The Fifty Cent Tour

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Assembly Required

I swear, I used to think one of the reasons I was put on this earth was to confound temp agencies.

"No job too small for me to screw up" ( you can insert a stronger verb. That's what's on my business cards)


A long time ago in the not-so-distant past...

"We have a 2 day position open at an educational supplier. It is assembly line work. You just pack orders and get them ready to be shipped. What do you say, Rene? Are you interested?

Oh hell yes...

I pulled up to the parking lot of XYZ Educational Supply and saw what looked to be the entire staff crammed like sardines into a fenced in area. Above it was a banner of a ship in a bottle.

What fresh hell is this?

Once inside I was greeted by Bette.
Bette would be training me today on how to pack orders.
She was pale, tall and had a fluff of red hair perched atop her head.
Bette, the cigarette.

On the way Bette pointed out where the ladies room was, the vending machines and where the break room was. She paused for a moment and looked me square in the eye.
"Do you smoke"? , she asked in a voice not unlike Katherine Hepburn's in On Golden Pond

Even if I did smoke, I think no was the appropriate answer here.

"Well, I do, and if you do, she warned, it is best to smoke in your car, otherwise you must smoke only in the smoking cage"
"Oh, that's what that area was, I said, Whew, I thought it was some sort of holding cell!"

I followed Bette's brisk pace as we wound around the facility.
"You'll be working with us on a huge order of terrariums that we need to ship by Friday".
"C'mon over here, while everyone is on break, and I'll show you how to put one together, then you'll be on your own".

For me, the party always starts after the, "you'll be on your own", part of that statement.

Bette took me to a large workbench that surrounded a conveyor belt.
"This is your station and these are the pieces that need to be packed," she said as she pointed to the bins above.
My station.
I noticed some people had their stations pimped out with personal items and pictures of their families.

A temp's station is always bare, a mystery, a passer by.

"So it's dome, then the packets of gravel, sand, soil, plants, plastic cover", she said reaching into the bins.
"Everything fits neatly inside of the dome, put the cover on and place the dome in the boxes coming down the line. Got it"?

Bette did this with such grace that it had become art.

Now it was my turn.

Dome, gravel, soil, plants, the box
"You forgot the sand". Bette grabbed the box back and I plopped a packet of sand into it.
"You can't do it that way, it all has to go inside the dome", she scolded
Dome, gravel, sand, soil, plants, lid ( and because I was feeling cocky ) I dropped the whole thing on the floor and broke the dome.


Bette looked down at the mess and said to me, unblinking, "Let me show you where the broom is".

Once cleaned up, we were back at it.

"I have got to get to my orders, break's over and I'm backing up, so I'll stay with you for one more minute", she informed.

My heart felt like it was being crushed into the smoking cage fence, my shoulders were stiff...I took a deep breath...

Dome, gravel, sand, soil, plants, lid, in the box...YAY!!

I was so happy I hugged her.
I was met with stiff shoulders.
"Good, she said dryly, now you have to pack about 275 more...before lunch".

I don't think I hit that mark. Actually I know I didn't... not even close, but I wasn't asked to leave before lunch, which was a first for me.

Although I was never asked back.
I still pass that building, on occassion, and the smoking cage is still there.
Filled to capacity.
Although there appears to be a redwood picnic table inside.

How did they ever get that in there?

Like a ship in a bottle.

Peace - Rene


  1. smoking cage...yikes. LOL.

    But we hired a temp and her little cubicle was barren too...I never thought of this way. Pimped out probably feels much more welcoming.

  2. I once held a temp job for a couple of days. I was folding boxes at some warehouse (the details are a blur). It was horribly tedious and the supervisor berated me constantly for slowing down the line. If it weren't for the fact I was stoned the whole time it would have been a complete nightmare. Still, even though mellowed by weed,I eventually told him to "go fook himself". and that was the end of that.

  3. As I'm reading, I'm picturing Lucy Ricardo working in the chocolate factory assembly line. LOL

  4. "Bette the cigarette"

    I realy did laugh my ass off, Rene.

    You give good story!

  5. Since I'm still looking for work, this kinda scares me.

  6. I bet temp work will give you much blog fodder. This was a great one, btw.

    No worries about the award. I just wanted to tell you how fab I think your blog is.

    (Wish I could say that I was all lined up with posts for a while.)

  7. Rene, your account of your experience was quite entertaining, though probably at the time painful for you. Thank goodness, you've got spunk! (I've had experience with temp work, too. You just never know!)

    I especially enjoyed:
    "She was pale, tall and had a fluff of red hair perched atop her head. Bette, the cigarette."

    What a great description and how 'appropriate' that she really did smoke.

    I always enjoy what I find on your blog. Thank you for that!

  8. LOL! Oh my goodness!! I've had so many temp jobs, I'm used to the cold treatment. They don't really want to get to know you because they feel that you're only there for a few weeks, months...and then they won't see you again.

    Everywhere I went, there was always someone who had their work stations all pimped out; it does make you feel lonely and unwelcome.

  9. I have never had a temp job, but my cousin has and she has her ups and downs.Sounds like it can be kinda hard. :-/

  10. Smoking CAGE? That sounds barbaric. Ours sit around tables, reading romance novels and puffing away. They take constant breaks and no one does a thing about it.

    I'd be the same way if I was on a conveyor belt type job. Too much pressure!

    Why does that scene from I Love Lucy come to mind? The conveyor belt candies? :-)

  11. As a professional 'temp' I feel for you! I've come across some really odd jobs, too. Ex: sitting at a table with 8 phones and they ring consecutively, whereupon I had to answer and report 'line 1 is clear', 'line 2 is clear', 'line 3 is busy'...for over 300 lines...WTF!!! That was the easiest job but the longest day of my life!
    And I've learned when the agency calls at 6am,they are desperate and don't! But,I put up with temping to have my summers off.

    So you didn't get asked back..that's a good thing! The hugging part, cute! Thanks for the laugh, Rene :)

  12. Is that why I never got my terrarium????

  13. Great story--I did a fair share of temp work in the late 80s & early 90s, & yes, it did often feel like something disastrous was about to happen!


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