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9-28-01 - Today we'll have two updates.  One, the usual half-assed attempt at humor and whimsy.  The other... not so much.

First Update: Whither Wil Wheaton?

So, a reader named Eric informs me that he sent an e-mail containing a link to my site to Wil Wheaton, pictured above.

Wil Wheaton, in his reply to Eric, said, and I quote, 

"...notmydesk has gone right into my favorites. :)"

Huh.  Well, we'll just see if Wil Wheaton was telling Eric the truth, or if he was just being polite.  Because, surely, if Wil Wheaton put my site in his favorites, he should visit fairly often, perhaps even today, and see his picture and these words, and send me an e-mail.  Right?

First, I ask that no one tip Wil Wheaton off to this!  I want to see if Wil Wheaton is true to his word.  Even those of you who are close personal friends of Wil Wheaton should say nothing about this to him.  Okay?  We'll just see what this Wil Wheaton character is all about!

Second, some of you, perhaps not being TV or movie lovers, may be wondering who Wil Wheaton is, exactly, so let me provide a brief bio.  Most of this comes from memory, so some of the facts may be a tad off.

Wil Wheaton:  A Bio

Wil Wheaton is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Crusher John, M.D., on the television series Star Trek:  A New Generation.  The show chronicled the travels of the Starship Alewives and its loyal crew, as they scoured the galaxy looking for something to wear besides Federation-issue pajamas.  Among the crew are Jean-Claude Picard, the follicly-challenged and boldly uncloseted captain, and Dorf, the Klingon, who has a Dorothy Hamill haircut and a horseshoe crab attached to his forehead.  Can they defeat the Death Star?  Who knows?

Okay, so, I didn't watch Star Trek that much.  I hear it's got a following, though.

Before Star Trek, Wil Wheaton starred in Stand By Me, honestly one of my favorite films.


I identified a great deal with Wil Wheaton's character, Gordy, who was a skinny crybaby, like I was at that age (and still am, mostly).  Stand By Me is a great film, and pretty much the only movie that contains a viewable performance by Corey Feldman.  Young Wil Wheaton did a superb acting job, along with the late River Phoenix and Jerry O'Connell, who surprised everyone a few years later by becoming rather strapping.

Anyway, that's about all I know about Wil Wheaton.  The ball is in his court now.  Will Wil Wheaton drop it?  Or will he catch it, and then bounce it off my forehead again and again, like those kids in grammar school used to do all the time during recess, despite the fact that I asked them very nicely not to, before bursting into tears.

We shall see.  

Thanks to Eric for sending my link to Wil (Wheaton)!

Before we get to the second update, three notes.  Thanks to everyone who let me know about Haiku Tunnel, a new movie about a temp.  I plan to check it out.  Also, thanks to everyone who wrote in (re: yesterday's entry) to tell me that a "catapult" is what British people call a "slingshot."  Dennis the Menace led many a castle siege, apparently.  Finally, I'm way behind in returning e-mail, but I hope to catch up this weekend.

Now, for the depressing stuff.

Second Update:  Bad News

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about the temporary employees who were working in the World Trade Center on September 11.  Considering the fact that there were about fifty-thousand employees working in the towers, it makes sense that the place would be crawling with temps.

Since the terrorist attacks, I've gotten a lot of e-mail suggesting I write something about all the temps who may have perished that day.  I did briefly mull over the possibility of writing something, after all, this is (marginally) a temping website, and perhaps there is something especially random about some temp showing up for the first day (or the last day) of an assignment, and never making it home again.

At any rate, I never wrote about the temps.  It felt odd to me, like I'd be plucking a select group out of all those who lost their lives, and making them out to be more tragic than the others.  It just felt wrong, and as you'll see from the excerpts of the article, there's a hideous aspect to the story I couldn't have even conceived of.  From the WSJ:

"Temps have long been the least visible part of the work force -- a fact that was underscored Sept. 11. While most companies based in the [World Trade Center] towers were able to account for their full-time workers within days, few know yet how many temps were in their offices that morning, let alone how many made it out alive. The total number working there that morning could be anywhere from several hundred to more than 1,500, says Tim Loncharich, head of  Snelling Personnel Services, a Dallas agency."

Several hundred to more 1,500.  To me, it's not just the numbers that are devastating, though they certainly are... it's that they really have no idea how many temps were there.  The companies don't know, the temp agencies don't know.  The article continues:

"The very nature of temp work complicates the process of finding workers. Temps tend to be younger and more mobile than many full-time workers, with fewer immediate family ties. The personal information in their records, such as "next of kin," is also more likely to be incomplete or out of date.  Further complicating searches is the haphazard way that temps are sometimes hired. "You may have six or seven different departments in one company hiring temps, and therefore, no single one of them will have a handle on the total number," says Richard Wahlquist, chief executive and executive vice president of the American Staffing Association, an Alexandria, Va., trade association."

