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6 Service Industry Code Words They Don't Want You to Know

You always knew people were talking behind your back, the treacherous cowards, too afraid to say what they really think in front of you.

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"He's delusional and paranoid."

But did you have any idea that people could bend the very laws of reality and talk behind your back to your face?

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"You're delusional and paranoid."
"I KNEW IT. Or did I?"

This isn't necessarily about your flaws (although it might be). No, it's more to do with people in the service industry using a variety of code words when they need to talk about something without letting the chumps know what's what. (That's one of them.) And here are six others.

#6. Inspector Sands

If you happen to be traveling through England, riding lifts and coaches and mobiles and chippies and fannies about the place, you will probably at some point end up in London in an Underground station. There, if you should hear someone ask over the public address system for "Inspector Sands" to come to the control room, you should know that there is no such person as Inspector Sands, but that in fact there is a fire in the control room.

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Except a fire is called a "flammy" in England.

You can see the intent of a code word like this: They're trying to avoid a panic. Underground stations can contain a lot of people, who, if they knew there was even the slightest risk of them suddenly bursting into flames, would quickly transform into the mindless animals they're just barely not as they pushed their way through the cramped, twisting corridors to the nearest exit.

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They call it the "Way Out" in England, which doesn't seem that different, although they pronounce it really crazily.

Clubs and theaters have used a similar expression for the same reason, staff making panicked requests for "Mr. Sands" to get to the back room right fucking now. And in the same vein, if you hear a page for "Dr. Firestone" while you're in a hospital, that likely means that the hospital you're in has a fire on the third floor and that you should immediately begin shoving people as you run the other way. Or shove people out of the way as you run toward the danger. Just start shoving, that's the main thing.

#5. Proofreading

If you're visiting a newsroom (let's say for fun that you're there to deliver certain threats and ravings), keep an ear out for someone on a phone or public address system asking, "Could the editor please come to proofreading?" That might sound pretty innocuous to you, but it turns out that newsrooms don't have proofreading departments.

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"Iceland? That sounds like a made-up country."

Please save your lamestream media jokes for another occasion, however, because newspapers do in fact still proofread. It's just that that's done at a place called the copy desk. The "proofreading department" is a nonsensical term that someone who doesn't work at a newsroom wouldn't recognize, which makes it an excellent code word to use when a maniac has entered the newsroom and someone needs to call security without alerting him.

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"Could the editor come to the dangerous maniac holding pen, please?"
"Are you talking about me?"
"No, it's an industry term. Did you ever see Newsies? It's in there."

#4. Time Check

Yet another in our series of public address code words, each one deadlier than the last. In many stores, if the PA system announces, "This is a time check, the time is 11:45," or something similar, it has nothing to do with the time, because seriously, an IKEA doesn't need to be run on military precision.

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"Synchronize on 3, 2, 1, now. OK, team. Keep the Fnords tightly stacked, watch out for people shoplifting Mimlafts,
and make sure to push the Yuurps in housewares. Go!"

In fact, "time check" is the code word for employees to begin hunting around for bombs or other unattended packages. You know. The employees making minimum wage. Those ones.

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"If I die, do I still get paid for the whole hour, or is it pro-rated to the nearest quarter-hour interval? What should
my estate put on my time sheet?"

This is quite similar to the Code Adam announcement that many stores use to stop child abductions. Upon hearing that, employees are supposed to close doors and confront anyone who looks like they might be abducting a child, or even anyone with a child.

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"Excuse me, madam, do you have a receipt for that?"

So maybe just keep that in mind if you ever see everyone in a smock sprinting around in a store. If it's toward you, drop any kids you're carrying. If it's away from you, I guess grab a bunch of extra kids and run? Seems reasonable.

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Chris Bucholz

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