dear you…brought to you by my frustration with being a glorified secretary for about six months too long

It’s official. Today is my last day as an office manager at P-town U. And hopefully my last day as an office manager ever, because I really would be devastated if I spent two years in an MBA program to be back answering phones. Moving on…in honor of this most blessed occasion, I am finally going to post a “Dear You” I wrote about a month ago…when I knew my last day was near, but still couldn’t see it.

Dear people who think you are being “friendly” by repeating my name back to me when I answer the phone,

I realize that it’s not your fault that you almost never hear my name correctly and say it back to me wrong; it’s not “Colleen” or “Carly” or “Kelly” or “Kari” or “Carrie” or, my personal favorite “Coley”, but for heaven’s sake, if you didn’t hear my name clearly (which obviously you didn’t), just don’t say it. It’s okay to just say hi, sans proper noun. Really.

And to the rare few who actually do understand what I’m saying, the answer is yes, it’s like Chloe on 24, or Chloe on Smallville. And no, I don’t watch either of those shows, but yes, I am aware that most people don’t like Chloe on 24 but some people do like Chloe on Smallville (even though I tend to think she’s a bit whiny and relatively annoying) and no, the fact that we all have the same name does not mean that we are similar, especially considering that two of the three of us are fictitious characters. Hello?

And to those of you who feel the need to tell me, over the phone, that your dog or rabbit or friend’s brother’s cousin’s wife’s little girl or, better still, that your unborn daughter is named Chloe, my curiosity is killing me. What can your purpose in telling me any of those things possibly be? There’s no value there. It’s just information. I mean, if you want to say something, I definitely do appreciate a simple, yet classic, “I love your name”. At least that has something positive going for it.

Sincerely,

A girl who loves her name, but doesn’t love how difficult it is to understand through the phone lines

Dear random strangers who think that you need to ask how I’m doing when I answer the phone,

You don’t. I mean, I suppose if you actually cared, that would be one thing, but most of you don’t actually care, so why the facade? I know that there are all of these social norms of “politesse” that dictate that it’s appropriate, and I’m not saying it isn’t, but really, why waste your breath? It’s not like I’m going to be honest (“actually, I’m having a really crappy day, and you?”) or that such niceties are necessary in order for me to help you. It’s my job to help you. I actually want to help you.

So in response to such a question, I will probably just say “fine”. And I will not be repeating the question back to you because a) you might want to be honest with me, but the nature of my office makes it so I don’t want you to be honest with me, b) when I have two lines on hold, and three people in front of me trying to check in or reschedule, I really, really don’t have time to chit-chat and c) while I care in the sense that you are a human being and I actually (despite what I say and what I write and how I come across) do like people, when I’m trying to help you, I need facts not feelings. It’s the people in my office that can help you with your feelings. I’m going to ask you what I can help you with and I am going to listen (I’ve been working really hard at listening) and then I’m going to do my best to get you what you want/need, but please don’t ask me how I’m doing. Please. It just wastes time for both of us.

Please don’t be offended and think it’s just you. As a general rule, I don’t like the “how are you” question from anyone unless it is totally sincere and I can be completely honest. Just tell me what you need and I will help you…I promise.

Sincerely,

A girl who really does care about people, but kind of hates insincere small talk

Dear people who want me to “take a message” for someone even though I offered to transfer you to that person’s voice mail,

Are you kidding me? I don’t get it. Are you still worried that voice mail will lose the message? Do you want someone to blame if the person doesn’t return your call? Is that it? You want to be able to soothe your ego by saying, “Oh, I bet that snooty girl (snooty because I didn’t offer to take a message) didn’t give her my message” instead of accepting the fact that the person you called just didn’t call you back. I mean, it’s not necessarily personal. Maybe she is just not good at returning calls. Do you realize how much time your “messages” take out of my day? I realize that you must think that just because I answer the phone, I must only be capable of that, but I actually have a lot to do and, guess what…I’m not going to “write” it down and hand deliver it. I’m going to type it into an email that the person may never look at either. So there!

