Happy To Be Here
Some things I only learn through a joke. This one came when I was standing at the check-in desk with one of my co-workers. We were making conversation because it was cocktail hour at the library. It is always cocktail hour when you work with other people in public service except there are no drinks or hors d’oeuvres and you have to constantly keep busy. So actually it's like being a host at a cocktail hour, a crowded one, with lots of demanding guests who you didn't get to choose. And though I said there are no drinks most people around you do seem a trifle plastered.
So there I am chatting with my co-worker and she says:
"I really don't want to be here today."
Not only is this an extraordinarily common comment for me or one of my co-workers to make, but, it struck me then, it was a comment I had heard with some regularity from this particular co-worker. What was unusual was that this person not only professed to love her job, but she had made some serious and, frankly, heroic efforts, through a series of personal trials, to be at this job. I responded with what I thought of as a joke.
"We're sort of like opposites," I said (I am less erudite when speaking) "You say you love working here, but you never like actually being here, whereas I say I despise coming to work here, but I am always delighted to be here." Usually I am at least a little funnier than this and slightly nicer and while I was verbally trying to backpedal away from this ungainly statement, my mind, nearly of its own accord, was reeling. Am I actually, secretly, always delighted to be here?
I loathe the tedious, unending, mundane work. I watch the clock incessantly, trying to bring breaks and closing time into being through the sheer force of my longing. My co-workers can sometimes irritate me to the finest center of my being. Patrons won't leave me alone and are entitled not to. Management regularly befouls the place and batters at my dignity. It is terrible.
But, people are nice and funny and heartbreaking. I love being the little king of little rules, working my tiny, tiny corner of the world's justice. I love the deranged theater of it all. I love dodging work, complaining, working too hard in adverse circumstances, working to not work. I love knowing so many people but none too well.
So am I always delighted to be here?
No, ugh, don't be silly. Of course not. Absolutely not! But sometimes, in some failed joke of an observation, out of the corner of my eye, when the lights coming through just right, the answer is, god help me, Yes.