Something Is Out Of Places

| Wales, UK | Right | January 5, 2016

(Our tourist information centre is located within a mainline train station. As such, we have timetables for the railway line that we can give out to patrons. Most people just take them away to browse at their leisure.)

Customer #1: “Hi!”

Me: “Bore da, good morning! How can I help you today?”

Customer #1: “Hi, yeah. We want to go on the train.”

Me: “Okay, well, you’re in luck as we sell tickets here! Were you wanting to travel today, or later in the week?”

Customer #1: “We don’t know. Can you tell us what times the trains are going?”

Me: “Well, trains run roughly every two hours. Northbound trains run at converse hours to southbound trains.”

Customer #2: “Slow down a minute. Opposite hours?”

Me: “Yeah, so if the trains run roughly two-hourly – give or take ten minutes. One way is on the odd hours, so 9, 11, 1, 3, and 5 – the other way it’s 8, 10, 12, 2, 4, and 6.”

Customer #1: “I don’t get it. Can you write it down?”

Me: “I’ve got a printed timetable. Would you like that?”

Customer #1: “Sure, that’d be great. Thanks!”

Me: *hands customer a timetable*

Customer: *squints at timetable for a minute* “What does all this stuff MEAN?”

Me: “Well, this page is northbound trains, we’re here at [Town], and this page is southbound trains, and [Town] is here. So you just pick where you want to go from there really.”

Customer #2: “Sorry, but how does this help us find the train times?”

Me: “Well, the rows running directly to the destinations have times printed, so if you see here –” *pointing at [Town] again and moving my finger along the row* “– you’ve got 08:50, 10:05, 12:00, 13:55, 15:57, and 17:59.”

Customer #1: “So those numbers are times when trains go?”

Me: “Yep! You got it!” *beams widely*

Customer #2: “But what are all the words?”

Me: “These? These are destinations at which the trains may stop on their way to their destinations.”

Customer #2: “So are those like… train stations?”

Me: “They certainly are, sir!”

Customer #2: “In, like, towns or something?”

Me: “Towns or villages, yes.”

Customer #2: “Whoah! So the trains can, like, STOP there?”

Me: “Yes indeedy!”

Customer #1: “So if we wanted to, we could go on the train from [Town where we are] to [Random Other Town]?”

Me: “Certainly you could! You’d just need to hop on the next southbound train and you’ll be there in 35 minutes!”

Customer #2: “But how do you know how long it will take to get there?”

Me: “Well, on the timetable, the rows designate stops, and the columns represent the journey, so from [Town] to [Next Station Down] is seven minutes. If you follow this column  then you can see the times for the journey. [Other Town] that you asked about is six stops after [Town] on here, and the arrival time on this row here is 35 minutes after the departure time on this row here.”

Customer #2: “We don’t really get it.”

Me: “It might be easier if you decide when and where you want to travel, and we can print you a sheet with just your personal journey details on. That way you won’t have to worry about other times or destinations.”

Customer #1: “But we want to know about those other places. They’re all, like, PLACES places?”

Me: *not even sure at this point what ‘places places’ might mean to them* “Yes, sure they are!”

Customer #2: “Well, we’ll take this and see if we can get to grips with it later.” *waves timetable at me*

Me: “Okay, then. Well, I hope you have a pleasant holiday, and remember you can always pop in and see us during [opening hours] if you need more assistance!”

(They left. I went into the back to make a STRONG cup of tea.)

Not Kidding About That Discount

| Vienna, Austria | Right | May 26, 2015

(We have a really convoluted system of discounts based on age and group size. People rarely ask for the right ticket, so we ask follow-up questions.)

Customer: “Hello, I’d like one family ticket: two adults and two children.”

Me: “Sure, how old are the children?”

Customer: “22 and 24.”

Have No Old Faithful In Humanity

| West Yellowstone, MT, USA | Right | April 19, 2015

(My family and I go to visit my aunt and uncle in West Yellowstone, Montana, which is about an hour north of Yellowstone National Park. There are painted bison statues around town that are been part of a contest. My mom and I stop at a tourist information center.)

Mom: “Excuse me; do you have a map of where the buffalo are?”

Employee: “Oh, they’re all over the park. You just have to drive around and keep an eye out for them.”

Mom: “…No, the painted ones around town.”

Employee: “Oh! Yes, I do have a map of those.”

Mom: “Do people seriously ask you that?”

Employee: “Yes. They also ask when Old Faithful is turned on and when the bears are let out.”

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Speaking American Is A Country Diction In Terms, Part 3

| Torino, Italy | Right | April 17, 2015

(As the city is hosting a big international event, we’ve been having a lot of people asking for information about venues, transports, and such. For guests’ convenience we set up two different lines, one for information in English and Spanish and one for information in French and German, as these are the four main languages our guests require. We used flags to represent languages, with a standard UK flag standing for English. A third colleague is standing by the door, answering questions in miscellaneous other languages and directing people to the lines. A couple walks in and addresses him in English.)

Guest: “Excuse me, sir?”

Coworker: “Yes, sir? How can I help you?”

Guest: “We need information in American. Which one of these lines is the correct one?”

(My coworker points to the English speaking line.)

Guest: *pointing to the flag* “That’s an English flag. There’s no American flag here. Are you sure this is the correct line?”

Coworker: *trying not to laugh* “Yes, sir. Yes, I’m quite sure it is.”

(At this point the couple cuts the entire 20-something people line and simply walks up to me while I’m busy with another guest.)

Guest: “Good morning, we would like to know if—”

Me: “Sir, I’m sorry, but you can’t just cut the line like that.”

Guest: “But your colleague said this was the American speaking line.”

Me: “It is sir, but as you can see there’s a lot of people waiting for information. You’ll have to wait like everybody else. I promise you it won’t be long.”

Guest: “But… but… I’m AMERICAN!”

 

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Doesn’t Snow What She’s Talking About

| Los Angeles, CA, USA | Working | February 17, 2015

(I work in Los Angeles. Washington D.C. is being hit by a big snowstorm. The company I am working for needs an updated student visa form for one of our clients that is coming in five weeks, and the form is not available online. I send an e-mail to the visa agent, explaining the situation, but I add that I understand the reply would be delayed because of the snowstorm and to send it at their earliest convenience. Three weeks pass with no reply. I send a follow-up e-mail and call them two times, with the same results. My bosses are getting on my case, so I call for the third time and the agent finally picks up:)

Me: “Hi. I am calling regarding about the visa for [Client] from [Company]. I understand that you guys had a snowstorm, but it has been three weeks and it is very urgent.”

Visa Agent:*sighs with a condescending tone* “Yes. I saw your e-mail.”

(I ignore it, trying to be civil.)

Me: “Great! I thought it got lost in cyberspace. Would it be possible for you to send us the updated visa sometime today?”

Visa Agent: *continuing on with her tone* “You know, we did have a big snowstorm a few weeks ago.”

Me: “And I appreciate your time in helping us when you are busy catching-up because of the storm.”

Visa Agent: “Look. I know you are from LA, so you wouldn’t understand this whole concept of snow or snowstorms and how it causes delays and—”

Me: “Ma’am, let me stop you right there. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago and got my undergrad in Colorado. So please, enlighten me about this whole concept of snow and snowstorms and how it causes delays, while I wait for you to send the updated visa to me.”

Visa Agent: …I will send it to you right away.”

Me: “Thank you.”

(After we hung up I received the visa within five minutes.)

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