It happened again. I was in a public space, needing a few questions answered, and assumed the person I asked for help worked there, when it turned out she didn’t. I end up doing this to people all the time. People end up doing it to me all the time (I believe this is called karma). Making too much eye contact, while having Midwestern manners and wearing shirts with crisp collars, can be all it takes, from the hallowed hallways of Graceland to the produce sections of grocery stores, where I’ve skillfully directed those looking for bags of onions away from the aisles where onions are sold individually.
The difference between me and some of the others is that I don’t get too sensitive or defensive about getting mistaken for an employee because I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad place to end up.
At one boring conference downtown, I spent so much time idling around the kitchenette (where the coffee, tea, and continental breakfast items were spread out) by myself, attendees eventually assumed I ran the room, coming up to me, asking, “Can you give me more milk?” or “Has this fruit been sitting out for long?” or “Why is it taking so long to replenish the pastries?”
“Oh, I don’t work here,” I said, in the beginning, my mouth half full with a muffin, but I later couldn’t bear to miss a beat. After almost an hour in there, I had gotten a real feel for the place, knowing how and where everything went. Or should have gone.
“That’s quite a bit of dairy in 5 minutes, pal. Take it back, take it black, it’s better for you. You’ll have some cheese with the lunch that’s coming out.”
“Don’t touch that.”
“Shouldn’t you get back into the audience, all ears to the panelists?”
“Come on over here fella, I gotta bunch of red grapes that will change your morning.”
Wow, is it an honor to be considered an approachable expert about certain subject matters.