My office is next door to the office of a woman whose job it is to call people and make appointments to see a doctor in the clinic. I shall call her Bellowing Belinda. Sometimes, she varies the routine by calling people to remind them of their appointments. But mostly, she is providing new and, apparently, very complicated information to people.
She has never been particularly friendly. Never gone out of her way to say good morning, or to introduce herself. At least once, her office door has closed quite firmly while I was having a hallway conversation near it. I chose not to take it personally.
Maybe it’s that she has a job she hates (who wouldn’t?), but for whatever reason, we have never really hit it off. Granted, I haven’t exactly brought her some homemade cookies, but the one time I offered her some of the giant coffee I had just bought, she declined rather ungraciously. So I haven’t bothered.
Did I mention that the people she is calling are all either very hard of hearing, speak English as a second language, or have some form of cognitive impairment? It must be so, because she shouts. Very slowly, and repeatedly. All day long, she makes loud, repetitive phone calls. I have the spiel memorized. No smoking 4 hours before the appointment. No, there are no needles. Just a pressure cuff. Your appointment will take half an hour. You can drop him off at the door and park in the handicapped parking. You get the idea.
Another reason I have never warmed up to this woman is that she often speaks very shortly to her victims. Today I actually heard her ask someone, after 10 minutes of trying to spell “Booth” (no, there is no “r” in Booth), “Isn’t there someone else there that I can talk to?” It was so peaceful when she was on holidays this summer. I have no idea how her people got to their appointments on time.
I have usually just closed my door or put on something to block the racket. When it’s too distracting to actually get any work done, I will go on a field trip to the cafeteria or another department for a break. I actually find her incredibly irritating, and not because she plays a radio station that I don’t like, loud enough for me to hear. Which she also does.
Anyway, yesterday my door was closed and I was trying to ignore a phone call to a particularly deaf patient, when my other neighbour, Shirley, came into my office through the adjoining door, chuckling. I like this neighbour – she is friendly. We have lots in common, have spent hours chatting about work, or kids or home renovations. We have a kind of revolving door between our offices.
“Wow,” she said. “Can you imagine having her job? My door is closed and it sounds like she is right there in the room with me!” Her office is a full 3 doors away from Belinda’s.
With that one little offhand comment, I had an instant, major shift in perspective. One of those Kuhnian paradigm shifts after which everything which used to be blue is now green. Suddenly, it wasn’t Belinda that was irritating, it was her job!
Shirley was right. Belinda has an awful, frustrating, tedious, Groundhog Day-esque job. All of a sudden, rather than irritation, I felt sympathy for her. Now, the loud, short-tempered phone calls, the distinct absence of friendly overtures no longer seemed excessive or exaggerated, but rather simply a coping mechanism.
In a way I admire her. I have a tendency to run off to a new job when there’s anything remotely unpleasant about whatever I’m doing (and sometimes even when I love everything about it…). I could never do what she does, not for five minutes. And she does it day in and day out. No wonder she’s miserable.
Interesting how attitudes and opinions can turn on dime. What was true one second is utterly false a second later – what once is seen can never be unseen. I guess it’s why first impressions are so lasting. It’s why stupid Youtube videos go viral.
Anyway, this was really apropos of nothing, except to say that I would really like to find and bottle whatever it is that finally tips the scale one way or another. Then, I could rule the world! Mwahahaha!
Oh, darn it. You probably have a new opinion of me, all of a sudden. Sorry about that. Please disregard. If you can.