A WASHINGTON CHRONICLES SHORT STORY: Lose a job now? Ask me how...
A few people I know have been asking me lately, "Do you have a job yet?" "Where are you working?" "Do you like it?" and instead of answering all of the interested parties individually, I figured writing my little tale would be better. Here you go boys and girls, enjoy!
The Dark Tower
SO, I get this interview with this really swank company called Symetra (www.Symetra.com) through this temp agency who had seen my resume online. I had never gone trough a temp agency before, so this was a bit new/odd for me. They seem really excited to work with me and set this interview up for me immediately. They send me an e-mail telling me all the details about the position and the company, all which I print up. I had been in a Mr. Mom mode for the last couple of months and let my hair and beard grow in that time. Knowing this isn't the appearance that is shined upon at interviews, I get a haircut the evening before the interview and wake up extra early to shave that morning. I iron out my "Business" clothes, get dressed, grab my e-mail print out and fly out the door. I follow the directions to the building where I have the interview and they are fairly easy, the only thing was it just didn't seem right once I got there. The only reason I say this is because the building is this really huge glass building, and it is NICE! I'm talking Crystal Cathedral nice. As I mentioned earlier my hair is a little longer since the last time you laid your peepers on me and luckily I combed it real nice (like Clooney in "O Brother, where art thou...) plus I shaved off a beard I had grown for 2 months and looked fresh faced. I was dressed to the nines, even making it a point to put a couple of bandages over my Green Lantern ring tattoo, but still felt intimidated because, although I've worked for some nice companies in my time, this was the nicest building I'd ever been in. The address was a match though, so I pull into the garage.
Only my hair resembled anything in this pic
I start driving around the parking structure looking for a spot and notice they have free valet parking on the 8th floor! WTF?! I park my little rice burner and quickly shuffle off towards a nicer car in case someone I was meeting with might be arriving when I did. Not that I'm ashamed of my little car, but I am ashamed of the 30 days + of rain and dirt splatter on it. As I find my way to the elevators to the lobby I pass by the YMCA gym they have in the building!? This place had EVERYTHING! I swear to god if I walked around a bit more I would have stumbled into munchkin land! Again, I'm glad I shined myself up. When I get to the lobby that leads to another set of elevators they have these huge plasma screened t.v.'s that play weird psychedelic pictures instead of normal pictures of art. Amazing. I take the elevator to the 12th floor and when I get to the receptionist area I am blown away again. This area was HUGE! The decor was art deco with bleached wood, metal and glass structures everywhere. Aside from that the view looked out onto the city and you could see for miles! I seriously could have lived in that reception area and had plenty of room for all my furniture AND my dogs to run around.
They buzz the HR ladies for my interview and I'm a bit bummed because it turns out I have to do a interview with two ladies at the same time. I hate that shit because you have to talk to both of them and it makes you feel like you are watching a tennis math. I pretty much hate interviews anyway, 1) because I'm a t-shirt, shorts and sneakers guy ALWAYS, even in cold weather and when I have to dress up for work I feel like I'm in a costume I can't wait to get out of. No jive, most times after work I run to my car like Clark Kent, ripping off my shirt and tie so I can turn into Slackerman! I hate it. 2) I know I'm a charmer, but when it comes to interviews you have to asses the situation and be as full of shit as you possibly can. I like to consider myself a very "real" and honest person, but I know if I want to get the gig I have to play the part, and it sickens me. It makes me feel like the biggest sell out there is, but you'd never know because I'm just really good at it.
The ladies interviewing me are these two older ladies. One is in her 50's, and the other is in her mid 40's. They start off kind of low key and boring, but since I was in dynamic interview mode, they were chipper by the end of it and giggling up a storm. It was sickening the way these ladies were lapping up my bullshit. Sure, I'm a good worker and all, but I was laying it on pretty thick. I could have told them "Well ladies, The reason I left the last company I worked for was because they were all Werewolves and the night shift was a real drag! No really, Werewolves! You know, fangs, claws, the works! It got to be a pretty hostile environment becuase I wasn't even getting paid see. No, they would make me work these long hours and if I made a mistake or took too long on a project they would threaten to scratch or bite me, thus infecting me with their curse of the damned! What was I to do? I didn't want to become a Werewolf!? I did as they told me! It wasn't until some snot nosed mail clerk they had recently hired straight out of high school got pissed one day for getting written up, not to mention he didn't take kindly to the threat of being turned into a Werewolf, that he came back with a few guns loaded with silver bullets and began shooting up the joint! Luckily for me I was at Kinko's and when I got back the place was in shambles and the kid was peeling out of the parking structure. I ended up losing a weeks pay, considering HR was compiled of Werewolves and pretty much killed in the shoot up, but I'm a worker and I had to get back out there and find a job where I fit in better. Luckily for me I got this interview and here I am!"
