The man in slush-dirtied Kenneth Cole knock-offs trudged through the industrial park. The Cup O’ Noodles clutched in his angry, defeated, ashamed, rueful hand followed. Or something to that Stephen King’s The Gunslinger series effect.
Way, way, way back in the day, I worked at a McDonald’s. I was in high school, and needed employment. It was a thankless, fairly humiliating job. My skill set didn’t include being a grill guy. I was REALLY bad at being a grill guy. Between burning a co-worker’s arm with a deep fryer-heated basket containing breaded chicken and sort of/kinda SLAMMING a tray of McDonald’s fajitas (do they still have those?) down in front of my manager and hissing “here’s your fajitas!” because I was angry with her…
(Let’s pause here for some backstory. She accused the Chicken McNuggets I had just made of not being “fresh-looking.” Pardon me? I just took them out of the fryer. Not “fresh-looking?” This is like the inverse of a douche commercial. Screw you, my McNuggets are new to the world, and fresh as the proverbial daisy! You bitch! She told me to remake them, I slammed down fajitas at her, and I was taken aside and spoken to for my “attitude.” This was an unusual occurrence, mostly because it wasn’t like me to have a backbone or to get shady with a superior. As I do now, I mostly cowered around people who have power over me. I must have been having a heavy flow day or I was REALLY confident and proud about those McNuggets.)
Those incidents, combined with the fact that I was literally crouching down and hiding behind the back counters every Friday night post-football game when the whole high school seemed to show up, made me realize I wasn’t cut out for McDonald’s. Oh and, recognizing that the usage of “literally” has been castigated lately, I am insisting to you that I literally crouched down in my polyester prison workshop-like McDonald’s grill guy pants behind counters when people I might see in my fair-to-middling high school life came in so my shameful employment wouldn’t be revealed.
(Another pause. It’s not like I HAD friends that would have attended the football game and come to McDonald’s afterwards. I just didn’t want to be seen by the other kids who did go to that game and stopped at McDonald’s pre-beer bust in the woods. Inevitably, someone in some class (probably Accounting) would have said “do you work at the McDonald’s in the Caldors’ plaza?” and I would have ceased life there and then. Yes, I was and still am that girl.
Wait, actually, I had a friend who played football. But he didn’t count cuz’ he played Dungeons & Dragons during his off-hours.)
What I’m getting at is that one day I just didn’t go into work. I probably had the choice one Saturday around noonish (probably a noontime after the “Go Wildcats!” football business) to have a parent to drive my ass to that greasy facility, and just rolled back over on the couch. “Clue” was probably on HBO or something. And the kicker? They never called me. No one cared to find out where I was, why I wasn’t at work, etc. I just didn’t go. They just didn’t call. THAT’S HOW BAD I WAS AT MY JOB. They would have rather had someone cover for me then have that angry kid dropping cheese slices on the dirty floor and branding his fellow employees with burning chicken baskets. Brad Fletcher, if for some reason you ever read this, I am so, so sorry. I sensed you already thought I was an annoying faggot, but I must have been really annoying when I was scarring you. Literally.
It’s probably also very telling that I can’t recall my parents bitching at me over it. Their work ethic was super-strong, and that’s not the kind of behavior with which they trucked. They probably realized that I didn’t have McDonald’s grill guy in me either. Either that or, when questioned about my decision, I shrieked something snotty at them and ran to my room and slammed the door.
Why am I telling you this ridiculous, and not that enthralling story about my (fairly short) stint at McDonald’s?
Because it was the only time in my life I ever walked off a job. Until this temp thing.
The temp thing wasn’t a nightmare, really. It was just “eh.” It was demeaning, yes. I’ve always thought that there is nobility to be found in any job. But then I truly wasn’t able to find the noble in that one. I had come to realize that my experience and intelligence wouldn’t suddenly revise the temp industry. Despite being nattily dressed, not a drug addict, and knowing Excel, I wasn’t suddenly recognized as someone who was above temping and given a cubicle that I wasn’t sharing with office equipment. It might have been what I was expecting in my self-important brain. It dawned on me after performing the series of menial tasks that was my daily workday that I was just the temp. I was a mid-level Jenga piece with no e-mail account. This wasn’t the road to bigger, and better things. This was the road to “maybe you should really bear down on the writing cuz’ even the UPS dude is looking down on you and he’s not even cute.”
