Main Street Is For Squares

, , , , , | Right | February 20, 2019

(I am walking when a couple of Americans approach me, clearly annoyed.)

Male Tourist: “Where is the main street?”

Me: “Well, in Italy we do not have a main street as you have in the States. We have a main square, usually, but if you’re searching for—“

Male Tourist: “What do you mean, you don’t have a main street?!”

Me: “I mean that if you’re searching for [Famous Shopping Street], I’ll be glad to give you the indications, but it’s not a main street. The city centre is collocated around [Main Square].”

Male Tourist: “Well, that’s stupid!”

Me: “No, it’s not. It’s just different from the United States.”

Female Tourist: *huffing* “You all should learn from us, you know? A main square makes no sense at all.”

Me: *starting to be a little annoyed at this point* “Whatever. This is how things work here.”

Male Tourist: “Well, it’s still stupid. We do things much better in our country.”

Me: *deciding to leave* “With all due respect, you elected Donald Trump. Good luck!”

They Are First-Class Jerks

, , , , | Right | February 15, 2019

(I am required to travel from the US to one of my company’s offices in London the week before Christmas, in order to train people on a new system we were going to implement after New Years. I am annoyed with having to leave my wife alone with our two young children and that I am having to travel so close to the holidays. At least my managers understand that someone in my position would be frustrated, so they arrange for me to fly first class on both the flight to London and the returning one. I am one of the last people to board my flight to London, and I am greeted by a man sitting in my seat, kissing the female passenger next to him. They realize I am standing there and start talking.)

Guy: “Is this your seat? We have been waiting for you.”

Me: *with a confused look* “Excuse me?”

Guy: “Well, me and my wife here are going on our honeymoon, and we got an upgrade to first class, but we are not sitting together. We were wondering if you would be willing to switch seats with me so I can sit next to her?”

Me: “Where is your seat?”

Guy: “It’s [seat that is not only in economy, but is also a middle seat]. Thanks so much for this buddy. Really appreciate it.” *immediately goes back to talking to his wife*

Me: *as I start putting my bags in the overhead bin* “Sir, I’m sorry, but I did not say I would switch with you; I was asking where your seat was to see if I would switch. Can you please move from my seat?”

Guy: “You just said you would switch with me, and now you’re taking it back. Are you really going to be like this?”

Me: “As I said, I was asking where your seat was before I agreed to change seats. No offense, but while it is your honeymoon, I am not comfortable trading my first class seat for one in economy.”

Guy: “Come on, man. I really want to sit with my wife. We could only get one upgrade from the lady at the desk because first class is full. I really would like to sit with her.”

Me: *trying to be nice, but not caving in to his idea to switch* “Again, I understand that, but I would like to sit in my seat. Maybe someone else here is willing to switch, but it is not me. Or maybe you could ask one of the people sitting next to you in economy if they will switch so you and your wife can sit together back there.”

Guy: *with a look like I just pissed in his coffee* “Listen to me. I want to sit with my wife, here in first class. Just stop making this difficult. It is our honeymoon. Maybe have some kindness.”

Me: “Sir, you are asking a complete stranger to take a downgraded seat and give you their better seat for free. I am kind of shocked that you thought anyone would take that agreement. I did not pay for you to sit in my seat, so please move.”

(I notice the wife has pressed her button for the flight attendant and she shows up soon.)

Attendant: “Is everything okay here?”

(I try to talk but the wife immediately starts speaking.)

Woman: “This man has been harassing my husband and me since he boarded. He keeps claiming I am sitting in his seat, but this seat is mine.” *shows her ticket* “Can you please move him away from us?”

(The attendant is about to speak with me when the passenger sitting behind the man and woman speaks up.)

Passenger: “This woman is lying through her teeth. The husband is sitting in that man’s seat and he refused to move, and pretty much threatened him to switch seats and go to economy.”

(The flight attendant asks to see my ticket and then the husband’s. She then asks me to come with her to the front of the plane and have me wait while she talks to the captain. I can see how she is getting frustrated, since the plane is about ready to take off and this whole mishap is causing a delay. After she is done talking, she goes back with me to my seat and talks to the couple.)

Attendant: “So, I have spoken with the pilot about this issue. We have called the desk agents and determined this man has paid for his ticket while you—“ *pointing at the wife* “—were given a free upgrade. Now that the two of you treated a passenger terribly and then lied, we have two options for you. A: both of you get up and sit in economy, since there are still plenty of seats back there, or B: you two leave this plane, either by your free will or by security.”

Woman: *suddenly looking a bit panicked* “Oh, don’t worry. My husband will move back to his seat, and I promise I will be on my best behavior up here.”

Attendant: “Sorry, miss, but that is no longer an option, because you used an opportunity to sit in first class to harass another passenger. I have told you what your two options are, and I will need your decision immediately. In all honesty, I wouldn’t have even given you two the option to go back to economy if the pilot didn’t feel bad it was your honeymoon.”

(The husband and wife then got up, while glaring at me, and moved back to economy. I was feeling good after that, because I not only had room in first class, but an empty seat next to me, as well. The flight attendant also talked to me and said that she was sorry for how that couple had treated me, and that the pilot requested a flag be put on the couple’s names so that they would not receive any other upgrades when flying with the airline.)

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Are You Mandarin Or Out?

