Sunday, October 05, 2008

The First Day

I started a new job this week. It is a three month term at a major provincial utilities company. After a 7 week hiatus from the working world and my mother's approval, I received a call from a temp agency to whom I had sent an application. At the interview (me in a suit, her in Lulu Lemon) I was offered the job on the spot. I feel that it was my use of a day planner avec a faux-leather plastic cover that really clinched it for me. "Hire this one," it seemed to say," He is a pre-tty important guy." While I was thrilled at the prospect of no longer compulsively watching The View, I didn't really walk away with a deep sense of security. Certain details seemed to have been omitted in the staffing agent's description of my new livelihood. The job? "Oh, scanning land claims or something. You can use a scanner, right?" The location? "You know the intersection of ____ and _______? You just go there and you'll see the building that says _______!" Mmmmk. An e-mail was sent a couple days later with dress code and mandatory time off information. Still no real job description or address, but what did I care? I knew how to use a scanner! I knew where ________ and _______ is! I can read an insignia! I was...ready.

Thursday morning, dressed in a professional yet kicky outfit that just begged for an anointment as office stud, I made my way to work. Initially, the address I had pulled off Google had been in the middle of one of the _____s and another cross street; ______ prime, if you will. Fortunately, I had had the good sense to remember that, no, the verbal instruction I was given was for an intersection, NOT a location involving a _____ prime. Upon reGoogling (is that word? Is now.), I found the building I had been looking for. Phew. Dodged a bullet there. I leaped aboard my bus and arrived five minute early for my ten minutes early start time. That's right. 7:4fucking5. Generally at this hour, I would have been asleep, possibly between dreams of romantic reconciliation and rabid rabbits. My dreams are not all thrilling, but I'll be damned if their subjects aren't at least clever.

Upon arrival, I checked in at the security booth.

"Hello!" I declared "I am your new temp, here to save the day and just be generally awesome!"

After muttering something about having a girlfriend, the guard pointed me to the correct door. "Ah," I said, "The one with company's name it on it. Why, thank you!"

I marched into the building, trying to find anything that looked administrative or at least a welcome banner. Having no such luck, I popped my head into the first office and and with slightly less bravado, delivered the same rousing salutation. The two and a half women working there (mustache?) were very kind but had no idea where I was to go. They put out an ABP for a missing temp, standard stuff, really, and were finally able to ascertain that I had, in fact, been sent to the wrong building. Lovely. My agency had apparently not banked on the fact that there were two buildings and had not sent me to the correct one. You know, the one with the _______ prime.

"Well, how far down is it?" I asked the demi-man.

"It's number 1641. Oh, about a block," he-she answered.

This, in fact, was not so. After walking for about 15 minutes, I looked up and saw the address 1474. I called my staffing agency and immediately began to rip the fellow a new one for not giving me any address and demanded that he look up this 1641 building because clearly, there was some sort of Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place conspiracy between my new employer and the staffing agency as there was no 1641!

And I was right. There was no 1641. There was, however, a 1461. Evidently, the inability to give out the correct address is a growing pandemic. Tell your friends.

At 8:22, I marched through the doors of my new home for the next three months. They were lovely, in fact, with no one being cross about my (unavoidable) tardiness. My supervisor is a nice enough woman who I feel was very pretty in her younger years and while she still maintains a certain Almay beauty, it's clearly been slightly tarnished by time. And by time, I mean a pack-a-day habit. She took me on what would be my first of three rounds about the office. Everyone seemed rather pleasant and plump, occasionally in that order. The people that work in this office aren't all that different from the ones at my government jobs but somehow they're slightly...better. It's like the difference between a grade 7 French immersion class and an English equivalent. Somehow the Frenchies are just nicer. A little bit better behaved, a little bit more focused, a little bit more sanitary. There's no cursing at my new job. No 'I seen' nor 'I sez' nor "I don't know nuttin' '. The women wear nice sweaters and the men wear polo shirts, not Mickey Mouse sweatshirts and track pants. It's actually office casual. These are not fancy people, but after all, isn't it a gift to be simple and to use correct grammar?

