So, during my last week at home, I’ve been doing some temporary receptionist work. It’s pretty basic stuff—answering phones, greeting people, scanning things—but it’s easy enough and I like the people (and let’s be honest, I quite like getting to wear my Grown-Up Work Clothes that I got in Park City a couple of weeks ago). As the office gatekeeper, though, I’m also the person who comes into direct contact with everyone who wants something, no matter how pissed-off, angry, or just plain weird. So here are five things I’ve learned about being (and dealing with) a receptionist.
- No favors. Some people have seen perhaps a few too many movies where James Bond or the tough detective charms the receptionist and gets something they weren’t supposed to: access to someone’s office, say, or nuclear launch codes. These people, having seen these movies, think that they, too, can harness the secret power of becoming a Receptionist Whisperer, and have their wishes granted. Here’s the thing: if I can’t give you what you want, I really can’t give you what you want. I’m not allowed, and if I do it anyway, I get in trouble. You might be a truly lovely person and totally not Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, but I’m not about to risk it for someone I don’t know. Even if they do look like Daniel Craig.
- Be polite. This should be a no-brainer, and yet some people need to go back to Treating People Nicely 101. If you talk over me, or do the passive-aggressive sighing thing, or just fail to (yes, Mom) watch your tone, you might find yourself on hold for a really. Long. Time. That said…
- You will just have to wait. Even if you’re nice to me. Even if you are asking for something I can do. There are multiple calls coming in, and people coming in, and things to scan, and since I am not Doctor Octopus, it isn’t all getting done at once (of course, if I were Doctor Octopus, I would be too busy trying to destroy Spiderman to work at the front desk, but still). You decide not to wait? Fine. You’ve made my job a little bit easier, because now I don’t have to deal with you. But you still need that thing you need, and you’ll have to go back to the beginning to try and get it.
- Don’t tell me your life’s story. This kind of goes back to Rule One, where people seem to think that if you know why they need x, it’s going to make some kind of difference (it doesn’t). The reality is that unless I specifically ask you a question, I don’t need to know whatever it is you’re telling me. Also, I might not even be listening (see Rule Three) because there are other (hopefully more concise) people who also need something. Once I say “Please hold”, you have been put on hold. And not to be callous, but after a certain point I just don’t care. And finally,
- I don’t speak Spanish. I’m sorry. I know that in this day and age, a knowledge of Spanish is just essential. I understand that my inability to say “I’m sorry, so-and-so isn’t here right now” just makes us both frustrated. That said, of the three languages my high school offered, Spanish is the one I didn’t take. My entire knowledge of Spanish comes from a single summer working at Chik-fil-a and that time sophomore year when I was in a production of Jose Rivera’s Sonnets for an Old Century (love you, Cindy!), and sadly, being able to say “The storm turned my parents into rain” is more poetic than practical.
So these are the main take-aways from my brief stint as a receptionist. That, and the fact that our break room is almost always stocked with Diet Dr. Pepper and peanut butter crackers! Success!
Also: I leave for England in a week! Castles, chip shops, and cute babies all the way.