I work as a receptionist – I’m sorry “Administrative Coordinator” (the fact that the boss felt the need to dress up my title for me is its own brand of crazy, but that’s another post for another time.) When I took this job it was part-time and temporary and I was seeking normalcy and dullness. After almost 5 years as a non-profit consultant I was full up on crazy, and I wanted structure and quiet and someone else telling me how to organize my day. And I got it. And it took almost five months before I started to feel the urge to be an active participant in my life again instead of just a passive observer. At that point I was offered a full-time staff position. I hesitated for a moment, suddenly feeling stifled and oppressed at the idea of committing to stay in the quiet, dull, Designed-by-Staples environment that had moments before been my savior and safe space. My biggest concern was that if I spent all day, 5 days a week with the same small group of people I’d miss out on all of the random, spontaneous interactions with the myriads of weird people who exist out in the world.
When I was consulting I spent much of my time at coffee shops, networking events, meeting with prospects, and just generally being out in the world. And I almost never had a day where I didn’t have at least one crazy interaction or observation. It was fodder for my other blog, it was fodder for fiction writing, it was fodder for conversations at the next networking event or client meeting. And if I was in an office all day I’d lose all of that, wouldn’t I?
Now, I’m aware of two things:
1. Crazy can exist in offices. I worked at two of the craziest places in DC before going out on my own, so I know. But that’s bad crazy. That’s emotionally enmeshed with your co-workers, crying in the bathroom, reading-employment-law- at-night-so-I-know-my-rights, kind of crazy and that is NOT the kind of crazy I was looking for, but was the only kind of workplace crazy I knew.
2. after hiding out in this office for 5 months, I didn’t have a lot of other options to pay the bills, and while I was much recovered from my burnout, I wasn’t 100% up to par yet.
So I took the job. And almost immediately realized that there’s still plenty of good crazy to be found, I just have to start noticing it again. To wit:
Part of my job is to receive UPS deliveries. Today we had a substitute delivery guy. Our normal delivery guy is tall and built and has beautiful blue eyes and a smile that makes you think of summer. Today’s delivery guy was small and round and had a Russian accent and I immediately name him Boris. As I’m signing my name he says “So Lady, let me ask you question” (remember to read his parts with a Russian accent). I was a little put off at being called “Lady”, but decided that, like most things, it sounded less offensive with an accent. So I said “sure.” He said “You ship Fed-Ex sometimes, no?” I said “No, we only use UPS.” And he says “Ahhhh” with a sly smile and I feel like I’ve entered into some kind of negotiation. Then Boris says “But sometimes, sometimes you use the Fed-Ex, yes? Maybe just a little?” And I smiled and said “Um, no. We only use UPS,” and then for some reason I hear myself say “We sometimes get Fed-Ex deliveries, but we can’t control that.” Boris nods and smiles slyly again, and takes the electronic pad back from me without making eye contact and then says “Ok, so you only once in a while use the Fed-ex, heh?” And I don’t want to be snippy with Boris, but really, did he think I wasn’t understanding the question? So I say, more firmly this time “No. No Fed-Ex. Only UPS. Why do you ask?” And he says “Ah, the bosses, they want the drivers asking. Asking for the competition, so they can fight!” And he pantomimes boxing for a moment. I say “Ahh.” Then Boris says “OK Lady, only UPS. OK. What’s your last name?” (because everyone except Blue Eyes asks that after I sign). I tell him, and he says “Ahh.” Looks at me for a second then says “Say name again?” I repeat my name and he laughs and says “Ok, lady, just checking.” And then he hustles out the door.
It took me a second to appreciate that I’d just been face to face with some good crazy. I almost skipped right past it as I went to deliver the packages to their recipients. And when I realized I started to laugh and it felt good, and I realized that in my old life, I saw crazy everywhere because I looked for it and celebrated it, not because of where I was spending my time. I had this urge to find Boris and hug him, but that’s borderline bad crazy, so I didn’t. Instead, I sat down and created a blog dedicated to cataloging and sharing and celebrating the variations and striations and oddities that make life interesting. At least to me.