Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pro Temp

Well, I'm working again. I just got offered a permanent position at Michaels, on their corporate help desk. It's not the greatest job in the world, but I like the people. Plus, now that I'm working nights, I don't have to get up at 6:00 in the morning any more. Hoo-fucking-rah.

Like a lot of my previous jobs, this one started off as a temp assignment. Back in June, Lakeshore Staffing sent me (along with 4 other temps) to Michaels with only the vaguest idea of what we'd be doing.

As it turns out, we were slated to work on the help desk. Now Michaels had hired temps for the help desk before, but their Standard Operating Procedure was to toss the poor bastards into a cubical with a phone and let them figure it out as they went.

But Gary, a senior call agent and former temp, had long been campaigning for better training and more extensive documentation for the help desk. He argued that taking a week to train incoming agents would help them hit the ground running and help them to become more effective in a much shorter time. And so, when the five of us came along, Gary was given a chance to put his theories into action.

(Actually, to clarify, I was the first one called by Lakeshore Staffing, so I showed up at Michaels a week before the other four. Gary gave me one day of training, then decided the rest would wait until the others showed up. So I actually spent several panicky, retarded days on the phone before I got trained. But I digress...)

Gary is an astonishingly nice and often befuddled guy who looks an awful lot like Danny Glover did when he was younger (back before every single movie he was in featured him about to retire and saying 30 or 40 times, "I'm getting too old for this shit.") For the benefit of those readers who might be Gary, I would like to emphasize that I really like the guy. He's friendly and enthusiastic, and he's been nothing but supportive of me since I started working at Michaels. He is a sweet man, the salt of the earth, etc.

But the man NEVER takes the short way around a sentence. His method of training us involved lots of long, rambling digressions that might or might not ever wander back around to the original topic. You know, sort of like this blog.

Here is a typical Gary lecture:

"We've got three different kinds of registers at the stores, so you need to be sure you're very specific when you're talking to the managers. It's like when you want to buy a car. Or a pickup truck. Maybe your old one broke down, or maybe you're just tired of walking. So you get a ride to the local Ford dealership. Or maybe it's a Chevy dealership. Maybe you prefer Chevy over Ford. But you get there and you ask for a truck, and they want to know what color. So you say red. Maybe you just like red. Maybe it was one of your school colors. Maybe you went to Texas Tech or something and you want red. Or black. Or maybe not black, because it shows too much dirt. Texas Tech is in Lubbock where they have a lot of sand storms, so you probably don't want black. So you say you want red, but he's out of red trucks. Maybe he didn't get his shipment in. Or maybe the train was delayed because of inclement weather. Maybe there was a storm, like a tornado. Maybe it was just a tornado watch, but somebody spotted one out in a field somewhere and now its a warning, so people are taking shelter. They're going down into their cellars, or maybe they're shutting themselves up in their bathrooms. As long as its an interior room with no windows, they'll be okay. If they're thinking, they'll take some food in there with them. They'll have plenty of water, even if the pipes go out or something, because they can always drink out of the toilet tank unless they've used bleach pellets to clean the water..."

So for about three days, my fellow temps and I sat in a conference room and listened to Gary's stream of consciousness. He kept referring to us as "pioneers." The idea was, we were going to charge out there and dazzle the other call agents with our technical savvy and godlike comprehension.

Unfortunately for Gary, he was dealing with temps.

I've done a lot of temp work over the years, and I've worked alongside a lot of temps. And the fact is, the vast majority of temporary employees are retarded or insane. Or both.


True story. After college, when I first came back to Dallas in 1992, I hooked up with a temp agency called Today's Temporaries. The last assignment they sent me on was a data entry gig for a trucking company called Chemical Express (CX). I was one of 5 temps working there. The others were already working in Accounts Receivable, but I was assigned to Accounts Payable.

I found out the reason I got the job was because the guy there before me had scared the living bejeebers out of the A/P department. He tended to talk to himself a lot, and would sometimes laugh for no apparent reason. Plus, he was constantly wandering into other people's offices to carry on awkward and uncomfortable conversations with them. When he was asked to stop doing that, he started hanging out in the parking lot for hours on end to chat with people. After he scared one girl in the parking lot (it was 9:00 at night and he was leaning against her car, waiting for her), CX called Today's Temporaries and asked for a replacement. Enter me.

I made a really good impression on my supervisor and manager at CX, mainly because I wasn't stalker-creepy. The fact I could actually do the job was almost incidental. After about a month, CX announced that they wanted to extend job offers to two of us temps.. me and a guy named Bob in A/R.

So Bob and I went to get our physicals for our insurance coverage. And the next day, Bob was gone. Apparently the doctor had been a bit disturbed by a number of deep puncture wounds he had found on Bob's leg, and when asked about them, Bob had responded, "Sometimes I just like to hurt myself..."


So anyway, Gary had pinned his hopes on the five of us.

There was me, the hero. There was Kelly, who didn't have a lot of technical experience, but was quite smart and very good on the phones. There was Ruth, a sweet grandmother who worked for the IRS for about 450 years but who couldn't seem to get the hang of all this new-fangled network stuff. There was Evan, a sullen and smart ass kid who was only getting a job because his parents were kicking him out of the house.

And then there was Dave, who as it turns out, was 100% batshit crazy. He talked in this excruciatingly slow hippy voice, and his eyes had that wild "body parts in the crawlspaces" glaze to them. And he totally panicked on the phones.

The first casualty was Kelly, who actually left because she got a better job offer. The next was Evan, who took off for lunch and didn't come back for three hours. Next was Dave, who freaked out while on the phone with a store and started pacing back and forth, shouting "This is so stupid! I can't do anything and nobody'll even help me!"

Ruth's still around, but it looks like her days may be numbered. They hired three more temps to replace the others, and Gary asked Ruth to go through the training with them one more time. I don't think it stuck any better the second time.

And me? I just got a job offer from Michaels. I'm still doing my stint on the Help Desk, but they're creating a new position ("Knowledge Engineer") and they've said they'd like to start grooming me for it. I'd like to think it's because I've acquitted myself well, or I've dazzled them with my technical savvy. But that temp bar has been set really low, and I'm pretty sure what impressed them most was the fact that I showed up wearing pants and didn't smear shit in my hair.

In the temp world, that's all it takes to be a superstar.


SJ said...

Knowledge Engineer, eh? Soon you'll be working at Disney as one of dem 'Imagineers' and your head will explode from all the puns.

ix said...

Yay! This means 'lunch' is back on????

trinamick said...

I've never worked a temp job. Around here, once you get employment, you hang on for dear life. Unless, of course, you're crazy, and then you go work as a dishwasher at a restaurant and eat of the plates that come back.

Irb said...

SJ: For some reason, they won't let me work at Disney. I'm not sure why, but it might have something to do with that time the court forced me to go around the neighborhood and introduce myself to my neighbors...

IX: Hell yeah, bubba! In fact, I don't have to go in until 3:00 on Mondays, so let's go get our Cafe Express ON!

Trinamick: Not me, baby. The other day we were discussing the Lotto, and how much would you have to win before you quit your job. I decided I wouldn't quit for anything less than $200.

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