I’m sitting at a borrowed computer, looking out at a single crow on the powerline—we’re both looking down on I-5 hurtling past, happy to have already landed for the morning.
I’m drinking bad coffee made marginally better with an extra shake of powdered creamer. I’ve got minimal supervision and even less responsibility for the day, save the very important task to “just be here.”
I’ve got streaming blues for now and lemon yogurt for later.
I just heard three women singing “Happy Birthday” in the conference room down the hall, followed by a subdued but delighted chuckle and thanks, and I know that any minute they’ll all go sauntering past with their celebratory doughnuts or pastries perched on paper napkins, back to their own desks and phones.
Hello again, reception. It’s rather lovely to see you again.
It’s been about 6 years since I jockeyed a front desk and phone line. But yes, of course, I know there is much more to the job than simply being there. There are schedules and billing programs and checks, forms upon forms, pamphlets to be updated/found/photocopied/distributed. You are the facilitator of celebrations, and the keeper of the birthday and anniversary schedule.
And the calls… a tide that ebbs and flows with the coffeebreaks and lunch hours of the business world, teeming with agressive solicitors masquerading as personal acquaintances, wrong numbers galore, and eager/nervous/irate/confused clients requiring soothing/assurance/a firm hand/3 hours of research to answer a query. Message pads, online call logs, transfer codes, a dozen voice mailboxes to check, and a particular ability to blend detachment, pleasantries, and common sense.
Depending on the business, you choose your alliances and lunchtime walking partners carefully; the other admins, if there are any. Your boss, but only if you’ve been there a very long time. Maintain professional distance from the executives, but know the most personal details about everyone else’s weekend, girlfriend, wedding planning, secret job search, children’s school projects… you are their anchor and twice-daily checkpoint with reality outside the office walls.
See, I remember how hard it is. Usually.
But today, I am here for today only. Today, I have no accounts, copies, mailings, schedules, or politics to maintain. Today, it’s just me and the phone and my music in between, and a single document to edit throughout the day.
And even though it was not the end point of my particular trajectory, I am thankful for the day’s assignment, and for the chance to reminisce and appreciate the skills I gained “at the front line.”
FYI: Receptionists love when the flowers are actually for them.