get a call from another adult male:

Other Caller:
“I want to cancel my mother’s contract because she died.”

Me:
“I’m so sorry to hear that, sir. What was her name?”

Other Caller:
“Mom, her name was Mom.”

1 Thumbs
462

Unable To Decode The Fact That It’s Stolen!

, , | Right | February 24, 2020

I work at a call center for a provider that has Internet, television, landline, and cellphone services. To access our TV channels, we use a specific decoder that basically only we can order from the manufacturer and we rent them out at a fixed amount per month.

Me:
“Hello, this is [Company] customer service. How can I help you?”

Customer:
“Hello, I just got a second TV box and I am unable to register it. Can you help me?”

Me:
“Sure, may I have your postal code, house number, and [other information we ask to identify the customer]?”

Customer:
“Of course.”

The customer provides the requested information. As I look up the customer, I immediately see that only one decoder is registered to the account. There is no legal way they could have obtained another one.

Me:
“Sir, are you sure you mean a [Brand and Type] decoder and not an alternative solution to watch Netflix and the like?”

Customer:
“Yes, I bought one.”

Me:
“Sir, we do not sell these decoders and your account only has one slot enabled. You cannot register a second one.”

Customer:
“Now listen up, you f***. I paid €50,00 on [Dutch language variant of eBay] for a TV box for your network, and you’d better activate it right now!”

Me:
“Sir, no retailer is authorized to sell these decoders. If you bought them online they were stolen. I cannot activate it for you. If you want to watch television on a second TV, you will need to rent a second decoder.”

Customer:
“I paid good money for this and you will activate this TV box. I want to talk to your manager!”

Me:
“Sir, I cannot and will not do that. Decoders remain the property of [Company] at all times and you are using a secondary one illegally.”

At the mention of the world “illegal,” the customer hung up immediately, probably thinking we couldn’t take any action. Rather than connecting him to my manager, I instead forwarded the information and a report to my manager who then made sure we got the stolen decoder back.

1 Thumbs
400

The Most Satisfying WHACK

, , , , , | Learning | February 24, 2020

When I was around 12, I got rather depressed. One of the ways this showed was that at school I would walk into the classroom, sit down, cross my arms on my desk, rest my head on it with my eyes closed, and get up again when the bell rang for the next class.

Obviously, the teachers weren’t fans of this, but I was able to focus pretty well this way, got good grades, and wasn’t disruptive so most just ignored it. Some classmates found it extra fun to mess with me, though, stealing pens and doodling in my notebooks.

One time, the guy sitting next to me kept poking me with a pen. A few times, I cracked an eye and hissed, “Quit it!” at him.

After the fifth time I cracked an eye, I saw the teacher with her back to the class, grabbed my hardcover textbook from under my arms, and gave the guy a solid WHACK! on the head. In a flash, I was back in my regular position.

The hush told me that some classmates had seen it, but the teacher either missed it or accepted it.

One bully down, a few warned through the grapevine, and several more to go.

1 Thumbs
429

The Sound Of Silence Is Not Serviceable

, , | Right | February 23, 2020

(Even though I often know who’s next, I’m supposed to always ask to make sure, since I work at a market stand and there’s no actual queue.)

Me: *looking directly at the customer in front of me* “Who’s next?”

Customer In Front Of Me: *silence*

Me: *to the person behind her* “Well, what can I help you with?” 

Customer: “Excuse me, I was first!”

Me: “I’m sorry, my colleague will help you.”

(I keep serving customers and I don’t think of it anymore. When there are almost zero customers, my boss approaches me.)

Boss: “You know, you should’ve served that other woman first. She was really upset.”

Me: *shrugs* “I asked who was next, and she refused to acknowledge me. [Coworker] could help her almost immediately, so I didn’t bother to drop whatever I was doing.”

Boss: “Stupid customers.”

(I never heard from the customer again.)

1 Thumbs
469