Adventures in Unemployment: The Temp Agency

      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.


           “Your wage.”

           “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.

          Big sigh.

          “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.        

4 thoughts on “Adventures in Unemployment: The Temp Agency”

  1. Oh honey – you do know what the right thing is!
    Obviously, I don’t know you, I only know what you’ve (very courageously) decided to reveal on these pages. But much of what you are saying about your process in leaving “the Biz” sounds a lot like the process of becoming sober. If that work is toxic for you (and it sounds like it is) then most likely your best chance of success and happiness is to make a totally clean break. It’s complicated by your normal, personal sexual needs which align somewhat with that work – and which obviously are not being met right now. And it’s complicated by the stress of moving back in with your Mom – I had to do that when I was about your age, and it nearly drove me mad. Nearly did permanent damage to my relationship with my mother, too.
    Getting a job – any job, even one that doesn’t pay you a living wage – will at least get you out of the house and keep you busy. Take a job at McDonald’s if you have to (you’ll have to dumb down your CV). Take whatever the temp agency gives you. Take one day at a time. You CAN do this!
    Oh, and stop stealing groceries from your mom! 🙂 Not just because she notices, and now will be on alert. But she KNOWS it’s you – and you’ll know she knows etc and it will further damage your battered self esteem and your relationship with her. You know where that leads.
    Just ask her for money, you’ll pay her back when you can. I suspect you are so used to living a double life, and keeping secrets and telling lies, that you are having trouble not falling back into those habits.
    Hang in there – this is a very dark path I think you are on, and you should be careful. But you CAN DO THIS!

  2. Hi Margo

    ” I had to take a drug test, but that didn’t bother me.” No shit, you can’t get a friggin job in this country anymore without first pissing into a plastic cup. With all the other indignities that working people have to put up with everyday we have to put up with this bullshit. Maybe it should bother you. Put aside that it is presumption of guilt with no evidence, what business is it of any employer what people do on their own time. This kind of thing was unheard of when I started working 40+ years ago. What we need is a Workers Bill of Rights in this country. Not more tax cuts or deregulation or right to work laws.

    Rant over

    Take care of yourself


    1. Hi Mike;

      The only reason it didn’t bother me, obviously, was because I had nothing to worry about. I have no moral opinion about recreational drug use. It’s illegal, so I couldn’t risk it once I got serious about school, and the drugs I tried never appealed to me much anyway, but I do not delude myself that they are any more unhealthy than the awful peasant booze I struggle with. The only things worse than alcohol are meth and heroin…and I don’t think heroin rots your brain the same way.

      But, that’s not your point…

      You’re right, of course: unless a person is applying for a job that requires fine motor skills or the operation of heavy dangerous machinery, drug tests are totally inappropriate. Citizens could be breaking a million laws off an on the clock every day, and drugs are the only one tested for. Hell. I’ve known so many “professionals” who were pillheads or drinkers. In academia, it’s like a joke. (I’m certainly not laughing these days, but plenty still are).

      I’ve given away a LOT of free piss to co-workers over the years. My fave last year was a really nice girl at the Studio who was applying for an extra job AS A SPIN CLASS INSTRUCTOR AT A GYM. They gave her a piss test so that she could teach a bike class. She smoked weed. I helped her out.

      Right to Work laws are atrocious and I would get rid of them tomorrow if I could. “Right to Work,” more like “Right to be Unemployed and Never Complain about Anything EVER.”

      The woman at the drug testing center who administered the urine test was wearing a paramilitary uniform and a “badge.” It was absurd. I did find that offense.

      Thanks for reading.

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