Friday, March 25, 2011

It's Only Temporary

I have a hard time sitting still. You can ask my family, they say I don't know how to relax. I didn't believe it. After I lost my job, I tried to keep my spirits up by thinking of all the free-time I would have, the alone, silent moments that remained beyond my grasp while I had a full-time job. I used to get home from a job that was deadline driven, thus very stress filled, and when I got home...well, the best way I've heard it described is this: "Being a mom is like being pecked to death by a bunch of chickens." 

Amen. So the idea of having the house to myself was welcoming...

for about a week.

So after dusting the tops of the door frames, and pulling out the oven to clean behind it, I had an epiphany. I needed something productive to do, outside of the home. While I'm waiting for the perfect boss, in the perfect job, with the perfect salary, I decided to enroll with a placement agency. They're going to help me find that elusive full-time position, but in the meantime, would I be interested in temping? Well, of course.

My first assignment was for data entry. That was mindless enough. With the aid of spandex, I sucked myself into the one pair of black dress pants I owned, which were by all rights, a size too small. Armed with a pencil-scrawled address on a piece of paper, a mobile coffee cup, and a freshly renewed attitude, a walked up to the large building wondering how far I was going to have walk before I found the right suite.

I was given my own, for lack of  a better word, entry card, on a lanyard with a name tag professionally printed up. Pretty spiffy for a temp! The supervisor gave me THE TOUR. The office was pretty impressive, if I ever remembered my way around. They were a 24-hour company, data entry around the clock. Their cafeteria (exclusive to card holders) had three, count 'em, three vending machines, one refrigerator for the stuff you brought in, and another full of frozen dinners and pizzas for those that may find themselves trapped there during a blizzard...a major concern in ND. They also had air mattresses with blankets and pillows for the same reason. In one corner sat (insert halo of light here) a massage chair. Wow!
$1 for 3 minutes of heaven.

This was a norm? What had I been missing out on? I really must have settled in my previous employment. They also had large baskets of suckers at nearly every corner. My guide informed me that anything that didn't have a name on it, was open to the community for consumption, that they regularly had potlucks, it was a very sharing environment. Okay, awesome. Apparently, if you walk the hallways all the way around the inside of the building, it was exactly one mile.

I was finally escorted to my "pod". For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it refers to a group of computers, separated by every other group of computers by a half wall.
Kinda like this, but add seven.

A "group" consisted of about 8 computer desks. Now remember that this company works 24 hours. a. day. This means, that your space is not really completely and truly yours, because you share it with two other shifts.

My first task was to read through four pages of legalese basically saying that I would NOT tell anybody about anything I read. But it took four pages (front and back) to say that. I was handed a project, enter this document (which consisted of faxes, copies and scans) into the computer. I dove in. An hour later, I was bored. As most legal documents, I understood about 15% of it. It consisted of a lot of 'the aforementioned', 'hereasin', and dollar amounts spelled out and then numerically represented...the same amounts, over and over. They basically re-entered court documents, company merges, leases, and other legal jargon. This is apparently a 24 hour need. Who knew?

While waiting for my next 'project', I started to analyze my surroundings. The desk I was at had several upside down light bulbs (one end flat) that proclaimed, "you light the way." Obviously, some sort of reward to keep a person motivated. My area housed a very motivated person. Several nameplates littered the desk, an attempt to make the area one's own, yet compromising as one would have to switch them each shift. Some areas were noticeably lacking in any personal thumbprint, and yet, the one across from me was markedly shared by a cat lover. They had everything "cat" they could possibly have. Most with a Halloween flair. Cat calendar, pictures of their pet cat pasted to a small piece of cork board, cat salt shakers (who keeps salt shakers on their desk?), cat comics, a stuffed cat, just to name a few.

I came to realize that the people in my pod were dedicated work-aholics. Their noses were buried in their work, they didn't chit-chat among themselves, and most had headphones on (transcript-ers), they barely made eye contact with me. Suddenly, I overhear laughter and musings about the latest Charlie Sheen debacle, a good natured debate on the latest movies, and a detailed description of a fun night out from the next pod over. I slowly realize, I'M IN THE BORING POD! Nooo! I so wanted to be next door, adding my witty comments to their conversation. THAT was my kind of people. If I were to assign color, this pod was gray and the one next door was filled with palm trees and Mai-Thais. They must be the creative people.

PLOP! My next entry. This one, hand-written notes about a lawsuit involving a caretaker (living support staff) who was being fired for not treating the residents with the respect they deserved. (Not in ND, and I'm not allowed to say where.)

The first shift is from 7 am to 3 pm. Since I had to drop my kids off, I was allowed to come in at 8 and work until 4, thus, I saw the shift change.

There's game I play in my head when I have nothing else to do, it's called, guess-what-this-person-is-in-real-life-even-though-you-don't-know-jack-about-them. (It's fun. Try it.) The one guy who occupied the cat space came in. Here's my assumption. Gray, longer hair, reminded me of the video game player in "Monster House" but older.  (Or very similar to this guy from the Simpson's.)
Gray hair and more of it.

He had a MAT bus (public transportation) lanyard, so doesn't have a car...must live with mom. Baggy Dockers, only wears them because they're required, otherwise he'd be in sweats. Came in early so that he could check the latest update on the Sci-Fi computer at home. Didn't bother to check his email, thus no real outside contact. Played with his cell phone a lot, couldn't tell if he was secretly trying to take a picture of me. Ewww. Working the night shift, so I'm thinking he doesn't have much of a social life. No wedding ring, which enforces the live-at-home theory.

Next to him, a short petite Asian woman whose name is "Helen* (named changed to protect the innocent, but just as American)." Had a lot of questions spoken in broken English, so I'm guessing this could be a stepping stone? But she seemed well liked so can conclude she's been here for awhile. They actually talked to her.

By 1 o'clock, I was ready to hit the trail. How do people do this 8 hours a day? EVERY DAY? I'm not dissing those that do, it's just not me. I tried to interact, but they laughed nervously, obviously not used to cheery interaction. Not to be mean, but I would say that 80% of those people were larger than I was. I started thinking, is it because they sit at a computer all day? Or because of the awesome potlucks I had heard about? Maybe all the suckers within arm's reach?

I had to come back the next day, and spent the entire 8 hours inputting one legal case. My wrists ached, my back hurt and my eyes burned. My mantra became, "this is only temporary," over and over again. We needed whatever little money I could bring in.

Look at the bright side, at least temping in different environments allows me to realize what I DON'T want to do.

Data entry? Check that one off my list.


  1. I did data entry for TWO days right out of college. THAT WAS ALL I COULD STAND!! I have NO idea how people do it day in and day out!

  2. So right on with this one!! I am a former recruiter aka temp staffer. I can guarantee you are your agency's FOA - Front office appearance- "put her anywhere you need to get the client to like you" / go to gal. You made me laugh with your people perspective - SO TRUE!! (I have two cats and do not own one single picture of them or anything cat-like) Can't wait to hear more!!!!

  3. You're a trooper. and that was a good story.