Monday, December 28, 2009

May I Help You?


One thing that alternately gratifies and bugs me is how often strangers look at me and think I'm their go-to person.

For example, I used to work as a computer lab consultant in graduate school. Lab consultants are basically face-to-face help desk people, so if you go to a computer lab to use a PC there and run into trouble you can ask for help. (Also, they enforce lab rules such as no food or drinks in the labs.)

People used to actually approach me when I was off-duty, and not all of them seemed to even understand the concept of "off-duty". Some of them became visibly and audibly unhappy when I told them that I was off the clock and therefore not available to help them. The kicker: A couple of times they even approached me in totally different places, such as a cafeteria, or another office where I also worked.

Once in a while, when I'm walking in a store, someone will ask me where such-and-such is located or something like that. If I know, I say "I think it's over there, but just to be sure you should ask someone who works here - try the customer service desk over yonder." If I don't know - or don't feel like being bothered - I would say "I don't know - you need to ask someone who works here" (plus point the way if I know it).

A few nights ago, I waited for Emily at a Metrorail station. A gentleman came up to me and wondered if the area was the only place at the station where passengers got off the escalators from the train. I responded that as far as I knew it was, but to be sure he should talk to someone who worked for Metro, and pointed to the station manager's booth.

He opted to stand there and wait in the same general area I was in. A few minutes later, a uniformed Metro station manager saw us - and came up to him, asking if he needed help. He asked her his question, and she confirmed that yes, all the passengers getting off the train at this station came through this area. She did not give me a second glance.

Life is interesting sometimes.


Corrie Howe said...

Great to see you. Missed reading your posts for awhile. I think it is a compliment to you that you are so approachable.

I don't know many adults with A.S. but I know lots of kids and teenagers. I think the "approachable" ones are in a better place. It is already hard for them to make friends, so to have people approach them makes it easier.

Just my thought from my observations over the last six years.

mama edge said...

You must give off an aura of competence. Or maybe you walk around in uniforms?

My dad, a doctor, has similar experiences, with people walking up to him at parties and practically asking for free physical examinations right then and there. I don't know why people are so clueless about boundaries between on-duty and personal time, but I'm glad you can so easily set them straight.

Do you feel resentful after having to rebuff people in these situations?

(P.S. LOVED your comments at my blog -- very useful, as always. That aura of competence is visible even online.)

Mama Coyote said...

I think people do that in general... maybe it's a camraderie thing? "We're all here in the Metro together..." And the employees are authority figures so maybe they don't want to talk to them?

I don't know. People used to tell me their whole life stories (or at least random personal/private/embarrassing details) in the grocery line or on a bus.

Now they do it at Gymboree.

I dunno why people are the way they are...