They Have A Degree In Being Nuts

, , , , , | Working | April 1, 2020

(It’s lunchtime at the biotech company I work for. Pretty much everyone in the company has a biology degree, with at least an essential grasp of immunology, including allergies. Most folks have finished eating their lunch, but someone has put out a bowl of mixed nuts to share while we shoot the breeze.)

Colleague #1: *casually* “You know I’m allergic to almonds?”

(I glance down at the bowl of nuts — including almonds — that we’re all snacking from.)

Me: “Oh, geez! Do you need us to take it away or something?”

Colleague #1: “Nah, don’t worry; it’s not that bad.”

(There’s nothing weird about that; plenty of people are safe to be around foods they’re allergic to, as long as they don’t actually eat it. But just about as the conversation is about to move along naturally, [Colleague #1] picks up and eats a handful of nuts.)

Me: “Uh…”

Colleague #2: “Uh, you know there are almonds in there, right?”

Colleague #1: “Yeah. Don’t worry; I’m only allergic to some almonds.”

([Colleague #3] is also allergic to almonds.)

Colleague #3: “Really? Like, just certain sub-varieties, or something?”

([Colleague #1] just shrugs and pops a couple of almonds in his mouth. My other coworkers and I exchange glances.)

Me: “So, like… is it a cooked/uncooked thing? Or something to do with… seasoning or something?”

Colleague #1: “I dunno. I’m just allergic to some almonds.”

Colleague #4: “How can you tell?”

Colleague #1: “I can’t, until I’ve eaten them.”

Colleague #2: “Is it like, just a mild allergy, then? Like, some itching…?”

Colleague #1: “Oh, my throat closes up and I can’t breathe.”

Colleague #2: “What? That’s really serious!”

Colleague #1: “I mean, when it happens, sure.”

Me: “Do you have an epi-pen on you?”

Colleague #1: “No, it’s not a big deal.”

Colleague #5: “Who even brought these almonds? Maybe we should put them away.”

Colleague #1: “They’re mine. I brought them!”

(He proceeded to snack on another handful of them. The next five minutes saw an entire table of biology professionals trying to convince [Colleague #1] to stop eating food that apparently causes him to stop breathing. We couldn’t, and despite having a biology degree himself, he didn’t seem to understand what the big deal was.)

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That Certainly Is Special

, , , , , | Working | March 31, 2020

(My husband and I are at a restaurant, checking out the menu. They have the specials on chalkboards on the walls, usually nicely written and decorated. We start discussing one of the specials we are going to actually get.)

Me: “Oooooh, they have loaded schnitzels with cheese, bacon, and mushrooms. Choice of beef or chicken. I think I might get the chicken.”

(My husband turns to look at the sign.)

Husband: “Oh, that sounds good. How much… Hang on. I’m not sure if I want that or not!” *laughing*

Me: “Why? It sounds amazing.”

Husband: “Because it says, ‘Shitzles.’ I’m not sure that would taste great.”

Me: “What? Oh, my goodness, it does, too! Hang on; I will go tell someone.”

(I get up and go to tell our waitress.)

Me: “Hi, I was wondering if you guys realized that the schnitzel sign actually says, ‘Shitzels.’”

Waitress: What?! Oh, my goodness, I’m so sorry!”

Me: “All good! Just figured you would want to change it.”

(I went to sit back down, and then another waitress came running over like a bat out of Hell with cloths and chalk. We all had a pretty good laugh.)

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Checkout Girl Has Checked Out

, , , , , | Working | March 31, 2020

(I am 17. I got myself a part-time job, with a shiny new bank account and debit card to go with it, a few months ago. I am only working about four to six hours on a weekend and the pay is low, but as I’ve never had my own money before I fully embrace the opportunity to go shopping whenever I can, so my new bank account doesn’t have much in it! I want a new top and my mum, knowing I’ve pretty much spent my last week’s pay, lends me £20 to get something. I trot off into town early and find a top I like, but it is £5 over budget. No problem, I think; I’ve had people pay with card and cash in my shop before, so I’ll just do that. I go to the checkout. It’s not busy in the shop so there’s no queue, and the girl behind the till is about my age and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her there before. She rings up the top and tells me the total, £25.)

Me: “Can I pay £20 cash and the rest card, please?”

(The checkout girl repeats the total.)

Me: “Yeah, I’d like to pay £20 in cash, and the rest with my card.”

(The checkout girl looks at me like I’m crazy. I wait patiently, holding the note and my card.)

Checkout Girl: “I don’t know how to do that.”

(I look at her expectantly, thinking she’ll go and get someone who does. She does nothing, still staring at me.)

Me: “Well, can you find someone who does?”

