shimmering black shirt, with black pants; his
slicked hair was combed to the side, he wore a
gold watch and was carrying his mobile phone
and wallet in his left hand; and of course, it
went without saying that he was smoking one
of those strange cigars, that perhaps only the
rich could afford. He looked like he was ready
to go somewhere. I looked at him with
suspicion trying to ascertain his intention and
predict his next move.
This episode of Mr Abubakar illustrates some of
the ways in which the receptionist is a recipient
of the male predatory gaze. What follows next is
a poetized refl ection of being the object of this
Portrayal through poetized refl ection
Seedy eyes skewing
these clothes of mine;
Slimy eyes penetrating
this body of mine;
Swollen eyes groping
this skin of mine;
As he came to the counter, I knew that I would
be in trouble if I didn't look up at him and
acknowledge him with a steady greeting; so I
greeted him as usual and then lowered my eyes
very quickly, to look down at my computer
screen. My defence was to pretend to look very
busy by focusing intently on my computer
monitor, hoping he would get the signal that I
was very busy, and leave, cutting his visit short.
But again I had no such luck. He reached over
the counter and bent over to the computer
I am trapped with no escape,
like a butterfl y, with broken wings;
I cannot fl ee, I cannot see,
like a rabbit in the light;
I have no face,
I have no name,
I am nothing, but a cardboard pawn!
'What are you doing?' he asked, blowing a cloud
of smoke into my face. 'I am making some
reservations,' I replied, without looking up.
The above poem expresses the feelings
experienced by the receptionist during this epi-
sode. These are: feeling emotionally vulnerable
and exposed, fear of feeling trapped, a sense of
confusion and powerlessness, as well as anger
at being seen as just an object to leer upon.
'What time did you start?'
A few seconds passed. He was silent as he
stood there his gaze still fi xed on me. I felt like a
butterfl y pinned to a board, as he held me in
his gaze. This went on for some time, as the
battle of our wills continued. Then I felt his
fi ngers reaching over and lifting my chin up.
Portrayal through metaphors
The above narrative excerpt has brought a
signifi cant yet typical episode of practice clearly
to mind, which is to do with the fl uidity and
precariousness of receptionist-guest relations.
The researcher then collaborates with the
researched (receptionist) to focus on this event-
made-present as an experience by using a phe-
nomenological approach, which develops
metaphors to bring out the typical elements in
her experience. Crotty (1996) has provided a
number of 'sentence stems' through which the
researcher and the researched could collaborate
to generate a vivid expressive text. Examples of
these sentence stems, which are to be com-
pleted carefully, avoiding analytical or explana-
tory comments, are:
'Look up at me when you talk. This is no way
to treat a customer now is it!', he reprimanded
in a half serious, half teasing tone. I looked up
at him . . .
'Now that's better' he said, and then he peeped
closer at my face with a leering smile.
'You do have the most sexy eyes you know'. At
this, I started to lower my eyes again, but he
caught me off-guard by issuing an order, 'Print
my bill!' Then as I looked up at him, he smiled
and continued, 'I have come to settle my bill;
and if you are good, who knows, I might even
give you a tip. Now you would like that
wouldn't you my dear?'
Being gazed at in receptionist work in this
episode of practice is like ……………………….
. . . The story continues . . .