Sunday, March 11, 2012

Amazingly Sweet (!)

Years ago, just after George Bush the Senior got out of office (post-1992), his wife Barbara was unusually candid in an interview (that I can't remember the source of now). She talked about a troubled time in their marriage decades earlier that she'd gotten through by doing charity work. Big Surprise, a rich lady doing charity work, but her honesty stood out for me at the time (when I was still a very callow 20-something and wasn't paying any attention at all to ideas about "how to make it through" since I was still just "barreling through" haphazardly).

Today I was thinking about what she'd said because I've recently been somewhat healed by doing, not "charity work," but just plain ol' regular work, 8 to 5. It wasn't just the regular schedule for 5 weeks that was healing, but more of having to work with the public, specifically students.

My temp assignment was being the receptionist for a college student-advising office: taking calls, making appointments, greeting students who came in. After nearly 2 years of being isolated and feeling miserable, I initially wondered if I could do it. I was not happy with my own life: Could I greet people and take their queries and try to help them?

As it turned out, I could, indeed. I felt comfortable there almost from the beginning (after all, I'd been around the campus for forever in my old days). It felt good to know that I could still put on a silky phone voice, as well as a kindly, matter-of-fact info-giving persona.

Every student that checked into the office had to swipe their ID card, which generated an e-mail to each, asking how their experience at the advising office had been. My temp boss passed on one subsequent comment to me: "...and the new lady at the front desk was amazingly sweet."

Wow! I came in a defensive and hurt person, trying to do my best at interacting with other people, thinking that I'd come off awkwardly... And here is a stranger saying that I was "sweet"! And "amazingly" so! :)

I understood then what Barbara Bush had been talking about.

p.s. My only snarky office moment: One day a 40-something man walked into the office. He announced himself: "I'm a parent." Only, I heard what he said as "I'm apparent." I responded: "Yes, yes you are! I see you right there!" He didn't understand what the hell I was talking about, but I quickly switched over to, "How can I help you?"

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