Every day after field work ends, I have to fax progress forms back to my project manager. There’s a lot of forms to fax each day – the first day I sent 74, the second I sent 55. The hotel clerk helping me the first night was very accommodating. I felt bad handing her 74 pages to fax, but she completed the task without a problem and was kind about it.
I knew I was going to have problems the second night. A different clerk was on duty, and was sitting at the front counter reading a magazine. I pulled out my forms. ”I have fifty-five pages to fax…” I said, my voice trailing off. I actually felt bad at first because I knew there were a lot of pages. I don’t know why I felt bad. The woman is getting paid to do this shit. And it’s not like I was being mean about it. Y’all know me. I’m nice.
“Your room number?” she asked. I told her. She cleared her throat audibly and grumpily, looking through my forms. ”You know it’s fifty cents per page after the first ten, right?” she asked. ”Really?” I said, my empathy for her evaporating. ”Because the woman yesterday faxed seventy-four of these pages and didn’t charge me.” She didn’t say much after that, but slowly and grumpily began her task. She very slowly counted each and every page, as if I were lying about having to fax fifty-five pages. You could tell that faxing these pages were a real effort for her.
The next day, my field partner, who also had to fax some forms, noted that she also talked about the charge but then never asked for his room number. This morning, a different clerk faxed my pages, and he didn’t charge me either. All of us began joking that the hotel really doesn’t charge for faxes, and she just wanted to pocket some extra money. Today I gave her more faxes. I changed my approach this time, too – instead of acting like I was the bad guy for making her actually have to get up from her chair, I took a brusque but polite manner. She looked exhausted and slightly grumpy again, though she saved her loud throat-clearing until she was actually behind the fax machine and out of my sight.
I’ve been spending the past several days spending ten hour plus days sweating half my body weight in the Texas heat, so my sympathy is very limited. You work in the A/C all day, woman! The fax machine is maybe ten feet from your chair. How hard can that task be? I just don’t understand the blatant laziness of some people.