(The checkout girl spun around, huffed and tutted, and stomped away like it was the biggest inconvenience EVER. I stood there in disbelief. Finally, another member of staff appeared, took my money out of my hand, rang through the transaction, and got me to swipe my debit card, all without a single word to me. She then dropped a bag on top of my purchase, leaving me to put the — not even folded — top into the bag myself, and flounced off. I may have only been 17, but I loved my retail job and took great pride in my customer service so I found my treatment there somewhat shocking, and I have not shopped there since!)

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So… Wait… You Want What Now?

, , , , | Working | March 31, 2020

(It is the middle of the recession and jobs are extra hard to find, and if you do find something it is probably temporary. A detachment agency I worked for before contacts me for a job. Let’s call it a lab technician level one, for sake of ease, while my education would put me at level three, and with experience at level four. I would be receiving a level one salary and job title, but hey, it’s a job. I would be allowed to look for something else, provided the agency got “dibs/first pick” if it was a position through agencies, and failing that, they would keep me on the payroll to find something else afterwards. Not a bad deal, so I adjust my mindset and go in for the interview. Instead of boasting about my experience, I emphasise that I am excited to work with a new product. Instead of saying that I am looking for a stable position, I say that I am curious to see what opportunities for growth might come in the long term, etc. Then, they wrap up with some questions about my personality, which is not uncommon.)

Manager: “How would you position yourself in a team?”

Me: “Initially, I tend to be a bit quieter, observe, and learn first, but over time I’ll become part of the group.”

Manager: “Are you headstrong or more go with the flow?”

Me: “I’m not one to start a fight; I know when to let things go, but I’m not going to lie or hide my opinion.”

Manager: “So, a lot of people in this team are a huge fan of [Sports Team]; would you feel comfortable saying you support the opponents?”

Me: “Well, I don’t care about sports at all.”

Manager: *laughs* “Okay, that’s a good, honest start.”

Me: “But if I favored the opponents, sure, I would say so.”

(I end up getting the job, and in this field, it’s very common that no matter what your education or experience is, you go through a phase of training with your hand being held — almost literally — so the company can check off and certify that you’ve been trained. Mentally, I roll my eyes, but I take it in stride. This period lasts pretty long in this job, though, and at some point, the training starts to scale down, but I hardly get any real work to keep me busy. What little work I do receive is very easy so I do it pretty fast, yet I get fairly limited access on the software systems, leaving others to “finish” my work for me. I start asking my trainer and manager for more work, but they brush it off or refer to the posted schedule. Said schedule uses all kinds of color coding and descriptions which are far from immediately obvious. In fact, when I ask about it, it seems everyone knows just enough to do their own job, but all the other information on the schedule is a foreign language to them. I end up talking to the planner and he only knows that when job A comes in it’s yellow, job B is blue, C is yellow, etc., but when I ask why A and C are yellow even though they are very different tasks, he basically shrugs. I go through several weeks and more phenomena like this, along with some odd bits. A coworker tries to sell a phone he found on the street, and when I point out to management that he is essentially selling stolen goods, the response is, “Yes, we will discuss with him that he shouldn’t do this at work,” and my motivation takes a hit, to say the least. I get called to the manager.)

Manager: “So, it’s clear that you aren’t really making improvements to the department.”

Me: “Do you mean I should work harder? I want to, but nobody will train me.”

Manager: “No, not like that. We hired you because your education and experience put you on a higher level than the rest of the team and we’re expecting you to take the team to a higher level.”

Me: “I thought I was hired as a level one technician, so that’s the job I’ve been doing. I’ll be happy to give you feedback on any shortcomings I see; I just didn’t want to be too critical as a newcomer.”

Manager: “Yes, you’re a level one technician. We specifically asked during your interview if you would speak openly and address things you would disagree with. So, when you see things not going well, we expect you’ll take the initiative and improve them, not just report them to management.”

Me: “So, I should develop myself into something like a team leader?”

Manager: “No, I’m the manager; you’re a technician just like the rest. But you should make things go better.”

Me: “O… kay… So, I should use my experience to see where you can reduce costs or make tests go faster?”

Manager: “Don’t think in terms of specific metrics. You’ve attended several team meetings now and heard the criticism we get from upper management. You also should have noticed that things aren’t going as well as they should.”

Me: “Sure, for one thing, it seems nobody fully understands the schedule.”

Manager: “Yeah, don’t mess with that; the planner takes care of the schedule.”

Me: “So, you don’t want me to train the rest of the team, nor will you give me any form of authority. You want me to make improvements, not to share critiques with you but to fix it on my own. I should not change the way the team is run and I shouldn’t be thinking of any measurable efficiency like costs, time, accuracy of results, etc.?”

