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Don’t You Have Your Own Town Meetings To Rant At?

, , , , , | Right | December 5, 2022

I grew up in a rural seaside town that was popular with tourists. It was a lovely place, but it was hard to find work because what few jobs there were in such a small town were usually seasonal, so most people who lived there worked in the nearest city or larger towns. Then, a national supermarket chain tried to bid on a piece of land so they could build a supermarket there.

Most residents were supportive of this because it meant more jobs locally and more options for weekly shops; the nearest full-sized supermarket was a twenty-five- to thirty-minute drive away at the time. But there were a few residents — mostly the retirees — who were not thrilled with the idea of [Chain] setting up shop in our town because they thought it would ruin the look, history, and culture of the town.

The land [Chain] was bidding for wasn’t used for anything. It had no historical significance. We had several small chain supermarkets and shops in town already, and the piece of land was right on the outskirts of town. There wasn’t anything on the land, either: no buildings or sites of historical importance. It was just a weed-riddled patch of land that people occasionally fly-tipped on. (Fly tipping is illegal waste dumping.)

The [Chain] land bid quickly became a source of controversy which residents butted heads over, with meeting after meeting called, but it took several years before an agreement could be made.

The weirdest thing about this wasn’t so much that the town was divided on the issue, but the fact that the tourists felt they had a say in it. People who spent two to four weeks a year in our town felt entitled to a say in anything that happened here, from how and when roads were maintained to what shops and businesses they would “allow” to open. Naturally, the land dispute with [Chain] quickly got their attention.

At the time that this battle was raging on, I was a teenager, and I had a part-time job at a local fishmonger. It wasn’t the best, but it was better than a long commute into the city.

It was a lovely day and tourists were flocking to the town to spend the day at the beach, so I was very busy with people buying various seafood treats to eat as they walked along.

As I was getting ready to close, a customer came in and asked for a seafood pot. I had run out not too long ago, and as we were due to close, I hadn’t bothered to make any more. Still, I happily made her a fresh one while she waited. As I was pottering about making it, we had a chat.

Me: “How are you enjoying your time here? Have you been to visit the model railway or the gardens yet?”

Tourist: “I went to the gardens yesterday. They’re gorgeous. It’s just a shame they’re going to be ruined by that stupid [Chain].”

Me: “Oh, the gardens are on the other side of town from where they’re hoping to build [Chain]. They’ll still be there even if they build it.”

The woman sniffed disdainfully.

Tourist: “Well, they’d better not build it. I don’t spend all this money just to see [Chain]. We have [Chain] at home. It’ll ruin this town if they build one.”

Not wanting to start an argument, I just nodded.

Tourist: “The meeting at the town hall about [Chain] is this week, isn’t it?”

Me: “On Friday, I think.”

Tourist: “Good. I’m going. I won’t let them destroy my holiday.”

Me: “The meeting is only for residents.”

Tourist: “Nonsense. I spend thousands every year when I come here. I have just as much right to vote on this as anyone else.”

I didn’t respond and instead finished up her seafood pot.

Tourist: “Well, I’m sure you don’t want [Chain] to be built. It’ll put you out of a job.”

Me: “[Supermarket] in [Town] isn’t allowed a fish counter, so it doesn’t affect the local fishing trade. The council has said the same thing to [Chain]. If they get the go-ahead, they won’t be allowed a fish counter, either. So, you’ll still be able to enjoy our seafood whenever you come.”

The woman huffed and started digging through her purse, ready to pay.

Tourist: “I just think it’s wrong. I don’t want [Chain] here. I come here to get away from all the boring stuff I have at home.”

Again, I just nodded and feigned sympathy.

The woman paid and left.

My parents went to the meeting on Friday. When they got home, they told me that a crazy woman tried to force her way into the meeting. She wasn’t a resident but demanded to be let in to “save” us from [Chain]. I don’t know if it was the same woman, because it wasn’t the first time a tourist had tried to force or bluff their way into one of the town meetings despite numerous signs plastered on the hall doors announcing this was a meeting for residents only.

Several years later, [Chain] got the go-ahead to build their supermarket. The town is still there. It’s still a thriving tourist hot spot. The world didn’t end after all.

But Who Won? We Gots To Know!

, , , , , , | Working | December 5, 2022

My mom and I are on a flight from Austria to Finland. The flight has been delayed a couple of times due to unnamed technical problems.

At this point, I haven’t started learning German. Mom leaves the seat.

A few minutes later:

Pilot: “Passengers, please return to your seats for an announcement.” 

As Mom comes back, the pilot starts speaking quickly and we can’t catch most of what he says. Then, he switches to German, which neither of us understands.

It’s nighttime, and we have a transfer in Helsinki, and we remember the technical problems at the start, so we grow worried. What if something’s happened to the plane and we’ll now have to land — if not ditch, since we are somewhere above the Baltic right now?

Finally, Mom asks the passenger next to us what the announcement was about.

