Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Heads or Tails #40 -- A job

Not -- heaven forfend! -- that coming up with a post on today's Heads or Tails theme is a job. No, no, no. Our stern taskmistress, Barb, has instructed us to write today about a job -- our job now -- or any job we've ever had.

I've written all sorts of boring posts about my current job here at the Undisclosed Location. I wrote once about working in the kitchen in my college dorm, and how I almost got killed when I said why I was quitting. But, since I've already written about that, I suppose I shall have to write something new today....


I was a Kelly Girl one summer. I was going into my last year of college.

College ends earlier each year, it seems. My kids seem to finish in early May. Back then, I wasn't done until some time in June. Acting with the foresight that would characterize my entire life, I had not scouted about for any sort employment that summer before completing the last of my semester exams.

My parents suggested I apply at temp agencies.

Suggested is probably too mild a word. I was probably booted out the door rather unceremoniously.

I had one advantage in seeking temporary employment: I could type. In fact, I could type fairly well, especially for a male, and while the woman who administered the various tests at the temp agency didn't promise anything right away, she seemed optimistic that something might turn up.

I'm sure there was a greater interval than I remember but, as I recall, I was working almost the next day.

I had only one assignment the entire summer, but it lasted until I went back to school: I was a customer service representative for a seller of kidney dialysis equipment. My colleagues in this department were all female, recent high school graduates, none older than 20 except for the immediate supervisor who was probably 21. She wasn't the actual supervisor on paper -- no, this was the mid 70s and the one nominally in charge would have to be a man -- but I seldom saw him. She was supposed to be his secretary, I guess, but she ran the place.

The girls did their best to keep out of the nominal supervisor's way and to keep him from doing anything in the department. Anything he touched got messed up, they said.

I don't know if I'm being unfair to him by agreeing with their assessment. But it was all I had to go by because the girls were very successful in keeping him away. Or he chose to be away.

There were six customer service representatives, as I recall, each with their own desk and phone in a pool-type arrangement. Each representative had a particular territory -- a different region of the country. We weren't selling; we were taking orders mostly. Sometimes we had complaints about misdeliveries or product damaged in shipping. Anything that required price adjustments went through the 21-year old girl who really ran the department.

On more than one occasion, some wiseguy procurement person insisted on speaking with the supervisor. A person wanting to talk to the boss wouldn't want to speak to another young-sounding woman -- that just didn't seem sufficient, over the phone, to mollify an irate customer, particularly when the customer was a man. This turned out to be my particular value to the organization that summer: The call would be transferred to my desk and I would be carefully coached about what to say.

This was thought far more desirable than tracking down the nominal boss and bringing him up to speed. I had a deep, authoritative-sounding voice. Even though I only repeated what the actual rep had already said -- or whatever additional the 21-year old 'secretary' told me to add -- my pronouncements were accepted without question.

Sexist? You betcha.

But the girls figured out how to cope... and I was the coping mechanism.

And they had their fun with me, too.

A place had opened up near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, not that far from where we were, called the "Sugar Shack." The place featured exotic dancers -- male exotic dancers. And since the drinking age was 18 at that time in Wisconsin, the girls made an outing there one weekend and were anxious to share with me the following Monday all the details of their experiences.

They became rather... graphic... in their descriptions and, at one point, I retreated under my desk and told them I wouldn't come out until they behaved better. They thought this was the funniest thing they'd ever seen -- and it spurred them on to recall (or invent) additional details about the attributes of this dancer or that one... and then someone's phone rang and some wiseguy demanded to speak with the "boss" again.....

10 comments:

Skittles said...

Another fantastically woven post from you! It's like an adventure every week. :)

The video is back.. It is 40 Hour Week by Alabama. I listened again to make sure, but, nope. No mention of Kelly Girl. ;)

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A great story there; one can picture it!

landgirl said...

I can see you hunkered down under your desk with a bevy of female coworkers winding you up. But you lived to tell the tale. My first job was waitressing. I spilled every hot fudge sundae that I touched and nearly lost money because I could not keep it straight when they got dessert included in the bill and when they didn't. It made going back to college a lot more attractive.

forgetfulone said...

Under your desk! I can picture that. I worked for Kelly for a time. One of the best temp jobs (and best-paying) was file clerk for an off-shore drilling company in their geology department.

Inspiration Alley said...

Great writing. You really paint the picture. I felt I was there with you.

Gina said...

HA HA, great story, you're just lucky those girls didn't trick you into going WITH them...

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Ralph said...

Why is it the male 'bosses' can speak swear word soliloquies so forcefully at work, but slink under their desks when confronted with such 'girl' talk.

Summer jobs, let me see: gas station attendant, nursing home janitor, dishwasher, tomato picker and third shift guard. The worst of any summer job ought to motivate you to study well enough to get a 'real' job after graduation...

Shelby said...

That was so funny!! I can almost picture it.

cmhl said...

I was a kelly girl once too!!! that is one of the deciding factors for continuing my education beyond a BS degree...

Patti said...

"Acting with the foresight that would characterize my entire life,"

this slightly sarcastic phrase just hit me. It's wonderful. You sound like me.

I love that you were a Kelly Girl, so to speak.