I am 22 years old and pretty fresh at my new office. I feel smug; getting this job was easy, and the job itself is easy enough, and it is so very nice to work 9-5pm, Monday to Friday, with benefits and paid vacation. Easy!
A few weeks into the new job, I ride the elevator with ten business men. We make small talk, and I say goodbye when we exit the elevator, but they don’t seem to be going into any of the other offices. In fact, they follow me all the way down the corridor to the very last office. My office. Strange, I don’t remember anyone telling me that there was a meeting first thing today? No matter. I will get these fine gentlemen settled and then I will perform my opening duties. But more and more people keep showing up in reception, so before I do anything else I get them seated in the boardroom.
But it turns out that there are two meetings happening, not one. I sheepishly walk down the hall and ask the people for Meeting B to please follow me to our conference room. Very quickly we run out of chairs for both meetings as more and more people show up, and I end up stealing chairs from my coworkers who are out at their own meetings or on vacation.
And then a third group of people arrive. Really? Now what? The board room and the conference rooms are being utilized, the only other meeting space available is… my boss’s office. I ask politely and he’s gracious enough. By now we’re out of coffee and water cups, too, and I have to go steal those from my coworker’s desks when they’re not looking.
And the phones won’t stop ringing. At times, all six lines are flashing and I can’t remember who is on what line and I am so tempted to close my eyes and clear all the lines and start fresh. I take a deep breath and pick up line 1 in time to hear *click.* I pick up line 2 just in time for line 1 to ring again. I transfer line 2 and answer line 1 and they hang up before I can even say hello. I go to line 3 and line 1 starts ringing again. Not wanting to piss off whoever keeps calling and hanging up, I put line 3 on hold again and answer line 1. CLICK. It takes everything in me not to slam the phone down or yell.
And then a fourth group of people show up and I want to cry. Where are we going to put these people?? My other boss is in this meeting and brings them down to her office, and I help her clear drawings and floor samples to make space around her work table. There aren’t enough chairs, so they stand around awkwardly. I don’t offer anyone coffee or water because there are no cups left.
And then I get an email from a partner, asking me to print 52 attached PDF’s. Sure, not a problem. I select all, and hit print. I let the printer do its thing for a while, but when I go to collect the prints, there are about a thousand sheets that say COMMAND ERROR. WHY, GOD, WHY? I can’t get it to stop. I try canceling it from the printer a dozen times, and it just won’t stop spitting out copies of the COMMAND ERROR document. Exasperated, I unplug the machine and the printing finally stops. I wait a moment before plugging it back in. Things are okay for three minutes… and then it goes right back to printing more COMMAND ERROR sheets. At this point I contemplate quitting. I unplug the machine again and put an Out of Order sign on it.
I ask the controller to please phone IT and she informs me that we don’t have IT, he left last month. I wonder how I’m going to push the duplex printer out the window and make it look like an accident.
While I’m away from my desk trying not to kick the printer, a courier arrives and takes it upon himself to find someone to sign for a package. The next thing I know, my boss is escorting him out of her office with a look on her face that very clearly says what the actual fuck, Rochele? and I want to dissolve into the floor in embarrassment. I tell her I’ll handle it from here and I walk him back to reception.
The phone rings from the board room. “Rochele, I need you to order lunch for Meeting A, it’s going to go on for a few more hours I think.” I call a bunch of places and no one will offer delivery on such short notice. The person who usually provides backup for me has already left to taker her lunch break, and it’s far too busy for me to leave my post. I timidly ask another coworker if she will please mind the phones and she barks at me, “I AM AN ARCHITECT, NOT A RECEPTIONIST. I DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE.” I am struggling not cry. Everything sucks. I feel like this job might be too much for me.
I go back to my desk and rehearse how I’m going to say no to buying lunch, but suddenly I see everyone from that meeting walking down the corridor towards the elevator. I AM SAVED! Until next week, when the meeting will continue, apparently.
The partner is hovering and asks me where his prints are, and I sheepishly tell him I’ve broken the printer. He sits me down and shows me how to cancel prints from my computer and how to make batches in Adobe. We plug the printer in again and pages and pages of the most beautiful documents that don’t have the words COMMAND ERROR on them come out warm and freshly pressed. I want to cry for a different reason. It’s just so beautiful.
The meetings end, the phones settle down, and the printer is quiet. The chairs are back in their respective workstations and I even manage to wash a few cups and make a pot of coffee. I realize it’s 4pm and I haven’t eaten my lunch yet, and really, I’m too tired to eat. I take a moment before launching into a slightly irrational, hunger fueled email about the importance of booking meeting spaces. What I really want to do is run off into the sunset and never come back, I start questioning my need to make money at all. Living in the forest far from a ringing phone or demon printer and meetings of any kind sounds a little bit like heaven.
At the end of the day, my boss calls to tell me that I did a great job handling the mayhem. I soften a little bit and put my plans to run away on hold for a while.