This is a tale from my grocery store days. I worked a deli/seafood combo department in a popular Canadian store.
Both of these stories involve an old Afghani lady in her early 60s. For reasons I won't get into, my boyfriend and former coworker called her Justin Bieber, so that's what we'll call her here. Justin Bieber was hands down the worst employee in our department. I can forgive her for being a little slow, because she was getting on in age, but I can't forgive her for being a terrible employee. She always took her breaks at exactly the same time, even if we were swamped. She took extra long lunches. She only ever id the easiest jobs, and even though she had been there for five years longer than me, I still had to direct her on what to do.
But by far her biggest crime was her severe hatred of serving customers. Honestly, we all hated serving customers. It was the worst part of the job (slicing meat gets really repetitive really fast). We used to joke that the job would be great, if it weren't for the customers. But everyone had to do it. The thing was, there were a lot of jobs to be done in our department, so generally speaking, you either switched off serving customers, or the person who was doing the simplest task did it.
In Bieber's case however, it didn't matter how trivial the task was, if she was doing anything else, she couldn't serve customers. Or she could, but you had to directly tell her to do it for every. Single. Customer. If a manager gave her a task, she would refuse, because the other manager had told her to do something else. And usually, the managers were just trying to get her to do work, because if they didn't, she would just stand around. She was just plain lazy.
Two other people were involved in this story. The first is a woman named Flora. Flora was a couple years older than Biebs, but in much better shape. She didn't take shit from anyone. Imagine Flora as a hippy, but a really really angry hippy. She and Biebs had been at war from the start, because Flora would try to get Biebs to do her fair share of work, and Biebs resented being told off by Flora, who hadn't been working there nearly as long as she had.
The other is Toothless Joe. I won't bother to describe him because he barely appears in this story and doesn't say anything.
This happened a while ago, so I'm slightly fuzzy on the details, but one Saturday we had a buttload of party trays to make. Somehow, Flora, Toothless Joe and I managed to shut Biebs out of making trays. I don't know how we did it, but somehow, we managed to force Biebs to serve customers for a full two hours. We would go over and help her if it got busy, but she was responsible for serving the bulk of customers that came through. And it wasn't mean... all of us had to shoulder this task at one point or another. In fact, Biebs was probably the person who did this job the least.
Right at the end of my shift, I joined Biebs to help her with a particularly large rush of people. We'd finished all the trays but one, and Toothless Joe was dealing with the last cheese and cracker tray. As luck would have it, Biebs finished her last customer before I did, and she wandered away to be useless elsewhere. Toothless Joe informed me that he was leaving the department to go find extra cheese and crackers for the tray.
When I was done with my customer, I rushed over to the tray station to clean up the mess I'd left from the other trays, because I didn't like to leave a mess for someone else to clean. At this point, my shift was over, but I figured I would just do this really quickly.
While I was cleaning, a customer walked up and stood waiting to be served. Biebs was staring at the sweep log or something, and kind of ignoring the customer. I waited a couple of seconds for Biebs to notice the customer, and when she didn't, I said, still wiping up the counter, "Can you get this customer, Biebs?"
Instead, Biebs walked over to where Toothless Joe's tray items were. "No, no," she said. "I'll make this tray."
Thinking she didn't understand, I said, "My shift is already over, Biebs. I have to go. Can you please take this customer?"
Biebs shook her head. "I'm tired of serving customers. I make this tray. Toothless Joe can serve the customer."
Me: "Biebs! Toothless Joe is getting crackers! Who knows when he'll be back! The customer can't wait for him to get back!"
Biebs ignored me. Flustered, frustrated, and knowing that if I served this customer, another would come immediately after and I'd be stuck there for another 10 minutes, I grabbed Flora who was stocking cheese, and said "Can you please just take this customer. Biebs is refusing to serve her."
Then I left. As I walked away, I had the immense satisfaction of hearing Flora say loudly "Justin Bieber! You can't just REFUSE to serve customers!"
I don't know what happened, but I'm betting Biebs got the tongue lashing of the century. I just hope the customer got served.
Bieber's native tongue is not English. I'm pretty sure it's Persian. Generally speaking, I was pretty nice to Biebs, but some of my other coworkers were pretty short with her, because of her laziness.
Biebs didn't like one of my coworkers in particular, because she was really young, and she didn't respect Biebs at all. Not that Bieber deserved respect, but she definitely thought she did. My boyfriend told me that Biebs would call this coworker (and anyone else who pissed her off) bay-sher-reff. Now, that's how it sounds, but I have no idea how to spell it, so let's just go with Besherif. The point is, Biebs claimed that this meant crazy. But another coworker from a different department who also spoke Persian said that it actually meant "without honor" and was a pretty serious insult. My younger coworker just sort of ignored it, but I didn't like putting up with Biebs shit.
Because, as I mentioned earlier, I was pretty nice to Biebs, I had to be told second hand about this, because I had never heard it myself. Until one day. I don't remember what exactly happened, but we were both serving customers, and something I did annoyed Biebs. So she whipped out this word. "You Besherif, andlife," she snapped at me.
And I saw red. I was so angry. Generally speaking, I have a complex about having everyone like me, so when someone doesn't, it kind of hurts. So I was hurt. And then, I had heard from other coworkers that this was a really rude insult. So I was pissed. And I knew that I hadn't done anything to deserve being called that, so I was doubly pissed. Plus, she didn't have the guts to insult me in English, and was hiding behind her native tongue and the fact that I couldn't understand her.
So I turned to her and said very firmly (although my hands were shaking). "Don't. Do NOT call me that!"
Biebs tried to shake it off. "It's a joke. It means you're crazy. You crazy, andlife."
But I wasn't having it. "No. Never ever call me that again," I said.
Then I continued serving my customers, and tried to calm my shaking nerves. The customers looked slightly shocked, and I can't blame them. I had just been very harsh with my coworker. But I didn't care.
Biebs played it off to my other coworker as being unable to take a joke, but I don't think she was joking, and I don't think it's OK to call your coworkers names in other languages. No matter what Besherif actually means, if you can't say something in a language the other person understands, it's probably best not to say it at all.
I feel like I stood up for myself, and in the end, Biebs never called me Besherif again.