“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” -Immanuel Kant
Just replace “animals” with “receptionists” to understand my debut tirade. As the administrative assistant at Berrett-Koehler, I am the first and last face an author sees when entering and exiting our office. Here are the five ways authors treat me when no one else is around:
1. The Coffee-Girl: When authors come into the office in the morning, they often ask for a cup of coffee. Now, up until very recently we did not have a coffee maker, and it fell on me to inform them of this sad lack. For the ones who took it in stride and thanked me, I truly wish I could have pulled a cup out of thin air for them. To the ones who scoffed at me, I gave explicit directions to the Peet’s downstairs and hoped they got stuck in the elevator.
2. The Invisible Woman: Now and then I’ll get an author who throws open the front door, blasts past my desk completely disregarding me, and makes his or her way down the hall (presumably towards where the important people are). If I can’t get their attention by the time they pass the production office, I’m forced to get up and chase after them. When I finally catch them, I’ll either be met with a) an eager smile and apology because they just couldn’t wait to start visiting or b) a look of disdain accompanied by “Well, they know me.”
3. The Handywoman: Admittedly, I am quite handy. I made a couple of our bookshelves, a desk, a birthday card for one of my coworker’s wives, and self-Ikea’d the chairs in our reception area. I’m sure authors sense these skills in me when they request help setting up something, and I am happy to help. But “help” means me and the author working together – not me struggling and huffing and panting while the author stands at a distance with arms crossed and waiting impatiently.
4. Siri (the iPhone feature): No greeting, no smile, barely any eye contact, just orders or instructions or questions. Yes, your focus on function over superficialities is impressive but come on, throw me a bone here!
5. A Person: Genuine niceness with no ulterior motives – so awesome when this happens. This job can drain me dry so it’s just great to have someone chat with me, ask how I’m doing, even offer to get me something. These people are the only ones who’ll know of my encyclopedic knowledge of all things Star Wars, my penchant for all things furry and four-legged, and my sparking wit and humor.
Oh, and just so that you know, I do report to “the important people” about how you treat me. Consider yourself warned.