I was in a pretty good mood when I walked into the office. The answering machine was full of messages and there was a mug of coffee calling my name -- I was ready to roll into the workday with enthusiasm.
Then I heard your message. There was nothing rude about it -- you simply had a question to ask, and requested that we call back. But there was something in your tone -- an inhibited kind of sarcasm -- that made me leave phoning you back until the very last item on my callback list. I had a history of your account up on the screen and files laid out in front of me like a row of defense weapons, ready to respond in case of enemy fire.
I'll bet you didn't think a desk job could be so wild.
I was wary when I dialled your number, and it turns out that my gut instinct was more in tune with reality than I ever thought possible.
Maybe you had a bad morning. Maybe your kids were driving you crazy. Maybe your wife was nagging you. But whatever was going on, the ear of the receptionist at your local chiropractor's office was apparently the most convenient place to let loose your fury of rage.
I get that you didn't like how much the bill was for. No one likes having to pay bills, especially when they're more than we expect. But screaming at the girl who does the invoicing won't change the fact that your family received services and as a result, must pay for those services.
You should know that you've set a personal record for me. I'm a person who avoids conflict like the plague, and as such have never experienced being called so many different things in the span of a ten minute verbal tirade before. Yeah, you kept it PG, but there's still something demeaning about being called idiotic, quacky, insane, and a thief -- and so much more that I really can't even remember.
You didn't really want to talk to me. You didn't really have any questions. You just wanted to throw a tantrum and make sure that I knew that you were severely unhappy. I wanted to hang up on you. Thinking back, I probably should have. No one should have to be forced to listen to what you said to me. And let's be honest, you were far beyond the point of being rude.
You probably didn't know that you had wrecked my day. You probably didn't know that when you finally hung up on me, it took all I had to not collapse into a pathetic mess of frustrated and ashamed tears. You probably didn't know that I spent the rest of the day trying desperately to hold onto the shadows of personal dignity that I still somehow possessed; searching wildly for an ounce of confidence that you hadn't completely stolen from me. You probably didn't know that you had that much power over somebody you'd never met before.
I didn't think anyone did, either.
Being a receptionist requires some seriously thick skin. I didn't know that when I started, but I'm getting there. I'm getting better at letting things bounce right off me, at moving along and forgetting the scalding looks I get. Now that I'm almost a year into the receptionist gig, I have a great deal more respect for those people who sit behind the counter, telling you where to go and what to do.
Next time you step up to a desk behind which sits a receptionist, ask them a question. Give them a smile. They'll appreciate it. There's a pile of charts that have to be filed, a long list of angry people to call, jumbled accounts that need major spring cleaning, and fingers full of paper cuts that need some serious love and care.
Be nice to your receptionists. They're just doing their jobs.