The Temp That Time Forgot
After chiseling my message
on the stone tablet, I fasten it around the neck of the orangutan and
give him a gentle push towards the customer service department. He
scratches his privates for a moment, lets out a hoot, and scampers away
in the direction of the engineering division.
I sigh. The office I am
working in this week is a bit behind the times, technologically
I’m working for the
city's sewer division. As receptionist, I'll be answering the
smoke-signals, distributing crude drawings and pictograms, and sorting
the dung and moss that comes in through the mail. Okay, perhaps I am
exaggerating a bit, but they have some really antiquated equipment,
software, and phones here, and it's the only city office that still
accepts livestock as payment for sewer connection fees.
It's going to be one of
those jobs. Lots of calls from the general public, hundreds of
employees’ names to remember (while trying to forget the hundreds from
previous jobs), and yet no actual work to do. There might be the
occasional odd job such as taking a delivery over to City Hall or
reassuring the employees that, regardless of what they've heard on the
Talking-Box, the Earth is indeed flat.
This office really is
out of date, and it's apparent in nearly every task I am given and every
question I am asked.
"Can you see if a
conference room is available?" Cathy, an engineer from Development
Systems asks me. "Johnson botched the Mid-County sewer assessment
project. He says the guy in Abacus Payable fouled up the figures, but we
think he's possessed by evil demons, so we're going to flay him
"Let's see," I
say, flipping through the ancient, leather-bound book. "The
River-God Room is free until the Sun-Hangs-Low-In-The-Sky. Then
Marketing has it for a meeting."
"I don't think that's
enough time," she says. "Let's see... tear off Johnson's skin,
boil his eyes, the purification ritual... no, we'll need a room at least
"Well, the Great
Bear-Spirit Room is available until The-Rooster-Crows-Once."
"Perfect! And that's
right near the breakroom and excrement-holes, too!"
I'm really bored. At my
desk is a sign-up sheet for a Soft Tissue Injury Prevention class. It
seems the entire office will be relocating to a cave across the street
next month, and the Safety Department wants to make sure that no one
hurts themselves carting their boxes and rocks and stuff around. I
notice that only a handful of people have signed up for the class, so I
wind up the phone and call the guy in charge to offer my recruitment
"I can write up some
sort of motivational memo," I offer. "Maybe people just aren't
aware of the class."
He grunts in the
affirmative so I set out to create a memo that will make soft tissue
injury prevention sound interesting and important.
After a few hours of
staring at a blank screen, I throw that idea away and instead write
SOFT TISSUE INJURY
Has this ever happened
to you? You're at a party, surrounded by people who are all talking
about how to prevent injuries to soft tissue. You'd like to
participate but you realize you don't know all that much about soft
tissue injury prevention!!!
Well, kiss this social
faux pas good-bye, because this month you can be the envy of
all your friends and neighbors by attending the Soft Tissue
Injury Prevention Class!
The class will cover
these exciting topics:
1) Soft tissue
2) Injuries pertaining
to soft tissue
3) How to prevent
injuries pertaining to soft tissue(!)
4) Soft tissue as a
metaphor in post-Reconstructionist literature
5) Your soft tissue
and You: A bond of trust
6) How to spot soft
tissue from quite a long way off
7) Some other stuff
about soft tissue
And much more! So sign
up now and receive a free six-month subscription to Soft Tissue
Digest and a Soft Tissue Manä Action Figure with Cartilage
Gripâ (limited supply)!
I add the class schedule
and some serious words about injury prevention to the bottom of the memo
and head to the copy hovel to make 1 million copies. I feel this is
probably a mistake because I have just started this job and I don't know
if people will think I'm a total dope, or perhaps this is a company that
takes their soft tissue very seriously. Then again, I need something
else to write about because you can only make fun of the low-tech
qualities of an office for so long (about twelve-hundred words,
Surprise of surprises,
there's a paper jam. I open the copier and see the gnome, his face
bathed in sweat, yanking at the spool of parchment. "Fixed in a
minute," he spits, inadvertently knocking over his flasks of ink
and quill pens. I close the copier door and wait. I'd better not mention
that I need them collated, three-hole punched and bound with twine. The
copier-gnome has a quick temper.
A little later, a man is
here to pay his sewer bill, so I turn towards the hallway and imitate
the sound of a premature female buffalo. Nothing happens. "No one
is answering," I say. "They must all be on other calls."
I'll have to do this
myself. Consulting my parchment, I make change for a goat and two hens.
"Here's three grubs and a shiny rock," I say. "Do you
need a receipt?"
By now, my memo has hit
the mail-slabs of every employee on the floor, and so far, I've gotten
no reaction. Maybe no one thought it was funny. Maybe they have
relatives with no soft tissue of their own and are deeply offended.
Perhaps its my imagination, but I seem to be getting dirty looks from
one or two of the secretaries and some of the serfs.
A guy named Todd shows up
a few moments later. "Is this where I sign up for the soft tissue
class?" he asks.
I hand him the clipboard
and sit there glumly while he searches through his zebra-skin for a
writing implement. I guess no one got the joke or just didn’t find it
funny. Why did I put out such a stupid memo? Now everyone in the office
will think I'm even more of a dork than they already thought I was.
"By the way,"
Todd says, scrawling an X across the papyrus, "when do I get
my action figure?"
He laughs. I feel a little
The week is about over.
Friday afternoon brings a lull in phone activity and the usual hurrying
of the employees to catch the early ox-cart back home. All in all, this
isn't such a bad place to work. Most of the people are nice and I think
its cute how they run and hide when it rains. I suppose someday soon a
bold explorer will enter these shadowed halls, ambition in his heart and
a Windows 2000 upgrade under his arm, and pull this office boldly
forward into the sixteenth century. It will be somewhat of a shame, I
think, for this place to lose its old-world innocence, and it would most
definitely be a shock to its fragile eco-system.
But I suppose that's
called progress. Or perhaps a better word would be... evolution.