Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ms Direction

The building in which I work (ooooh, I'm a grammar goddess! Did you see that "in which" construction?) has a few peculiarities. There is the unfortunate tendency to leak when it rains which I've mentioned before, but that's structural and apparently nothing can be done. But there's a really strange bit that no one has an explanation for. (darn it, lost goddess status by ending sentence with 'for')

When you head out of the stairwell, you're faced with two options, unsurprisingly, right and left (okay, West and East for the fussy). But someone, in their wisdom, decided that all the East offices would be odd numbered, and all the West would be even.

This has, oddly enough, caused a little bit of confusion.

So there is a large sign posted just outside of the stairs saying, in firm white text: Odd ---> and so forth. Clearly this isn't enough, because beneath it is often a paper sign shouting in bold "Odd numbered offices are to the LEFT do not remove this sign." Naturally the sign has to be replaced every few weeks or so because some bright button takes it down.

This, in theory should be enough, but at least once a day some poor lost soul with big pathetic eyes shows up at the front desk and lisps "Th'cuthe me, but I was looking for..." and has to be pointed gently in the right direction.

Note that this is three levels of intervention - two signs and a front desk gargoyle whose sole job (okay, not sole job, but part of job) is to intercept the lost and forlorn and reorient them. However, nothing overcomes the inherent cluelessness of two sub-categories: the undergraduate, and the text-book salesman.

To get to my door you have to really try. You have to go through the front door, down the hall, round two corners, all the way to the end and to the left (dang, I just led the stalkers right to me!). Yet at least once or twice a week some poor lost lamb pokes its little head around my door and bleats "is this [instructor/professor]'s office?" and then has to be firmly sent on its way.

But the undergraduates are nothing compared to the text book people. These folks have little wheely bags that either contain samples of their wares (Anthologies! Grammars! Criticisms!), or possibly bribes in unmarked bills (this honestly just now occurred to me. Believe me, I'm frisking these people thoroughly before I let them go next time.). The men all look a lot like Gil, the sad act desperate sales-guy from the Simpsons, while the women all look like the frighteningly successful real estate woman from ditto. They have a firm, we-workshopped-this-knock address to the door, and a beaming, freshly Crest-stripped smile when you answer. Most of them, when you announce that no, you actually are not someone who will be assigning a text book for an upcoming course, will give you an insincere but rapid farewell. But not the last one.

"I'm sorry, I'm the web designer."

"I see. So you don't teach any classes?"

"Well, I think they'd notice if I tried."

"Do you try?" (hopefully - hey, she might still be a target!)

"Um, no. You see, they wouldn't pay me if I did that, and no one would be in the class, so I'd just be talking to myself."

"Oh." Dejected, but trying to make the last five minutes less than a complete waste, "well, if you did teach, what would your specialty be?"


"Sales and marketing. I'll let you know if I decide to list the course!"

And... poor guy... he thanked me.

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