Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Greg Triggs - Boy Receptionist

My father ran his business out of our home. The staff meetings were held in our kitchen. I’d come down in my pajamas to several siding applicators, a roofer and a carpenter.  They were drinking coffee and eating donuts while they smoked and got their assignments for the day. I'd breakfast in the living room in front of the television. I ate with Mr. Rogers, Ray Rayner or Captain Kangaroo.  

There was no room for me at the staff meeting. I was just the part-time receptionist.

My mother ran errands everyday. She liked to get out of the house. The C & P Grocery Store, Rennebohm's, Ben Franklin Five & Dime, they were all on her usual route. She’d take my brother Butch with her because he loved riding in the car and going to stores.  
I stayed behind to answer the phone.   Customers, current or potential, expected the phone to be answered by an actual person during business hours. Very often that was me.

As an 8 year old gay boy I was blessed with a lilting feminine voice. Very often callers would assume I was a woman, which bothered me until I realized that in the 1970s receptionists such as myself were supposed to be women. So a woman I became.

No longer did I announce, “Triggs Home Improvement Company, Greg speaking. May I help you?” Now I played up the feminine quality and dropped the name. Let Joe Customer think what he wanted. In my mind I wasn’t the kid gorging on Twinkees between phone calls. I was a shapely young woman with frosted blonde hair styled in the smartest salon in Madison, WI. I wore a cobalt blue skirt and matching jacket with a demure blouse underneath. My manicured nails looked very professional as they grabbed a Triggs Home Improvement Company ballpoint pen to write down messages on the three carbon pad.

My inner-receptionist saw this job as a stepping stone. Soon I'd marry one of the eligible bachelors I was sure to meet thanks to my high profile position. The boss was a insane, but he wasn’t going to be part of my life forever. Triggs Home Improvement Company was the first step on a path to bigger and better things.

But something funny happens when adults don’t realize they’re talking to children. They become less diplomatic. They become less kind. The truth spills out along with their frustrations.

“I paid for a job and the crew never showed up. I’ve been waiting a week!”

“You tell that asshole you work for I am going to sue him unless he gets out here to fix this roof.”

“Mr. Triggs he isn’t fooling me. He called to say he couldn’t stop by today but I saw his car out in front of a bar on Cottage Grove Road.”

And so on and so on; all of which can weigh on a receptionist’s mind.  

It’s not like I could leave it behind at the end of the day. I went home to it. Quitting wasn’t an option, so I withdrew. I became less polite. I dropped the, “May I help you?” from my greeting. My imaginary nail polish chipped. You could see the brown roots poking through my frosted hair. Sometimes when customers assumed I was a woman I corrected them.

And I quit promising things would get better.

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