Stinging in the Rain
Today is my last day at
the California Teacherís Association, a two-week temp job that has
proven to me both the value of a good education, and that teachers are
absolutely retarded and evil.
The office is located in
Oakland, a city I am beginning to find, well, a little alarming.
The other morning I parked my car, got out, and then watched as a SWAT
team swarmed around me and into a hotel across the street. Not a
couple cops, but an entire SWAT team. With machine guns and
everything, just like in the movies.
I told my supervisor about
it when I got to the office, and he said "Oh, you shouldn't park
there. That's a crack hotel."
Crack hotel? I've
heard of crack houses, but never a crack hotel.
I wonder if they have
But back to the job.
Here at the C.T.A., we only deal with teachers who have problems, such
as missing paychecks, overcrowded classrooms, and the inability to
complete a coherent sentence. I understand that people can get very
upset and agitated when they have an issue that is not being dealt with
in a timely fashion, but some of these teachers are downright
hysterical. One woman has come in every day this week, growing more and
incomprehensible on each visit, until today, when I think her synapses
all fired at once.
"-and my problem is
just being ignored because for years this principal has been treating me
like I donít know what but Iím used to being treated differently
because Iím a headstrong woman I mean at UCLA I was the first woman to
wear pants and they had to chase me around the campus but this school
and-it-was-I mean I donít like to rabble-rouse and I mean donít rock
the boat but my rights are being complet-"
Here she takes a huge
"-ly ignored and I
know itís because Iím a feminist and I know that men feel threatened
by a woman with a brain but this principal Iím considering bringing in
an attorney because I need some representation and I made some flyers
and posted them everywhere because itís become a matter of the
governmentís interference into the schools on a state level and the
She sucks in another deep
breath, and I take the opportunity to slyly chew off one of my hands,
providing myself with an excuse to leave.
"Oops! I seem to have
chewed off my own hand," I say. "Be right back."
Her lungs full, she looks
around for someone to continue babbling at, and just then, the postal
carrier arrives. He is doomed.
"-ably a matter for
the courts right now because-"
She continues for, no lie,
fifteen minutes, only pausing when her lungs become empty. She spews her
flood of words at anyone who comes into range, not bothering to start
over or determine if the person actually works here or not. Itís
really kind of disconcerting to think that she works with children.
Of course, I find most children to be erratic and incomprehensible as
well, so maybe it's a good match.
Since the SWAT incident,
I've been parking much further away from the office, somewhere that
seems a little safer, outside a crack retirement home about five blocks
from the office. I'm on my way back after lunch now, and I'm
soaked, as it's been pouring rain all week and I have no umbrella.
I am beginning to notice a
social barrier, not dissimilar to the smoker/non-smoker rift that exists
in this country. This occurs to me as I am hurrying along the sidewalk
in the downpour, feeling big drops of rain hit my head, and feeling
bigger drops hit me from the edges of the so-called protective awnings
and canopies above the vandalized store fronts.
I hate awnings. I mean,
let's be honest: sure, they keep you dry while you stand under them, but
as soon as you try to step out, bam! You get a tennis ball-sized
drop of water right down your collar or on your glasses from the edge of
the awning, where it has been clinging gleefully, just waiting to drop
on you. And I know this has happened to everyone, because they told me.
I'd also like to know what scientific principle explains why the drops
of water from the awnings are always ten times colder than the actual
Anyway, I am moving along
the sidewalk as fast as I can, and ahead of me are three guys with big
umbrellas, walking side by side. The sidewalk is only so wide, and their
umbrellas keep them farther apart from each other than they would
normally walk, even though guys walk far apart anyway so people won't
think they're gay (and don't even get me started on how guys sit when
they go to the movies together).
So, I can't get by them
without going into the street and getting killed by a bus or gunfire
from a passing SWAT team. And they're just taking their time, walking
incredibly slowly, under their huge umbrellas, preventing me from
passing or reaching "safety" under the next awning. Totally
inconsiderate, I think.
And lest anyone think I am
being unfair to the male umbrella-carrying population, a few blocks
later I am behind two women in the same situation. Can't pass, and
they're walking very slowly, and then, get this, they stop and hug.
While they hug, their umbrellas stick way out on both sides, preventing
me from dashing by, so I have to stop and wait, in the pouring rain, for
this show of affection to cease. As I stand there dripping, I figure,
"Well, they're probably going their separate ways and won't see
each other for a while, so sure, why not have a hug."
