Thursday, March 20, 2008

Day 20: Temp Jobs I've Had

1. Backstage at the Nordstrom shoe department. I spent eight hours each day pulling wads of tissue paper out of pumps and lacing up boots in the dusty semi-darkness, while haggard, over-pomaded men whisked in and out wringing their hands in search of a size 10 Nine West in brown.

2. Some kind of high-tech firm in Carlsbad. I don’t know what they did, but I know what I did: Cut shapes out of card stock with an X-acto knife for eight hours (no reason was given.) I sliced off the top of my thumb, and continued cutting with a few band-aids to stanch the bleeding. At one point, I noticed I was alone, and after a long time a man came running in to say the front of the building was on fire and I should go move my car.

3. The Money Store in La Jolla. They didn’t ask me to do anything, not even answer the phone, but all day people came by to chat, smiling and thanking me for my efforts. A few of them offered to bring me coffee and baked goods. Most of them told me how much I reminded them of Julie, an apparently much-loved former receptionist. When I asked how we were similar, one gal said wistfully, “Oh, she sat there, too…”

4. Some department at MIT (I’ve already talked about this one) where I decided to steal all the supplies they had delivered from Central Processing—including tissues, pencils, tape and glue—and then came this close to getting caught and probably arrested.

5. A high finance company in downtown Boston, where they handed me a really long dot-matrix printout of unintelligible notes and asked me to create an outline. They said it should take a couple of weeks. By 11:00 am. I’d finished and been suddenly stricken with a debilitating flu. They sent me home for some rest, praising me for my incredible speed. When I woke up four hours later, the agency called to let me know they had fired me.

6. The Republican National Convention offices in Del Mar. I was on phones. But my actual job was to get screamed at every five minutes by a person I’d never seen before, who would lunge around the corner, snarling like a jaguar, to tell me I’d screwed up their call. At 3:00, I was told to announce on the P.A. that it was June Birthdays, and everyone to reception. Someone plunked a chocolate cake next to my phone, and for ten minutes everyone came out and ate it, laughing and talking. Then they went away. For the rest of the day, every time someone came by to yell at me, their faces contorted in fury and disgust and they spat, “You have chocolate cake on your face.” I hadn’t touched the cake. I have a dark brown beauty mark next to my lower lip.

7. Cabot Advertising in Charlestown, MA, where my job was to answer the phone and type letters for five junior executives. Four women—all of whom typed their own letters—and one man, senior to me only by virtue of not being a temp—who couldn't or wouldn't even type his own name. One of their clients was Prime Computer, notable for creating a word processing program that required EIGHT STEPS to underline a word.

8. The Charles Hotel in Cambridge, MA, where I answered phones in a windowless room populated by three other people, all chain smokers. I actually loved them, and the job, despite the smoke. There was very little to do, and I yakked on the phone and read all day when I wasn’t gossiping with the two women, and went on long lunches in Harvard Square.

9. Children’s Hospital Boston, where I was a secretary for an extremely famous emeritas heart surgeon, who was now 95 years old. He came in only about once a week, seemingly just to chat with me. The rest of the time I sat alone in the office and hoped the phone would ring. When it did, it was usually him, telling me (in his thick Hungarian accent,) “Sa-MAHN-ta, I am lunching at the Harvard Club today and won’t be in. Please hold my calls.”

10. Insurance company in Laguna Beach, CA. I was the file clerk. I learned all about how much people hate insurance agents. And became really good at alphabetizing. I also fell in love with one of the agents, not knowing for a long time he was the son of the company president. Our flirtation was as aggressive as blood sport, yet he had a girlfriend, a wispy thing who looked like she had trouble supporting the weight of her own hair. Still, it was extremely painful the day I was unceremoniously fired (along with all the other temps) in a downsizing move. The son and I sat on the curb outside the office until nearly 8:00 p.m., not quite able to to go somewhere together, but not wanting to say goodbye, either. And then I never saw him again.

DEAR READERS: Can you guess which one of these jobs became a permanent position?

Extra credit: Can you figure out which THREE of these jobs offered me a permanent position by the end of the first day? (P.S. There's no overlap.)


Cheri said...

"a wispy thing who looked like she had trouble supporting the weight of her own hair"

You ought to be a writer . . .

Okay, the last time I guessed on one of your posts, I got it all wrong, and floated the misguided notion that you might know what make-up sex is, so, should I try again . . . of course I will.

#3. For the permanent job (when you were a student at UCSD)?

7,8, and 9 for offers?

If I get any one of these correct, I want a prize. A pretty prize.

Jen said...

OMG this is taking me back. I think my worst temp job was doing seasonal inventory at Nordstrom. To this day, if I hear any of the songs that played on the continuous loop my blood pressure goes up and I feel like I need to throttle someone.

Loved the previous post, too! Jarrah is getting SO grown up.

Miss J

Sweddy said...

Hmmm. I can't guess. The Republican one?

Having worked temp for a couple of years, I was always amazed at the job offers. There must be a lot of incompetent people out there because if I demonstrated the least little bit of competence, they would be slavering to give me a job. I'd be like, hey, I'm a temp for a reason and that reason is that I can't stand the thought of working for any of you.

I have a whole long list of weird ones, but here are three:

1) The Archdiocese of San Francisco hired me to work on the Papal Campaign Committee. (I am not Catholic.) My job was to type--with a typewriter--the same letter asking for money over and over and over and over so that the Pope would come to San Francisco. I did this for weeks. I dreamed the letter at night. I thought about adding a PS or two at the end. P.S. Did the Pope tell you, he now endorses birth control? Unfortunately, I was desperate for money so continued far past when I should have.

2) I worked the reception desk for some corporation whose name I can't remember. The phones were slow, so I pulled out my novel. Someone came spluttering up to the desk, "You can't read _books_ here. We only allow our receptionist to read magazines." I guess they didn't want a brainy-seeming receptionist. Only airheads need apply. So I went out at lunch time and probably spent my entire day's earning buying magazines of the sort of which they would dissaprove. I came back armed with Mother Jones, the New Yorker, and others.

3) I worked for Wyeth Ayerst Pharmaceuticals in some tiny town in the north country of New York. The job itself was fine--I was actually working in a trailer for a construction company with a bunch of wacky Canadians. But when I would go into the main building, I was freaked out by the unlabeled dispensers of pink pills above every water fountain.

smittenknitten said...

Okay, let's see....

#7 was the full time position.

Extra credit #8, 9, and 10.

If there is a prize you can find my wishlists at both The Grove and Two Sisters and Ewe ;).

Caroline said...

You are so funny. I love number three. Can I have that job? So much better than the jobs where one does everything, gets ignored, gets no thanks, and has to pay for their own snacks. And any comparisons to one's predecessor seem to imply that one does not measure up. ;)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

#7 for the permanen job?

I can't play anymore--I have GOT to get some homework done!