"At Cantor Fitzgerald LP, the bond-trading firm that lost about 700 of its 1,000 Trade Center employees, a spokesman says the firm doesn't "feel comfortable" giving an exact number of temps working on Sept. 11, though he does say that some temps and/or consultants were there that day."

I could be wrong, I'm pretty sure "doesn't feel comfortable" means "has absolutely no idea."  Now, I realize their first priority must be dealing with the loss of their permanent employees, and I can't even comprehend how they could begin to do that.  And it's not as if a solid number would really make anyone feel better.  But there's something about them not knowing how many temps they lost that makes me, as a temp, want to lie down on the floor and stare at the ceiling for a few days.  I find it kind of staggering.

I've felt invisible at most of my jobs, and for the most part, that's been fine with me.  Sure, it gets to me sometimes, not being noticed or included, people forgetting my name or not even bothering to learn it, but I've hardly gone out of my way to insert myself into the general office consciousness, if such a thing exists.  And anyway, the lower a profile I can maintain, the smoother things seem to go.  Not to mention the fact that the more ignored and less respected I am at my jobs, the better material I have for the site.  But I think going unnoticed may bother me a little more from now on than it has in the past.  

I think about my own situation.  My temp agency is less than organized, as I've pointed out before.  I talked to them today, in fact, and they had no idea where I was working until I reminded them.  They often forget where they have me placed, or if they have me placed at all.  As for my role in this, I do little to help them out.  I don't return calls, or notify them if I'm going out of town or taking a few days off.  Even my parents and close friends rarely know exactly where I am working, or the name of the company I'm working for.  Not much of a system on either end.

There are, at least, some positive words in the article:

"Some firms took extraordinary steps to track down every temp worker possibly working in the Trade Center that day. Jim Reese, chief executive of Randstad North America in Atlanta, says he and his colleagues worked around the clock to reach all 809 temps assigned to Manhattan. To find everyone, they had to call numerous corporate supervisors, send staffers registered letters, and get help from the local phone carrier to obtain unlisted numbers. "When we finally got the last one, we gave a big sigh of relief," he recalls."

And there may still be happier stories to come out of all this.  Surely, there were the temps (and permanent employees, too) who were scheduled to be there, but weren't.  Overslept.  Missed trains or buses.  Got lost.  Were sick.  Or at least called in sick, even though they felt fine and just wanted to stay home and finish a book.  Talk about a big sigh of relief; the guy or gal who decided they'd rather spend the day watching game shows than filing memos must still be in mid-sigh, even now, almost three weeks later.

Anyway.  There's a lot more to the article, and I'd link it directly, but the WSJ requires an account to view their articles, so I've just pasted the whole thing here.  Thanks to Jacqui for sending me the text, and thanks to Brian for letting me know about the article.  

Cheerier things Monday, I promise.


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9-27-01 - My Brain Hurts

Ow.  I have a crippling migraine, so I'm taking the day off from writing.  Luckily, I can always rely on people sending me things, so I'll post some of that.

My friend Keith sent me this link (although not specifically for my site):

If you take a look at the table of prohibited items (unless it has changed since Wednesday night), you may notice something a little... well... odd.

As Keith put it:

"No knives? Fine. 

No razor blades? Fine. 

No CATAPULTS? Has this been a problem in the past? Does this mean I can't bring the boulders either?"

Funny.  Thanks, Keith, for unknowingly contributing to this site.  But hey!  It won't go unrewarded, for here is a link.  Keith writes for a site called Baseball Prospectus, which can be reached by clicking here (not that they need my traffic).

Like baseball?  Well hell, check out Baseball Prospectus!  They know tons of shit about baseball!

That's not their official motto, I should point out, but it could be.  Seriously, Keith and the guys do a great job over there;  it's a site I read daily, and will continue to read, until they all EAT THEIR WORDS ABOUT THE METS NOT HAVING A SHOT AT THE POSTSEASON.

Also, check dis out!

This bawdy bit 'o' body art was sent in by Laura!  Way cool!  She had her friend Jaimie draw this on her arm (it's not permanent, which is somehow fitting, I think).  They're in a band, and Laura wore the name of my site on her arm during a recent gig, and got a lot of questions about it.  So, she's offically done more advertising for my site than I have.  

Here's another shot of it:

Pretty darn cool, if you ask me!  I especially enjoyed the Freudian significance of the flute.  Hah!  Just kidding, but hopefully this will inspire lots of other cute chicks to scrawl my URL on their nubile bodies.  Hey, I can hope, can't I?

Thanks, you two crazy kids!  Here's a link to Jaimie's site!

Okay.  Head hurt.  Me go lie down now.


