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Temp(er)

A few years ago, I made a mistake. Not the first, and certainly not the last, but kind of a big one. During a summer of very few assignments, all of them pretty rough and obnoxious, I decided to give up on the exciting world of office temping. Sure, the jobs were—for the most part—stress-free and high-paying (when I left, I was making $19/hour to sit on my ass and occasionally type), but I got bored. I started playing bizarre pranks that only I understood and found funny; then I started pushing things and pushing things to see how far I could go before I got fired. When nobody even fired me the day I took a five-hour lunch, I finally decided it was time to quit.

I decided to move into the exciting, fast-paced world of retail coffee sales, a disastrous move if there ever was one. Sure, it was more exciting, but I had to work way harder for less pay. Also, I had to deal with—shudder—people. Furthermore, while I’ve been toiling in the miserable retail food-service industry, I’ve missed out on all sorts of extra office experience that could perhaps benefit me in, for example, finding a decent job upon college graduation.

I’ve been sending out my resume for weeks, rewriting it with lessening degrees of honesty, in an effort to make myself look like the cat’s ass, employment-wise. But, I decided, I need money now, so fuck it—I’ll go back to temping, gain experience, and hopefully luck out with a decent temp-to-hire position.

Step one: shove myself through the front door and get interviewed and tested.

Though my skill set lies mostly in office work and preparing coffee beverages, I did some time as an extremely masculine Unskilled Laborer. With that in mind, the first place I went was a fairly large agency that seems to get a whole lot of work in a variety of areas, both in offices and in labor-intensive jobs. I figured it’d be good to cover both bases, to expand my job opportunities. Not that I really want to go back to warehouse, factory, or construction work, but it’d pay the bills while I look for a real job, and it still pays better than retail.

The test/interview building was in Palatine, so let’s just say the de facto step two was “get lost.” Despite spending so much time in the dreaded Los Angeles, I keep forgetting the suburban philosophy of meandering roads that will just randomly stop, only to pick up again a few miles down the road. My failure to MapQuest the location is often my own undoing.

At any rate, I finally got to the facility. They Xeroxed my driver’s license and Social Security card, then shoved me into a tiny room with nine other people to fill out a lengthy application. Most of the information was contained in my resume—a document they were surprised to see, despite telling me over the phone top bring it—so I kept writing things like, “See resume,” because why bother repeating all the information?

After filling out the application, a plump, brusque woman demanded I wait for an interview. I sat down in their lobby/waiting room with three other guys. I had forgotten to bring a book, and the only periodical they had was the August 2002 issue of Wired. I decided to stare out the window at the thrilling Northwest Highway traffic. I was exhausted from having been out late the previous evening, so I nearly fell asleep. But then—

A car pulled into the parking lot, and out stepped a family. A father, a mother, an older gentleman (older brother? uncle? father?)—and two little girls. One couldn’t have been more than four, and the other was probably seven or eight.

Now, I can dig the Unemployed Family; I lived in a blue-collar town in the late ’80s, after all. Can’t afford a babysitter, family won’t take the kids, so the only option is to haul them all over town. Or, in this case, to the temp agency, while Mommy, Daddy, and Unknown Other Family Member test their skills for possible employment. So I don’t want to get all down on them for bringing their kids with them; I will, however, get all down on them because the kids would not stop irritating me.

They yelled, squealed, beat each other with empty soda bottles, threw flaming-hot Cheetos on the floor, insulted each other—basically, acted young sisters. Maybe this wouldn’t have bothered me if they had been across the room, but they chose to sit right next to me. I was tired, I was frustrated at waiting over 40 minutes for an interview, and these kids weren’t helping.

In slight defense of the parents, it wasn’t really a discipline problem; kids will simply be kids. When the mother, a large and semi-terrifying woman, finished filling out her application, she thundered into the lobby, heard her kids screaming, and said, “Shut up!” Not in a mean way; in a “You know better than to squeal in public places” way. She grabbed the soda bottles from her daughters and threw them in the garbage, then pointed down at the flaming-hots and said, “Pick up those chips.”

“Sherry hurt my arm,” one of the girls declared in a tattletale voice.

“I’m gonna hurt your butt in a minute,” the mother responded. “Pick up those chips.”

They picked up the Cheetos. Both girls remained silent for the remainder of my wait.

Finally, they called me in for an interview—

— and asked me all the questions I had answered as “See resume.” What…the fuck?

At that point, I was pretty irate, but I was trying to keep it together because I need a job. So it was cool; I just rambled on about the various tasks of jobs I had done, I explained the type of work I was looking for, and the lady seemed pretty friendly, so I assume I did a decent job of pretending to be personable.

They sent me into the testing facility. The data entry thing was a cakewalk; I got mildly tripped up by the MS Word test, because I don’t really pay much attention to the Advanced Functions (mail merge? wtf?). Same with the Excel test, which I did worse on since I haven’t even opened Excel in over a year.

My results printed out, and the plump, brusque woman really liked me all of a sudden. “You did fantastic!” she squealed, delighted. “You gonna get a job real fast!”

“Oh…kay,” I said.

She kept me even longer for “orientation,” explaining to me the various ins and outs of temping that I already knew, and then sent me back into the waiting room so my interviewer could come and talk to me.

Another 20 minutes went by before the plump, brusque woman came and said, “Here’s her card; just email her your resume so she can send it out.”

“Fine,” I muttered, then got out of there as quickly as I could.

The next day, I tested at a different agency. This one was a little more laid-back, and it was appointment-only, so I didn’t spend my whole day waiting around. In fact, I was done in less than an hour. I took a crazy typing test that bothered me to the extent that I wished I could have corrected the grammar in the copy so I wouldn’t keep getting tripped up. Even getting tripped up, I typed over 100 words per minute. This is something that both excited and revolted me. Half of me says, “Well, golly, I’m a writer—typing is my stock in trade.” The other half says, “You are a fucking nerd who spends his whole life on the Internet: this is the only reason you type fast.”

Sigh.

Still, it’s a skill, and I have other skillz that may or may not pay da billz, so now it’s time to play the waiting game…

The waiting game sucks—let’s play Hungry, Hungry Hippos!

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