Ponder this:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Y'can't make this stuff up, Part deux

It's been a while since I recorded some of the "Y'can't make this stuff up" moments at the office. Every workplace has them, but work with The Public provides limitless story sources. When I was waiting tables I thought I would never be able to top some of the workday moments. 
What ever could make a better story than the woman who sat in a booth, ordered, ate, and once full, fat, and happy, couldn't slide out again? The manager had to find a wrench and unbolt the table base from the floor to give her more wiggle room
...or my poor customers who came in with two young sons, one of whom was sleeping and woke suddenly, suffering from a violent stomach upset. That one really doesn't bear repeating. A bland Waitress Face and a quick grab-and-scoop of all four corners of the tablecloth into a bundle full of dishes, silverware, food . . . and all . . . that I carried off into the waitstation saved us all further embarrassment.

The mass of humanity contains endless subsets: people who eat in restaurants; people who have their hair styled (I always thought that being a hairdresser would be far worse than waiting tables because if there's one thing people are more sensitive about than their food, it's their appearance); people who drive; people who ride mass transportation, and so on.  When you are a civil servant, you get 'em all. All of them. The good, the bad, the ugly. The cheerful, the ne-er-be-happy, the chatty, the silent. The clean and the dirty, the ill and the hardy.

Poopy Pants Man
The word circulated through the office that a man had arrived at 9:00am, three hours early for his court appearance. He was sitting on an upholstered chair in the otherwise unoccupied courtroom. The court clerk recognized him: he had been in her courtroom two days before, and had left traces of . . . scat . . . on the chairseat. That chair had been removed and cleaned and was drying elsewhere in the building. And now Poopy Pants Man was in there on another chair. 
One of Small Pond's Finest was called in to suggest, gently, that he wait in the lobby on the wooden bench. Poor soul. Who would choose to leave fecal stains on furniture? No one. But there's only so much in Small Pond's budget for cleaning supplies and replacement chairs. Wooden benches clean much more easily than upholstery.

Lady in the stairwell
I walked from my Afternoon Job desk to go upstairs to the photocopier. As I reached for the stair door handle, Phyllis came from the other side, wide-eyed and white-faced. She said, "You don't want to go up these stairs."
"I don't?"
"No. You don't."
"Why don't I want to?"
"You just don't."
"Okay." I turned and headed for the elevator.
At the second floor I exited the elevator to see a gray-haired lady leaving the bathroom, breathlessly twittering to her waiting middle-aged daughter. They went off down the hall, I made my photocopies, and scurried in to Phyllis.
"What was that all about?"

The lady, it seems, had had a not-uncommon Older Lady Accident as she walked through the lobby. As Phyllis was descending the stairs she had passed the woman in mid-clothing-change on the landing. 

Car burglar
Afternoon Boss and I were leaving work on court day. Court day delivers a whole new cast of characters, about whom Phyllis says, "If they could read and follow directions, they wouldn't be going to court." Bill and I lingered, chatting, just outside the building's doors. A young woman drove in and parked, took some books from her car and walked up the hill toward the back entrance to the court. Watching her trudge up the steep hill, I said, "She must be a frequent flyer: she knows the way to the back door."
When she settled at the picnic table under the tree, Bill observed, "She must just be waiting for somebody."
A young man burst through the door behind us and headed for  the parking lot, frenetically swinging from car to car. We paid not much attention to him, knowing how Court People often act differently from Non-Court People. A sudden yell from the woman at the picnic table: "Hey! What're you doing to my car!" 
The young man wheeled away from her vehicle, windmilling his arms. "Sorry! Sorry! I was just looking for my wallet. I thought it was my mom's car. I'm really sorry. I'm just really nervous right now. Sorry!" He moved off, veering loopily among the other vehicles.
Next day we got, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story. The kid had gone to court to keep a miscreant friend company. While the friend waited for his case to come before the judge, the kid left to kill some time in the parking lot. That's when Bill and I, and the picnic table woman, saw him. Court finished and the judge went home. At 8:30 the police called the judge back to the office to arraign the young man on the charges that apply for stealing a purse from a car. The picnic table woman signed a witness statement about her observations.

The Mean Man from MacMillan Road
Early every quarter a man comes to pay his water bill. His small rumply body slouches through the door, his face completely without expression. 
"Good morning! How are you?"
His pouchy dull eyes stare into mine. His jowly jaw moves not at all. He makes no response. He slides the bill and cash across the counter. Change is made and returned to him. His eyes follow the transaction.
"There y'go. Have a good day."
Silent, he pockets the receipt and change, turns and leaves.

The Shot Heard 'Round the Building
Last week the HVAC maintenance man visited for his semi-annual tune-up of the system. It was afternoon and I was at my desk, the office door open to the lobby, which is floored in marble and walled in cement-over-metal. The room echoes like the biggest shower stall in the world. The man was working on the lobby's heating/air-conditioning unit, fifty feet from my chair. I could hear every turn (wrank! wrank!) of his screwdriver as he removed the unit's metal cover. I could hear the magnified sound of each screw (Tink! Tink! Tink!) as he dropped them on the floor. 
And then he dropped something heavy, made of metal.
I screamed.
The police chief was through the PD door in a flash, eyes alert, head swiveling.
Phyllis was down the stairs and through the stair door ten seconds later.
I sat at my desk, my hand on my chest, gasping.
"Sorry," the repairman said. "I dropped something."