"That is too bad mr. Barron! I can guarantee you that is NOT the kind of company we run here!"
"Very good, then this is where I want to be"
Back to reality - When they were done with my interview they told me they would let me know the following week what they decided, for they had other interviews to conduct, and walked me to the elevator to say goodbye.
When I got home my phone rings and it was the agency.
"Hello, is this Damon"
"yes it is?"
"Hi! This is Laura and I was calling to ask you if you would be interested in starting at Symetra next week?"
"Really? They said they had other interviews and they would let me know what they decided next week?"
"Yeah, well they LOVED you! I don't know what you told them, but they really really liked you?!"
"...oh, really. Uh, yeah, next week is great. Thanks!" (insert gagging shudder from guilt of being phoney here) I should have tried the Werewolves story...
So I show up for work on Wednesday of last week and again, I'm dressed for success and ready to meet my co-workers. Not forgetting that it is a new office job, I place a bandage around the tattoo on my finger and walk out of the elevator. I show up to the receptionist and let her know I am there for my first day with the company. She calls the oldest lady I had interviewed with and they walk me to my area. The office is so pristine and quite I felt like I was at some cult? I finally get to my cubicle and it is a very nice sized area. Enough for two people to hang out in comfortably. My new boss then walks me around to meet my department...and my heart sinks. I forget their names, but there were about 6 of them, and all OLD LADIES! Except for one broad who was about my age but looked like Laura Ingalls Wilder if she just got out of a methadone clinic. She even had the pig tails. What a real dove she was too, I felt so lucky that she was able to groan out a meager "hi" to me when I shook her hand. Although I think she only made that noise because she had to shift butt cheeks in her chair to reach my hand and probably shifted her hemmeroids around. I'd say the average age of the other ladies in that dept. was early 50's? Immediatly I thought to myself "oh no...what have I done! This is bad, this is going to be really really bad."
I smile and shake hands as I meet the new crew, but the odd part was, this was just a single department on one floor? There were other departments on the floor with us, but I only met the people in my dept (aside from the mail clerk and one IT guy) so where was everyone? AH! The IT guy! This guy was a gem. This was your stereo typical IT guy. He looked like Chris Katan (of Corky Romano and Mango fame) but only taller and skinnier, yet he was the koo koo crazy, funny IT guy! He was all about lame jokes with the old broads in my department. When it turned out someone had jacked the roller mouse from my area her asked if I used one of them before.
"I'm sorry? Used what?"
"A roller mouse"
"Oh. Yeah, I have one at home. They're pretty nice"
"So you like it?"
"uh...yeah, it's cool"
"hmm...lemme see what I can do about getting you a new one then" (insert cocky head nod here)
"uh...mmm, ok! Thanks"
(insert my uncomfortable eye contact with IT guy and quick gaze to the ceiling tiles here)
Turn and walk away Damon, it's just that easy, turn and walk away...
"Uh...you know what? I have to get some pens and stuff for my desk in the supply room. Thanks for setting up my system!"
"No problem, my names Steve. Just let me know if you need anything else, I'll hook ya up"
"Yeah, uh, thanks! Will do!"
I start my training after the big walk through and it is BORING! I seriously at one point was doing head dives at my desk. Some of the material I was dealing with was a bit outdated on their systems and i was already familiar with easier ways to do them. I didn't say anything about it though because I didn't want to come off as a know it all. I just acted like it was amazing info. It's near lunch time and my boss comes over and tells me, "Well how are you doing so far? Hope we aren't boring you! hahaha!"
"Um, no. No, I'm doing ok"
"Great. Well Damon, we are a very tight nit department here. About once a month or more we have a pot luck or go out to a nice restaurant and just hang out with each other. At lunch time a few of us eat in the break room or walk around the building for exercise. Your welcome to join us today if you'd like!"
"Oh, really. Well, I appreciate the offer. Thank you!"