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9-26-01 - Even Stupider Than Yesterday's Stupid Thing 

Last Monday, I was sent to an office to pull reception duty, because the normal receptionist, let's call her "Cathy", had called in sick for the day.

After I'd been there for about an hour, one of the employees came up to the front desk, looking for a postage stamp.

The conversation went like this:

Me:  Hi.  Can I... help with something?

Dumbass:  I need a stamp.

Me:  Okay.  Let me look around.

Dumbass:  Where are the stamps?

Me:  Um... I'm not sure.  Let me look--

Dumbass:  She didn't show you where they were?

Me:  What?

Dumbass:  She didn't show you where everything in the desk was?

Me:  Who?

Dumbass:  Cathy.

Me:  Cathy?  Uh...

Dumbass:  Yeah, she didn't show you where everything was?

Me:  Cathy... called in sick today.  She didn't come in.

Dumbass:  Oh...

Me:  That's why, uh.  That's why I'm here.

Dumbass:  So... she didn't show you everything?

Me:  Nooo... she... didn't come in.  I've never, uh, been here before.  And she didn't come in today, so... you know.  She couldn't have shown me... where things were.  Since we, uh, you know... never could have met.

Dumbass:  (long, long, loooooong pause)  I need a stamp.

Me:  (long, long, extremely long hateful pause)  I'll look.


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9-25-01 - Information Superhallway

Aaaaaaaaaand nowwwwwwww...

The STUPIDEST (...upidest ...upidest ...upidest)


*long pause*

IN THE WORLD!!! (...ORLD! ...ORLD! ...ORLD!)

Here's the set-up.  I'm working as a receptionist/admin for a wireless company, which has recently taken over the fourth floor of a new office building.  The place is mostly vacant, many of the forty or so offices and cubicles on the floor are empty and there's not a whole lot of furniture.  As a matter of fact, I sit at a lunch table in the hallway.

Yes, a lunch table.  Remember the tables they had in the cafeteria in middle-school?  Or the kind you see in flea markets?  Those horribly ugly dark brown particle-board things on wobbly metal folding legs?  I sit at one of those.

In the hallway.

Did I mention there are forty or so empty offices and cubicles?  I thought so.

Best of all, the lobby, where a receptionist would normally sit, is completely empty, and, it being a lobby, it's considerably roomier than a hallway.  Which is where I'm sitting.  In a hallway.  At a lunch table.

This alone means I spend most of the day wanting to kill myself, and hey!  We haven't even gotten to the stupid part yet!

Since the lobby is empty, the company doesn't want visitors coming up in the elevator and wandering around the building, which they would have to do since there is no one in the lobby to greet and/or direct them.  So, and here's where the fun begins, they have it set up so visitors can't get to the fourth floor of the building without someone to help them.  See, the elevator is locked off, and only someone with a special magnetic ID card to swipe past the sensor can get the elevator to go to the fourth floor.  Visitors naturally don't have a magnetic card; I do.  So, the procedure is this:

The visitors reach the door to the building, where a sign tells them to press the intercom, which buzzes incredibly loudly at my stupid table in the hallway, which gives me a fatal heart attack.  When I recover, I press my intercom button, and ask if I can help them.  They say something like "I'm here to see Bob" or "I have a delivery" or "I'm here about the hyena's penis" or whatever.  It doesn't really matter what they say, because through the intercom, it sounds like "GZZZKZTTTT HTZTHHZGGHHHTT ZHZTZTHZTZTZ."  They could be saying "I'm here to fix the elevator, because it keeps plummeting into the basement, killing all the passengers," and I'd respond with "I'll be right down in the elevator!"

And right down I go.  I get into the slow-moving elevator, ride it down, go through the downstairs lobby to the door, let the visitors in, and ride up in the elevator with them, engaging in awkward conversation and using my magic card to allow us up to the fourth floor.  Most of the conversation directed at me, I should add, revolves around what a stupid set-up this is, and it's delivered in a tone that implies it's all my fault.

This morning, all I did was ride the elevator, because we had separate visits from 1) FedEx, 2) Airborne, 3) UPS, 4) USPS, 5) Office Depot, and 6) about a half-dozen other assorted vendors and visitors.

Naturally, I can't sit there all day waiting for the intercom to buzz, so what happens when someone downstairs pushes the button and I'm not at my table?  Does the stupidity fail?  Nope!  A great deal of thought, incredibly stupid thought, has been put into this stupidity, and they came up with this:  give the temp a special pager that will vibrate when the intercom goes off!  He can clip this to his belt and carry it around with him, so no matter where he goes in the building, if someone needs to be let in, he can run back to his lunch table and yell into the intercom and then run to the elevator again!

