-- Tempin' Ain't Easy --
Update 10 November 2005 by Amazing Ben
Immediately following graduation I spent about a year living at home working as a temporary employee in South Florida. Basically, I signed on with a temp agency and every couple days or so they would call me up and send me to an office somewhere in the Ft. Lauderdale/Boca Raton area to do some menial bitchwork for anywhere between one day and two weeks. It was usually pretty easy work and it certainly helped me save up money to move here to Boston. Anyways, in honor of my wife finally putting in her two week notice at her shithole job and entering the ranks of the soon-to-be-unemployed, I'm bringing to you the pros and cons of working at a temp agency and my commentary on what the experience was like for me.
Probably the best aspect of temping is that pretty much every place you go is going to give you all the free coffee you can drink and/or carry out of the office with you. It's all right there in the company break room, so at any given point in the day you can stroll in there like it was your kitchen and fix yourself a tall cup o' joe and nobody even gives a crap. You can even use all the sugar and generic powdered non-dairy creamer you want. They sometimes get angry if they catch you rummaging through the employees' fridge and stealing peoples' lunches, but the key word there of course is "catch". Most of the time you can just grab a grocery store bag full of food, stuff the contents into your pants pockets and then stroll out like nothing's wrong. If someone stops you, you can just be like, "dude, I'm just getting some coffee" and leave before they notice that you aren't actually carrying any coffee with you. Just remember to eat your lunch outside and away from the prying eyes of whoever the lunch may belong to, since I have found that people get pretty upset when you eat their sandwiches (even when they're gross-tasting sandwiches). But I guess the point here is that all the coffee is free so it's pretty much like you're living inside a 7-11 for eight hours where the guy working behind the counter is a stoner friend of yours who doesn't give a crap if you rip-off any of the merchandise. Shit, I even used to make myself cups of coffee at 4:59 in the afternoon just because I could. Sure, my hands were shaking so bad from caffeine overdose that I could hardly lift the coffee pot and the shit inside had morphed into a sludge-like tar in the six hours it had been sitting there burning, but it was more the principle of the thing than the actual desire to drink nasty old coffee. In some sick way, it just makes you feel like you're getting more out of your paycheck... "Sure, I'm technically only getting ten dollars an hour, but when you take into account the fact that I drank one hundred and eight ounces of coffee today, it really works out to more like twelve or thirteen..."
Your new best friend.
Another excellent thing about temping is that you only do it for a couple of days at any given location and then you're out of there. So if there's some jackass that works there who pisses you off (and believe me, there ALWAYS is), you only have to look at his ugly fat head for a week or two and then you're off to find new and interesting people to irritate you. Or if the job they've got you on involves you making obscene phone calls to Taiwanese diplomats and getting cursed out in Chinese for eight hours a day, you only really have to suck it up for about three days before you're off to bigger and better adventures. Plus, since temp work by definition is "shit that nobody else in the office wants to waste their time doing", the jobs always suck and you're never too broken up when you leave (unless the location is really close to your house or a fast food lunch spot that you really like). Pretty much it's like your entire professional life is spent in the "lame duck" period after you give your two week notice.
This is also pretty cool from a babes standpoint. If you're not involved with anyone (or if that doesn't really matter to you), you're pretty much given a new batch of women to hit on every single week. So the law of averages means that eventually there will be some babes, and if you ask enough of them out eventually you'll get a date out of it. Plus, since you're only working the job for a couple of days, if she shoots you down you'll only have to deal with uncomfortable silences for another day or two. You know those guys who are like, "I'm going to ask her out on my last day working here, so that things won't be weird if she says no and we won't have to deal with the whole 'workplace relationship' thing if she says yes"? It's like you live that last day every day of your life. Bitchin.
