Today I applied for work at a temp agency.
The process was surprisingly intensive. I had to submit my resume and then fill out a pages-long application and then sit for an interview. They gave me a series of tests to make sure that the little hamster upstairs was running in its wheel okay–simple math problems, a reading comprehension test. They timed my typing speed (75+ wpm, arguably the most useful thing I learned in High School). They gave me a page of text and I had to spot all of the typos and spelling errors.
“Have you ever been convicted or plead guilty to a felony?” asked my case manager.
“No,” I said.
“Nothing? Don’t lie!” she said, as if I had tried to do this.
“Nope, nothing.” It’s true.
We went over my work history. She did not ask me how I managed to live on the wages I’d written down for my teaching and tutoring jobs, but she did ask a few other awkward questions:
“What did you like best about teaching, Margo?”
Wasn’t expecting that. What a weird question. I thought about it for a minute, and then I told her the truth, like a moron: “I like lecturing to my captive audience about stuff that is important to me. I also like the freedom to work how I want without a lot of direct supervision. I could have taught in a gorilla suit at my last college, and administration wouldn’t care as long as I turned in the grades.”
Her brow furrowed and she tapped her pen on the table.
“Uhhh, I don’t think that I ought to write that one down in your file. Can you think of anything else?”
“I enjoy cultivating my students’ intellectual development and I like helping them succeed and graduate.”
That one made it onto my file.
“What are you hoping to get?” she asked me.
“What I’m hoping to get?”
She gave a small shrug and had the decency to look embarrassed. “It’s what we have to ask all applicants.”
I think that “What are you hoping to get?” ought to go up there with “disconnected worker” on the list of disingenuous corporate lingo related to unemployment. I’m hoping to get $30/hour–hell, why not make it $40?–and an office with a view, or a book contract, and a bunch of hot male co-workers, how about that? A health plan with vision and dental. I’m hoping for fresh floral arrangements all over the office. I’m hoping I can bring my parrot to work. Boy, a girl could hope all day.
What she was really asking me was: What is the minimum you are willing to work for? I wish she would’ve, or could’ve, just said it that way. I could respect that. It’s an honest question.
“I think with my credentials and KSA I’m worth at least $20 to start, but beggars can’t be choosers and I don’t expect that here.” I did the math in my head. I’d done it before, many times, but I did it again, and I quoted her the minimum living wage for this area: $12.
Then I had to watch a video about safety protocol in warehouses, in the off chance that I get a shift in a warehouse. The guy on the video said that workers themselves were responsible for the vast majority of workplace injuries. He told us to always use PPE (personal protection equipment). He told us not to stand on chairs to reach things. Always lift with the legs and not the back. I took notes because there was a quiz at the end of the video. The blonde, pony-tailed guy next to me doodled lightening bolts.
I had to take a drug test, but that didn’t bother me. What did bother me was that they actually checked out my references. I wasn’t expecting that, and it was a bit nerve-wracking because two of them were fake. I’m sorry (well, actually, I’m not), but there was no way that I was going to let an employment agency call up my old boss or my best references in New York and inquire about me. I’d die of embarrassment. So I had my brother lie for me and pretend to be a guy who hired me to teach his son the ACT.
I went to an AA meeting and then came home and waited for the phone to ring. Being unemployed involves a lot of waiting.
I’m going to be alone for the next few days. I’ve decided that I can’t risk bringing a client to my mother’s home–too dangerous, and too disrespectful to her property. If I was hosting a guest and found out that she was inviting random internet strangers to my house for sessions, I think my guest and I would be parting ways.
That still leaves the possibility of doing outcalls. If I screened them, really, what would be the harm? I’ve done it a million times. Except for the crippling anxiety and social alienation, there’s nothing to it.
I don’t know what the right thing to do is.