With much frustration for your fear of technology and/or your need to have someone to blame,

Chloe

Dear people who call my office because it’s the only on-campus number you have,

I am not the operator and should you require the services of the operator, I am just going to transfer you to the operator, so maybe you should learn the operator’s number.

It’s not very hard. The last four digits are INFO.

Chloe

P.S. That’s not entirely true…I probably am going to help you get whomever you need on the line, it just bugs me when you so obviously don’t need my office or any office with which mine is affiliated.

Dear people who are calling to schedule a return appointment,

You know the routine. I’m going to try and find a time that works for you and I’m going to ask for your ID number. So why is it that so many of you never have your calendar nor your ID card at the ready?

Sincerely,

A girl who just doesn’t understand

Dear helicopter parents,

Did it ever occur to you that someday, in the very near future, you really are going to have to let your kids make their own decisions, even if they are really dumb decisions? Just curious.

Sincerely,

A girl who is extremely grateful that her mom trusted and loved her enough to let her make some really, really scary and difficult choices so that she would learn how to be a functioning adult (…I am functioning, despite what you all might be thinking)

To whom it may concern:

Despite all my frustrations, it’s not really about you (even if you are addressed in one of the above letters),

The thing is, I really do want to help you. I can only imagine what it must be like to worry about your child away at college for the first time. I do know what it’s like to be a student so overwhelmed by school that you don’t want to get out of bed. And I share the personal joy of a breakup so painful that the world could end and you wouldn’t care. I get it and I do want to help. It’s not really about any of you.

I’m just tired of answering phones. That’s all. I’ve been a glorified secretary (although, how much glory, I don’t know) for too long. And I probably like you, I just don’t like your behavior. Does that make sense? So please don’t think that I won’t help you or listen to you or care about you just because you call me Corey and ask me how I’m doing and forgot to get your calendar out and don’t have your ID card with you. I will help you. I may internally roll my eyes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. Okay, I won’t roll my eyes (internally or otherwise) because it’s one of my very biggest pet-peeves ever, but I might be a little irritated. Just know it’s not you…it’s me. Really.

Sincerely,

A girl who does actually enjoy helping people and has had some very rewarding experiences during her tenure as the office manager, despite the fact that she sometimes really hates answering phones

11 thoughts on “dear you…brought to you by my frustration with being a glorified secretary for about six months too long

  1. Yay, my favorite kind of Chloe post! For the record, I like both of the fictional Chloes. And I love the name Chloe. And it was on my list before Eva was born. But I digress…I detest small talk.Thanks for the link on helicopter parents — I had never heard of that term before! (I’m a bit of a hermit, remember.) And, although I understand the temptation to hover and protect, it’s just a bad idea.I don’t miss anything about being a glorified secretary, and I hope you don’t have to be one ever again. (And I also think you’ll be glad to have this record of how you felt at the end of the job!)

  2. This was awesome- seriously awesome. It took me right back to answering phones and the thankless job that it was with its little things that eat at you day in and day out.

  3. Sister, I am so with you on the “How are you” peoople. It immediately puts me on the defensive because I figure they’re about to sell me something.

  4. Seriously, every one of those is SO true, I love it! And to the anonymous commenter–you’ve obviously never worked an office/receptionist job before, or you’d relate–it’s not negative, it’s hilarious because it’s just so true!

  5. It’s funny because I can relate to your comments in many ways. Little things just start to drive you crazy after a while, but you really do want to help people.

  6. my personal favorite was”Can I have your ID NUMBER?””Uh yeah its j-d-a-w-g”….yes, your ID is nice, but I was specifically interested in your number

  7. I LOVE reading these posts!Don’t even get me started on the name thing…try living with a name like mine. It was the worst when Back to the Future was big because I’d get people saying, “Marti? Like McFly?” How original. And no one ever understands what it is over the phone. Ever.

  8. I actually really like Chloe on 24. I can’t understand anyone who doesn’t – she’s so awesome.Glad you’re done with work!

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