This Week I Am Known as …

This week I am known as “Comm. Temp.” It is my e-mail address and my identity. I am the new temporary employee in the department of communications. This time I occupy someone else’s desk, which is grimy with ripe food in the drawer.

Most “someone elses” have left in haste, and I feel like I am slipping into an unmade bed. It’s never a good story. Often the person I am replacing has summarily quit or been fired, and that onus lingers around the desk like a bad smell—or maybe that’s the food in the drawer. People pass me with averted heads as if I am the original occupant in disguise.

There’s always a cheap Dell computer with a gummy keyboard. I am never set up properly with the company’s computer network, and there’s never a working connection to the printer. Trash cans are hidden, lighting is set on “dusk,” and the temperature at my work station replicates the Gobi Desert. No one seems to care about these things. It is enough that a body is there; it doesn’t have to be optimal. It doesn’t have to be welcomed. It is a temp. It is non-human.

My on-the-job training is transcendental:

“Don’t lose this.”

“Click here, then here, here, here and here. Then download the ‘Crate.’ It will take you to the main file. Save it to the ‘brakky’ folder. Print it out (sure) and bring it to ‘Sarajevo.’”

 “Can you get me a plate maker? They’re in the Rorschach room. Look behind the boxes of—sounds like ‘mittens.’ There should be several of them.”

“Find ‘Apache’ and run!”

“Oh, I guess I should have told you not to park there.”

When they go out for a celebratory lunch, I am left to hold down the office. I can’t help anyone who calls or visits, nor can I do any work because I don’t have instructions, but that doesn’t matter. “The temp is there.” It will be a two-hour lunch, and I will have missed mine.

At the end of the week, I record my hours on a bright pink timesheet and wander around looking for someone to sign off on it. Everyone manages to keep this embarrassing secret, i.e., getting paid, under wraps, so it appears that I am the only one who is grasping and un-cool. They look at me pityingly as I trawl through their work areas in vain. When I finally, triumphantly present my timesheet to the creature in Human Resources, she grimaces and points out at least three places where I have screwed up. Off I go again.

At the end of my “stay,” I pick up my purse and walk out the door. I don’t say good-bye or thank you. I don’t pause for a last look.  I know that everyone is watching me, and I finally have my revenge—I am the only one who doesn’t have to come back to this hell-hole on Monday!