Sunday, April 25, 2010

Brevity was not his strong suit

The best thing to come about out of last week was that I survived it.

That's not true in actuality but I think it makes a good opening line.

Anyway, work-wise, last week was a trial. We had one guy out on vacation and despite my busy workload, I had to cover about half of his work-load. He deals with people right off the street so you never know who or how many area going to show up. And every computer went down for a day and a half.

I was just trying to get to the end of the day on Friday when I overheard someone at the front desk getting a little loud. His volume was caused by frustration more than anger. My time filling in the desk of the guy on vacation had just ended and I was making sure that the next guy was as comfortable as possible when the loud discussion at the front desk began.

The lobby was full, which means about seven people were waiting in chairs; people who really have nothing better to do than to listen to what goes on at the front desk. The guy was getting no appeasement and not even a bit of courtesy, interjecting myself into the situation wasn't something I wanted to do but all of the people that normally deal with these issues were out and the front desk was being a very poor ambassador.

The guy was tall, about late forties or early fifties, clearly irritated and had a mountain's worth of papers to make his case.

When I was somewhat certain that the guy coming on was settled in, I took the couple steps to the front desk and stood next to the guy and listened.

"This here is Tim. He's one of the engineers here, maybe he can help you."

"Hi, I'm Peter Miller. I work helping people get by the scalpers at Fenway and the other day I was kicked out by the Police who were responding to a complaint by the manager at the Commonwealth Hotel but he was complaining about the other guys and not me but the police kicked everyone out and I have a letter from the manager that says I can be there..."

"Sir, I don't mean to be rude but we are very busy here," I said as I turned to the room full of people, "And I'm here to try to help you but I can help you better if you just tell me why you are here in this department."

"Well, that's what I was getting at. It's all kind of complicated and I think that the whole history of the situation is necessary."

"My problem is that this my not be the correct department to help you and if you just tell me briefly what you are trying to accomplish, then I can direct you better."

"I'm just trying to do my job and not have a repeat of getting kicked out of where I was and someone directed me to the Commissioner here. I was paid in advance and when I got kicked out I couldn't do my job and I could be sued if I'm unable to complete my job, and I'm here to see the Commissioner but I'm told that he is out and there is no one here that can help me."

"First off. That's true. The Commissioner is not in, the Deputy Commissioner is not in, the guy that usually deals with unique issues like you are talking about is not in. And secondly, it's a little unrealistic for you to think that you would be able to just walk in with all these papers and get to talk to the Commissioner right away without an appointment. But if I figure out some way that this department can help you, I will let the appropriate people know on Monday."

His problem boiled down to that he uses a Segway as part of his job because he has a disability. Segways are not approved to be on the sidewalks in my city but they are not explicitly forbidden either and I don't think that the police kicked this guy out for doing his job, they kicked him out for doing his job on a Segway, on a busy sidewalk, on one of the busiest days in the area - a Red Sox game day. The Segway is the problem, not anything else he was so emphatically trying to tell me about and if he had just said that at the beginning of the story I could have had him on his way but he knew that the Segway was the problem so he didn't want to bring it up because in other departments he got the bum's rush as soon as he said, "Segway."

He kept on trying to give me all sorts of documents and I kept on explaining to him that no one is going to read a mountain's worth of paperwork and that he should just compile a brief letter of introduction stating his dilemma and just submit that and then come in with all the supporting paperwork. He then informed he that not only does he have a physical disability but he also has a disability that makes it difficult for him to write letters.

So I picked four sheets of his information which included his I.D.'s, a letter from Hotel Commonwealth, his permit to hand out fliers, and something with his employer's information on it. I gave him one of my cards and wrote on the back the name of the guy that I was going to talk to.

It took about twenty minutes to get the guy out the door and at that point in time I pretty much gave up hope of completing all the thing that I needed to get done that day, so I stayed a little while longer at the permit desk to help clear the room of all those people who just witnessed the show.

I was complemented a few times on my patience by the folks that sat down, I would just shrug and say that it was part of my job and explain that there are people in City Hall that honestly will try to help you out, it's just getting the right information to the right people that is the tricky part.

Bottom line is: the front desk sucks.

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