Passenger: “Oh. Today’s football match results.”

The Travel Disaster That Wasn’t

, , , , , , , , , , , | Right | December 4, 2022

Work has sent me off to Chicago to conduct a training. I have arrived at the airport in San Diego, but the plane is delayed. It happens, but I’m now worried about my connection since the flight is not direct.

While we’re waiting, there is a small earthquake. Is this going to affect my flight? Yes and no. It is large enough to be felt but small enough that they’re just taking the reports of all the staff that there is no damage at face value and continuing. But my flight is still delayed. What was supposed to have been a 9:00 am flight is now well after noon, but it still hasn’t been canceled.

The flight finally comes, but I have clearly missed my connection, and by the time they get me onto a new plane for Chicago and I get into O’Hare, it’s about midnight. The rental car agency has closed, and I need to get to North Chicago, about thirty miles away. My hotel is also up there.

My first decision is to find a room where I am, get my rental car in the morning, and hightail it up to my location to hopefully get there in time. However, the cost of the hotel by the airport is outrageous, so I make some more phone calls and find a long-haul taxi service to get me to my hotel. I have called to let them know that I am here but I’m stuck at the airport.

Fortunately for me, the training is taking place at a location right across the street from the hotel, so I don’t need transportation if I can just get to the hotel. They understand and say that they’ll be waiting for me and will have all the paperwork set up so that all I’ll need to do when I get there is sign on the line and I can go straight to bed.

The taxi driver is very sympathetic to my plight.

Taxi Driver: “How are you going to get back to the airport?”

Me: “I’ll either have someone at the training give me a ride back or find another taxi service to get me back.”

Taxi Driver: “No, no, I’ll have none of that. When is your flight out, and when do you expect to be done with training?”

I tell him, and I point out that the timing is such that I’ll pretty much need to leave immediately after the training in order to have enough time to get to the airport and through security to make my flight.

Taxi Driver: “I’ll make sure that I’m available at that time.”

He gives me his business card.

Taxi Driver: “Call me an hour before you think you’ll be done so I can be there to collect you.”

The next day went off pretty much just fine. I did my training, I called the driver, and he came to get me, driving a bit quickly (but not recklessly) in order to get me to the airport on time.

To that taxi driver, thank you so much for this. I’m sure that part of it was that you’d have a good fare, but it was still exactly what I needed given the predicament that I was in.

And by the way: when I got to the hotel, the paperwork was right there, I signed, and they directed me to the room that was right there on the first floor by the front desk: room 101.

It was actually a very nice room.

The Luck Of The Irish And The Entitlement Of Relatives

, , , , , , | Related | CREDIT: Artilleryman08 | November 25, 2022

I love Ireland. My grandmother told me stories and inspired pride and love for my heritage, and she taught me how to properly represent myself. I am NOT Irish, but my ancestors were.

Years ago, I started studying Gaelige, the Irish language. I’m still very novice at speaking and understanding it, but I enjoy trying to learn and like hearing it spoken. Around that time, one of my cousins contacted me. We’d never had much contact because we grew up so far apart, but I liked him well enough. He had started learning Gaelige and was interested in having someone to practice with. So, we helped each other and learned together. It’s a difficult language, and like I said, I’m still very novice.

I started planning a trip to Ireland. I had been a few times, but this time I wanted to stay in the Gaeltacht, the regions of Ireland where Gaelige is primarily spoken instead of English. The people there speak English but as a second language. I thought [Cousin] would enjoy the trip, as well.

I spoke with my uncle and we made a deal. Since [Cousin] was in his first year of college, I told him that if he finished his freshman year with at least a 3.5 GPA, I would pay for him to go with me. He worked really hard and was taking mostly honors classes, and he came out with a 3.4. Of course, I let him feel a little grief about trying so hard only to come up short, and then I told him he was still going with me. You could say I shouldn’t have, but he genuinely worked very hard and I believe he earned it; plus, he is a good kid, and I want to encourage him to keep working hard in his education.

Now for a little background on my cousin’s parents. [Aunt] and [Uncle] are people of limited means. I’m not speaking poorly of them; [Uncle] works hard to give them a comfortable life. [Aunt] is my dad’s sister, and the grandmother I mentioned earlier is their mom. [Uncle] is the son of Italian immigrants.

While trying to put [Cousin] through school, they couldn’t afford to send him on vacation, but I assured them that the whole trip was on me. I actually was splurging a bit because I wanted it to be an awesome experience for [Cousin]. I got business class seats for the flight and booked two rooms at a really nice bed and breakfast. I was excited, but [Cousin] was so pumped that he was shaking.

Then, [Uncle] called me.

Uncle: “Is there any chance you could include [Aunt] and me on the trip? I understand that this is a huge thing to ask, and there is absolutely no pressure.”

