Anyone who has worked in an office knows that from time to time you’re asked to perform tasks that aren’t really part of your job description. I’m an Assistant Editor at a publishing company and one of my least favorite duties at work is covering for the front desk receptionist, “Emily”. There is a list of people in rotation who have this responsibility once or twice a month and I have been in this rotation since the dawn of time. I was recently promoted (yay!), and I was told that I would no longer have front-desk duty, but here I am several months later and nothing has changed.
Now normally, this wouldn’t be such a frustrating task…it involves covering a morning break, lunch hour, and afternoon break for Emily. I usually bring a book, or my phone or some small work-related task to pass the time. In the beginning, it felt like I was getting a break…I get to step away from my desk and have a change of scenery. But over the years that scenery has changed.
When I come to work in the morning, I always say hello to Emily. As I pass by her throughout the day, I usually give a little nod or smile of acknowledgement. But what I’ve discovered is that some people feel that, in order to be polite, they have to go above and beyond. I’m fine with a comment on the weather or a general inquisition on how my day’s going. But what kills me is when people feel like they have to entertain me when I’m at the front desk. Here are the top three offenders:
- The Jokester – There is more than one in our office but the one who makes me want to duck under the desk is “Benjamin”. Benjamin is a good-natured, upbeat guy (who I will write about more descriptively in a later post). He’s the kind of guy you’re afraid to make eye contact with because you know a long story full of dad jokes awaits you. Whenever he walks by the front desk, he undoubtedly has some tall tale to share. Most people find a reason to politely escape (“Oh, um, that meeting for that thing is starting now. See ya!”) But at the front desk I become his favorite kind of audience…the kind that’s trapped. I’m forced to nod and chuckle while internally screaming Do I look like I care?! until a call comes in to rescue me.
- The Martyr – A close relative of the Jokester, the Martyr feels bad that you’re trapped at the front desk and thinks it’s his/her duty to amuse you. There are a few people who fit this category but one stands out above the rest. “Ethan” is not a bad guy, just socially awkward. He doesn’t mean any harm, he just can’t pick up on social cues. I put my earbuds in when he’s approaching and pretend to concentrate really hard on my “work” but this doesn’t stop Ethan. He will stay and recite the same corny observations (“Hey, you’re not Emily! You’re an impersonator! Hahaha!). He doesn’t enter into full-blown conversations, he just wants enough of your attention to force you to take out your earbuds. Then, after feeling like he’s done his duty of rescuing you from boredom, he’s on his merry way.
- The Creeper – There are a lot of people who kinda lurk by the front desk while they’re waiting on something/someone and that’s to be expected. I don’t mind making light conversation for a few minutes with someone who’s waiting for their sandwich delivery. However, there’s always one person in an office that sends people fleeing. The Creeper. The Creeper usually sneaks up on you on purpose. As soon as you bend down to tie your shoe or look down at your phone or blink, she makes her way over so that when you finally look up, she’s already hovering over you. The Creeper wants to talk to everyone about nothing at all. Any and everything is fair game. The weather, traffic, the news, Honey Boo Boo, etc. And when they run out of material they become observational just to keep holding you hostage. (“Oooh I love those sandals, they really bring out your big toe…where did you get them?”).
Under the right circumstances there are escape routes from all three of these offenders:
- The Jokester does not like to be out-joked. Hitting him/her with your own dad joke usually sends them slinking away. My favorite? What do you call a deer with no eyes? I have no EYE DEER. What do you call a deer with no eyes and no legs? I STILL have no EYE DEER. You’re welcome.
- The Martyr feels like he/she is doing you a favor so the best way to get rid of them is to pretend that you are swamped with work and can’t spare a second to talk. Start typing really fast and rummaging through papers like a mad scientist.
- The Creeper can take anything you say and turn it into a monologue so engage as little as possible. I find a lot of shrugs and “I don’t knows” come in handy. On the most desperate of occasions, I’ve picked up the non-ringing phone as if a call was coming in. I’ve had many a fascinating conversation with a dial tone.
So there you have it. Sometimes you have to be creative with your duck-and-dodge skills. What kind of offenders do you have at your workplace? Drop a comment!