No Accountability, No Responsibility
One thing you need to understand as a temp is that everything that goes wrong or gets messed up in whatever office you visit within the span of three months after you leave is going to get blamed on you. I know this for a fact, especially now that I've been on the other side of this type of thing. Like a couple of months ago when my old boss told me that I'd filled out all these storage forms incorrectly, I was just like, "yeah the temp did those a couple of months ago. That guy was a real dumbass", and she believed me, because it's common knowledge that temps are prone to fucking things up and utterly bungling even the most menial of tasks. Everyone pretty much expects you to be a complete dumbfuck and totally botch up anything that they ask you to do, mostly so that they can blame you for their all of their failures later.
Why am I listing this in the 'Pros' section? Because you can totally take advantage of this fact by slacking off all you want and not having to worry about anyone of any importance giving a crap. Plus, you're generally doing stupid bullshit anyways and your contact at the office usually doesn't even give a rat's ass that you've shown up unshaven and hung over with bloodshot eyes and a half-untucked shirt for the last three days as long as you get your shit done. You don't even really lose anything that way either because even if you fuck the job up, who cares? You don't even work there! By the time anybody figures out that you took everything in the "Important Filing" pile and threw it in the recycle bin you'll be long gone and they won't have anyone to blame but themselves for trusting such an important job to a fucking temp.
Another bonus of being unaccountable for anything is that you're also limited by how long the company is going to pay to keep you. Sure, you're only getting nine dollars an hour, but you better believe that they're paying your temp agency fifteen or sixteen for you and that gets expensive fast. So if your assignment only goes through Thursday and you get a big craptastic job that sucks ass on Wednesday afternoon, you can pretty much drag your heels, drink free coffee and slack off all day Thursday and it's a pretty safe bet that your office will be too cheap to want to pay you to come back Friday and "finish what you didn't have time to do". Shit, you get paid either way, and even if they catch you not doing what they told you do what can they possibly do to you? Fire you? You don't even work for them! Send you home? Oh damn, your paycheck is four hours less than you thought it would be, you might as well go home and cry yourself to sleep for the next three years since going home at noon is definitely not in any way preferable to doing stupid meaningless bitchwork!
Don't ask me... I don't know shit!
It's Retardedly Easy
If you can recite the alphabet without spraining your cerebellum and dying painfully, you can be a Platinum-Grade A-1 temp. In fact, if you can understand why "Jackson, Michael" gets filed before "Jordan, Michael", you're probably the smartest fucking temp that anyone in the office you're assigned to has ever met before in their lives. Basically all you have to do is show up and follow instructions with little to no supervision and you're not only lauded as the Peyton Manning of temping but you're also probably fifteen to twenty times more intelligent than anyone actually employed by the office you're assigned to. Plus, since you're not completely burned out by being stuck in the same office for the last fifteen years of your life you actually get shit done that doesn't just involve sitting around on your ass contemplating new ways and interesting ways to kill yourself in the messiest way possible. So basically all you have to do is show up, put together a few coherent sentences, take care of your work by any means you deem appropriate and leave. Some places will even let you listen to your headphones while you're working, which makes shit that much easier, since you don't actually have to talk to any of the buffoons who work there. Then when your employer sees that you actually managed to make it through an entire day without choking to death on your own tongue they get all pumped up and tell your contact at the temp agency how much you rule.
Make Your Own Hours
Once your agency realizes that you're the only fucking competent person they have working for them, they will offer you work pretty much all the time. So if you're ever broke and need some beer/video game/food money, you don't have to worry about getting a couple hours of work and receiving a paycheck. However, since you rock so much ass you also have the luxury of being able to turn down work. I can't tell you how many times my recruiter called me and was like, "um, so do you feel like working today?" and I was like, "Hmm... not really. I have big plans today to sit around my house all day in my underwear drinking coffee and playing Xbox. Thanks though" and went back to sleep. That was pretty much one of the most attractive aspects of temping - I really only worked about three or four days a week and even if I told them I didn't feel like going in they would just call me back in a day or so to offer me hours.
A lesser benefit to temping is that you can make yourself sound like sort of a badass, mostly by virtue of the fact that you can potentially work more places in one week than some people work in their entire lives. Sure it's petty and lame, but often it's pretty cool to start your stories with, "Back when I was working at the IBM plant..." or "That reminds me of the time when I was working at the BioTech lab...". It sorta makes you sound like a well-traveled adventurer/man-about-town when you really were just some loser who was a half-step up from being unemployed.
