09/14/18 – BOSTON, MA. – An aerial view of campus on September 14, 2018. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

When I was in college, my work-study job was at the auditorium’s box office. I worked there most days before, after, and in between my classes, and I was able to earn some extra money as an usher during performances (and get paid to see some great shows!).

Working at the box office was an extremely cushy job. We were always overstaffed, so one or two people would work the window (and play Snood), while another two or three would do homework or dick around in the tiny office out of sight of customers. When I think of my college experience, I think about the box office and how much fun it was. All this to say: it was not a hard or stressful job, and there was always free time.

Northeastern University has an urban campus in Boston’s Back Bay, so it doesn’t have much of a grand entrance. But there are three buildings that sit around an ovular lawn right on Huntington Ave, the “Avenue of the Arts,” that is the school’s closest thing to a main entrance. The lobby of the center building, Ell Hall, houses the legendary bronze husky statue, and right behind it is Blackman Auditorium and its box office window.

So, because of the location of the box office, a lot of people would come to the window with more general questions about the school or campus. It was not an information desk, but it was the easiest thing to find for someone who wandered in from Huntington Ave. and there was always a human at the window.

Whenever someone would come to the window with questions while I was playing Snood working, I would happily answer them to the best of my ability. If none of the brilliant minds in the box office knew the answer, then I would give them directions to the actual information desk, which was in the dumbest location for an information desk I’ve ever seen.

One day, after answering a question and sending the person on their way, the box office manager said, “You know, Nina, you’re the only one who doesn’t complain when people ask you questions instead of buying tickets.”

This really surprised me. I perceived my coworkers to be nice, friendly, helpful people. I remember responding that I didn’t mind at all because if I had a question and was unfamiliar with my surroundings, I would probably ask the friendly face in the box office window, too! What’s more, someone who works on campus is probably somewhat familiar with campus and likely knows the answer to my question.

It had been a really long time since I had thought about this, but recently, I was on a call with a college administrator and we were interrupted by a visitor asking for directions to somewhere on campus. After helping the visitor, she explained that her office is centrally located and has become the de facto information desk, and the memory came flooding back.

The administrator I was talking to is a dean, and she didn’t feel like helping the visitor was below her or not in her job description. If you’re able to help, why not help? Chalk it up to “other duties as assigned” as a representative of your school, business, or whatever. The visitor will be appreciative, and Snood can wait anyway.

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