Kinds of ClerksThere are as many kinds of clerks as there are stars in the sky, or, perhaps, species of beetles would be a better metaphor. Either way our multi-variousness does fall into a more limited number of types. All of these types are at least a little important in creating a well functioning group or desk, and though some kinds of clerks are more important than others, some more rare, and some painful to everyone involved, all recur regardless of hiring practices. A management can crush or flatten these archetypes, but all they might ever achieve is a kind of warping, for these styles of clerking are tenacious and the community of all clerks significantly thrives according to its own interior, unconscious rule.
The Important Clerk.
This Clerk rarely idles. They can be engaged in any number of tasks, often 2 or 3 at once. They are almost managerial in that they have so many things in their charge. They do tend to get a lot done although about half of it is completely pointless. This is often expressed as obsessive attention to detail. Nevertheless they can be an ideal person to go to in order to find out where something is or how something is done. They may take the matter entirely off of your hands, or, if not, you can count on them as a firm friend and partner until the matter is resolved. I say that as a Clerk though. You, the Patron, with your problems and needs, are a speed bump to both them and their mission and must be taken as quickly as it is possible to do without ruining their suspension. You will know this when their wheels hit you.
The Bureaucratic Clerk.
Walking slowly, speaking in a monotone, slavishly devoted to the pettiest of rules, unwinnable and relentless, this, historically, is the classic clerk. This clerk is neither a threat nor a punishment. This clerk is a point of reference, the darkness into which all light can shine. This is the clerk that exists as a creature of higher powers; the expression of the most powerless institutional cog expressing their crudest power. This is the face of rules unadorned by whimsy, idiosyncrasy and humanity. This is the backdrop of all clerking. Understand this clerk in all your dealings with clerkdom and then you will be able to appreciate clerkdom's subtle, magical colors, the ones that tend to look like a variety of muddied grays otherwise.
The Smiling Clerk
At first you will think you have struck gold. And you have, unless the complexity of your transaction goes beyond what a simple machine could do. The slightest glitch will bog this clerk down as if they have been suddenly confronted with someone speaking in Acadian. Finding something a foot to their right will overmaster them if that is not exactly where it normally goes, and often if it is. They will need assistance. They will blithely pass through and on grave and deep reaching mistakes. Their line will move with an untraceable slowness. They may easily, without their knowledge or your own, involve you in a future multi-transaction clerical nightmare. But, as well, they really will never mean any harm to you. Indeed they will be devoted to serving you. Their pleasantries will be as bright, clear and pitch perfect as a fine summer pop song. They will be prompt, well-dressed, and kind spoken. Adored by Management, they will be the shining, glorious embodiment of professional courtesy.
The Entertaining Clerk
Loquacious, funny, and occasionally wise, this clerk is inclined to include even you, a patron, in their traveling show. Helping to create an identity for a place this clerk might make you feel like you’re part of an actual community, like Cheers, or MASH. You might even find yourself saying a witty thing or two around this bon vivant. The entertaining clerk is highly visible, going from conversation to conversation, and seems to be on some strange kind of break nearly all of the time.
The Industrious Clerk
Working without fuss or bother the industrious clerk takes on the endless, mundane work of clerking with a steady will. This clerk sees voluntary tasks as part of their job as well. They are generally fair minded and pleasant with the patrons (though naturally somewhat irritated as well), and they get along peaceably with their co-workers. Their phlegmatic view, however, does not extend to their intense bitterness in the face of the perfidy of management. That bitterness inexorably grows until they move on or can retire.
The Rogue Clerk
This clerk starts out congenial enough. They are also a bit of a reformer from the start. Their reforms are no better than anyone else's and sometimes a little worse. A couple small reforms may be indulged by managerial powers because the rogue clerk is well dressed, pleasant, industrious and sensible. But as their uninspired reforms begin to flounder against the ceiling of their lowly station, and as their misguided zeal kicks in, they usually suffer an emotional breakdown. They may or may not be hospitalized. We don't know, they're just gone for anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 months. The disappearance is shrouded in secrecy and vague rumors and spottings. When they return they are calm, faultlessly polite and kind to patrons, and no longer speak to their co-workers unless it is absolutely necessary, sometimes not even then. The rogue clerk is rare, but comes along like clockwork when staff unification is needed.
The Clerk as Hero
Every good clerk will glide beautifully, at least once in a while, into this archetype. The clerk hero may be seen leaning over the shoulder of a colleague in tense negotiations with a patron and gently, sensibly and swiftly resolving the issue to everyone’s satisfaction. They may appear out of nowhere with a book 3 staff members have given up on finding, and present it in a way that indicates no one was at fault for not finding it before. You will know them best, perhaps, as the fifth or sixth person you have talked to, the one who recognizes the justice of your cause, and who cuts a swath through every rule and everything you have been told before, to bring you peace, justice, and resolution. You may say that this is merely a clerk doing their job, and you would be right. And so is a Fireman, running into a burning building, for your cat.
And who am I, your humble scribe? What kind of clerk pulls back the curtain? I will do you the favor of not lying to you. I certainly lean towards one or the other. And some of my more indelicate colleagues, indeed possibly even you, might point cackling at the entertaining clerk, and say that is me. But those who see, and those who know me better, know that I am more and less than that; for I am a clerk, and I am all of these.