My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

More enthusiasm kplzthx?

I don't usually rant about work, mostly because it isn't that bad as jobs go. It has its moments, of course, but what job doesn't? It is weird, however. I know, I know--every job is weird. But if there were a contest, I'm pretty sure my workplace would be, if not first, top three.

First, the bare essential backstory. We currently have an exhibit up from the Canadian Museum of Nature called "The Gee! in Genomics". As the name implies, it is a genomics exhibition. The exhibition itself is reminiscient of a science centre; there are lots of buttons to press, videos to watch, matching games--it's pretty cool. And I'm quite excited about it. Genetics is a science of increasing importance in society. We've mapped the human genome. We're developing genes that allow us to prevent congenital defects or cure hereditary diseases--but that's another blog post.

Today, orders came down from on high that we (the front desk staff) were not "enthusiastic" enough. To be fair, this is probably true--at least in my case; in my coworkers' defence, they are pretty enthusiastic, or at least amiable. It's likely that the level of expected "enthusiasm" is higher than even their typical output. However, that raises the question: how does one quantitatively measure enthusiasm anyway?

I'm just not built to work in the customer service industry. I think I would do very well as the stereotypical cafeteria lunch lady (minus the lady part). You know the one I mean: gruff, monosyllabic attitude. She serves you the same unidentifiable meal, day after day. If you ask for pie, she just says, "Eat. Move on." That's me. When people come to the gallery, I give them what they want, then hope they go away and stop bugging me. Now, I think that often this is what people want. Let me be clear: I am not rude--at least, I try not to be. I'm simply brief. I detain people for as long as necessary to communicate the essential rules and information, then I allow them to go. If they want to know something else, they are welcome to ask me questions.

However, I'm getting the sense that more is expected. Apparently I'm supposed to talk people to death as well as take their money. In addition to being gracious and informative, I'm supposed to extol the virtues of the gallery, the current exhibitions, art in general, and human civilization for the past three hundred years. After politely informing patrons of the exhibition in each gallery and reminding them not to touch the art, I should be thrusting an infinite series of pamphlets and newsletters into their hands.

Maybe some people enjoy being schmoozed. Many probably expect, or at least understand and recognize it (especially if they are schmoozers themselves). But how many really want it? How many just tolerate it because it's the social norm, not because they're wired to thrive on it? I recognize that some people genuinely thrive on greasing the wheels on which society turns--all the more power to them.

I have trouble faking enthusiasm. I'm plenty enthusiastic about this current show--ask me how I feel about genomics, and I'll speak volumes. However, I don't always volunteer my enthusiasm unless people express interest in knowing. Maybe that makes me a bad front desk attendant. Maybe that makes me defective. But on the flip side, it also means you can be sure I am always sincere. If I am listening, I'm interested. If I'm talking, I'm either completely serious or being facetious, but I don't dissemble.