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You might recall that the assignment I took didn’t start out so well. I am still here and thought I ought to provide an update on the situation.

Bad: On three separate days, I went home and cried from the boredom and frustration of this place.
Good: Sometimes I have time to blog. And my desk faces away from the cubicle opening so there is opportunity for concealment of whatever illicit Craigslist-surfing or blog reading I happen to be doing.

Bad: I spend much of my time ordering food for overfed executives and their thousands of meetings.
Good: If I haven’t had a chance to pack a lunch, there are usually goodies laying (lying?) around. I have also been taken out for lunch twice.

Bad: I cringe at the MBA-porn business-speak that permeates many of the (ooh, top secret!) documents I handle.
I have no upside for this one. Abuse of language is such a crime and”operationalize” is not a real word. Look it up.

Bad: While I feel that I am making good money for the idiot labour I am performing, I also see how much all the consultants in the department charge, and they’re getting hefty cheques for dodgy work. “Change Management”? Leeches.
Good: I’ve saved some money for school in September.
Bad: Who knows how long this will go on?

Bad: They are starting to put on this not-so-subtle pressure to stay in the office at lunch and linger beyond 4:30. “Hey it’s 4:31, you’re still here? Oh, you’re putting on your jacket – getting slow! Haha!” Good: Fuck that – if you get an hour for lunch, you take an hour. This temp stands firm on working the hours paid for and establishes that from the very beginning. I’m not lingering in my little padded cell (oops, cubicle) for form’s sake.

Bad: People eating cafeteria sandwiches at their desks on a sunny day? Why?
Good: One lovely co-worker has latched onto the idea that I am actually a food writer. We talk at length about local restaurants and he tells everyone “Hey! Did you know she’s a food writer?” One day, he got a whole group of people to go to a cafe around the corner for amazing cabbage rolls and perogies. On a rainy day, no less.

Bad: People say “Hello”, but in these crazy low whispers. One consultant stares at me every time he walks past my cube and does the Hello whisper thing. Huh? Speak up!
Good: The passive-aggressive bitchy woman who was there the first few days is long gone, and the woman I work with is really quite friendly and lovely. Compared to my fire-breathing, sinus-clearing, water-please eating habits, she likes everything plain, plain, plain. I am keeping a list of “Foods ______ Eats” as a joke because its so limited. She’s the kind of person who can laugh about things like that.

Bad: Some days I feel like I am just there to take care of all these other people’s needs and all their tedious details.
Good: If I need it, I have people who take care of me.

Bad: I start caring too much and obsess about those minor details and slights.
Good: I slog away at my own projects and try to make some things that are good for me start happening now.


So I’m lying around on the couch this morning, drinking coffee and thinking about what I’ve got to do today. I just finished an assignment and am due to start another one tomorrow.
8:24 am, the phone rings. It’s the temp agency “Hello, we just had a call from the client saying that you were supposed to be in at 8 am today.”
“No, I thought it was starting on Thursday, that’s what I was told by A—.”
“Really? She’s off sick, so I can check her notes and call you back?”
A few minutes later…
“It’s totally not your fault,” she says, “but they’d really like you to come in today if you can.”
Crap, shit, fuck. “Well okay, fine,” I hear myself saying, ”I’ll need some time to get organized though.”
Great, it’s not even 8:30, my day has just been shot to hell. I hadn’t even figured out how I was going to spend the whole luxurious gap day before getting sucked back into tempworld. So I took my time (agreed to be there ’round noon, anyways), even stopped off to shop along the way.
When I get there, the corporate security bitches are just as I remember them. They don’t say hello, just plop the visitor badge on the counter and bark out the time (in 24 hour notation) for me to write in the log.
The woman I’m supposed to be working for is absent, but her minion is stressed out and low-key bitchy. I learn quickly that she is actually leaving the job on Friday and that I, transient, am her replacement. I further tax her martyr-like patience by requiring such things as a computer login ID and email set-up, not to mention a security pass. She asks me to call IT services, then does it herself, then passes the phone over to me.
The afternoon passes in a menial blur of variations on label making, interspersed with a slice of office birthday cake and meeting others on the floor. They all seem grimly resigned to their place in the corporate order and their welcome greetings come with comments like “Oh you’re going to LIKE IT here!” I calculate that I am earning a dollar per hour for every year of education that I’ve had.
I still don’t know what exactly I’m going to be doing or how long I’ll be there. I’m just parachuting in and have to figure it all out before making another daring escape. This new semi-perm arrangement freaks me out – what, I ‘m going to need to be responsible to something or someone in this Bore Palace? Somebody better get me drunk on a school night so I remember who I am. And that I’m only doing this for the money, and to pay for school in September. Only 6 more months!
Full day tomorrow, I can definitely wait.

