The receptionist is keeper of the bathroom key. I prefer the title, “
The job of Keymaster – Bathroom Key Manager on my updated resume – required no physical effort. But it did take up an inordinate amount of brain space. The circumstances surrounding the keys were a little dicey. There’s a certain etiquette to be mastered, a certain awareness required in the delicate two-second encounter that repeats itself all day long. Maybe you’re aware of the
From the front desk, looking out across the lobby, I could sometimes tell when an approaching person needed the bathroom key. They walked quickly, with a purpose. Their eyes said, “don’t bother me, I have pressing business to attend to.” I didn’t pick up on this my first day. I made eye contact and smiled at approaching people, trying to be friendly and make a good impression. I sometimes said, “hello,” and started a conversation. They were walking my direction, so logic and previous work experience suggested they wanted to talk to me. They didn’t. They needed the bathroom key. And I received a few odd looks for my gaffe. Even those who stopped to chat were probably just being polite. Clenching up, they probably thought, “he’s new, I’ll let it slide. But next time I’ll have to jab that key in his larynx.”
The realization that I was grinning at and making small talk with people on their way to the bathroom made me feel totally skeezy. It wasn’t as bad as the homeless guy in the
So I tried yet another approach… not reacting at all. I carried on with the phone answering, door buzzing and internet surfing, pretending not to see them. I didn’t look in the person’s direction at all. I didn’t even glance up or shift in my seat. If they wanted to talk to me, they would. And I would respond. This approach seemed to work best, vagaries aside. It got me through the rest of my time, relatively gaffe-free. Mastering the finer points would require a long-term stint is Keymaster. Here’s an example of a typical occurrence. Some people approached the front desk quietly and from behind, startling me and forcing me to look up and break form. I’d need weeks, perhaps months, of conditioning and simulation to avoid this reaction.
I moved on to another bathroom key-related matter… tracking exactly what people left on the desk, seemingly in exchange for the key. (This sentence makes me wonder if maybe I could’ve used my time more wisely.) Because the keys live there, the front desk serves as a way station. Staff and passersby left all kinds of stuff for temporary safekeeping… drinks, lunches, notebooks, pens, packages, gifts, money, purses, jackets, scarves, gloves, and more. Unfortunately, nobody left an