Now the break room was awesome! It not only was the biggest break room I'd ever seen, but it had an ice cream machine and the coolest coffee machine ever! The machine had three sections full of diffent flavored beans on the top and once you picked the one you wanted it would grind up enough beans for your cup of coffee and make it fresh! This was all fine and dandy, but it wasn't enough to make me want to sit with people I barely met and have the most uncomfortable lunch ever! I'm also a big fan of eating at my desk and reading a book or some random website. This is what I ended up doing that day. I mean seriously, I don't know these people?! It was bad enough I kept having the lame conversation of "So where in California are you from?"
"Really? I have a niece in Whittier! Do you know where that is?"
"Um...yeah. It's a little bit outside of Orange"
"Do you know where Loma Linda is? She used to live out there"
"Yeah, that's not too close to Orange either..."
This went on for at least a half hour, with almost every lady there. It was similar to when people say stupid shit to Colored folk like, "I had a black neighbor when I was a kid! Her name was Jameeka Johnson! Know her?"
There was no way I could sit through that kind of agony on my first day. I was already feeling drained from hiding all the real torment I was feeling inside by laughing and engaging in horrible conversations with excitement and interest. I just wanted to eat my lunch. Alone. There would be plenty of time to hear about how CiCi and Benny Jr. were making sketti in the kitchen and wouldn't you know it! Those little rascals decided to make their own sketti sauce out of playdough, puppy kibbel and kool aid! Goodtimes to be had on another day indeed.
After lunch my boss comes over and tells me RH is going to help me set up my phones and show me a little about calls that come in. Her name wasn't really RH, it was Marcia, but I called her RH (not to her face, just in my head) because she was old and smelled like a RETIREMENT HOME! I've worked in a corporate office for over 10 years, and I pretty much know how voice-mail works, but they gave me a print out sheet to study regardless. Now RH was there to walk me through the steps. She waddles over and pulls up a chair.
"Hello, I guess I'm gonna show you how to set up your phone?"
"Ok...but I read the sheet and it seems like it's pretty self explanitory?"
"Well, would you like to try it by yourself then?"
Beep, bop, boop, bleep, boop, beep, bleep. DONE!
"There, it's all set up"
"Oh...well...uh...I don't know what we going to do now? Hmm, I guess you can sit with me and watch me filter calls?"
"Ok" I say, but think to myself "FUCK! I HAVE TO SIT IN HER CUBICLE AND SMELL RETIREMENT HOME WHILE I STARE AT THE DANDRUFF ON BACK OF HER SWEATER AS SHE TALKS!? FUCK!"
3 calls. 3 motherfucking calls! I sat with her for about a half an hour and she only had 3 calls come in. One was a hang up. Who the fuck are these people? I tried to envision myself years from that moment, reflecting on this very day. Would I chuckle to myself thinking about how I was WAAY off the mark in my judgement? No, no I don't think I would. What I can tell you for sure is, if I think real hard I can drum up her phantom aroma and I start to miss my grandma.
Finally 4pm comes around and I say goodbye to everyone and make my way to my car. Once I get in my car I just shudder and drive home.
The next day I take the park and ride. Park and ride is like a shuttle that took me across the street from my office and only cost 75 cents to ride. I took this becasue Washington makes a mighty coin off parking garage rates. To park in the garage would cost me up to 70 dollars a month, even if I'm an employee. Park and ride is a better deal. Turns out it's also a pleasant ride and not filled with hooligans and hobo's, but instead, other corporate folks. On the way to the office I look at the tattoo on my finger and tell myself "fuck it! I'm not going to wear that damn bandage anymore" and put the cover up bandage back into my bag. Of all the carnies I work with, I doubt I would be the odd bird of the bunch because I had a fucking Green Lantern ring tattoo'd on my middle finger! They would never know about the other tattoo's covering my arms because I was dressed like a fucking ivy league student in court standing trial for that little mishap where he accidentally drugged that freshman girl and touched pee pee's with her! Silly college girls and their "no means no" banter!
It's a pleasant trip on the transit and I mozy into the office spreading "good mornings" around to my co-workers. The day is filled with more training and I get clearance to gain access to all the computer programs in the company. I start to train with another older lady in the department and she is also one of the lunch crew that eats in the break room. We train for a while and out of the blue as I was typing She asks, "So, what did you end up doing for lunch yesterday?"