The Wedding Day
One day a small, fit, happy gentleman came to the office and asked, in accented English, for a marriage license. He was tidily dressed and groomed: comb trails ran along the sides of his gray/blond head. Two days later he made an appointment for the mayor to perform a marriage ceremony. 
Ten minutes before 11:00am on The Day, the groom arrived. A shyly smiling lady followed him through the door. The delicate blonde bride wore Kelly green with white cotton lace at the V-neck of her suit jacket. The couple sat and spoke soft Hungarian to each other while they waited.
The smiling mayor arrived and introduced himself. He shook hands with the bridegroom.
"Here's my pretty lady! See my pretty lady!" 
The mayor smiled and nodded at the bride. He completed the preliminary paperwork and led the way to the courtroom. He stood in front of the judge's bench, behind the rail, and pronounced the words that made them man and wife. At the end, the mayor forgot the final instruction.
"Are you going to say it?" the groom asked. "Are you going to say it? Because I'm going to do it anyway." And he kissed his bride.
They are both seventy-somethinghad each immigrated from Hungary years ago. They met ten years ago, in this country, far from their birthplace. And now they're married.
They left to go tell their friends, and then to lunch.
"They won't believe it!" the beaming new husband told us.
They left behind a bunch of teary-eyed sighing females, all saying to each other, "They're so sweet..."
"Aren't they just . . . sweet?"


threecollie said...

What an amazing life you have. I could never have imagined.

Bibi said...

I had so much fun reading this I forgot how grumpy I was about this rainy day !!

Thanks for the smiles, June !

Tom said...

A friend of mine worked for a financial consulting firm. She and her colleagues scratched through paperwork all day long, day after day ... a thoroughly boring job, as she complained to me many times. And yet, sometimes people did a sloppy job; other times people performed some kind of elegant analysis. Every once in a while when someone did a particularly good job, they got a comment on the report, something like, "Nice work" or "Good job." Big deal, said my friend sarcastically.

The new boss came in. He saw that morale was kind of low. So next time someone did a good job, he got his whole department together -- I dunno, it was 15-20 people -- crammed into the person's office and ... gave the guy a standing ovation!

Apparently the guy was both pleased, and embarrassed. And my friend first told this to me as though she thought it was stupid. But then one day SHE got the round of applause. After that she thought it was a great idea!

Sounds silly ... but a tradition was born.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the mean man is deaf.

Sally Wessely said...

Great stories.

rachel said...

Ah, the public.... sigh....

#1Nana said...

Do you write notes to yourself about the daily incidents? I have a hard time remembering the funny things that happen. I was just going through my notebook and the note I wrote to myself said "snake took a dump!" I'm sure it was a good story, but I can't remember what in the world I was writing about. I've got to get better at writing enough detail to remember the essence of a story. These were great little stories.

Barb said...

Please, please - save me from this fate: "a not-uncommon Older Lady Accident." Pooping on upholstered chairs is also on my list of things I never want to happen... Your character sketches are priceless, June. Good to have you back writing.

June said...

threecollie, not so amazing. You should probably be happy, most of the time, that you can't imagine it...

Bibi, you are welcome, Ay'm shure.

Sightings, that is a story of true leadership and the good effects that result. Thank you.

Anon, maybe he is deaf. I think, though, that he has spoken once or twice. He could still smile back, anyway, couldn't he?

RET, thanks!

Rachel . . . yeah... The public. We are all "the public." Scary thought, iddent it?

Nana, these things have become part of the oral history of our office. We make reference to them so often now that no notes are necessary. I do write myself little reminders sometimes, though, and then throw them away as meaningless scraps of paper when I clean out my purse.

Barb, thanks. To think I just couldn't work up anything worthwhile...and then this lengthy thing came out!

Grandmother Mary said...

Stories make us grateful don't they? These are the kind that do. I worked in a psychiatric Emergency Dept. so I had my share, too!

June said...

Grandmother, I imagine an acute sense of humor, and perspective, would be an absolute necessity in a psychiatric ER.

Hilary said...

Oh you made my heart swell with that last story. How sweet is that!

Lord Wellbourne said...

I've worked in many places which involved "the public" and I have to say that it really does take all kinds to make a world. They have all contributed to who I am today--for good or ill. And I like to think I've done the same for them.

VM Sehy Photography said...

I like your friend's observation that people wouldn't be in court if they could follow instructions. So true. Also thought that ending with the couple getting married was a sweet way to wrap up the post.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Mrs.PoopyPantsMan is probably glad to get him out of the house now and then . Gives her a chance to wipe down the plastic-covered sofa and chairs .
( I always used to wonder why some people never unwrapped their living room furniture ..... )

Albedo said...

Thanks for your funny stories; I wish I could conjure some up for you. The best I can offer is my blog; if you like it comment, then you can say you know someone who lives even further North than you with wild Atlantic weather!
Now that I have found you I shall keep reading...

Morning Bray Farm said...

I don't know, but "Poopy Pants Man" has such a ring to it. ;)

I'm so sorry I'm behind on blogging and reading your blog.

This was definitely a fun post to read!

MunirGhiasuddin said...

The things that are happening to you, you probably can write tons of funny stuff about that - - - wait what? you are all ready doing that.

Carolynn Anctil said...

Could Mean Man be deaf and/or mute? Just wondering....

Naturally, my favourite story is the one about the happy wedding couple. *grin*

Friko said...

How generous of you to lump all these delightful stories into just one post! You could have made at least three out of them.

I like them all, but perhaps poopy pants is my favourite, if not yours.Or the old lady with the not uncommon little accident. Poor chap, poor old girl, does anyone have that sort of 'mishap' voluntarily?

Joe Todd said...

Thanks for the great morning read