Saturday, April 13, 2013

Here, you don't look busy, let me give you a blogpost to read

Every once in a while a patron will come to me and say something like "Here, you don't look busy. I'll give you something to do." The fact that this never fails to rankle me is probably at least partly indicative of my sensitivity to my slacker aspect. I have a sense of responsibility and pride, efficiency and mastery that balances this slacker aspect, but for reasons I am only able to partly understand I work best when no one is looking. And the universe conspires to hide my effort. I may have climbed into the ceiling duct-work to un-knot a vicious jam in our giant check in machine, raced down the ladder to answer the phone and request, find, and ready for checkout a book that a patron desperately needs but has just been told is unavailable. I'll swap two bins on the machine while answering a colleague's complicated procedural question and directing another to a supply item they need. Then, chaos managed, I will spot a cute book on ducklings I want to look at. I am certainly not enjoying it for more than 30 seconds when I look up to see one of my (many) bosses surveying me and the backroom. I am not much of a mind reader and certainly my boss could be thinking something sensible like "Whoa, where is everyone else? Thank goodness I can count on him to keep everything under control." or "I had no idea that chat with my friend would go on for so long! I was supposed to be covering the phones and the machine, yet everything is so calm and perfect back here, hmmm..." But they could also easily and even likely be thinking "What's he doing standing there reading again? Hasn't he read all these damn books by now???!"

Likewise I could be abandoned by some co-worker out at the front desk. I run (literally more of a jog) out to fix a printer problem, showing someone how to find their files on a computer on the way. I speed register library cards for a group of deaf/mute people (I can be chatty even when communicating in notes) while providing directions to someone else to one of our other branches and to the post office. I resolve a contested $80 fine issue to everyone's satisfaction and inform a patron as to the chronological order of a book series she has become enthralled with. Then, finally, there is a moment just for me. Ahhhhh. I stare briefly into space, thinking nothing, breathing. And I hear: "You don't look busy, I'll give you something to do."

Maybe what they're thinking is "Oh boy! It's my favorite clerk ever! I'll just tease him a bit."

Or not. Sure I'd like the patron to understand that the reason he doesn't have to stand in a line now is because I have just been very busy and very good at it, but I suppose there is a price to pay for my penchant to not work slowly and steadily, but rather at wildly erratic speeds. And it is true that I'm not doing anything just then, and if I am quick and efficient maybe I'll be able to stare into space some more, or read something. I'd like that.

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