No. They start walking
again, together. They weren't even saying goodbye or anything. I have to
get extra wet because one woman probably said something like,
"Cindy, your hair looks so good today," and the
other probably said, "Oh, Cheryl, you're soooo sweet!"
And then they both said, "Hug!"
Tomorrow I am going to
inch along the sidewalk holding an umbrella the size of an above-ground
swimming pool, stopping every few feet to hug.
Even if I'm alone.
Even if its not raining.
I only have about two
hours left until I'm done here. This job has been somewhat of a downer
because, being school-related, they have no budget, and therefore no
cool stuff to steal. Itís a challenge locating a few staples or a
Post-It note, let alone enough to load my pockets with. I mean, the
floor of my car has more office equipment than their whole supply
closet. I donít even have a computer, just some weird thing people
keep calling a "typewriter." I canít get it to work, because
someone apparently stole the mouse. Ha ha. I am young.
Thereís a nice older man
who works there, Todd, who Iíve helped out from time to time during
the week. I like Todd, he seems capable but a bit absent minded, and
helping him out beats trying to wrestle teachers to the ground and
inject them with sedatives. Todd leads me over to his file
cabinets. "Okay," he says. "What I want you to do is
He opens two half-empty
drawers, and starts pulling files out of both of them.
"I basically want you
to take these files," he says, pulling out the files, "and put
them in this drawer," he puts them in the drawer, "and then
take these files," he takes out some other files, "and
put them in this drawer," and he puts them in the other
drawer. "So, just, basically moving these files into that one"
he says, again pulling out more of the files, "and those files into
this one," and he puts the files in the drawer. "So, these in
here," he demonstrates again, pulling out the remaining files,
"and those in there," he says as he finishes the task
"Let me know if you
have any questions." He walks over to his desk to work on something
I do have a question. But
I donít ask it. I just stand there by the file cabinets for about ten
minutes. Then I say, "Done!"
He gets me started on
another task, which involves taking files that are stacked on the floor,
sorting them by name and district, and putting them in a empty drawer.
This is a huge task, as there are hundreds of files, and I donít know
how he expects me to get them done before the end of my last day.
As I yank the drawer open,
it comes completely apart in my hand. Long metal things slide out of the
side and fall in a clatter on something that can only be described as my
foot, causing what can only be called immense pain.
It takes almost an hour
just to get the drawer fixed, and by fixed I mean "still broken but
not evident unless anyone tries to open it." Of course, I still
have to organize the files and load them into the drawer.
Thereís only an hour
left before Iím done with this job, but luckily I am experienced in
these types of things, so I kick into high gear, shove all the files in
the broken drawer in random order, ram it shut, get my paycheck signed,
Thatís the great thing
about being a temp. You can just shove some crap in a drawer and run
away forever. You donít have to deal with the day, a few weeks or
months down the line, when someone will open the drawer and actually try
to find something. Thereís no stammering and shame as you try to come
up with an excuse for such a poorly done job, youíre already across
town, screwing up someone elseís office. Chances are, five other temps
have worked there before or since, thereís no way they can single you
out and rat on you to your agency.
If I ever write a movie
about temps (blockbuster! youíre thinking) I know what the
first scene will be.
Iíve seen this in dozens
of movies: itís nighttime, thereís an office, dimly lit. A window
slides open, a thief (or our hero, the private detective) creeps inside,
dressed in all black. There is a click and a small circle of light
dances over the walls to a desk, then a file cabinet. He pulls the
drawer open, flips through some perfectly alphabetized files, finds the
one he wants immediately, sets it on the desk, takes pictures of the
contents with a little camera, and then heís gone, silent and
My movie would have a
scene like that, only when the thief/hero opens the drawer, it falls
apart and metal things land on his foot. Then he begins searching
through the files, but theyíre horribly out of order. There seems to
be no system to these files, even random placement doesnít account for
how jumbled and chaotic they are. After three hours of searching, he
finds the file he needs, but the contents are only a copy of the
"Kirk vs. Picard" list office workers love to hang in their
cubicles. Frustrated, he goes through another cabinet, then another,
hours pass, the sun comes up, and the thief is finally forced to flee,
unfulfilled, much like the audience, who has sat and watched some guy
look through a cabinet for three hours.
Don't worry. If
there's a sequel, I'll add a SWAT team.