2-23-01 - Clomp and Circumstance
Every temp can sense it the moment they walk into a new job.
When they are led through the cubicle maze, they spot it from the corner of their eye.
A cardboard box. No top. Manila folders crammed in haphazardly.
Around a corner, a bookcase stands, barely bearing the weight of too many binders.
The dread starts then.
No one will mention it right away. No one will come right out and say it is your prime directive. The word will be spoken, but off-handedly, casually. Yet it will resound in the ears, the heart, and the mind of any temp, no matter how traveled.
"So, you'll be doing some memos, scheduling some meetings, travel arrangements... you know... general office stuff. If you find time, you know... maybe... maybe some archiving."
It's the worst, and not just for temps. Everyone hates archiving. It doesn't seem like it should be that big of a deal, really. Just put stuff in a box, write down what it is, and stick it somewhere. But it's something no one wants to do, and will not do unless forced to at gunpoint. I suppose maybe it's because it's so low priority. I mean, there's never a rush to archive anything. No business ever went under because they hadn't put stuff in storage in a timely fashion.
As a temp, I've been in charge of archiving more times than I can count. Makes sense, really. I mean, the company is thinking "Let's see... we've got years worth of important documents that we need filed away in this cavernous, boxed-filled room. Should we ever need these documents again, we'll need to be able to find them quickly and easily, because if something is put in the wrong place, we will never, ever find it again... let's have a complete stranger do it! A complete stranger, who has no company loyalty, who won't be here in a week, let alone five or ten years when we might have a question about something, a complete stranger who has absolutely nothing to lose by just shoving stuff wherever it's easiest for him at the moment!"
Anyway, archiving means boxes and labels and inventory and musty storage rooms and hefting and lifting and stacking and hoisting. It also means I am left alone in a big room with boxes and nobody watching me.
My current job has had me archiving this week. Their storage room is directly above their main offices, so I spent a lot of time up there. There wasn't really a whole lot of archiving to do, so I took my time, inventing games like "Push the Boxes Around With One Foot" and "Poke Through Old Employee Files" and "Pace In Circles While Imagining Winning Various Writing Awards" and "Sit on a Box and Read a Magazine for an Hour". All in all, I managed to stretch the whole thing out for about four days.
Today, my supervisor mentioned that she needed to get some archived files, and went upstairs. This is what I heard:
clomp clomp clomp clomp. clomp Clomp Clomp CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP.
Oh, jeez. That's loud. Is that what I sounded like when I was up there?
CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP.
All my pacing, right over their heads. It must have been deafening! What did they think I was doing up there?
Then I heard her pull a box across the floor.
Gah! All that half-assed box-pushing with one foot I did! It must have been obvious I was taking my damn sweet time!
Things were silent for a moment, and then she CLOMPED back downstairs.
Ack! I sat there on a box for an hour! All that silence between clomps... it must have been obvious I was doing nothing!
Man. How embarrassing. It just goes to show you: Um... something. I'm not sure what.
Hey! We've got a very special week coming up, so make sure you're back here bright and early Monday morning!
2-22-01 - Tips for Embezzlers
"Hi! It looks like you're trying to embezzle! Need any help?"
2-21-01 - The People I Hate on This Airplane
The Guy Sitting on my Left
He's old and he's busy. Strike one, strike two. I'm in the aisle, trying to stuff my bag into the overhead compartment, and he forces his way past me and into his aisle seat. He does this quite urgently, as if I were about to steal his seat. I say something like "I'll need to get in there in a second," because I have the middle seat, and he'll just have to get up to let me in, but he doesn't. Instead, he kind of pushes his legs to the side, forcing me to squeeze over him and the canvas briefcase he's got on the floor.
I make it to my seat, upon which are three white pillows and three blue blankets. I feel like handing two of them back to the old guy and the guy to my right, but I just stuff them into the seat-back magazine holder.
I get of whiff of Old Man's breath, which is abysmal. I mean, really bad, like those people who have that problem where they don't generate enough saliva and their mouths become a dry, pasty cavern. Breath that leads by a good six feet. I turn on my air and point it directly into my face. Meanwhile, he's busy rummaging around in his briefcase, arranging notes, opening and closing envelopes, and capping and uncapping pens, which he will proceed to do for the entire four-hour flight, his right elbow like a spear, jabbing into my ribs for the duration.
Since the old man is taking up the armrest on my left at two-second intervals, and the guy to my right is using his, I have to pull my shoulders together and keep my hands between my knees, which doesn't seem that uncomfortable until you do it for four hours straight. The guy to my right is reading, so I'm hoping he won't feel a need to pummel my ribcage with anything sharp. I sneak a peek at the book and it's Gerald's Game, by Stephen King. I've read it myself. I get out my book out and walkman.
The guy to my right starts laughing hysterically.
The Guy Sitting on my Right
Okay, I've read Gerald's Game, and I guess there might have been some funny moments in it, but nothing to laugh about for five minutes at the top of your lungs. I mean, a woman is handcuffed to a bed the entire book. Not exactly a laugh riot.
The guy on my right starts saying things out loud during the flight, like "Boy, this window is dirty," and "Son of a bitch," and "Oh, man!" and "HA HA HA HA HA HA." Am I supposed to be sufficiently intrigued to ask him what's so funny or distressing him? Should I agree, out loud, about the unclean state of the window? What is my role, here? Another thing he does is pull out his pocket watch to check the time. He does this every five minutes. I like pocket watches, and I understand that to check the time, you do have to pull them out and open them. But he does it with his left hand, and when he opens it, he holds it at arm's length. Since we're in coach, arm's length means directly in front of my face. He then appraises the time thoughtfully, snaps it shut with a flourish, and turns the watch over in his hands for about ten seconds, as if suddenly realizing how startlingly sophisticated and attractive it is. Then he puts it away for five minutes.
