This was not something I had ever done. My lack of a spine, especially when I was about to do something that would displease others, had always been notable. Normally, I would have stuck this out. Or sent an apologetic e-mail that evening and wrung my hands over the assuredly curt reply. But I had decided to break with a lifetime of swallowing disrespect down. This would be my crazed stand against tyranny and mistreatment. In this dreary office, in this dreary office park, a revolution of one.
Yes, this is what unemployment had done to me. I was now insane, and waging wars with temp agencies in my own head.
I didn’t yell or anything. I did express myself as clearly as I could out of my already red face (confrontation is not in my skill set) and already guilty soul. There was some babbling.
Doris looked up with the smile she must have had to paint on her face every morning until her scrapbooking workshops started to take off.
“Hi Doris. Um, I’m leaving.”
“Oh, ok, are you-”
“I’m leaving for good. I was supposed to be here until June, and I’m really upset about being told this is my last week. I know this sounds weird. I should have known this wasn’t going to be good when you guys didn’t give me e-mail. You know? It’s got nothing to do with you.”
“Oh, uh, ok. Well, um, good luck. I understand. Good luck. Can you…did you tell Mavis?”
No, bitch. I was hoping you would cuz’ she’s got crazy eyes and my new backbone isn’t that fully formed yet.
“No, I will. Thank you.”
No lie, I really wanted her to tell Mavis for me. “Crazy eyes” leads to yelling. I exited her office, my jacket draped over my arm, and my now sweaty Cup O’ Noodles clutched in one quitter’s hand.
You are a quitter, I thought. Things have really closed in on you. Because you’ve been reduced to dramatically escaping from temp jobs. You know and are befriended by lawyers, pathologists, engineers, and people who actually work with DNA, and your life is now TEMP DRAMA.
[You could insert an emoji here that mixes “sad,” “uneasy,” and “embarrassed”if such an emoji existed.]
There wasn’t a bus available to hit me and put my “revolution of one” out of its misery. So I continued into the conference room where Mavis and her no-fault-of-her-own protruding gums sat marking up some sheet.
She looked up, surprised to see me before her. Wasn’t he supposed to be straightening mops?
“Hi. What’s up?”
I gulped. I was so anxious. I was BEING BAD. She could punish me, yell at me, whip me with her words. And I’d believe and agree with everything she said.
“I’m leaving for the day. For good, actually. I was supposed to be here until June.”
“Yes, I was told I’d be here until June. But you know, I didn’t get e-mail…”
(I was REALLY hung up on the e-mail thing. It was the symbol I had latched onto. My self-esteem had gotten to a place where it hinged on being prompted to enter a login ID and password.)
“Um, no. You were only needed for a short amount of time until we got [insert the new receptionist’s name here]. It was never supposed to be for very long.”
The new receptionist was nice. SHE had gotten access to e-mail.
“Well, [insert the name of treacherous temp agency here] told me I would be here til’ June. And I had planned for it. I even quit freelance gigs to focus on this. I’m very upset.”
“I’m very upset” makes me laugh now. It made me sound like a prissy and overly dramatic maniac. (“Sound like?”)
“Well, it was nice to meet you.”
“It was nice to meet you, too,” I replied. My tone was respectful, but included a hint of self-righteousness to convey how much of an insult this all was to my personage.
With that, I exited the conference room, sick to my stomach. I had “walked off the job.” I hadn’t bailed on a job (I’ve been fired, but that’s two other stories) since I was 15. I felt a little elated over actually doing something very un-Jay. Part of me felt like Kathleen Turner in that long, ugly, winter coat in Romancing The Stone, getting on that bus to Cartagena. Jesus, I was referencing 80s movies.
I thought about how my Mom would worry about me because I was quitting temp jobs unexpectedly and liberating Cup O’ Noodles from boring offices.
The conversation with my much younger temp agency contact wasn’t fun. She demanded to know why I had walked off the job. She demanded to know why I had acted so unprofessionally. She spat at me about the employment period being subject to change at the drop of a hat and predicated by business needs. She was sniping like she had ordered wedding invitations and I had sent her the wrong ones. Several things occurred to me to say:
1) “Well, you got your commission, honey, so easy there…”
2) “I had no notice. Til’ June! The thingy I signed said till’ June!”
3) “I’m very upset.”
4) “I literally asked Doris during my interview to verify that there was ‘no janitorial work’ involved when she mentioned “organization” as one of my job responsibilities! Despite her nervous babbling and inappropriate giggling, I believed her!”
5) “F**k you, you’re like 20! I could be your grandmother!”
6) “Seriously, I’m very upset.”
7) “Have you even BEEN in a janitor’s closet that’s disguised as a ‘storage room’? It’s not pretty, teen witch.”
8) “I deserve justice! Justice for those who have to clean the janitorial closet who have no voice! What do you mean this sounds more like I find that task to be demeaning and don’t want to be lumped in with the people who have to do it on the regular? Your Android case is pink! YOU DON’T KNOW SH*T ABOUT ME!”
9) “I’ve never been so upset.”
10) “You met me at a very trying time in my life.”
Ashamed and angry, I merely muttered something that included “June,” thanked her for her time, and hung up. I later received a chilly e-mail letting me know that [insert name of evil temp agency here] would no longer be placing me due to my lack of professionalism.
What have I learned from this experience? Well, first off, temping isn’t for everyone. Especially those with fragile egos, low self-worth, and unexpressed anger.
I learned that I am a fair-weather savior because the Cup O’ Noodles got tossed in the trash when my hand got too sweaty from carrying it through the industrial park.
I confirmed for myself (and those reading this) that this is indeed a very odd, slightly nebulous, trying middle-age crisis time in my life.
I learned that liberation can be found in the smallest of acts, however lame they may seem to the aforementioned readers wondering “does this bitch think he escaped Shawshank or some sh*t?”.
I learned that my anger has my back when my self-esteem doesn’t.
Mostly I learned that I really wish my life’s struggles were a little more epic.
My therapist told me she understood why I walked out on temping. She also agreed that she would have found it demeaning as well. She told me of when she worked in a state government archives office, during her postgraduate days in Austin, Texas. Her job was securing documents about slavery for a**hole people who talked down to her, and seemed racist.
She might be biased when it comes to “revolutions of one.”
Is anyone hiring?