This pager is about the size of a mass-market copy of Stephen King's bestseller, The Tommyknockers, and vibrates with enough force to bruise anyone in the vicinity.  It goes off at the same time the intercom buzzer does, so if I'm at my table, I'm both startled into unconsciousness by the noisy buzzer, while, at the same time, my pelvis is rattled into splinters by the pager's vibrations.

So, if you happen to stop by an office building tomorrow, and you see a miserable dip sitting at a lunch table in a hallway or dashing towards an elevator while vibrating so hard he's a blur, that's probably me.  Maybe, and I'm just tossing out ideas here, that instead of using the current stupid plan, they adopt a new plan, known as the Less Stupid Plan, where they simply move my ridiculous lunch table into the lobby, unlock the elevator, deep-six the intercom, and put the pager somewhere it can't do anyone any harm.  Mars, maybe.

I might suggest this myself, but I've had several fear-induced heart attacks and all the teeth have been rattled out of my skull, so it would probably just come out as "GZZZKZTTTT HTZTHHZGGHHHTT ZHZTZTHZTZTZ."


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9-24-01 - A Hyena Ate My Dingo Baby!

Ah, the nature documentary.  Ever since I was a kid, I've loved them.  The subject rarely matters; they could be about lions or elephants or fish or birds or snails or bacteria.  Whatever, they're cool and interesting, and they're always narrated by someone whose voice manages to be soothing and reassuring, even as he describes a) something's belly being torn out by something else, b) a fish swimming up the anus of a sea cucumber, or c) regurgitation.

My favorite types of documentaries are those about baby animals, who are followed around by camera crews until they either reach adulthood (the animals, not the crew) or are eaten by hyenas (the animals and/or the crew).  We are warned early on in the show that many of the young animals will not survive the difficult winter/summer/migration/layoffs ahead, and that sucks, because the little animals are extremely cute, and we love them.

And, hey, what's the deal with those hyenas, anyway?  They're such dicks.  No matter what documentary you're watching, the hyenas will show up and try to kill the subjects, particularly the extremely young and vulnerable subjects.  Lion cubs, tiger cubs, antelope, uh... cubs.  Alligator cubs, bird cubs, bacteria cubs, whatever, the hyena will show up about halfway through and try to eat them.  I recently watched a show about dolphin cubs, and right in the midst of some playful underwater frolicking, a hyena shows up in full scuba gear, paddling over to threaten the safety of the young.  I'm starting to think that the camera crews just bring a hyena with them, in a sack, and when it looks like things could use some jazzing up, they release it.  

I haven't seen a documentary about hyena cubs yet, but I bet some hyena tries to eat them, too.  If there is such a documentary, it should be called "Hyenas - The Assholes of the Wild."

Anyway, as the animals progress from extremely cute babies to unlawfully cute young adults, there's always a period where they are shown wrestling and playing and grappling with each other.  We learn that it's more than just cute behavior, though, for at this point, the narrator will unerringly say something like "But this playing serves more of a purpose than it may seem.  The cubs are learning valuable skills they will need later as adults."

It's true, too.  Playful wrestling as cubs translates into ripping the belly out of something as adults, which we see near the end of the show, right before the narrator blames me for the shrinking habitat of the lion/bear/dolphin/mitochondria.  But he blames me in a soothing voice, so I don't mind.

Still, when I hear about this play-as-survival theory, I always think about my childhood, and try to determine if I learned anything during playtime that has helped me later in life.  After some calculating, I have broken down my past playtime activities into categories, and the percentage of time I engaged in each of them:

Running Around Pretending I Could Fly And Project Power Beams From My Hands Like A Superhero:  64%

Getting My Ass Kicked By Bigger Kids:  30%

Blowing Bubbles In Milk:  4%

Smashing Matchbox Cars With A Hammer:  2%

Hm.  Well, I don't see any of these activities being beneficial to my adult life, except perhaps getting my ass kicked, which has prepared me for the psychological and spiritual pantsing I get on a daily basis at work.  Still, it might not qualify as play, because in no way did I, nor do I yet, enjoy it, so I may have to rethink its inclusion here.

In retrospect, my childhood should have been spent like this:

Pretending to Fix Copier Jams:  59%

Waiting for A Make-Believe Bus:  28%

Explaining to My Imaginary Co-Workers How To Save Something To Their [A:] Drive, For The Fiftieth Fucking Time:  10%

Learning to Smile Politely:  2%

Running From Hyenas:  1%


What's that?  You want a Diversion that will give you nightmares?  Well, okay, you asked for it!  Korean Ass-Shooter coming your way.  Requires Flash and a strong stomach.  And here's something else that might waste some of your precious playtime:  Gimp Chimp.  Requires Flash, it's noisy, and contains profanity.  Yay!  Links on sidebar; mind the hyena.

Last Week on Not My Desk


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