All this behavior seems to be for my benefit, but maybe I'm just being paranoid.
I order up some booze, as does Pocket Watch. Later, the stewardess goes by to collect the empty bottles and napkins, and I hand mine in. Pocket Watch is too busy checking the time to notice, and the stew moves further up the aisle. Realizing he's missed her, he picks up his empty cup and napkin, and holds them out for her. She has already passed by and doesn't see him, but he just holds his arm there, three inches from my face. He doesn't call her, or wave his arm at all, just holds it there in front of my eyes. He doesn't do what any normal person would do, namely, put his shit back on his tray and wait for her to come by again, he just holds it there. I am about to snap his arm off at the shoulder, and use his elbow to jab the old man on my left, who by now is really pissing me off, when another stewardess comes by and takes his trash.
He continues reading his book, breaking into deafening laughter every so often. I notice his laughter sounds just as if he were reading "HA HA HA HA HA" off a page. It's odd to hear someone laugh like that, kind of like when you hear a dog bark, and it literally sounds like "Bark!"
The Guy Sitting Behind Me
He gets up. Often. To get up, he grabs the back of my seat and yanks himself from his chair. This causes my seat to lurch backwards, which is unfortunate if I'm trying to sip my drink, read my book, or maintain the location of the vertebrae in my back.
We're preparing to land. It's pretty choppy, a lot of turbulence, and the plane is dipping from side to side. I feel a strange sensation, and I realize it's the feeling of not having my ribs stabbed by a sharp elbow for five full seconds. Concerned, I turn to look at the old guy, and I notice he has taken out a pair of scissors and is cutting something out of a magazine.
I think about bringing up the fact that we're in a vehicle that is both traveling a couple hundred miles per hour and preparing to connect with a good-sized planet, but you know, right now, I can't think of a downside to those scissors winding up protruding from his skull.
The Guy Sitting in Front of Me
He didn't bother me at all during the flight. I just hate him because I wish I'd had his seat.
2-20-01 - Archimedes
"The only thing worse than sitting at someone else's desk, is not sitting at someone else's desk."
Oscar Wilde may have said that if he had been a temp, and if he hadn't been particularly witty or imaginative. Still, it's kind of true.
I don't have a desk at my temp job anymore. I've been displaced. I'm a floater.
Being a floater is the worst. It's hard to pretend to be working if you don't have a computer to mess around with. The photocopier only has so many buttons, the fax machine is just plain boring, and bathrooms simply don't live up to all the hype they've been getting.
Basically, you roam around, wait for someone to go to lunch or enter a meeting, and then you take their desk until they come back. Hardly enough time to feel comfortable downloading game clients or chat programs or even getting any work done, if that's your thing.
The upshot is, in just one day, or even a few short hours, I get a good look at everyone's personal stuff. Toys, books, photos, e-mails, sheddings, etc. It can be fairly educational when it's not too disgusting.
For instance, I was sitting at this one guy's desk for about an hour while he was out of the building. I looked over at the wall next to his desk, and there was a photograph of the guy and his wife, and their infant child. From the looks of things, it was taken maybe three minutes after his wife had given birth to their baby. While I'm not particularly into babies, this seems like a nice picture to have at your desk if you are in fact into babies, especially your own. But there was... something wrong with this picture.
The woman was lying in the hospital bed, red-faced, sweaty, disheveled, and groggy. And why not? I can't even begin to imagine the trials and efforts and pain it takes to deliver a child, it's simply beyond my capacity. And luckily, it can remain that way, for I am a man! (Guys, if you haven't taken a few moments out of your day today to simply marvel and rejoice in the fact that you will never have to give birth, you really should. Does wonders for lifting the spirits.)
The other thing about her was that, well... how do I put this? Let's say that if she were not holding the baby in a very strategic area, I would have seen a lot more of her chestal region than I would normally be comfortable viewing, considering that she is my co-workers wife, and that I had in fact met her the day before, and that she was half-unconscious at the time of the photograph. As it is, the picture shows a very tiny baby, as well as a very well-endowed woman, and I am only barely saved from having to think to myself, the next time I see her, "I know what your nipples look like."
Leaning into the picture with a big grin on his face is my co-worker. He didn't seem to be too concerned with what his wife had just gone through, his pose and expression were similar to mine when I was photographed in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. "Here I am in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, and I am moderately happy" my face said. His said: "Here I am, in front of my half-naked and exhausted wife, and I am moderately happy, as well as completely oblivious to the fact that this may not be the time to start snapping pictures left and right, and even if it is time, should these pictures be developed, I shouldn't go hanging them next to my desk at work."
I'm guessing he took video of the birth too, and thinks nothing of showing it to the wide-eyed, speechless neighbors.
I certainly don't blame his wife for the picture in his office. I mean, I'm sure childbirth is a wonderful, magical thing and all, but it's not particularly glamorous. She certainly did not look like she wished to be photographed at that particular moment, it probably wasn't number one on her priority list. I'm sure she was thinking "Hey, photos, great. But you know what? Maybe after I spend a few moments with our baby? Maybe after a few hours when I'm not in quite as much pain as I am right now? Maybe after I spend a few minutes filling out these divorce papers? Or, I dunno, maybe after I spend a few seconds pulling my top up?"
And I know, I just know, right before the picture was taken, he said "Smile, honey!"
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