I don't know if you all have noticed or not, but I don't really like people all that much.
I need to handle people in small doses. I don't like crowds and can only really put up with them when the payoff is worth it (a good concert, or good festival food, or an abundance of good beer are essential). And I absolutely cannot abide by complete strangers trying to engage me in conversation.
If I am in a waiting room, or the grocery store, or a restaurant line, I really want to be left alone. If you don't know me on a first-name basis, and/or are a complete schizo freak, I would like for you to pretend I am not there. That's why I often have a book with me; I want quiet. I value my personal space. It's not you. It's me.
Which is why yesterday was a season in hell.
My assistant was ill and help was sent down for me in the library. I appreciate help, though my assistant's job is hard to just come in and do with no library training. But usually the person sent to help me finds a book to read, helps me direct library traffic, watches the desk while I eat, and otherwise stays out of my way once they see how many balls I have to keep in the air every day.
Yesterday my relief was in the library waiting for me at 7. My assistant's day doesn't officially start until 7:30. Usually, over-eagerness is a good sign.
In this case...not so much.
By the time I unlocked the three storage room and office doors inside the library a steady stream of conversation had begun that had the speed and unstoppable force of the Little Engine That Could gone downhill. Within the first five minutes, I learned that this person:
1. Has a chronic illness;
2. Has lost 70 pounds through a revolutionary diet of basically not eating or drinking anything during the day;
3. Has severe adult ADHD;
4. Has a brilliant but tragically misunderstood son who once slugged a teacher;
4. Has been told by her doctor to drop down to 95 pounds (!);
5. Did I mention the severe ADHD?
On top of all this, my knee was killing me again (apparently, playing Beatles Rock Band until the wee hours of Sunday morning does not exactly help one's knee injuries to heal), I had even more students than usual needing me for more things than usual before the bell rang, and I had to get everybody taken care of earlier than usual before the library closed for the morning for testing.
In short, it was already one of those days.
Much of the day was a blur. This person pretty much just pulled up a chair next to mine and talked to me ALL. DAY. LONG. And by talking to, I mostly mean talking at. I didn't get too many questions, but I got a lot of answers.
She was sweet, and she tried to be helpful, but sometimes when I have a lot on my plate I can be most helped by someone staying quiet and letting me work. Hearing the details of a stranger's back surgery and her thoughts on vampire novels and her strong, oft-spoke opinion that Robert Pattinson isn't at all attractive enough to play Edward tended to be distracting at best, hair-pulling annoying at worst.
After her lunch of a 20-oz. bottle of Country Time lemonade, she apparently got a sugar rush and she talked at me for a solid 90 minutes about anything and everything that popped in her head (I had some documents to edit and print out and eventually just had to tune her out and nod from time to time) without coming up for air or really trying to engage me in the conversation at all. It was just a spew of random verbage aimed at anyone sitting at the desk. It went on to the point where I found myself staring at my district web page, looking for a link I have clicked on dozens of times in order to open a PD evaluation, and I couldn't find it because of the incessant flow of loudly spoken words in my ear. My brain had reached verbal overload and could no longer process written words because it was so full of spoken ones.
She wanted to stay in the library past my assistant's quitting time because "You're so busy, honey, and I just feel like I need to stay behind and help." That was another thing about this whole thing--she'd have moments of self-awareness and say to me, "Listen to me going on and talking your ear off--I bet you just want me to hush so you can get back to your work, huh?" And then without so much as a TV timeout the vocalizing started right back up again.
It would have been amazing had it not been killing me slowly and surely.
Some people-loving-people might have really enjoyed having a talker in the library all day. For me, it was hell. Hell, I tell you. There's not much worse torture in the world for me than having someone invade my personal space and stay there all day long. I am someone, after all, who occasionally has to get away from even those I love the most and just go read a book and listen to my ceiling fan. She even propped open my office door and stood in the doorway and talked to me during my lunch, that one time in my work day when I try to get away and not be needed for 20 precious minutes.
The good news is...it's totally going in my screenplay one day. (Thanks, MelMart, for the suggestion!)
What's the one thing someone could do or already does do in your workplace that takes an ordinary day and turns it into an afternoon inside the inner circle of Hades?