"Wha? Oh, uh, I ate at my desk and looked up the park and ride schedule?"
What the hell was that all about? I shrug it off and go back to the computer training I was doing. I notice out of the corner of my eye that she is staring at my finger. I expect her to comment on the tattoo, but she never says a word. She does make some minor small talk, but that's about it. Again, I let it go and proceed to work. When I'm finished I'm given a test on the policies I just learned about and ace it! Feeling pretty proud of myself I go back to my desk. My boss comes by my cube and tells me it's lunch time. Then it hits me? What the hell should I do?! Do I go into the lunch room today? One of the ladies already brought it up in an odd fashion today, so maybe I should just go eat with them?! It won't be so bad right? But didn't I see RH walk with them towards the break room? Who cares...I should just go eat with them. Like my good friend Wilford Brimley says, "it's the right thing to do." He also says, "I got the diabetes," but that doesn't apply to my dilemma.
So I'm eating my sandwich by myself at my desk and taking a drink of my juice (fuckit, I don't really know Wilford Brimley anyhow!) when I get an e-mail telling me I have to go have my picture taken for my security badge. I finish up my chips and when all the ladies get back from their little suare in the break room I tell them I have to get to the receptionist at some point in the day to get my badge made. They tell me ok, but I just had some minor filing I needed to help them with first. I'm directed to Crackhead Ingalls Wilders desk to retrieve some files and she barely acknowledges my presence. Great, ugly and rude, we'll get along just splendidly! Once I have the files I am given training on reading the policy forms and getting info in the system before they are set to be filed. Again, I had done most of this stuff before and making it act like I was just learning it was more work than it actually took to do it. This lasted till about 3pm, and then I went to have my badge photo taken.
I hate having my picture taken. I'm about as photogenic as a Poltergeist! Really, if a good picture is taken of me it's usually a rare occasion and most of the times it's from across the street. I wasn't very keen on having my mexican pie face on a badge I would have to wear around everyday either! The receptionist is in charge of all pictures and when I get there she grabs this digiatal camera and leads me to this empty cubicle with a blue backdrop in it. She sits me in front of the back drop and looks through the camera at me.
"Hmm...your glasses are giving off a glare? Could you tilt your head down a bit?"
"Uh...that's good enough" CLICK!
She then walks me back to her area and tells me to wait a few mins. After about 15 minutes she is all chipper and hands me my badge. SONOFABITCH! The only thing good about the picture was that my hair looked fucking awesome in it! It was Dapper Dan-esque! Other than that I looked like I had old man jowls from moving my head down and then looking up due to the receptionist instruction, and it also appeared I had a lazy fucking eye becasue the glare from my glasses made it look weird! The only thing missing was a banner behind me saying "JERRY'S KIDS SAY 'THANKS A MILLION' TO IT'S SPONSORS" while I waved to the camera! I was pretty pissed.
I walk back to my desk and after searching on the intranet find out I can replace the badge if lost or stolen, but at a charge of $10. I was ready to blow hundreds of dollars for one decent bagde, trust me. For the rest of the hour I do a bit more computer work and filing before I call it another day. I say goodbye to the Golden Girls and make tracks for the transit center.
I'm almost home when I get a call on my cell phone.
"Yes, this is him?"
"Hi. This is Laura"
"uh...Hello. Uh, I got a call from Symetra and they said they want to cancel your assignment?" "WHAT?! Are you kidding me?"
"No. They said it wasn't a good fit after all?"
"What are they talking about?! I passed all the tests and just got clearance for all the systems today? I even got my security badge with a crappy picture on it? And that was about an hour before the end of the day?!"
"I don't know, it's weird? That's just what they told us the reason was when they called? I'm really sorry?"
"I don't get it? Why did they make me a badge then? Why didn't they just say I could get it tomorrow and then let me go?"
"I don't know, but we are going to find something else for you Damon. I'm really sorry..."
"Well, ok. Thanks..." CLICK!
What a fucking kick to the chiclets! I was baffled and didn't know what to make of it? I didn't do anyting different than the day before...EXCEPT NOT COVER MY TATTOO'D FINGER?! No, that couldn't be it? No one even said anything? FUCK! THE SANDWICH! I didn't eat my sandwich with them for the second day in a row!? Are they that petty?! It couldn't be, that's just too bizarre? Or was it...