Wednesday, December 3, 2008


        After I retired from teaching, I worked for a temp agency for a few years. I liked the work ---mainly because it was ----well ---temporary. When an assignment ended, I could ask for another or request the agency not call me for a few days or weeks.
        I have many skills: secretarial, bookkeeping, and graphic design. Thus, I usually had several jobs from which to choose. I took into consideration the distance I had to drive, what I could wear, how many days or months the job would last, and how appealing I thought the job might be. I preferred close, casual, short-term, and interesting. I would accept almost any job, no matter how distasteful if it were for a few days. I can endure nearly anything for a week or less. The pay was usually the last thing I considered ---it was always low.
        Most jobs were wonderful. One of the best was as a receptionist in a hospital PR department. Everyone at the hospital was friendly and appreciative ---and I took advantage of the excellent food at employee prices in the cafeteria.
        One of my worst jobs, was also one of the best. I accepted an office manager position at an art conservation lab. As an artist, I learned a great deal and because of my skills, the company hired me apart from the temp agency to work on a painting that had been partially destroyed in a fire. I recreated a lace collar on the 200-year-old painting in minute detail. However, the company was owned by a couple with financial and marital problems. After ten months, the tension had made working there so uncomfortable that I requested to be removed from the position. That was the only job I left before my assignment was complete.
        I had one horrible job. It was only for a week to cover someone on vacation, so it was bearable. But the boss had a zillion rules about what one could wear and what one should or should not do. She didn’t trust anyone.
        So much information was thrown at me the first day of an assignment, it was nearly impossible to keep it all in my head. I kept a notebook of my tasks, where I could find things, and company policies. I added new information nearly every day. The notebook also came in handy if I were called back to the same company. 

        The following is a sort of “found” poem that I created from my notes at the last company I described above. For good reason, I changed all the names.

Temp Job

“Good Morning,
Wilson-Williams Manufacturing Company.
How may I help you?”

To save time, don’t ask how you can help someone.
Just say your name. And forget ‘Good Morning.’

“Wilson-Williams Manufacturing Company.
Dana speaking. Is that okay?”

Don’t say, ‘Dana speaking.’
Say, ‘This is Dana.’

Wear a suit, preferable gray, navy, or black.
Only natural-colored stockings, no gray, navy, or black.
No open-toed shoes. No sandals.
No big earrings.
Go light on makeup. No red lipstick. No black eye makeup.
No strong perfume.
No big hair.

Take the phone off automatic forwarding.
Change the phones to day mode.
Answer on the first ring.
When you leave your desk, even to go to the restroom or on your break, take the portable with you.
Don’t leave anyone on hold for more than one minute.

Make two pots of coffee.
Resupply the break room with cups and napkins from the storage room.
Feed the fish.
Keep the fax machines and photocopiers stocked with paper.
Water the plants.
Make copies of this flyer about selling my house.

Drive to the post office to collect the mail.
Give Nancy the portable while you’re gone.
We don’t pay mileage.

Don’t ever tell anyone I am not here, even if I’m not.
But if John Mountain calls, tell him I’m out of town until next week.
When will I be leaving? I’m not leaving ---except when John Mountain calls.
If Mike O’Hara calls, put him right through.
Transfer all others to my voice mail.

Type this. Don’t change a thing.
I don’t make mistakes.

Prepare these for mailing. 
Make sure every address label is exactly straight.
Deliver packages to the Fed-Ex box.
Give Pauline the portable phone while you’re gone.

You and I have the only keys to the supply room.
Write down supplies you hand out and give me the list each day.
Even for a pencil.
If Joe Matthews wants something, he has to see me. He wastes things.
Don’t let anyone else into the supply room. People steal.
Lock your desk.
Keep the postage meter locked, too.

Clean the break room.
Run the dishwasher.

Shut down the phones at 5:00 but answer any calls in queue, even if it takes you past 5:00.
Put phones on automatic forwarding and night mode.
Don’t leave until everyone is out of the building, except for me and the executive officers.
We don’t pay overtime.

(©2008, C.J. Peiffer)

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