, , , , , , | Friendly | February 13, 2019

After studying Mandarin for about six years, I decide to take a year off of college to travel in China. The last semester of my trip, I find work as an assistant teacher in Shanghai, where I live for about four months. For most of my time there, I use a winning combination of the subway and the occasional touk-touk to get around the city. To make this as easy as possible, I also invest in a Chinese debit account and a Shanghai metro card.

Towards the end of my semester, as I’m packing up to leave, I invite my mom and my sister to come play tourist for about a week and eventually help me drag all my stuff back to America. I buy them metro cards, too, and take some time showing them around the city. Midway through one of our trips, my own metro card starts running low on funds, and I stop at a relatively small station to restock.

The station is small enough that there’s only one card kiosk, alongside the metro card help desk. A twenty-something, stylishly-dressed Chinese man is struggling with the relatively simple kiosk, which is on a screen I’ve never seen before, while the help desk security guard, an older man, smokes a cigarette and berates him loudly from just in front of his desk. From what I understand of the conversation, the younger guy is trying to add more money onto his card, which the metro guard could easily do at his desk, but he’s hit the wrong buttons and is still insisting he’s in the right. The argument is loud, but not overly heated; the younger guy seems more anxious than anything, and the security guard is visibly laughing at him.

When they both see me and my obviously very white family waiting to use the kiosk, the security guard yells at the younger guy to let me use it. He waves me over without a word, and I step up to the screen. The characters are pretty basic, so I don’t bother switching the kiosk to English. I tap the Reset button and then the Load Card button, and then I pull out my phone to pay with my Chinese debit card. All told, it takes about twenty seconds. When I pull out my metro card and turn back to my family, the previously noisy station is dead quiet. My mom is looking past me, visibly holding back a smile, and my sister looks like she’s about to burst out laughing.

The Chinese guy behind me says, “What?!”

I turn around to find him slowly lowering his phone from where he’d been filming me, his expression thunderstruck. Behind him, the older security guard is laughing so hard he’s gripping the desk to stay upright. Aside from his single English word, the younger guy seems absolutely lost for what to say.

I say in Chinese, “Do you understand how to use the machine now, or can I help you with it?”

My sister gives in to laughter as the guy slowly, slowly shakes his head. Together, my very white, very American family steps through the security gate into the train terminal, leaving the poor guy — and his video of the clueless white-girl tourist — ruined forever.

The Lady Doth Declare Too Much

, , , | Related | January 24, 2019

(Back in the 80s, my mum’s cousin moves from the UK to America for a while. My mum goes to visit her and brings along a few home comforts because her cousin is feeling homesick and needs cheering up. My mum steps up to the counter for declaring customs with her bag, and takes out a few items.)

Customs Officer: “What is this?” *points at a bottle*

Mum: “Oh, that’s ‘Ribena,’ a type of concentrated blackcurrant juice.”

Customs Officer: “Ma’am, we have juice in the United States.”

Mum: “I know, but it’s a specific type you can’t get here, and my cousin has really been missing the taste of it.”

Customs Officer: *points at the next item* “What is this?”

Mum: “A cardigan. I guess you’d call it a jumper or sweater?”

Customs Officer: “Ma’am, we have these in the United States.”

Mum: “Yes, but it’s from a shop in the UK, and I thought it would make a nice gift because it’s lovely and soft.”

Customs Officer: *opens up a package to see a loaf of homemade bread* “What’s this, then?”

Mum: “That’s soda bread; my mother made it with our family recipe. It looks a little strange inside, but I promise it’s not a hash cake or anything! You’re welcome to try a piece. It tastes better with butter; I’m sorry I don’t have any.”

(She breaks off a chunk to reveal a bright green crumb and offers it to him, and he looks at it with a mixture of disgust and wariness.)

Customs Officer: “Ma’am, we don’t have anything like that in the United States.”

Spoon Fed That Bomb Joke

, , , , , , | Right | January 22, 2019

I was the stupid customer in this one. We were in the security line at the airport, waiting to get through. We had to fly across the country because my grandmother had just died, and we needed to be there.

We made it to the other side, but our stuff, including my backpack, hadn’t. So, we waited. And we waited. And waited. Finally, an airport worker walked over to us and asked if any of us might have brought a metal spoon. We shook our heads, and he walked away.

About two minutes after he walked away, I had a sudden realization. Two weeks before I had been on a youth retreat of sorts where we decorated spoon handles with clay. I had used the same backpack on that trip. I remembered putting the spoon in the side pocket, but not taking it out. Normally for a trip like this, I would have emptied out all of the pockets. However, because I was still reeling from the news of my grandmother’s death, I hadn’t been thinking clearly. Thus, emptying out my backpack had simply slipped my mind.

I flagged down the same airport worker and explained my theory. He took my backpack out and handed it off to his female coworker. She took it to the side to search through for the spoon. Along with the tangled mess of charging cords and headphones, she pulled out the clay-handled spoon. At the sight of the silly [Popular Cartoon Character] handle, she started to laugh. When she saw my confusion, she explained. Their software had detected metal surrounded by organic material surrounded by wires. They’d thought that the only thing that it could be was a bomb. I began to laugh, too, and she put everything back into my bag.

I’ve always heard horror stories about the TSA, but they didn’t act anything like I would’ve expected. While it did slow us down, I got a good laugh during a week where there hadn’t been much to laugh about.

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