A team of researchers from Britain recently studied the attribute of territoriality in drivers. They measured how long it took for a driver to vacate a parking space when someone was waiting for it versus when no one was around. On average, if someone was waiting for the space, drivers took an average of 37 seconds to vacate for the next person. If no one was waiting, the average time was 30 seconds. How do I get a job on one of those research teams, anyway?

It’s interesting to me how we think about what spaces we’re entitled to appropriate outside of our own homes. Drivers go mad if someone “cuts them off” or follows so closely that all sorts of ass-related comebacks spring to mind like “If you’re not a hemorrhoid…” because in their own minds, they occupy the road on which they travel. Over on the garlic wagon, it is verboten for passengers to sit too closely together on a near empty bus. On a full bus, how many times does a driver have to shout “Move to the back of the bus!” before someone obediently releases their grip on the handhold and shuffles a couple token steps along the aisle?

Label makers become tools of the devil in the hands of workers who take office supplies seriously. Even a polite “Please return to Bob’s desk” benignly pasted to a stapler is a stapler pissed on and spoken for. One worker I saw went so far as to claim his warehouse cart with a note secured with packing tape. The felt tip message spelled out consequences for anyone who took the dolly without his expressed permission: “Take this cart and Die!!!!”

In a city where real estate is king and buyers are baited with promises of views, we start thinking that the space in front of us belongs to us too. Apartments and houses are touted with such selling points as Magnificent Views! 180 Views! City Views! Mountain Views! Even when it isn’t perfect and you can still see something (anything), it might be promoted as Peekaboo View or Partial View. Buyers of suites in swanky waterfront buildings freak out and call their lawyers when someone else decides to build another tower in front of them – oops, no view for you, suckers. Neighbours sue neighbours when trees are planted or cut down, or when a height extension to a house or new construction threatens the view, and therefore the property values. In my old neighbourhood, residents of one house were so upset by the dramatic heightening of the roofline of house directly in front of them that they sued for mental anguish caused by loss of their views.

I have to admit that I’m looking at a pretty fine view right now – City! Mountains! Sky! – from my little temp’s chair. Its not an extension of me, I don’t own it, I’m just glad to be here. Before long, I’ll be out the door again (from sitting all day in someone’s else’s cubicle, guarding the boss while she’s on vacation) and riding in my little space bubble on transit all the way back to my home, door locked firmly behind me, cursing the neighbours bass.

Beware of anyone carrying a clipboard.

They will inevitably ask you to do something menial.

Your best defence is a pile of large binders with one strategically open next to the computer.

Don’t carry a clipboard.

I suddenly remember that I need more coffee just as they remember something they need to delegate.

Happy New Year, I’m spending January in sensible hibernation.

Oshashiburi, it’s been a long time.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas holiday. I did nothing but eat and when I came up for air on Monday morning discovered the newspaper headlines about the earthquakes and tsunamis in Thailand, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and elsewhere. My neighbour was spending Christmas in Thailand so my first thought was “I hope he’s okay…” picturing going through his apartment and finding some really insane porn magazine stash. But he came back Tuesday morning and when he came over to get his keys his chief complaint was that he had called his “girlfriend” long-distance and another dude answered the phone. Then a bunch of TMI stuff related to that that you don’t wanna know about it even in this medium of tell-all confessionals and self-referential blabber.

I’ve both missed and dreaded blogging. Been working long hours lately on a temp assignment in the Teal Blue Prison and although they treat you well, the place is like a vaccuum on the brain. A deadly silent tower of binders, name badges and codes of conduct with a pretty view from the upper floors. It has taken a good week to get my energy back and build any sort of idea for blogging.

