Regular Americans Speak Out Part 10 Receptionist and Student

A series of essays from various regular Americans on love, work, and life in these United States including a receptionist and high school student.

America Speaks

SHARON ATKINS, receptionist, Midwestern U.S.

"I changed my opinion of receptionists because now I'm one. It wasn't the dumb broad at the front desk who took telephone messages. She had to be something else because I thought I was something else. I was fine until there was a press party. We were having a fairly intelligent conversation. Then they asked me what I did. When I told them, they turned around to find other people with name tags. I wasn't worth bothering with. I wasn't being rejected because of what I had said or the way I talked, but simply because of my function. ...

"You come in at 9, you open the door, you look at the piece of machinery, you plug in the headpiece. That's how my day begins. You tremble when you hear the 1st ring. After that, it's sort of downhill. ...

"I never answer the phone at home. It carries over. The way I talk to people on the phone has changed. Even when my mother calls, I don't talk to her very long. I want to see people to talk to them. But now, when I see them, I talk to them like I was talking on the telephone. It isn't a conscious process. I don't know what's happened." (From: Working by Studs Terkel. New York, Pantheon Books, 1974.)

L.P., high school student, New York City, N.Y.

'"The only true time I feel at peace is when I am asleep. Because I have no fear and no needs. I think sleep is the most closest thing to death so death must be even more peaceful. But you know what I very rarely feel like going to sleep. And when I do feel like going to sleep I don't feel like waking up. When I wake up I be very mad because I still feel sleepy but I can't go back to sleep.

"And another time I feel at peace is when I am home looking at TV with no one else home but me and my mother. But don't let no one knock on the door or the phone ring. Because someone will ask me to come down and I become very disturbed. I bet I know what is going on in your mind this boy is sick in his head. But I bet you feel like this at times." (From: The Me Nobody Knows edited by Stephen M. Joseph. New York, Discus, 1969.)

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