Pay It Forward To America

, , , , , , | | Hopeless | May 21, 2018

Several years ago, when I was studying abroad in South Africa, two of my friends and I decided to do a road trip along the Garden Route. Our first stop was in Addo, where there is an elephant reserve. I booked all the accommodations and scheduled the whole trip.

We were already renting an 1970s Mercedes Benz and, despite warnings, we took it with us. We underestimated the time it would take to get to Addo from Cape Town and ended up arriving very late to our first hostel. Much to our dismay, the owners weren’t there. A family staying said the owners were out of town but to call a number, get the information, and leave our money. We tried the number several times and got no answer. Since we had seen signs for other hostels on our way in, we decided to take our chances and find another place.

We ended up driving to several with no luck. Despite the car being an automatic, it stalled out like crazy. While I was driving us around trying to find a new hostel, it stalled out again. While I was trying to restart it, someone knocked on our window. All three of us screamed at the top of our lungs. We were in an extremely rural area, late at night, surrounded by almost nothing. After composing myself, I slowly rolled down the window. The older man asked us if we were okay. We explained our situation. He pointed to the only hotel in the area, a high-end place surrounded by a giant wall. We said it was too expensive for us. He said it was late and we should give it a shot, then told us good luck and went on his way.

After driving to more than five other hostels, we gave up and decided to try the hotel. If it was really expensive, we’d ask our parents to wire us more money. The woman who checked us in was quite kind and later, after we’d settled in, she and her husband sat with us while we had dinner in their dining room. They gave us great advice for the rest of our trip.

The next morning, after sleeping in one of the nicest little cottages I’ve ever seen, we went to check out. The woman at the desk was older than woman from the night before. She insisted we have breakfast, even though we’d already had the cereal we brought with us. She was so insistent, we ended up eating at their massive buffet.

And that’s when it happened. As we were eating, she came by and told us that not only was our breakfast free, she was comping our meals from the night before and giving us a discount on our room. We were shocked. It turns out that the woman from the night before was her daughter. It was a family-run joint. She said she knew we came in late and were slightly desperate for a place to stay, and she couldn’t make us pay full price in that condition.

But there’s more. While we were still processing this woman’s kindness, the older man from the night before walked into the dining room. When he saw us, he came over and said, “She give you a good discount?” It was her husband. He’d been out for a nightly walk when he came upon us, sitting in a stalled car, looking terrified. He told his wife to go easy on us if we showed up.

We thanked him profusely for his kindness. He said, “My son went to live in the States. I’m only doing what I hope one of your fellow Americans would do for him if he got in trouble.”

It’s been ten years, and it remains one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me. Believe me, we reviewed that place on every site we could after our trip was over.

The Bad News Keeps Carrying On

, , , | Working | May 9, 2018

(My family and I have just finished a beautiful two-week trip and have bought a lot of ceramic plates, figures, and vases from all the towns we visited. We have had to take two plane trips inside the country, but this is the last plane back home to ours. My family is pretty well-travelled, and we always pride ourselves in our packing skills and never letting anything break, spending literally HOURS packing each suitcase the day before we travel. We are at the counter checking in our luggage when I suddenly hear the attendant next to me explaining to somebody else that they can’t take ceramics into their carry-on. I immediately turn and ask her to repeat herself. As usual, we have the most fragile items on our carry-ons, and that includes big ceramic skulls, three gigantic vases, and one head-sized apple sculpture. We confirm at security that, indeed, they do not allow it, as it is viewed as a blunt object too dangerous for the plane crew. The rule was not what made me angry, but the fact that it was never told to us, nor was it written anywhere I could see at the airport.)

Attendant: “I was going to to tell you in just a minute.”

Me: “Yes, thank you. But telling me now makes little difference to me, since now I need to take everything out of my suitcase and try to fit all this in, in a lot less time than I had at the hotel.”

(The worst part was when we got inside the airport and the stores were selling… guess what? Ceramics. And those could go inside your carry-on.)

Do I Have Some (Re)Tale To Tell You

, , , , | Right | April 26, 2018

(My friend has recently returned to the UK after a holiday in Benidorm. It’s a notoriously popular holiday destination for Brits. We are both English.)

