are you the secretary?

Linnea Ista lkista at UNM.EDU
Fri Feb 23 10:35:36 EST 1996

On Thu, 22 Feb 1996, SL Forsburg wrote:

> Hilary Bates wrote:
> >    ....(snip)....
> > Nevertheless, *visitors* to the department often
> > assumed I was a receptionist or a secretary because I was sitting
> > at a desk with a computer on it (I was also close to the entrance
> > which probably didn't help), and would ask me about someone's
> > whereabouts, and I got fairly tired of saying "Perhaps you should
> > ask his secretary..."
> Ooooh, I hate this one!  I have a fairly typical faculty member's
> office, desk stacked  with papers and piles of journals of the floor,
> and COMMONLY people come to the door and say "are you x's secretary?"
> or "do you know where x is?".  Often they are new postdocs. 
> At least I've gotten used to the "oh, are you
> x's postdoc?"  I get that one, too, but that may be due as much to
> age as gender. My favorite was the guy who said "Is this Dr Forsburg's
>  lab?  Do you work for him?"

I had a similar situation at my first teaching job.  I shared a 
short hallway with a male colleague and spent my entire first week 
telling people I had no earthly idea where Chuck was.  Finally on 
that Friday when I had been interrupred once too often while trying 
to read a fascinating article on cyanobacterial inclusions, I asked 
on of the people (in this case a young woman) why she thought I would 
know. She responded "well you are his secretary, aren't you?" I said 
no I am not and ask what lead her to believe this. She responded that 
as I had the front office, it was natural to assume that I was the 
secretary. I told her that the previous year that a man had occupied 
the same office and asked if she would have assumed the same thing. 
"Well, of course not" she replied. I told her that perhaps she might 
want to think aboput that awhile.

It became a bit of a departmental joke. Although there was one older 
male faculty member who could not imagine why I took offence. He said 
it was due to my youthful appearance.  Finally I posted a sign on the 
door that said "Stop, before  you ask, I have no earthly idea where 
Professor Foster is." This seemed to do the trick.

Now if I can just get the guys in the lab I am working in now to 
figure out that finding something does not simply entail asking me 
where it is!


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