My immediate superior (we’ll call her Doris) was a roundish, cute woman, younger than me and a nervous-type. Her directions would come implict with regret that she was asking you to do something. This caused her to go on past what was necessary. As an example:
“Um, would you mind, I mean, I don’t want to ask you to do anything too menial, you know.*nervous, regretful giggle* I know you have so much experience but could you maybe look at the IT closet because it could really use some organization in there. And I can help you but I have a training right now, but the IT closet is just a little disorganized. *nervous, regretful giggle* and it could really use some organizing. If not for that training, you know. It’s just so cluttered in there. Monitors, and things. The IT closet, yeah. Thanks.”
Sure thing, Doris. It’s not like I’m doing anything but Facebooking because there’s not a lot to do. All the job aids have had their spelling corrected by this point.
Her superior (we’ll call her Mavis) was an older woman, with dyed hair, an ok dress sense, and gums that arrived before she did. She had crazy eyes. I’ve worked for crazy eyes before, so I was wary around her. She was the micro-managing type who would need to stand behind me to make sure I wasn’t hacking into their servers or looking at Men.com. My last day began when she asked me to clean the office kitchen.
“Straighten up, if you could. The cups don’t look like they would at your home, so I would love if you could make it look presentable.”
First of all, how does Mavis know how the cups look at my home? I’ll have her know the cups at my home are organized by whichever Marvel Comics character is emblazoned upon them firstly, and then by heaviest. The Other Mr. Harvey has this thing about heavy, ornate drinking glasses. Seriously, the heavier the better with him. I like clean lines, he likes glassware that looks like the Grand Duchess Anastasia disappeared with it.
As I dutifully trudged off to clean the kitchen, she mentioned something about “calling Harrison to see what happens next.” I don’t know a Harrison. I did, but Shonda Rhimes killed him off. What?
“Well, since we hired [insert the name of the new receptionist here], we don’t really have a need for you anymore. So, yes, you had better call Harrison to see about your situation because we won’t need you after Friday.”
My puzzlement at who Harrison was (my temp agency contact was a woman not named Harrison) was trumped by my “what the f**k do you mean I’m out of work (again) after Friday?” thoughts. This stupid gig was supposed to be until June. A steady paycheck was going to alleviate some financial stresses. I drove to the Wrentham Outlets to purchase new “business casual” outfits!
Mostly, I had resigned myself to this pale hell until June. I would be dutiful, find the nobility in the job, and hey, some bills would be getting paid that weren’t due to being unemployed. You do what you gotta do. Right?
I think I would have stayed until Friday if I wasn’t asked to clean the janitor’s closet next. I was tidying up the kitchen, and listening to lunchers talk about learning skills to help them in their new positions when Doris approached, tentatively and apologetically.
“Hi, sorry, would you mind taking a look at this storage room while you’re at it? I’m sorry, there will be more meaningful things for you to do this afternoon but it’s just a mess…”
She gestured with a short hand to a forbidding-looking door marked with a small gray sign that read “Storage Room A.”
Ok, no problem. I had organized the cups. Which sadly did not have Spider-Man on them.
She opened the door. It was the janitor’s closet. There was one of those dirty sinks hovering near the floor with the gross rubber tube coming out of it in search of a bucket to fill. Discarded dishwashing gloves on the even dirtier floor. Empty cleaner bottles laughed at me. A lone and crumpled trash bag sulked, abandoned in the corner
“Yeah, it’s a mess in here. Just, you know, tidy it up as much as you can. *nervous regretful giggle* The bag boxes and stuff. The cleaning staff must…you know, the janitor…just you know straighten up or whatever you can do. It’s a little messy with bottles and things. We really appreciate it. Thanks! Oh, hi, Cheryl, what’s up?”
She left. I looked around. I was standing in dress shoes in a janitor’s closet. I only had one week left here. They had said I was here until June. I had to go on more interviews to try and land further demeaning temp work while still interviewing for a job that didn’t make me feel like a loser bitch. Despite my dissatisfaction with my life, I had made the decision, set my alarm, determined to DO. I was told to clean the janitor’s closet and they didn’t give me e-mail. They weren’t ever going to give me e-mail. You are a 40-yeqr-old temp with ridiculous expectations. Welcome to your lower depths.
All of the unemployed stress, feeling shitty about myself, and fear of the impending unknown kinda popped open in my head. I had actually begun to roll mop buckets to rest against cinder block walls. I wiped my hands together, and returned to the “office” that I shared with my co-worker the paper shredder. I grabbed my jacket, my keys and…
The Cup O’ Noodles I had accidentally ordered doubly from the vending machine the week before was there. Behind the phone. A lonely little cardboard-circled, plastic wrapped Cup O’ Noodles. It summed it all up. Feeling abandoned by the working world, feeling like I had made too many wrong choices, feeling like I wasn’t good enough to hack…whatever…in life.
I took him with me, refusing to leave him alone in this godforsaken place.
TO BE CONTINUED.