Me: “How was your holiday?”

Friend: “It was okay. I spent most of the time travelling away from Benidorm to other places. That place was horrible! The people were awful all the time! I felt so bad for the Spanish staff, since they were all really lovely. They must hate us. You’d walk down the street and there’s these English people sat outside all the pubs, off their heads. And they were really rude, too, really aggressive. This one bloke heard he wasn’t getting any more free drinks, and he smashed up the hotel bar. The things he was shouting at that poor bartender made me blush. I felt so ashamed to be British.”

Me: “Didn’t you expect it at all?”

Friend: “Well… you hear the stories. But I never believed it until I saw it with my own eyes.”

(I don’t think she’s ever worked in retail. It’s surprising how few people understand how bad customers can be… until they actually see it.)

Take Me To Church(es)

, , , , | Right | April 13, 2018

(Italy is famous for its churches. You can find a church in every square, in old towns there’s almost one in every street, and all of them are famous for something — paintings, statues, tombs, etc. Two girls come into my office and ask me:)

Girls: “Where is the church?”

Me: “Um… Which one are you looking for?”

Girls: “The famous one.”

Me: “We have one in front of us, one next to us, and one at the end of the street; choose one!”

Girls: “Okay, thank you!”

Tourist Trapped!

, , , | Right | January 5, 2018

(It’s a busy weekend for tourists in the city, so I’ve already been thoroughly annoyed with taking the subway as I try to get home from a simple trip to the nearby grocery store. Normally, tourists don’t take my local bus line, so I’m a bit surprised when I run up to the bus and find a tourist arguing with the bus driver. I really have no idea what her gripe is, but she’s blocking the door as I attempt to board. The bus driver is trying to get her to take a seat or get off the bus, from what I can gather.)

Me: “Ma’am, can you step aside so I can board the bus?”

Tourist: *to the bus driver* “But I already paid. Can’t you refund me?”

Bus Driver: “I’ve already told you that you can take any bus for the next two hours with that transfer I gave you. I’m sorry you got confused, but just hand the driver of the right bus that transfer and you can get on for free.”

Tourist: “But why can’t you just refund my fare? What if the bus I need doesn’t come for two hours?”

Bus Driver: “I don’t know how to say this any more clearly. It’s not going to be a two hour wait for the right bus. At most it might be 20 minutes, and you can use that transfer to get on without paying another fare. I cannot refund you, but you can ride any bus for free for the next two hours with that transfer. Can you please step aside and let the passengers behind you board?”

Tourist: “I paid for this ride, and I’m going to take it.” *stomps into the narrow passageway between the door and the seats, and I can finally board, but I can’t get very far with her blocking the passageway to the seats*

Me: *swipes my transit pass, turns towards the passenger area* “Ma’am, I have my grocery cart with me. Can you please move into the passenger area so that I can get by?”

(The tourist ignores me, and I am MORE than fed up with her childish behavior and unwillingness to listen and move, so I squeeze past her and run my full (and fairly heavy) grocery cart over her feet.)

Tourist: “OW! B****! Why did you do that?”

Me: “I asked you to move twice and the driver asked you to move even more times. Move or be moved, I guess. I can’t stand in the entry way. That’s ILLEGAL.”

Tourist: “This town and all its people are horrible! Let me off this bus right now! I’ll walk 20 miles to where I’m going if I have to. I’m not putting up with this mistreatment any more! I will NEVER come back to this city!”

Bus Driver: “I will GLADLY let you off at my next stop, three blocks up the street, if you just push that button requesting a stop.”

(The tourist continues to rant and rave, but doesn’t push the button to request a stop, nor does she move out of the passage to/from the entry way. I’m the next person to request a stop, almost a mile up the road. The bus pulls over for my stop.)


Me: *rolls my grocery cart over her feet again* “I guess you’ll just have to figure that out for yourself, since you wouldn’t listen to the driver when he tried to help you the first time.”

(She didn’t get off the bus at that stop, so who KNOWS where she ultimately ended up — the bus line terminated deep in the suburbs. Hopefully she DOESN’T come back!)

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