How busy are you?


One piece of feedback I got in my last review is that some people hesitate to ask me questions because they’re afraid of me. I often look like I’m in a bad mood, they say, and they’re afraid I’m going to yell at them. It was surprising to hear, and yet not so surprising. I am often in a bad mood.

Today, for instance, I was in the washroom with a co-worker who recently tripped over something and basically shattered his entire lower skeleton. (Seriously, drink some milk, dude.) Now he’s hobbling around on one crutch, and he was standing between me and the paper towel dispenser, and I came very close to yelling, “Get the hell out of the way, Tiny Tim!

Frankly, it’s a wonder people talk to me at all. And yet, people do ask me questions. All the time.

One of the managers (but not mine) popped her head over my cubicle wall today. “Peter Lynn,” she asked, because she, like many people, likes to address me by my first and last name, enjoying the way they flow nicely together into a single word. “How busy are you?”

I hate conversations that start this way.

“Always a little,” I replied, looking up from reading Slashdot. “Why?”

“How are you at making graphs on the computer?”

I paused before answering. What I know I’m good at is avoiding what sounds like a lot of extra work from managers who are not my own. “I don’t know how,” I answered after a moment. “The last time I made a graph was in public school with a pencil and a ruler.” Happily, this was even true.

“Oh. I was just talking to [another manager], and we needed a graph, and I was saying, ‘You know what? Peter Lynn looks like the kind of guy who knows how to make graphs on the computer.’ But I guess not.”

“I could probably make a pie graph if you gave me a compass along with the pencil and the ruler,” I said not-so-helpfully. “Or a coffee cup.”

“I guess you’re not my man then,” she said as she left.

I’ve really got to find out what it is about my appearance that sends the message “knows how to make graphs on the computer” and change it. Not only does it potentially cause extra work for me, but it cannot possibly be a very cool look.

Later, I had someone else ask me to clear up a discussion over who portrayed the masked professional wrestler Max Moon, figuring I’d probably know. (In fact, I do: The role was created for Konnan and was later assumed by Paul Diamond.)

It’s interesting to learn how other people see you. Not always complimentary, but at least illuminating. All in all, I’d rather be seen as someone who’s likely to know wrestling trivia than someone who’s likely to be able to make graphs on a computer. It’s still not particularly cool, but it’s generally much less likely to bring extra work upon me.

You know what is kind of cool, though? Finding out some people are so scared of you that they don’t dare ask you anything at all. Man! I mean, a lot of these guys are bodybuilders!

9 Responses to “How busy are you?”

  1. 1 Marlene

    I’ve been told I look like a snob. Girls in high school told me they were intimidated by me because of it. Even Scott thought I looked snobby.

  2. 2 Marlene

    By the way, I’m not afraid to talk to you; I’m afraid to write to you. What if I use a semi-colon wrong?! It’s very stressful for me.

  3. 3 Peter Lynn

    I think you look like a female version of tennis player Rafael Nadal, without the irritating hooting faces. Or adult film actress Sabina Black, without the nudity and double penetrations.Anyway, your semicolon use was beyond reproach.

  4. 4 Scott

    Screw the semicolon. Check out that interrobang!

  5. 5 TinaPoPo

    I must have a look that says “Knows how to call in and order the chinese take-out” because that seems to be my number one task at work.

  6. 6 Peter Lynn

    Well, do you have jet black hair and almond-shaped eyes?

  7. 7 Ken

    I get an odd combination of feedback. Either people think I’m a teddy bear (because I’m soft and plump, and generally smiling), or like a bouncer (cause I’m a gigantic man who knows how to lay down a smack or two.)

  8. 8 Anonymous

    Pet, how can you possibly be surprised by this? I’m your friend and I’m scared of you, and I’ve been telling you for 18 months that if I worked with you I’d probably hate you.–Kat

  9. 9 Peter Lynn

    Well, I guess I just assumed no one was timid as you, my little mouse. Except my co-worker J—-. Here’s a conversation I had with her recently:J (at 10:30 a.m.): Can I get this back by noon?Me: [cold stare]J (meekly): By end of day?Later, I found out that she was asking other people to bring me things because she thought I hated her. But I like her! I just hate unreasonable requests.

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