I went out into the stacks to get the paging slips the other day. I passed by a patron who likes to talk at me. I say “at” because he doesn’t really talk with me. It isn’t a two-way conversation. He has some interesting things to say every now and then, but I have a job to do. I’m not going to get it done by talking with everybody who comes in who wants to have a personal conversation, rather than a professional one.
When I’m at the front desk I’m kind of trapped. When I’m in the stacks I can walk away, and I do. I’ll listen for a bit, and then I have to go.
This patron said “How come you weren’t there to greet me when I came in this morning?” He’s old, but he’s not an old regular. He’s been coming in for about six months. We talk sometimes, but he’s not my friend.
This happens a lot at work. The line blurs between “friendly” and “friend”. It is important to be friendly, but professional. Some people don’t see the line and assume that we are their friends just because we are friendly.
He’s said odd things like this before, and I think he thinks he is being funny, but there is some entitlement going on here. He thinks he is special, and that he deserves special treatment. Note that he didn’t say “I’m sorry I missed you when I came in this morning.” The emphasis is on him getting greeted by me, not on us seeing each other. It isn’t an equal relationship. He is higher, in his mind.
I said I was at the chiropractor and then the dentist. I didn’t have to tell him any of that, but I don’t mind. It isn’t private. It wasn’t like I was at the gynecologist.
So he said that chiropractors just treat the symptoms. I said “Not this one”. I used to think chiropractors were quacks, but this one has changed my mind. The realignments are healing me. He’s cured my scoliosis without surgery.
I’ve learned that mental problems can cause physical problems. Most people say that you can fix the physical problem by addressing the mental or emotional problem that caused it. I’m starting to think it works both ways – that the mental or emotional problem can be addressed by fixing the physical problem. I’m working on the mental and emotional problems at the same time. I’m thinking of it like I’m digging a tunnel through a mountain, but I’m working at it from both ends. I’ll get it completed in half the time this way.
But I didn’t want to get into any of this. I didn’t have the time or the desire to have a deep conversation with this guy. It wouldn’t change his mind anyway. He thinks he’s right simply because he’s older.
I chose to walk away after he disagreed with me as I’m walking by, pushing the cart. I obviously have something I’m doing. He crooked his finger at me, and waves me back. I came back a step closer, but just one. He continued with his line “Chiropractors just fix the symptoms”. I repeated “Not this one”. I realized that this was going nowhere. I turned and walked away from him and the conversation.
He might be mad, but he has to understand that I’m not there to be his audience or his student. I have not entered into a contract with him that says I’ll hang on to his every word. Plus, I don’t like unequal relationships. If the opinions and feelings of both people are not valid, leave me out of it.
I didn’t ask for that conversation, so I felt no need to continue it. Years ago, I would have stayed, out of a sense of politeness or duty. I would have stayed, and felt trapped. I would have hated it too.