Helping Hands And Improbable Odds: Tales From The Information Desk

My once-a-week volunteer job at a medical office building across the street from a major hospital and not far from where I live has been, on the whole, fun indeed. I’ve been at the gig for about eight years, and usually look forward to hauling my ass out of bed at 6:30 AM so that I have time to wash up, down a couple of cups of coffee and a bite, and play a few rounds of tiddlywinks with my pet chimp, Chomp. When it comes to tiddlywinks, Chomp almost always wins. Chomp ain’t no chump . . . Chomp’s a champ!

Anyway, back to reality: The job begins at 8:00 AM on Tuesdays. For four hours I man the building’s information desk, which is on the ground level of the structure’s three stories. I handle a fairly wide range of visitors’ questions about doctors’ offices, the locations of bathrooms, payment options for the parking garage nearby on the grounds, etc. And I try to untangle situations that visitors aren’t sure how to resolve. You wouldn’t believe, for instance, how many of our fellow citizens can’t find their cars in the parking garage or their spouses who were supposed to meet them in the main lobby near my desk.

The infamous information desk

Like I said, I get a kick from the job, from helping people out to be specific. Hell, plenty of folks have helped me out over the last many decades. It’s only fair for me to do my wee share in keeping that mode of behavior alive and prosperous.

Two Tuesdays ago, aka the 23rd of January, wasn’t a typical day at the ranch though. There was plenty of the usual, yes. But two incidents definitely were outliers. And they’ve stuck in my mind. I was a helper-outer in one of them but not in the other. Yours truly is now about to send recaps of  the events into cyberspace.

It was a dreary, rainy day. The skies had sent down billions of gallons of water by 10:00 AM, at which time the rains slowed to a medium drizzle. It was around that time that a guy came up to me at my post to let me know that the toilet in the men’s room had overflowed and that a fragrant pool of water was all over the floor.

“I’m on it,” I said, and called the housekeeping and maintenance departments. The former’s charge was to clean up the mess, the latter’s was to unclog the toilet. And I taped a note to the loo’s door, advising the males of my species that the room was out of service and that additional facilities could be found upstairs.

The worker from housekeeping arrived first, not long after I placed the call. In the midst of doing his thing he came out into the lobby, hands wisely encased in bright yellow rubber gloves. One of those hands was holding a small rolled-up black umbrella. He looked my way and hoisted the contraption.

“Somebody left this in the bathroom,” he said. “Should I put it somewhere? Trash it?”

Wow, volunteers aren’t meant to deal with heavy decision-making! “I’m not sure,” I answered. “How’s about we . . . ”

“Trash it?” he asked.

“Right,” I confidently replied.

Into the narrow thigh-high trash can near the elevators the umbrella went. Another piece of whatever destined for a landfill.

The infamous trash can

Forty minutes later the conditions outside worsened. I could hear heavy rains coming down, though from where I was standing I couldn’t see them. A fellow I’d noticed earlier entering the building was now about to leave, his medical appointment completed. He went out the main door and seconds later came back inside. “It’s pouring like crazy out there,” he said. I took a few strides to position myself at a better vantage point and had to agree with his statement. The waters were descending in incredibly thick sheets.

“Do you have an umbrella I can borrow?” he asked. Right, like I’d ever see my umbrella again if I handed it over. And that’s when I remembered the trash can. “Hold on, ” I said. I walked down the lobby to the receptacle and stuck my right hand inside. It was a tight fit. Wouldn’t it make more sense for a trash can to have a wide opening rather than a narrow one? Its manufacturer forgot to consult with me before starting production. Undaunted, I fished around, trying to disengage the umbrella’s spokes from the confines and eventually had success.

“Here you go,” I said to the guy, extending the prize catch towards him. “It’s yours.” He took it and away he went, seemingly unimpressed by what had just occurred. Me, I thought it pretty uproarious that the buried and left-for-dead umbrella, as quick as that, had been resurrected. What were the odds?

The morning progressed. Plenty of people came up to me with one question or problem or another. Around 11:15 a guy ambled down the hall. When he reached my area he asked me if there was anywhere in the building he could get a cup of coffee. I got the impression that he had time to kill. He probably was waiting to drive a patient, probably his wife, home from a procedure, which probably was a colonoscopy.

“There’s vending machines one floor above us,” I told him. “Sodas, chips, candies and stuff like that. But nothing hot. If you want coffee you’ll have to go across the street to the hospital cafeteria.” While I was telling him this, a cardiologist walked by and went into her office. Dr. **, who never wears a white coat or any other garment that would identify her as a doctor, smiled and waved at me, as she always does when she passes the info desk. She’s a really nice person.

The guy shrugged and was about to amble back to wherever it was he came from. That’s when a loud and clear “Sir, are you desperate for a cup of coffee?” filled the lobby. A second later Dr. ** appeared. The guy didn’t know who she was, but he wasn’t about to turn down a gift. “Follow me,” she said, and led him into her office suite. “I’ll get some coffee for you.”

