07 November 2001
Well I don't see anything in your excessively exhaustive rules about not
writing, ma'am. No email, fine. No internet, natch. No reading of magazines,
books, or newspapers; no coloured nail varnish; no strong perfume; no
bracelets; no personal calls; sure! No problemo! But, ma'am, on your list
I see nothing regarding opening a fat heavy white Paperchase notebook
with a Fawn Gehweiler drawing stuck to the front cover and a WINK (Hoxton
fashion boutique) sticker glued to the back. I see nothing forbidding
the grabbing of a purple Pilot G-Tec C4. I see no ruling pertaining to
the scribbling down of details of my friends' sex lives. Though I am sure
this is just an oversight on your part, ma'am. For you are truly an efficient
and proactive Head of Reception and Office Manager, ma'am, and I would
indeed like to commend you on your skills.
You are harsh, ma'am, but fair. You run a tight ship: but the boat does
not rock too much, indeed. Ma'am, I would like to commend you. The headset
you provide us with does not snuggle inside the ear canal, leading to
early deafness and a hideous infusion of a stranger's earwax: it is a
padded, folded black fabric - leather? Pvc? Pleather? a quick sniff cannot
verify - that rests lightly on the ear and does not cause excessive sweating.
Your interactive intranet-based internal phone list is far and away the
best designed and most efficient I have ever used: the caller places a
request; the first few letters of the name are typed in, and, bing! The
screen displays the staff member's full name, photograph, extension number,
job title, line manager and co-workers in clickable user-friendly glory.
This, I like.
Ma'am, you must note that it is extremely rare for a state of liking to
be reached by myself when I am doing this kind of work. When my left ear
is all flattened and hot; when a slender steel microphone sits an inch
from my lips; when my cheeks and tongue ache from the plum they have been
arching around all afternoon (b/f says that the blow jobs I perform on
days when I have been doing this kind of work are sublime, for the requisite
bits are already flexed and limber): in this state, ma'am, I am unhappy:
generally, I like nothing.
It is in this state that I have spent the past week. I buy Alpen, expensive
and sugar-dusted, to tempt me from my bed. My skin, unaccustomed to make-up
before 9am (nay, before 9pm), rebels. I ride the shiny black German bike,
but, unusally, I do not pretend I am Dutch as I do so. I don't imagine
canals. I don't sing songs at the top of my lungs. I eschew earmuffs.
I compress my mouth into a line, and every day I cycle the wrong way down
St John Street. Crossroads are so confusing.
I marvel at the physical perfection of my co-worker. Her name alone signifies
elegance... Elle. The mouth forms a slow 'o'; the tongue caresses the
back of the teeth. The letterform her name makes is elongated and angular:
a model reclining on an elbow, perhaps, or an upended lintel. Elle has
the most exquisite hip-to-waist ratio I have ever seen. In the afternoons
she reaches into her handbag: she heaps grapes onto the desk. They are
rosy-fingered as Odysseus' dawn; they flush pink to match her lips. She
tells me she loves them. I have long since ceased coveting beauty: now
I treasure it as a gift freely given. My eyes feast all week, as my mind
Why am I here? Accursed gender-specificity; headset jockeying is as female
as endometrial shedding. 'Receptionists', quotes the American Bureau
of Labor (sic) Statistics website, 'are charged with a responsibility
that may have a lasting impact on the success of an organization - making
a good first impression.' Your list informs me to smile, ma'am: and
smile I do. In the bathroom I rub vaseline on my teeth: at the desk, my
lips slide slickly into the requisite grimace. Were I male, I would be
- what - working in a post room? A courier?
I am too sullen to be boycrazy, though it might provide respite. The couriers'
hirsute faces trap asphalt, speeding cars, oily puddles, gyratory systems,
radio crackle, breezes. They fill the reception area with the scent of
freedom. Their feet clack briskly across the wood floors: they thrust
objects at me: pens, delivery notes, packages. Then they are gone. I shift
in my chair; my buttocks are numb. The pressure of my thighs makes me
contemplate depilation. I make a Z shape: rest on my toes; my useless
high heels are daggers pointing to heaven, threatening the vengeful god
that traps me here. I drop my pen and reach for it: am jerked to heel
by the headset.
'Receptionists tend to be less subject to layoffs during recessions
than other clerical workers, because establishments need someone to perform
their duties even during economic downturns.'
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