Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cowards, all!

Amanda deserves flowers
A woman just came into our office reception area from the park. "Do you hear that?" she asked. "Do you hear that high pitched whine out there?"

Amanda sits at the front cubicle in the main room, and she is charged with reception duties. "Um, do you mean the lawn mower?"

"Of course I mean the lawn mower! What do you think I mean? It's going on and on and on. No matter what time or what day of the week I come to this park, there's always some machine running around making noise and spewing out fumes. Can't they do it in the early morning, when nobody's here?"

She went on and on, alternately running her mouth and challenging poor Amanda to do something about it. Whenever Amanda opened her mouth to speak, hoping to explain that our unit does not have control over the landscaping contractors and their schedule, but that she would pass along the complaint and even give the woman the name of someone to contact - the woman charged onward, drowning her out.

She started telling stories about her grandfather, who loved landscaping, and invoked his holy name as someone who would be appalled at the fact that a person like Amanda could sit at her desk and not immediately reschedule the lawnmowers.

My office is a separate little room down the hall from the main area. I can't see the reception area. I was wondering whether Amanda was all alone in the room. I was biting my tongue, wanting to say "Hey lady, give her a break already! Do you think an Administrative Assistant is going to be able to intervene in another department's business?"

In my previous job, we often got some eccentric members of the public wandering in our reception area, and my office staff was pretty good and handling them. If I heard it start to spiral out of control, though, I'd go in and intervene, sometimes bringing one of the guys with me. What usually works is a kind of tag-team effort, offering a business card or a phone number, and promising to pass along their concerns right away.

"The Recreation Department, eh? Well, I'd like to be able to recreate maybe, but who can recreate with those mowers going all day. And those sprinklers! It's all wet out there, who can sit down? You're supposed to be able to sit down in the park!"

I thought about intervening, but realized at that point that another Administrative Assistant - me - jumping into the fray would probably not help things along.

So I waited until the woman ran out of steam, and I heard the front door close behind her before I stepped out the hallway to Amanda, who was laughing a little. "Wow, Amanda! I'm so sorry! I thought about rescuing you, but it seemed like it would have made it worse, so I stayed put!"

And then, my colleague next door, who manages the athletic fields, opened the door of her separate office. My boss's voice came from her office, just next to Amanda, but also invisible from the reception desk. Beyond her, the City's arborist poked his head out of his office, and at the very back of the main room, the financial administrator and manager of the Park Maintenance unit, came out of their offices, praising Amanda for her customer service skills. They are the ones who actually oversee the landscaping contract.

So we were cowards, every one of us!


Anonymous said...

As a young woman I was a receptionist. I looked very young for my age, but I put up with nothing. My boss always told me the Gatekeeper (what he called the receptionist) was the most important person in the company as we were quite often the only impression the public had of our business. And yes, one of my duties was to let customers rant and rave at me for some problem with the company while my Boss hid quietly in his office. I was after all the Gatekeeper.


smalltownme said...

I worked for an insurance company in customer service for many years. Fortunately we didn't have a lot of walk-ins, it was almost all phone calls. Our receptionists did not deal with the crazy callers, they put them through to customer service! All these years later, I still have to psyche myself up before I answer the phone.