A few minutes later the recipient passed my way, cup in hand. “It’s your lucky day,” I said to him, adding that his benefactor is a physician. What were the odds that the only doc within a 50-mile radius who would do such a thing would overhear my conversation with him?  I mean, when was the last time a doctor gave you anything, unless it was a sample of hemorrhoid cream or something like that?

But, like the guy upon whom I’d bestowed a hidden and seemingly doomed umbrella, Mister Coffee didn’t appear to be overly amazed. “She is?” he answered blandly, and disappeared down the hall.

But I was amazed. Tuesday the 23rd, a day in which I was reminded that expecting the unexpected isn’t a farfetched stance at all, struck me as being very right. Right as rain, so to speak.

(Don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this story on Twitter, Facebook and the like. Gracias.)

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58 thoughts on “Helping Hands And Improbable Odds: Tales From The Information Desk

  1. lievelee February 1, 2018 / 12:54 am

    You certainly have the gift of making the most mundane of events seems very unusual and interesting. I’m looking forward to find out what inspires your writing bug next week…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Robert Parker February 1, 2018 / 6:30 am

    Personally, I would have felt intense gratitude for both life-saving objects. And they go together well —when I drink my coffee in the rain, without an umbrella, it takes twice as long

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Artist's Child February 1, 2018 / 7:37 am

    What a wonderful story about life’s happy accidents. It’s funny how some people take a lucky occurrence for granted. I’m with you. I’d rather go through life being amazed and enchanted by such things.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. joyce hamilton February 1, 2018 / 7:42 am

    YOU ARE THE BEST!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger February 1, 2018 / 9:44 am

      Hey there, Joyce.
      Nah, I’m nothing particularly special. But I’ll accept the compliment!

      Like

  5. greenpete58 February 1, 2018 / 8:06 am

    Until I saw the caption on the first photo, I was worried. I thought maybe your information desk was like the one Marty DiBergi was given after he released his rockumentary “This is Spinal Tap.” It was stuck into a curved wall just outside the men’s room. Glad you have some breathing room.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. tanjabrittonwriter February 1, 2018 / 9:33 am

    …all along I kept expecting the rightful owner of that umbrella to return. Maybe that will be the sequel?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Debra February 1, 2018 / 1:29 pm

    Glad you were “showered” with some good stories. Your blog is always “grounds” for entertainment and a great pick-me-up!

    Debra

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Alyson February 1, 2018 / 2:04 pm

    A couple of fortuitous happenings and glad you could make them into an amusing story. I like the sound of your volunteering job – Hopefully I might be able to take one on in due course once I am less busy with other things. I miss people being at home all day – You certainly come across a lot of them, from all walks of life, in your job.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger February 1, 2018 / 3:20 pm

      Hello there, Alyson.

      What you say in the last sentence is true. It’s a main reason why I enjoy this job.

      Like

  9. Cristina Crawford February 1, 2018 / 3:23 pm

    I too thought the umbrella owner would be coming to you for help in locating his “lost” item. Lovely read. I need to get busy and write again but tonight trying to catch up on Italian homework. It takes quite a bit longer for my grey matter to absorb stuff that matters!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger February 1, 2018 / 3:49 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Cristina. Appreciated.

      At this point in my life (I’m older than you), I’m not up for anything too challenging. I wouldn’t have it in me to try and learn Italian.

      Good luck with your homework!

      Like

  10. Anabel Marsh February 1, 2018 / 4:36 pm

    A couple of fortuitous happenings – but they needed kind people (you and the Dr) to work. Information Desks are probably the same the world over. When I worked in a library, for every complex bibliographic request I got there were about 10 “where are the toilets” or “can I borrow a pen” type requests. Not very stimulating, but it least I could help!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ann Coleman February 1, 2018 / 5:09 pm

    Definitely sounds like an exciting day at the office! And it’s good to know there are still kind people in the world who are willing to go above and beyond to help others. (I’m including you in this category, since you were willing to fish an umbrella out of a trash can to help someone in need….) Nice post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger February 1, 2018 / 6:09 pm

      It’s not every day you get to retrieve a buried umbrella, that’s for sure!
      Be seeing you, Ann. Take care.

      Neil

      Liked by 1 person

  12. alhenry February 1, 2018 / 6:11 pm

    “and usually look forward to hauling my ass out of bed at 6:30 AM”

    That statement, I admit, brought me to a COMPLETE standstill. Look forward to getting out of bed at an hour too obscene to mention? Okay, we must all learn to live peaceably together, and respect one another’s quirks.

    “You wouldn’t believe, for instance, how many of our fellow citizens can’t find their cars in the parking garage or their spouses who were supposed to meet them in the main lobby near my desk.”

    I believe you have just explained how it is we have The Rump in the White House.

