Monday, June 27, 2005

Beware all enterprises...

Thursday was my first foray into the world of temping. Since it’s one of, if not *the*, largest segments of the American workforce these days it seems only right that I come to learn what it’s all about. If today is any indication it’s about sterility and mind crushing boredom interspersed with moments of loathing for your “coworkers.” I’m not sure what sort of confidentiality agreement exists with temp workers so I’ll not mention the firm nor the specific task I was assigned. I arrived 15 minutes early at a large office building. The elevator doors opened a painfully stereotypically office. The firm does advertising, and seems to have come out of a box itself. It seems categorically impossible to “think out of the box” when your office seems composed of every element associated with a 90s startup. Exposed beams, frosted teal glass and brushed steel were in no short supply. Everything looked kind of like a SNL skit of what it actually was.

I, myself, looked quite a bit like a caricature of a 20 something go getter. Hair adorned with some product. I was decked out in the requisite French blue shirt and dark suit. I swear the city of DC must have some arrangement with all the local newscasters throughout the country to repurpose all their old French blue shirts. Truly DC, and more specifically NW and Capitol Hill are where French blue shirts are put out to stud. I have a number of these shirts, but I’m told the new shirt one must own is “Politico pink.” I can’t say I have one of these, and I’m therefore prompted to recall the Thoreau quotation: “Beware all enterprises that require new clothes.” But I digress.

I checked in with the firm’s receptionist, informing her I was there to see Ms. X. Ms. X was paged and was no where to be found. I was offered coffee and water and a seat. I declined all but the seat. The waiting room had several televisions bolted to the wall in something that resembled the entertainment center I’d imagine dominatrixes would favor. It was all clips and bolts and metal. What it lacked in elegance and line it more than made up for in raw assurance that “by God, these tvs will never move.”

Another receptionist arrived. The two women began an amiable chat (with eachother, I was largely, and thankfully ignored). I only overheard portions of the talk, but the key sentence was clearly: “Rue McClanahan seemed to expect more from our family reunion. Not more people—just more.” I must admit this was the first time I’d ever been forced to consider the numerous people to whom Blanche from the Golden Girls must be related. There’s something mesmerizing and wonderful about the idea of Rue McClanahan having this receptionist for a 3rd cousin. Minor celebrities are people too, but I wonder just how must disapproval people in the family are willing to take from the slutty Golden Girl. I guess no one retells the story about how their Aunt Mabel doesn’t really like the lemonade they serve at the reunion, but if Rue McClanahan doesn’t think the brats are quite as good as last years’ it’s story fodder. Though in fairness, I wouldn’t be writing this post if the 1st receptionist was talking about her Aunt Mabel.

When Miss X finally arrived I was led through fancy security doors, which I was assured would not allow me reentry if I left, so it was best to stay here. The hallway opened up into a large soul killing room filled with cubicles and side offices marked with signs for printer station “elephant” and the like. I asked about the day's task which I’d been led to believe would be retyping a training manual into Word. Turns out it wasn’t this task, though the sigh of relief I felt was short lived. I was to type meeting notes into Word. So instead of a finished and legible document I was retyping 86 pages of scribbles into various documents. And so I typed. And typed. Turns out spending seven straight hours typing is not only a horrible way to spend seven hours, but it’s awfully destructive to one’s will to live and shoulders. After my stint of typing I was informed that I could leave early, since I’d finished early. It was then that I realized, I was working by the hour, and that were I more cagey and wise I’d have taken my time. Instead, I was paid for one hour less than I was booked and left with a sense of perspective. I know I need to get a real job, for the prospect of another day in the glassed in hell of the temp world is demoralizing.

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