All I want to do is knit, really, and watch my badass TV and DVDs of Sex and the City.

I also managed to polish off the excellent Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. Them British dames know how to write an addictive historical crime thriller.

I expect to write a lot more in January. It’s always a month to stay in bed as much as possible and crawl forth only to eat and write, usually in that order.

Someone at this assignment asked me if anyone had been really mean to me while temping. I immediately thought of an Exhibit F in our cavalcade of bitchy publicists, a West Vancouver bottle-blonde in charge of marketing for an office design company where I was sent to play receptionist. In keeping with their line of business, it was an open concept, no cubicles office, and too-good-for-you-Sue sat by the window (the better to catch the expensive highlights in her hair?), right in my lowly line of vision. She usually ignored any calls I put through so that I had to push five more buttons send them to voice mail. When she got up from her desk to talk to the other important hoohahs, she would stare at me with inexplicable disdain. I was only there for a day or so and she spent most of it at lunch, so what was her problem?

I am spending way way way too much time on Craigslist lately. And I had better stop reading these posts because its too hard to compose myself to answer the phone.

For some reason, I keep forgetting where I am, Good afternoon, umm, [Company Name is it 4:30 yet?]!

Bored. Bored senseless. Bored through and through, a hole in the ground I could crawl down into.

So sorry, I promised myself I wouldn’t write about temping, especially not on my own time. But everyday, I go into this place, they give me nothing to do, and I just stare at the clock, willing it to move faster than the glacial pace it has settled into.

At the very least, they don’t seem to really mind if I read and write while I’m sitting there answering the phone. But I keep watching the clouds moving outside and think, I could be doing this at home! And getting something for myself done.

I don’t mean to complain, as getting to read at work is pretty sweet. And apparently, the computer will be hooked up tomorrow, so after almost three weeks they might actually give me something to do. But that’s it. Friday. Gone. Temp agency – sorry, busy, got another assignment.

And then I will lock myself in here for a solid week. Sorry, busy, working.

Its kind of sweet how people at the companies I am temping for ask me “What are you going to do now?” Its almost as if they are worried or concerned about what happens when the temp falls off the face of their earth. They must think this is a very strange way to work, jumping from place to place.

When I got laid off last year, it was a giant kick in the teeth. I never wanted to depend on anyone else for a living. We let kids grow up with the idea that if they work hard, get good grades, and perform well in a job, they will be successful and promoted to do all kinds of exciting things. Sad to say, if you choose the wrong company and the wrong bosses no amount of hard work will mean squat. Especially for chicks, there’s danger in being too good at all those menial things junior office girls do to keep things running smoothly. And god help you if you want to get promotion with a company which is run by 3 or more people with the same last name. (Can you say “oligarchy”?)

So I temp because then I don’t have to care about it. When I love a project or a job, I care to the point of obsession – have fitful dreams about shelving books, do endless mental edits of letters that need writing, or forget to eat because I am determined to beat Pagemaker into submission.

Its no one’s ideal job to sit at someone else’s desk and try to look busy all day. But its a way to work without getting attached. Temps are a blip in the working lives around us. Its sweet of the “perms” to care, to make these inquiries into the rest of my life.

But I’m uncomfortable discussing why I am here in their space and what it is I really do. Next week I am gone anyway.

Those of you who don’t know me may tune out for a moment, but I am happy to report that I am now officially an auntie. My niece, Lauren Kathleen, was born yesterday morning, Friday, September 17, just before 10 am. In a terrific breach of temp etiquette, I had my cellphone on and ready to hear the news. Unfortunately, I was not able to rush right out and get to the hospital, but had to wait wait wait at my post, with next to nothing to do.

But when I got there, she was just over 6 hours old, and beautiful. The nurse had her swaddled up in the little green blanket, but she wanted to stretch and make faces. Of course, everyone wanted to hold her. I marveled at her tiny fingernails, her funny faces, scared to death of dropping her at the same time. And you know today, I’ve got to go visit them again.

My sister is doing fine too, and we are so happy that there were no difficulties and that this new little person is healthy.

I want to make a time capsule of the day she was born with newspapers and such. Any other suggestions?

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