    To sum up, I enjoyed this little window into your life and the story of the resurrected umbrella cheered my heart. With the waste of our oceans, The Rump threatening to drill on our coastlines, and Capetown, South Africa in danger of literally running out of water, I am extremely sensitive about folks tossing stuff away without thought. That you rescued this umbrella, and gave it a new life, shows beyond doubt that you are one of the world’s great souls.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger February 1, 2018 / 6:47 pm

      Amy, your comments here are among the very best that I’ve ever gotten on any of my stories. Thanks for taking the time to do this.

      In re 6:30 AM: I can’t seem to sleep much later than this. I get up at about this time most days.

      In re Trump: He’s the worst.

      In re the umbrella: I was glad to rescue it.

      Take care —

      Neil.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. The Lockwood Echo February 2, 2018 / 8:15 am

    I work in retail and aswell as sell stuff, I find I’m tourist information, traffic news, weather reporter, lost property office, restaurant recommendation and counseller. The general public can certainly stretch the skill set. And nothing lovelier than being able to do something nice for someone. P.S. I’ve given you a shout out in my last post 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  14. C C Cedras February 2, 2018 / 1:00 pm

    I’m aggravated on behalf of the doctor who went out of her way to engage and serve an anonymous — and ungrateful — person! grrrrrrr

    Anyway. This was an enjoyable break for me today, Neil! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jacqui Murray February 3, 2018 / 10:46 am

    I have so many thoughts about this post, Neil. Volunteers man the information desk? Was the umbrella clean? A friendly doctor? I don’t know where to begin.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger February 3, 2018 / 11:35 am

      Hello there. Yeah, the hospital has a volunteer corps made up of old geezers like me who are looking for a decent way to pass their time. Volunteers have all sorts of assignments in the hospital and its associated buildings, such as the one I wrote about here.
      The umbrella looked clean. I don’t think it had fallen in the toilet!
      Yup, this doctor is very friendly. A real nice lady.

      Thanks for stopping by, Jacqui. Appreciated. Enjoy the weekend.

      Like

  16. Fictionophile February 3, 2018 / 3:19 pm

    Fascinating post Neil. I really enjoyed it. (I did wonder if that umbrella had been sitting in the ‘fragrant pool of water’!) LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Aunt Beulah February 3, 2018 / 5:09 pm

    I don’t know if the word charming offends your masculinity, Neil, but I found this post about a rainy day, a morning of volunteering, and two blasé recipients of kindnesses exactly that —charming.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger February 3, 2018 / 5:57 pm

      Hello there, Janet. Nah, I’m not offended at all. “Charming” is a good word.
      Thanks a lot for stopping by. Appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Sheryl February 4, 2018 / 6:51 pm

    It’s fun to read about your day at the Information Desk. It’s interesting how the people responded to the kindness of others that day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger February 4, 2018 / 8:14 pm

      Hello there. Sheryl. It’s a fun job overall. Unusual things sometimes occur.

      Thanks a lot for stopping by. I appreciate your visit.

      Like

  19. ralietravels February 5, 2018 / 6:54 pm

    After retiring, I drove a van for many years transporting patients to a VA hospital. Reading your stories makes me wish I had kept notes — but I doubt I could have made the stories as interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger February 5, 2018 / 7:55 pm

      Hello there. Thanks very much for adding your thoughts.
      The driver job you mention was very valuable to many people. You helped them out a lot.

      Like

  20. cincinnatibabyhead February 6, 2018 / 12:23 pm

    “Hey buddy, do you think you could tie up the back of my robe here, it’s getting a little drafty”

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Madame Vintage February 6, 2018 / 5:56 pm

    This was a very delightful read if something that you hardly would exact as you rightly mentioned.. ‘ it’s like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for’. A lovely post.

    Sincerely Sonea

    Liked by 1 person

    • Madame Vintage February 6, 2018 / 5:58 pm

      P.s apologizes for the typos I have just witnessed..shame on me. I meant *hardly would expect.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, Another Blogger February 6, 2018 / 8:53 pm

        Hello, Sonea. I appreciate your stopping by. And I also appreciate the compliments. Thanks.
        I was at the information desk again today (I’m there on Tuesdays), but nothing unexpected happened today.

        Take care.

        Neil

        Liked by 1 person

  22. Christy B February 7, 2018 / 1:45 pm

    I’m struck by how unappreciative the people who received the umbrella and coffee were to the person bestowing these things onto them. I try to be grateful for everything – especially the unexpected!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger February 7, 2018 / 2:34 pm

      Hi, Christy. I agree with your approach to life. It makes things better.

      Thanks very much for adding your thoughts. Enjoy the rest of the day.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger February 8, 2018 / 7:08 am

      Hi AOC.
      Yeah, sometimes things happen on the job that seem inspiring in one way or another.

      Have a great day. Thanks a lot for stopping by.

      Like

  23. Imelda February 17, 2018 / 11:33 am

    Little things like these do tend to make an ordinary day extraordinary, don’t they?

    May your day be filled with wonderful little bits of magic.

    Liked by 1 person

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