Wednesday, October 7, 2015
The sadness of being liked
I am not the most voluble of all my library co-workers, but I can see to the top of the heap from where I am, and it's not very far away. Being a bon vivant is probably not my pure nature, but I feel better in my workplace when I am harmoniously connected socially to most of the people around me. So I do the work of sociability. On the whole it is a pleasurable work. But because it is still work I need my breaks from it. I hunker down into my quiet shelving upstairs. I retreat, after a long enough time, from an insistently chatty desk partner by writing on my computer, grabbing all the available patrons, and limiting my non essential responses to grunts. Also, at the end of the night I bond alone with the machine. Me and the giant check in machine against the world. It's quiet time. I need my quiet time to restore my spirit.
The funny thing is it can be hard to turn that sociability off even when I need to. Internally it takes a long time for my incessant chatter with co-workers to dial down. And in the meantime all that conversation with patrons and staff manages to carry on imaginarily inside my head. I unleash angry diatribes against the recent ghosts of co-workers who have sloppily, or even almost maliciously, left me their work to deal with; an unemptied bin, a stack of "forgotten" items. Or on the contrary I am occasionally giving thanks them in my mind for something done well, for something taken care of in advance for me, though admittedly that never goes on as long as the diatribe. I am also composing jokes for my co-workers, planning speeches, or even just remembering polite questions it would be a good idea for me to ask. The sociability somehow drives on even as I work in isolation.
But slowly, with enough quiet time, my spirit calms. The boil of words settles down in my head. My wider, calmer thoughts gradually start to come through. My heart rate plummets. I find a deep rhythm. I reach a touch of native introvert peace.
And it is at this point, invariably, that a co-worker finds me. At the library they are never really far away. They come from the front desk, they come from the phones, they come from a few fiction aisles over from me, and they say:
"You won't believe the patron I just dealt with!"
"I'm really excited about this weekend."
"Chet is driving me crazy!"
"You won't believe how funny this is. You'll love it."
And I come back from a long, long way away. Ah, well, go ahead and tell me. What can I say? I am here. I'm just glad you thought of me.