Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ready at desk

Sometimes lately when I am at the front desk I like to stand there, looking alertly out upon the library, with a pleasant, welcoming smile on my face. When people come to me, as they do, for help, I help them, and then I return to the alert, welcoming posture.

I don't do it much, but when I do it makes me feel very daring.

Perhaps you are wondering why it makes me feel daring. Perhaps you have an inkling that this is the absolute best mien for any clerk at any service desk. Perhaps you suspect that this is exactly how one should be between patrons.

You would be right. 

And yet, almost no one likes it. Almost no one approves when I idly (but alertly) stand facing the library, ready to be of assistance. So few people really like it that I only do it when I'm feeling like a bit of a rascal.

My managers don't like it because I am not getting anything extra done. There's always a lot of extra to get done.

My co-workers don't like it because either I am not getting anything extra done, or, more likely, because I am not entertaining them. The hours get pretty long.

Patrons who don't need help don't like it because it looks like their tax dollars are going to waste. They may be in the library looking for a job, or because they have nowhere to go and there I stand, just smiling and raking in their tax dollars.

And even I don't like it because I get bored. I get bored and restless. I could be entertaining myself with reading, writing, surfing the Internet, chatting with my co-workers, or getting a few library things taken care of. But instead I am all there. It is hard to be all there. If it were easy to be all there, we would all be the Buddha.

The fact is that standing there all pleasant and ready for business doesn't look so good. It looks unmotivated, unbusy, slackerish. If I feverishly look up exotic coffees on the Internet, listen to my co-worker tell me about flea market finds, or look through a book before putting it on a cart in order, I am being completely non productive, but I look a great deal like I might be being very productive. I look like I am super busy and engaged.

Just look at this dynamic library with the workers all flapping around! That is some place! How do they keep up?

So naturally nobody likes it when I just stand there, openhearted, for the next person who needs help. Nobody! Well, nobody but the people who need help, who, I sometimes madly dare to believe, are the people I am standing there for in the first place.

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