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They’ve Cracked The Code!

, , , , , , , | Working | March 3, 2023

In high school, my friend and I worked at a fast food burger place. The sandwiches were made to order, where the customer could select any combination of eight different condiments. The register employee would call out the type of sandwich followed by the list of condiments. The order receipt would also detail the condiments. Since this was the 1980s, the receipt had a limit of characters it could print. A single cheese with catsup, pickle, and mustard would be listed as: “SC, C, P, M,” with each condiment listed on a separate line.

On nights we were closing, we would be assigned to the dining room and/or salad bar duty. But on school nights, we’d be on the front line: he’d be on the grill and I’d be the sandwich maker. Our duties often included having to walk off the line to get supplies. So, if an order came in, standard practice was to go to the counter and read the receipt. We found that time-consuming, so we would help each other by telling the other the order when we returned to the line. Being geeks, as well, we would just rattle off the abbreviations. A typical interaction:

Friend: “DC, MA, P, M.”

Me: “Okay.”

He’d then give me two patties with cheese in between, and I’d have the mayonnaise and pickles on the top bun. He’d place the patties on the bottom bun, then I’d swipe some mustard on top of the meat, put on the top, and then wrap it.

Our manager always gave us an odd look whenever we’d have one of these exchanges. But we were efficient.

Fifty Shades Of Snooker

, , , , | Working | March 2, 2023

Part of my job in office admin is to order stationery supplies. One day, a colleague asks for some display boards, so I grab the catalog.

Me: “Okay, how many and what size would you like?”

Colleague: “Four, around three by four feet?”

Me: “No problem. What type — wipe board, pin board?”

Colleague: “Pin, please.”

Me: “Okay, we can get those. I’ll get pins for you, as well. Cork or cloth type board?”

Colleague: “Cloth. Beige, please.”

Me: “Yep, they do that. I’ll order them up and they should be here next week.”

Colleague: “Can I have them in green?”

Me: *Checking the catalog* “Yes, they do green. Do you want them all the same?”

Colleague: “Yes, green beige.”

Me: “What? Green or beige?”

Colleague: “Green beige.”

Me: “Green and beige? Sorry, I don’t think they do a two-tone. I can check other suppliers for you, though.”

Colleague: “No, I want them all green.”

Me: “Not beige?”

Colleague: *Getting flustered* “Yes! All green beige!”

I feel reason slipping its moorings and take a moment to try and figure out what he’s talking about, and then it clicks.

Me: “Do you mean baize, like on a snooker table?”

Colleague: “Yes, beige.”

To save sanity, I didn’t bother trying to correct him and just ordered his boards, which he was very happy with when they arrived.

Time For The Cheaters To Tap Out

, , , , , , , , , | Learning | March 2, 2023

Many years ago, my grandfather taught carpentry at a tech college, and part of his job involved proctoring written exams.

During one of these exams, a couple of students were tapping their pens. On the face of it, this wasn’t so unusual; plenty of people in exams tap pens, drum fingers, etc., as an aid to memory — or at least, they certainly did when I took my exams. These taps, however, seemed rather more… rhythmic.

A few taps later, Grandfather — who was in the naval cadets as a boy — realized that these two students were using their pens to tap out the answers to various questions in Morse code. 

Without saying a word, Grandfather picked up a pen of his own, glaring pointedly at the guilty students, and tapped out the phrase, “I K-N-O-W M-O-R-S-E C-O-D-E T-O-O.”

Funnily enough, the tapping stopped immediately after that!

Lost In No Translation, Part 7

, , , , , | Right | March 2, 2023

I work as a receptionist at an urgent care clinic. An old woman comes in with an African refugee family behind her. She throws a file folder at me with abysmal copies of ID cards and says nothing.

Me: “How can I help you this evening?”

Woman: *Gesturing over her shoulder* “They’re sick.”

Me: “Okay, let’s get started by getting them signed in.”

I pass her the sign-in chart while she scoops up the contents of the file folder she just tossed on my desk. It’s pretty common to get refugees accompanied by their caseworker, so I ask if that’s who she is.

Woman: “Yeah, and translator.”

She fills in their first names on the sign-in sheet only. She doesn’t put down the chief complaint or whether they are returning patients. I figure I can get that information as we go along as we surprisingly aren’t busy at the moment. Many patients are understandably concerned with privacy, so I don’t push her to complete the sign-in sheet.

Me: “Have they been to see us before?”

Woman: “I have no idea.”

Some translator — she didn’t even ask them.

Me: *Trying to be helpful* “I can look them up; what’s the last name?”

She drops the file again. I pick it up and search for their records. They have none, so I assemble the new patient paperwork.

Me: “Looks like this is their first time. Please fill out these forms, one for each of them, and return them to me when they’re done.”

She takes the file and paperwork without a word and sits down near my desk. She hands each family member a clipboard and shouts at them as if they are hard of hearing.


I feel bad for the family, but it isn’t until I hear them distinctly say, “Quoi? Q’est que c’est?” that I pipe up.

Me: “Je vous-aidez?” *Can I help you?*

The look on the father’s face was one of relief. The two parents practically ran up to me and started asking me questions in rapid French while the caseworker and their “translator” merely stared. I got their paperwork sorted, got them seen by the doctor, and made sure they knew to ask for me if they ever needed to come back.

Lost In No Translation, Part 6
Lost In No Translation, Part 5
Lost In No Translation, Part 4
Lost In No Translation, Part 3
Lost In No Translation, Part 2

This Is Just Pain

, , , , | Right | March 1, 2023

I work in a bakery in a leafy suburb of Paris that is popular with tourists. A tourist couple comes into the store, and the woman immediately points to our display and exclaims loudly.

Customer: “Oh, honey, look. They call them pan au chocolates here, too!”

Customer’s Husband: “That’s probably to make it easier for Americans.”

Customer: “Hmm… I wonder why they don’t have their own name for them?”