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1-26-01 - Everybody's Talkin' At Me

Sorry for the distinct lack of updates this week.  Been a bit of an adjustment going back to work.

First of all, my sleeping patterns are whack.  I did make an effort to get up at a reasonable hour during the last week of my hiatus, sometimes even at 6am.  But there's a difference between getting up at 6am and sitting on my couch, blearily staring at the wall, and getting up at 6am and going to work.  At work, I have to stare blearily at a different wall.  I also have to wear pants.  Apparently.

During my vacation, I'd also become accustomed to having intense, imaginary conversations in my head.  These conversations usually involve me saying sentences like "Well, to tell you honestly, Barbara, I never expected to have my best-selling book turned into an Oscar-winning film, but it hasn't changed my life all that much" or "No, no, buddy, screw you!  Don't you walk away from me, I'll kick your ass!"

(These are unrelated conversations.)

I can still have these conversations at work, I just can't have them out loud, as I have over the past few months.  I think I've got a handle on it, although I got a strange look from my supervisor when I said "I don't consider myself a hero, Oprah, I just saw the burning orphanage and my instincts kicked in" to the fax machine.

The biggest adjustment I've had to make is simply being aware of the fact that there are actual living human beings around me eight hours a day, and I am expected to interact with, look at, and even listen to them.  When I'm home, I often have the TV on or a movie playing, although I generally use it as background noise or to drown out the blaring of a car alarm or the screams from a burning orphanage.  

Now, I find myself tuning out my co-workers in much the same way as I tuned out the reruns of E.R. and Cheers, and this leads to problems, such as when they ask me to stop staring at the wall and help them staple things.  I'm still working on this, taking baby steps, starting with using one co-worker to drown out another co-worker, and hopefully, soon I'll be listening to everyone equally, except for that windbag accountant.  I'm still having trouble looking at people, though.  Sure, I swivel my eyes in their general direction, but it's just some half-remembered intuition, kind of like the way a dog shakes a chew-toy:  at first it's a primitive instinct to break a captured animals neck, but it kind of tapers off and generally ends with the dog dropping the toy and licking its own anus.  Not that I wind up licking my own anus.  Stupid pants.

For instance, today when an extremely attractive co-worker was discussing some future stapling projects with me, I didn't stare at her breasts until she got uncomfortable, as I normally would have.  Instead, I stared at her face.

Weird.

Guess I just need some time.

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e-mail: temp@notmydesk.com


01-24-01 - Phoot Camp

Started a new job today.  My first temp job in almost three months.  And I have to say, it's like I never left.  I still have my stuff.  I still do my thing.  I'm still on top of my game.

My stuff, my thing, and my game, sadly, all involve me looking like a complete ass in front of the people who are paying actual money for me to be there.

The job is with a construction company located only about five minutes away from my apartment.  This fact alone means I'm hoping to hang onto it for a few weeks, despite the fact that they are looking to hire someone permanently from my agency.  It ain't gonna be me, but I figure I can hang around for a month or so, while they groan and moan about how hard it is to find good people, until they finally offer me the job, at which point I'll quit.  That's the plan, anyway.

After I am shown the phones, I sit in my supervisor's office while she staples a few stacks of documents together and explains to me how I'll soon be stapling some other documents just like them.  This is a very important project that involves a lot of stapling.  Then, her stapler jams(!).  Luckily, I know an easy way to fix a jammed stapler by employing a standard-issue pencil.  Did she think she was getting some rookie, some fresh-faced college boy who had never handled a stapler before?  I've seen it all.  I've seen staplers mangled and ruined.  Seen a guy punch a staple right into his thumb, once.  I can field-strip a Swingline in under eight seconds. Yeah, I been to the show.  I been to the big dance.  If I can switch my military references with my sports references without breaking a sweat, I can definitely handle a jammed stapler.

There's a crunch, which is the pencil breaking, a thunk, which is the stapler becoming even more jammed and then breaking itself, and then a whoosh, which are my eyes swiveling to the clock on the wall.  

8:14am.

Not a quarter hour has passed, and I've already broken some office equipment in front of my boss.  DAMN!  I STILL GOT THE STUFF!!!

After finding a replacement, I am dispatched to make three copies of an invoice.

ClickVrrrrrrrrm.

Then the words everyone hates:  Add Toner.

One lousy copy on my first day, and I already have to deal with adding toner.  Luckily, I seen this kinda copier before.  I seen it run outta toner.  I seen a guy copy his face in one a these, once.

I ask some guy where the toner is, and he points out the plastic cylinder on a shelf.

"Be really careful, though.  Reeeeally careful.  You don't want to get that stuff on you."

"Yeah, I've had that happen," I say.  "I seen a guy blinded by toner, once.  A man don't forget that.  A man don't never forget that."  Meanwhile, I'm expertly opening the copier, yanking a few handles, opening a slot, sliding the tube 'o' toner into it, and tapping the tube gently, like one might burp a baby.

"So, yeah, just be really careful with it."

Yeah, yeah.  Jeez.

I tap-tap for a while, until the toner bottle seems empty, gently disengage it from the copier, and lift it towards the trash can.

Phoot.

I heard that sound before.  Yeah.  That nearly silent phoot of a cloud of black toner going all over my hands, the counter, and the copier.  I seen this before.  I seen this happen to this guy who-  Oh, crap.  I need to clean this up before that guy comes back and wonders why I didn't heed his warning.  I jam the tube into the trash can in annoyance, and it phoots again, this time on the carpet.

I zip back and forth between the break-room sink and the copier, wiping up toner with damp paper towels, knowing I'll somehow miss some, knowing that later in the day, the woman in the white blouse will lean on the copier, and then later wonder aloud "How did I get all this toner on me?", knowing my ears will burn when I hear it.  With each pass, I scuff my shoes casually over the toner on the rug, casually, yet with enough friction to set the floor on fire, or at least spread the blobs of toner over a wide enough area as to not be easily noticed.

So, in my first hour on the job, I've managed to break a stapler and make three copies.  "Money well spent!" is what I'm certain my supervisor is exclaiming over the phone to my agency.  I figure that by noon, the company will be bankrupt and I can go home, but few minutes after nine, my supervisor tells me they've found a permanent person for the job, and they won't need me for more than a few days.

This tour of duty, it seems, will soon be over.

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e-mail: temp@notmydesk.com

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All material 2000 - 2001 by Christopher Livingston.  Yeah.  That'll hold up in court.