My friend Christopher Waldrop, who writes the blog Freethinkers Anonymous, is an amazing guy who has a great perspective on life, along with a fantastic sense of humor. We are blog swapping this week and we hope you enjoy our stories!! -No Trade Jack
As soon as I heard the creaking I tensed up. I didn’t know what was coming, but I knew it would be something. Then I felt his hand hit the middle of my back.
“Come on, biggun, we’ve got another job you can do.”
That was my third nickname of the day, and the least creative. It was the summer I worked for a temp agency, which meant being sent around to a lot of crappy jobs, mostly in warehouses. And it wasn’t that bad. I’d met some nice people, had a few laughs. Somehow I knew today would be different. I walked into a hot, windowless room of rows of scarred tables. It was like shop class without the equipment. There were boxes of Glamour magazines, the same issue over and over, the same airbrushed, overpainted, highly styled model giving me the “What are you lookin’ at?” face.
Jerry was a squat little guy in khaki slacks and a flannel shirt. I still don’t know how he could stand to wear a flannel shirt in the middle of July in a room with no air conditioning. And maybe he wasn’t really squat. Maybe he just seemed that way because of the way he walked. Either one or both of Jerry’s legs was a prosthetic so he had kind of a weird rolling gait, like a walking horseshoe. And he creaked like he walked, like his joints needed some WD-40. I’m not trying to make fun of it. In fact I was sympathetic even after he pointed to a stool and said, “Grab a seat there buttercup.”
Buttercup was my first nickname of the day.
I then got a stack of Glamour issues, a jar of rubber cement with a brush, and a box of perfume samples.
You’ve always wondered how perfume samples get into magazines, haven’t you? I’m kidding, of course. No one cares how perfume samples get into magazines. If you’ve thought about it at all you’ve probably thought machines did it, not sweaty people sitting around carpenter’s tables in a dusty basement somewhere. Hopefully this makes you feel better about throwing away those perfume samples unopened.
Unlike other places I’d worked no one seemed interested in talking to me. In fact no one even sat next to me. There were a couple of women sitting opposite me who kept up a running dialogue, mostly about how slow everyone else was compared to them. One of the woman wore a t-shirt with a faded American flag and the logo “Try and burn this one YOU ASSHOLE.” Good job, I thought, that’s a lovely way to show your respect for the flag. The effect was enhanced by the fact that she appeared to be smuggling prizewinning watermelons under her shirt—and not just two, but at least half a dozen.
I put my head down and got into a rhythm. I was slow at first. The perfume samples had to go on a specific page and it wasn’t a matter of just slopping down some rubber cement and sticking them in there. It had to be carefully applied in two strips and the perfume sample had to be pressed in place without damaging the magazine. But after an hour I got into a rhythm and was moving along at a pretty good clip. I paused to wipe the sweat off my forehead.
“Play with your hair on your own time Goldilocks!” Jerry snapped as he creaked by. I thought about saying maybe Rapunzel would be more appropriate, or even Snow White since I’m not a blonde, but I thought it would be better to keep my head down. According to the temp agency I was going to be stuck here for a week. Grin and bear it, I told myself.
After lunch I started to go back to it, but that’s when Jerry addressed me as “biggun” and gave me a different job. One of my fellow employees had been putting the perfume samples on the wrong page, so I was given the task of pulling them out and reboxing the magazines so someone else could insert them correctly. And it was someone who’d worked there longer than me, so I had days’ worth of samples to pull. It was okay, though. I was taken away from the table where I’d been and sat down on an overstuffed couch instead. It was almost like sitting at home flipping through magazines, except there was no TV and the whole place smelled like feet.
That evening a woman from the temp agency called me.
“You’re not going back to that place tomorrow. They don’t want you.”
“Great.” I may or may not have said that, but I was genuinely relieved. I needed money, but they weren’t paying me enough to grin and bear it for another six days. I knew I’d snap if I went back there.
“They fired you,” the woman went on, “because you barely did half as much as any of the other people who work there.”
I didn’t need to know that, and I really didn’t care, but pride made me speak up anyway. After all this was the first time I’d been fired, and it was a wrongful termination. I didn’t say anything about Jerry, but I explained why I’d barely done half as much as the others. And how did they know, anyway? Sure, they’d caught someone else’s screw-up, but it didn’t seem like a place where quality control was a priority.
She sighed. “I shouldn’t tell you this…”
Oh please, I thought, please tell me. I don’t know what it is, but if you’re going to tell me something bad about Jerry I want to hear it.
“We’ve had a lot of trouble with this company and we’re dropping them as a client. The real reason you’re not going back is we’re not sending any more of our employees there.”
I just wish I’d seen Jerry’s face when they told him he was the one being fired.