Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

When I first got to Empire City I started keeping this journal in a notebook. I only made a few entries, but I've got the time to transcribe them, so why wouldn't I do that?

First entry:

All the other drones were wearing khakis and golf shirts and stuff. (Well, the male ones, anyway.) I was the only drone in a suit. Fine, I don't care. The next blank on the form was 'Minimum Acceptable Hourly Rate', which was always a tricky balancing act. I figured eight bucks was about right. What the hell; I could always change it later. Temp agencies hate it when you do that, but that's something else I don't care about.

There were about twelve of us in the room, signing on with the Stuart-Neill Temporary Staffing Agency. Temp agencies are always my first stop when I'm looking for work, and this one had been recommended to me by a friend of my dad. After all, I didn't know much--yet--about the fine art of looking for a job in Empire City. This place didn't look promising, though. The beige carpet was looking pretty frayed around the edges, the fluorescent lighting was flickering, and the woman who was purchasing our souls had a big smear of lipstick in her ear.

Lipstick-in-her-Ear--her nametag said 'Kim'--stood up at the front of the room and waved a short stack of forms in the air. These would be the timesheets.

"These will be your timesheets," Kim said, handing them out. "I'm going to fill out one as an example, so you can all see how it's done. If you don't fill out your timesheets accurately, you will not be paid. It's very important that you fill out your timesheets accurately." I took three. They seemed perfectly simple, so I zoned out and missed Kim's example.

Not even a window in the room. I couldn't tell which way I was facing, and I'm a guy who likes to know where magnetic north is. Let's see, the building entrance was on the east side, and I turned left to go into the elevator...

I was still trying to retrace my steps through the Stuart-Neill hallways when Kim intruded. "Does anyone have any questions about the timesheet?" Amazingly, some people did.

"Where do we put our overtime hours?" asked a guy in a T-shirt. Yes, a T-shirt.

How about in the 'Overtime' column?

"If you look to the right of the column marked 'Regular Hours', you'll see a column marked, 'Overtime Hours'. If you work more than fifty hours in a week, you put the excess hours in that column," explained Kim.

It was all I could do not to shoot my hand up at this little revelation. Fifty hours before you qualify for overtime? Total bullshit. A couple of things became obvious: Stuart-Neill survived by hosing its employees, and complaining to Kim wouldn't accomplish anything. I could either submit to the hosing or take my fifty-words-a-minute and my science degree elsewhere. Or possibly both.

T-shirt Guy stuck up his arm again. "But where do we put the first fifty hours then?" Get me out of here.

Kim answered a few more stupid questions and had us fill out some more stuff, and told us we were done and we'd be contacted when we had our first assignments. They didn't give any of us typing tests. I hadn't talked to anybody about what I could do or what I wanted to do or what they might want me to do. Nobody even looked at my resume. What was Dad's friend thinking when he sent me here? This place was a joke.

But you never know. As we were filing out I stopped in front of Kim and said, "What kinds of companies does Stuart-Neill have as clients?"

She smiled and said, "There are brochures in the lobby that can answer all your questions about that."

"Yes, thanks, I have one," I said, showing her. "I was hoping you could tell me a bit more, though." Like, say, anything at all.

"I think you'll find everything you need in the brochure." Translation: I know nothing. Please insert another coin.

"Okay, thanks," I said, giving up and moving on.

She smiled again. "Glad to help!"

It was a long elevator ride down to the lobby. Any day in which I wear a suit and don't get paid does not get marked down in the plus column. No point in trying to find another agency today, either; it was almost four o'clock. As I recalled, it was only about ten blocks back to the apartment, so I started walking, taking note of restaurants and video stores in the neighborhood as I went.

Ron was drinking the last of a carton of milk when I got home. "Hey, Dennis," he said, wiping his mouth. "How'd it go?"

I pulled my tie off over my head and hung it on a coathook. "Worst temp agency I've ever seen," I said.

"Ah, well. First day looking. You'll find something; you're good at this." He put the empty carton back in the fridge. "I could get you a job at the restaurant, if you want. Just washing dishes, but it's better than nothing. I could ask my cousin tonight."

"You're working tonight?"

"Yeah, I gotta get out of here pretty soon, actually. What do you say, are you desperate enough?"

"Melting my fingerprints off in a sink for minimum wage and a share of the tips? I think I'll hold off for now," I told him.

Ron laughed. "No tips."

Was everybody getting shafted in Empire City? "Dishpigs don't get tips at your cousin's restaurant? What is that?"

He shrugged and picked up his keys. "Dishwashers are just manual labour. We servers are talent. Listen, I'm not going to be back here till late, so don't put the chain on, okay?"

"Got it. You out of here?"

"Yep." He pointed his keys at me. "See you."

"See you." He left.

I looked around the apartment for something to do. I could unpack my stuff, except I hadn't brought a lot of stuff and there was nowhere to unpack it to. It was just a bachelor apartment and most of the space was taken up by Ron's and Carl's belongings. If that sounds cramped it's because it was. This place would be a tight fit for one normal person, so the three of us were stepping on each other's heads a lot.

So if it was so cramped, why was I spending any more time here than I had to? I changed out of my suit and headed out.

I walked around the city for a while, stopped at a sub shop for supper, and walked around some more. Eventually I got kind of annoyed with myself for not having more of a life than this, and sat down in front of a fountain to cheer up. Okay, so I have no life, so what? I'm young enough to get over it. I'm in the big city, I've got my health, I'm not quite broke, there are all kinds of possibilities. Just stick with it and good things will happen.

There were a bunch of skateboarding kids goofing around on the edge of the fountain. Three of them were soaking wet already. They probably didn't have lives either and it didn't seem to be bothering them any.
Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?