Reception (or, Feeling Stoo-pid)

New job, new insecurities.

So, I’m not sure how many of you know this, but in the past few weeks, I’ve been getting trained up to work on reception of the hotel I’ve been waitressing at. I was oh-so-proud about this new job when they offered it to me. It’s a reasonable amount of responsibility, large payments, working independently, making sure balance sheets add up etc. And, its not like I was completely unqualified for the position. I’ve done several years in customer service in educational institutions. I’ve worked with databases, I know how to answer phones, I can type at a speed that sounds impressively and satisfyingly quick in a quiet, empty room (you know the clickety-clack sound I’m talking about – it comes with however many years in administration, countless hours wasted on social media and pages and pages of writing of various types: essays, plays, stories, blog posts etc.)

Anywho,  I was very much up for the new challenge that reception would provide. At least, I thought I was. But, my first training shift was, to say the least, intimidating. In between my first and second training shifts, I realised that whilst I could remember various useful things I needed to do (‘At the start of the day I print off reports!’), I couldn’t remember other, vital parts of that information (‘But where are those reports kept…. And what are they called again?’) So, on my second training shift, I started taking notes. This made me feel much more comfortable. On my third training shift, I put my notes into action and felt much happier. Until I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to encounter (and note down the correct procedure) of absolutely everything that could possibly happen to me on a reception shift. There was, inevitably, going to be things that I wouldn’t know how to deal with.

My first shift on my own on reception was on Monday and I was lucky in that only two people were checking out. It meant I could spend most of my time slowly working through everything else that needed to be done. Or, in some cases, slowly working through things that I had done earlier in the day and then realised I had done wrong. But, still, by the end of the shift, pretty much everything was done correctly and I only had one situation I needed to have help with from my manager when she took over from me. I left work feeling pretty ok about myself and how the shift had gone.

Today was my second shift on my own. You’d think that after having done one shift on my own, things would start to get better. I’d start to get into a groove, start to understand more things. I’d be building on the good start I’d made on Monday and that no days would ever be that hard again. It would be onwards and upwards from here. Constant progress. Like a progressive utopian view of history, where the perfect reception employee version of myself would eventually be reached at an, as yet undetermined, point in the (hopefully) not too distant future. (If you get me. I don’t blame you if you don’t. I’m not sure I get me). Anyway, that is, of course what I expected of today. A small improvement on Monday. Nothing too fancy you understand, possibly not even noticeable to the naked eye. But, something at least to make me feel like I was getting somewhere.

But, unfortunately I spent most of the day feeling like the little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the leaking dike to stop his Dutch town from being swallowed by the sea (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Brinker,_or_The_Silver_Skates#Popular_culture:_the_legend_of_the_boy_and_the_dike). Except that, unlike that Dutch boy, there wasn’t just one hole. Every time the phone rang, or an email came in, there was a new problem, a new hole burst in the dike. Some of them were smaller, more easily dealt with. But, still, by the time my manager came in at the end of my shift, it didn’t feel like there was just one tiny hole that could be stopped with just one tiny finger (like that lucky little Dutch boy), but that I was literally holding together the entire dike with my bare hands and attempting to fight back the full force of a storm-racked North Sea with my puny little girls’ arms. It seemed like the more I learnt about the job, the more I realised how much I didn’t know about the job. And that was kind of scary.

To be fair to myself, things that were confusing and scary a week ago are now easy. They’re now the things that I’m looking forward to, because they’re the things that I know how to do. It’s the unexpected things, the one-offs, the things that I knew I was never going to be able to write down the steps of on my little notepad, that are the problems. And, I know from experience of these sorts of jobs that for most of these one-off problems it won’t be a matter of learning the solution to every problem, it’ll be a matter or learning how to respond and learning how to find the information that I need to work out a solution. It’s just that I don’t deal so well with a state of conscious incompetence. And that’s a shame, because it pretty much always feels like I’m always living in a state of conscious incompetence (I do like that phrase). Some people seem to effortlessly exist in states of conscious (or even unconscious) competence. And still others are quite happy in their state of unconscious incompetence (it must be nice to like yourself so much that you don’t need to worry or care at all about whether or not you’re doing things right or wrong). But, even when I’m doing something I know I know how to do, I get anxious, feeling like there might be something I’m doing wrong that I don’t even know about. Which is why I always get nervous around policemen. Just in case I just happen to be doing something illegal accidentally when they walk past and I don’t even know about it.

Not a particularly upbeat post. And I know I’m probably taking things way too seriously (particularly for a job that is, for me, just about making ends meet). But, if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s feeling stupid. And, feeling like other people think I’m stupid. And, today was just one long day of feeling stoo-pid.

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