Guest response to “Dear receptionist” – from behind the window

by Rebecca Ambrose

I want to thank you for this post.

I work in human services, but sometimes it feels like the “human” element is missing from it.  Given my experiences, I am generally a very empathetic and compassionate person.

There was a man who came to the counter two days in a row whose services were transferred to a different division that handles his kind of case (disability). The man is homeless and destitute, living in his car.

He comes back to our office today (after I had given him a community resource guide listing phone numbers and addresses) wanting services our office does not provide.  I have a coworker who was bewildered at him being in the office again, since she told him yesterday that our office does not provide the services he needed and had arranged for him to have a phone intake with the appropriate agency.

I am glad he came to my window and glad I kept my composure when he seemed to be trying to shock me with his HIV status to try and get services that I was unable to provide.

He just kept telling me he was unable to go elsewhere because he was tired and could not walk so he needed me to help.   I talked to him about the resource guide and he explained he got a ticket, could not drive and had no idea where these places were.

I printed various maps for him as he explained his needs and took them one step at a time and he seemed to calm down and then was more able to listen and focus on what he needed to do next and explained his need for a notary for his birth certificate, which was a service my colleague and office could provide.

However, in another circumstance last week, I was not as patient when a caller kept calling in and then not saying anything even though I was greeting three and four times per call before hanging up.  Finally, three calls in, I waited and waited after greeting twice.

Nothing happened until a good two minutes into the call when I heard a person say, “I don’t know what is happening. The phone is not ringing.”

I answered hello and explained that I had answered the phone and that is why it wasn’t ringing anymore.

When I looked up the client, (the client’s record) he had a disability and I was sorry about my comment. I hope it didn’t make him feel devalued.

I think this article is good for many uses.  You never know what a person is going through.

And sometimes people slip up and their behavior is not perfect, HD or not.  I am recently guilty of being sassy with someone behind a counter who was not the source of my problem, just was the available face of an agency I could not  access (my clinic). I did apologize later and apologies do count for something.

You don’t want an explosion to be what people remember you by.


3 thoughts on “Guest response to “Dear receptionist” – from behind the window

  1. Wow! This is really exciting! This is the kind of stream of conscious we all need to hear.
    Thank u Sarah …….
    Thank u Rebecca
    I’m learning through others vulnerability and internal fortitude to be honest, truthful, raw and transparent.
    You are role models to/for me.
    I’m grateful once again ….. And learn more each day. We can all do this together!


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