Manager: “I’m glad you understand. Now get to it.”

(After a few weeks of mutual frustration, they kicked me out for failing to meet expectations. Initially, the agency was pretty pissed, but once they confirmed my story of the contradictory role, they became more sympathetic and admitted that there had been a big miscommunication on what kind of person the company was looking for. I ended up doing some headhunting for the agency until they found me a position that worked out a lot better.)

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Bad At Loss Prevention AND Customer Retention

, , , , , , | Working | March 31, 2020

To avoid characterization as you read this, keep in mind that I’m a very fair-skinned, middle-aged Caucasian female. A few years ago, I stopped to buy a few groceries at an “everything under one roof” discount store. As was my usual routine, I took a cart, tossed my reusable bags into the child seat, and took off my jacket and put it in the bottom, under the seat and partially covering my purse.

After getting the groceries I needed, I headed toward the checkouts, saw a rack of clearance jackets, and stopped a moment to look. There was one in my size I liked, and the price was right, so I put that in the cart, also.

During checkout, I reached under my old jacket and took my wallet from my purse, then returned it after paying and dropped the receipt into one of the bags as I pushed my cart away from the registers. I stopped just outside the exit, dug a pair of nail clippers from my purse and the new jacket from the bag the cashier had shoved it into, and started to clip the tags off, intending to put it on.

Then, I heard a loud voice behind me. “Excuse me, ma’am. You need to come with me!” 

I stopped mid-clip and turned to see what was going on.

“You need to come with me!” reiterated a young man wearing a store badge, reaching forward and grabbing the handle of the shopping cart.

Taken by surprise, I stammered, “What? Why!”

“You didn’t pay for that jacket,” he said, pointing to my old one, “and whatever else you have stashed under it. Come with me!” Of course, people stopped to watch, but what could I do? He was taking the cart with my purse and purchases and heading back into the store, so I followed, my protests in vain.

In this store, there’s a room off of the entrance/exit vestibule that’s used by store security and is also a “police substation,” and that’s where he led me, me still carrying the new jacket and nail clippers with him pushing the cart.

He used a key to open the door, pushed the cart in, motioned for me to enter, followed me in, and closed the door behind us. Inside was a large metal cabinet partly filled with electronics with a monitor on top with nothing playing, a small bookcase stacked with books, binders, and assorted papers, and another, locking cabinet with some boxes on top. (It’s interesting what we remember in stressful situations; I couldn’t tell you if there was a window or not.) There was also a long table, several chairs, and an older man — a policeman — sitting on one side doing paperwork.

“Whatcha’ got?” He asked the young man.

“A shoplifter,” he replied.

By that point, I was not only embarrassed but livid as h*** and starting to cry. “I haven’t stolen anything! My receipt’s in that bag!” I pointed. “The jacket in the cart is mine, I wore it into the store, and the only thing under it is my purse!” I half yelled, half blubbered.

“Sit down,” said the young man. “I saw you trying to leave without paying for that coat. I have no idea what all you’ve got hidden under it, but you didn’t pay for any of that, either!” I didn’t sit; I was too mad.

The police officer stood up and walked around the table. “Mind if I have a look?”

“Yes! I mean, no, please do, I didn’t steal anything!” I insisted.

He took the receipt out of the bag, also lifting a few grocery items out and comparing them to the receipt and put them back in the bags. “Is that the jacket on the receipt?” he asked, gesturing toward the one I was by then hugging.

“Yeah, it is.”

He picked up my old ratty jacket, faded, stained, frayed, torn pocket, broken zipper. “Is this the one she didn’t pay for?” he asked the young man, one eyebrow raised.

“Uh, yeah,” the young man answered.

Holding my obviously not new jacket aside, the policeman looked back into the cart. Two bags filled with groceries, two empty bags, and my purse, zipper open, concealing nothing; surprise! 

“I’m so sorry, ma’am. Take a moment to compose yourself, and you’re free to go when you’re ready.” The young man was led to the far end of the table and some pretty intense whispering ensued, the policeman poking at the other’s chest, the young man gesturing wildly in the general direction of me and the door.

I dropped the clippers in my purse, threw the new jacket on top of the bags in the cart, and tried to let myself out, but the door was still locked. The policeman, seeing me jiggling the knob and leaning on the door in frustration, ran to unlock it, telling the young man, “Sit down, we need to talk.”

I never did wear the new jacket and I wouldn’t go back to the store to return it; several months later it was donated to a coat drive. The old one was eventually replaced with a purchase from a different store and discarded. The store is still there and I have been back, but only after a long time and never by myself.

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