Oh, the free coffee. What a double-edged sword you are. Sure, you think it's a great thing and list it in the 'Pros' section, but then it's five o'clock and you're so wigged out on caffeine you can't stop convulsing long enough to get to sleep before 6am and the acidic motor oil that is workplace-quality poorly-brewed cheap-ass coffee makes you perpetually feel as if you've got a sack of bricks living in your colon. Oh, that coffee. It's a dangerous mistress.
People Think You're a Dumbass:
Well, I certainly hope you enjoy being talked down to like a disobedient retarded puppy by someone who didn't graduate high school, because that's another thing you can look forward to in the exciting fast-paced world of temporary bitch-ployment. The downside to most temps being unable to multiply seven and two is that the people you're going to be working for are pretty confident that you're going to be similarly retarded. So you'll be hearing a lot of, "Ok, now if you get lost while you're filing you can look at this chart we printed out for you here. It has the ABC's in the correct order, so when you're confused just look it up on here." and, "Ok, now let me go over this one more time just to be sure that you've got it..." Thanks, bitch. If I was so fucking braindead that I needed you to explain the intricate details involving the complicated process of "pick this up and put it over there" three times in a row, I probably would have been unable to find your office this morning without driving my car into a canal and drowning because I couldn't figure out how to open the vehicle's door.
People Fuck With You:
Since you're such a meaningless puke, you get all the crap jobs that anyone can come up with. This is especially true when you complete whatever stupid shit they asked you there to do in the first place. For instance, if you're there to help them put all their housing contracts from 2001 into boxes and label them to go out to storage and you finish that bullshit crap job before lunch, instead of giving you the afternoon off to go home and play Madden the office manager goes around to all of her employees and is like, "do you have any stupid shit this asshole can do?" and you end up spending the entire afternoon fucking hole-punching documents and putting them into binders, rearranging a stack of some bitch's baby pictures in descending order of cuteness, or using a French maid-style feather duster to dust off all the plastic plants in the office. It sucks. You can sometimes counter this by moving as slowly as possible when working on your primary task, but often this is so mind-numbingly boring that you bust your ass to finish it merely in the hopes of preserving your sanity and hoping for the chance to leave early.
The Nagging Feeling that You're Wasting Your Life:
There's really nothing like filing a four foot tall stack of invoices to make you feel like you completely and miserably wasted your time writing a twenty-page thesis paper on Homer's portrayal of Achilles in The Illiad. And standing next to a copy machine staring at the clock for a half-hour while you run off two hundred copies of a plumbing subcontractor's Employee Training Manual really makes you wonder why you spent five months studying the socioeconomic and political factors contributing to the economic decline of post-Soviet Russia and how that applies to international relations from an American perspective. You pretty much spend all your time thinking that you've probably taken a gigantic step backwards since graduation. It also certainly doesn't help that your parents (and your girlfriend's parents) are constantly asking you when you're going to get "a real job".
A Song I Wrote While Temping One Day
I'm in by nine and I'm out by five
Another cup of coffee - caffeination
It's the only way I still know I'm alive
Gotta get blood sugar saturation
You say "temporary employee"
I think "corporate mercenary"
Unappreciated and underpaid
I'm just wasting my life as a corporate wage slave
I never thought I'd be wasting my life
Working for an evil corporation
Maybe if I just gouged out my eyes
I could get worker's compensation
You know that doesn't sound so bad
When did my life get so sad?
I'll just spend another endless day
Wasting my life as a corporate wage slave
(bitchin' guitar solo)
I'll daydream near the copy machine
Staring into space - procrastination
Smeared black ink is all I can see
I watch in brain-dead fascination
I know I'm working for the bourgeoisie
And making a negligible salary
But as long as they pay me I can't complain
Because I'm just a lowly corporate wage slave
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