Friday, October 9, 2020

The thing that's hard about the front desk






Don't get me wrong, I love my hour shift at the front desk of my Pandemic Library. Pretty much all we offer here is computers by appointment and self pick up of items that have been requested, so out at the front entry desk I read, write, provide salutations, answer a few questions, and give out some brief instructions. It's all right up my alley.

My alley is an obscure alley, but it's my alley!

But there is one small problem. And it was perfectly exemplified in two successive patrons who entered the library in an extremely similar manner.

The first person came into our lobby. They did not acknowledge me at my desk. They even seemed to avoid eye contact. They walked briskly and with surety. They ignored any of our feeble signs about checking in at the front desk. They exuded a "Don't talk to me, I know what I'm doing!" vibe. 

But I have my job.

"Just here to pick up a book?" I ask.

"Yes." They answer curtly, without a glance or the slightest pause or hesitation. "What the hell else would I be doing?" They seem to say. Or "Jesus Christ! Do I look like an idiot?" They seem to say.

I get three or four of these an hour. The only time I get any tiny, petty, minuscule, justified revenge on these people is on the extremely rare occasion when we are at our maximum capacity of five, and I get to urgently call out to them to stop and wait, and I get to tell them they can't go in until someone leaves, all as if to say "You almost fucked everything up and gave a bunch of people Coronavirus!"

The second patron that immediately followed the first was their twin in every regard except irrelevant issues of appearance. This person also didn't acknowledge or look at me. They walked fast down the direct route to the library holds area, full of the same surety and confidence. With their every gesture they suggested they knew exactly where they were going and what they were doing.

But I have my job.

"Just here to pick up a book?" I ask.

Now they diverge. Instead of the curt "Yes" their confidence takes a hit. "I'm just here to look for some books?"

"We're not open for browsing." I explain. We're only open to pick up books that have been requested ahead of time."

A discussion ensues.

They leave.


I read. And I write. I answer a few more questions. I give some brief instructions. Some salutations are mixed in there as well. It's mostly pretty great.

But I have my job.


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