I was then taken to my, and I use the word loosely, office. It isn't even really a cubicle. Essentially, at the front entrance there are two sets of doors, between which there's about a meter and a half; the vestibule, if you will. On either side of this glass box is empty space where one would normally put, say, a potted plant. Perhaps a ficus. This is my office. Two walls, one glass panel from the vestibule and a divider. My little slice of heaven. Of my flooring, half of it is carpet and half the tile from the entrance way, bound together by a rather mountainous ridge riiiiiiiiight about where my chair needs to go as I sit down at my desk. The twenty two year old who previously occupied my space was kind enough to leave behind a granola bar and her elastic band collection, numbering in the tens of thousands. The potted plants that did actually reside in this area have been shipped to the side of my little pied à terre, giving it a vaguely Amazonian vibe.

I then met my, dare I say it, mentor for the next week: the office receptionist. People who work in oft trivialized jobs will react to their livelihood in one of three ways. The first accepts that it's simply a stupid job that does not define them. The second feels tragically embarrassed by it and makes disparaging remarks both aloud and to themselves, likely as they huddle alone at night. The third is similar to the second except that they compensate for their menial job by attempting to make it appear as though it was biochemistry. My receptionist falls into this category. I would guess that she has, in the past, referred to herself as a firecracker. She has flamey, choppy middle-aged woman hair, purple middle-aged woman eyeliner and her desktop is of a middle-aged woman on an ATV, covered in mud. 'Cept it isn't her. She's one of those almost-sweet people that thinks of herself as the office rebel. Wears monster truck t-shirts on casual Fridays, pretends to assault coworkers with poster tubes, playfully threatens to push people off ladders. You know, the usual. She is also the self-described office techie; evidently, her toner-changing skills are legendary.

She took me on my second tour de l'office before showing me the two most important jobs I would be doing while she was on vacation in December: answering phones and opening mail.

On answering the phone: "It's really rather basic. To pick up a call, you simply lift up the receiver."

On alphabetizing mail with an alphabetized filing stick: "I like to put Janet's under 'V' because the person that used to have Janet's job, well, her name started with a 'V'. That's just my system; you can think of your own.

I find her adorable in the most patronizing way a person can.

On flying: "You MUST get the headsets that they sell on airplanes! They're something like $5 and you can use them to watch movies and TV. And if you're really smart, you keep them for the flight home, too!"

On computers: "After you're done, you have two options: you can either take your mouse a click the OK button or you can press ENTER. It's your decision, really. Whatever works for you."

She would go on to repeat all of this training, along with a tour of the office, 4 days later as though we'd never done it. I just didn't have the heart to tell her and frankly, interrupting with the answers to the questions she hadn't even posed yet was really fun though I think it miffed her somewhat, as though it was undermining the difficulty of her job.

Later that day, I assembled my first box. This was not the kind of cardboard box that one normally sees, four sides attached with flaps on the top and bottom. No, this was a crazy-ass 2D pattern that looked like those geometrical shapes you had to assemble as part of grade 7 math or the Fine Arts faculty mathematics requirement. This had flaps and perforations and, I believe, a little bit of the Devil built into it. That said, I was a superstar. Let it be known 'cross this land that I am an assembly god. There weren't even directions; I'm that good. So you can now call me so that this doesn't happen:

I anticipate that there will be many more stories from my work, one of which will inevitably get me fired when someone from the field department discovers my blog.

Oh, in other news one of my fish disappeared. I got up one day and he was simply not there. On the plus side, it wasn't the little tetra with whom I've come to associate so strongly. The assumption was that he was eaten but there was no body, no guts, nothing. These fish are either high efficient or simply magic. Shiva will commence tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

I was laughing so hard, I think I scared Jason.

Can't wait to see you soon.

Émilie, géographe en devenir said...

David, you are awesome! I rarely laugh out loud when I read, but this time I did several time.

T'es un As! :-D


Anonymous said...

Thanks :)
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