I thought about it a bit and decided I would bring them along. My grandmother would have praised the generosity. I told him that, since it was so close to the trip, I could only get them economy seats. [Uncle] said it was fine. I also managed to book another room at the B&B. I stressed that the purpose of this trip was for [Cousin] and me to interact with native Gaelige speakers, but there would be time for some sightseeing. We could also visit the town our ancestors came from in County Mayo.

This is where I learned what an entitled jerk my aunt is.

It started at the airport. I had managed to upgrade their tickets to economy plus which, on an international flight, is not too bad.

Aunt: “You and [Cousin] should sit in economy while the grown-ups get the nice seats!”

I was thirty at the time; my cousin was nineteen. My uncle looked embarrassed. [Aunt] told [Cousin] to give her his ticket and he almost did. I had to nip this in the bud.

Me: “I paid for all of these seats, so I will determine who sits where. Those are still nice seats. Enjoy your flight.”

Aunt: “Oh, so, since you paid for everything you think you’re in charge?”

Me: “Yes, and if you don’t like it, you can go home.”

She huffed but stayed silent. [Uncle] gave me a wink, and [Cousin] apologized for his mom’s behavior. At one point he quietly said to himself, “She always does this.” Great.

We arrived in Ireland and took a cab to our B&B. The first two days were great. [Cousin] and I went out and tried to awkwardly converse with the locals, who were as gracious as you could wish for and helped us a lot. We mostly did stuff separately from [Aunt] and [Uncle], which was fine, but I noticed that [Aunt] was getting a little edgy, and on our fourth morning, at breakfast, she snapped.

One of the girls working at the B&B brought them their breakfast and apparently greeted them in Gaelige, like she did every morning. This was the point when everyone there began to hear [Aunt] screaming.

Aunt: “DOES ANYONE IN THIS F****** PLACE SPEAK ENGLISH? JESUS CHRIST, IT’S LIKE BEING IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY! MY GRANDMOTHER LIVED HER WHOLE LIFE HERE, AND SHE COULD SPEAK ENGLISH. WHY CAN’T YOU?!”

Before I could appreciate that my aunt had actually said, “It’s like being in a foreign country,” I was out the door and running across the yard. I apologized to the poor girl and gave her a 50€ note, and then I went to talk to my aunt.

Me: “Do you not understand what I told you about this part of Ireland? I thought I explained that Irish Gaelige is the primary language spoken here. Most people will start interactions in Irish, and it is a big part of the B&B’s business, too.”

She just went and sat in her room looking huffy, and [Uncle] told me he’d handle it. He had fallen in love with Ireland and had been thoroughly enjoying the trip, so I let him deal with it. Then, I went to talk to the landlady to ensure we wouldn’t be thrown out. She didn’t tolerate mistreatment of her staff, but she said if it happened again, they would have to leave.

That day, I had rented a car and would be driving out to where my ancestors originally lived near Castlebar. I invited [Aunt] and [Uncle], but [Aunt] just stayed in the room, so the three of us went without her. It was an emotional thing visiting the little village, and I can’t describe it, but [Cousin] and I both felt like we could feel the spirits of our ancestors there. I know it’s corny, but it was powerful. We found the graves of some of them, as well. [Uncle] was mostly silent and respectfully let us experience it. Later, he told us about his parents leaving Italy.

The rest of the trip was pretty quiet, but [Aunt] never left the room or spoke to anyone there. Although, she did charge a pretty expensive lunch to the room — on my card — through a local high-class restaurant. [Uncle] offered to pay me back for it, but I refused.

We flew back, and for the whole flight, [Cousin] was going on and on about how amazing it was. It was clear that he had found a new love for international travel.

Me: “If you keep your grades up, maybe we can go again next summer!”

It became a regular trip for us — we never again brought the parents — except for his final year at school. I was not going to have the time off to go, but thought I would mix it up. For a graduation gift, I sent [Cousin] and [Uncle] to Italy to see where that part of his family was from. I intentionally left out [Aunt]. If she was upset about it, she never told me, though I heard she was “deeply insulted”.

Un-bear-able Stupidity And Bear-ly Escaped Awkwardness

, , , , , , , | Right | November 17, 2022

The first time we went to Yellowstone, we would not stop to let our son look at some bears a couple hundred yards off the road because there were people literally stopping their cars and getting out to walk up to get better pictures, and we did not want to him to see someone being mauled by a bear.

The next time we went to Yellowstone, we did get out to look at the bears because there was an armed park ranger standing on the side of the road watching to make sure no one did anything that stupid. He was also answering the many children’s questions about the bears.

Child: “Are they boy bears or girl bears?”

Ranger: “The lighter-colored one is a girl and the darker-colored one is a boy.”

When pressed on how he knew this by the very curious children, he looked at them, looked at the parents, and said:

Ranger: “I’ve been observing them for quite a while.”

When we got back to the car, our ten-year-old asked:

Son: “Does he mean that he saw them mating?”

I’m really proud that he was tactful enough to wait until we got back in our car to ask that, because I did not want to deal with ignorant parents who get so upset over such simple and honest questions.