Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Leaving My Ego at the Door

Today was a test of patience, endurance and talent.  A test I failed on all three counts with the proverbial flying colors.

I'd sent my resume to a temp agency and was now following up with a visit, a curious inquiry as to what options might exist for casual employment, while waiting for my freelance work to take off and thrust me headlong in to the life of creative abundance that I so desire.

Greeted by a very gruff receptionist, a woman who obviously gloats in her own job security, I'm ushered in to a small, tastefully decorated room, filled with thirteen other job seekers, each perched professionally on a cornucopia of benches and chairs, a virtuoso of tweed, cotton, rayon, cashmere, leather and polyester.  

Completing a forest of paperwork in varied intervals, we’re rotated in single file through a door the color of tapioca pudding, and in to the nether reaches of the testing room, a sterile space with just enough room for a small desk, two long tables, ten padded office chairs, ten old pc computers and three filing cabinets.

Walked through the paces of instructions by a kind older man sporting a graying beard and dark green eyes, I'm left to complete the tests, questions divided in to four sections: Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Microsoft Outlook.  Oh shit, I knew that converting to Mac was going to bite me in the ass.

With thirty questions in each section, I quickly realize that I should have gone to the bathroom before I passed through the pudding door and in to the magical kingdom of all things Microsoft.

Cheeks clenched firmly, sinking me further down in to the slightly padded swivel chair, I work through the questions.  The first six to eight questions of each section are simple; it's the nine to thirty that render me limp and lifeless, a rag doll with a lower IQ than Barbie, if that's possible. 

After the completion of each section, I slump lower in to my chair, humping over so far that my shoulders nearly touched the keyboard.  I would have probably had better luck answering the questions and doing the exercises if I'd typed with my shoulders, rather than with my nimble fingers that knocked out all the wrong answers.

In high school science, I passed and graduated with honors, thanks to the venerable choosing of the letter C on random exams that were out of my league.  This doesn't work here.  There weren't any c's, only 1's, 2's, 3's and actual exercises.  Someone's clued these people in and I'm no longer treading water, but drowning.  And while I'm drowning, my bikini floats to the surface and rather than reaching out to help me, my fellow swimmers fight to find out if I'm really still a size 6.  P.S.  I'm not. 

By the time I finish the final section and press submit on my one hundred and twentieth question, my self esteem is small enough to fit in to a thimble, not my Grandma's antique thimble but Barbie's thimble, that damn Barbie, with plenty of room left over for a pity party of board games including Uno and Twister.  Barbie's not invited, and neither is Ken for that matter.

The only saving grace that kept me from fleeing from the room, red faced and sweating, is the last section, the typing test.  I know that I can ace this, unless Microsoft has moved the positions of a e i o u y x and z.  I get 100% but by now, my ego is not only out the door, but laying flat on the sidewalk, listlessly parched next to a moldy old hot dog bun that even the pigeons won't peck at.

Frankly, I wasn't that committed to the entire process.  I should have left when I realized that the questions were all geared for administrative work.  A simple "oh, thank you very much, but I've done all of this kind of work, this getting my foot in the door, and now I want my entire body on the other side of the door, and I was hoping for something more, oh, creative, with a bit of sis, boom, bang and pizzazz, with a big window, large desk, view of the Hudson River, cute mail delivery boy, and oodles of zeros in my paycheck".  But, I chose to stay, pouting and pissed off the entire time, not wanting to scoff at the process that all the people around me were clearly attune with, or faking it really, really well. One part humility, one part stubbornness and one part desperation. 

From the testing room, I was led to the office of The Director, a kind giant of a man.  Browsing my resume, all three pages sitting on the top of a stack of single paged resumes, he smiles and grins when I exclaim my horror and embarrassment at the results of my tests, assuring him that I do actually have an IQ and can prove it that I dressed myself and got myself here.  Of course I don't show my mismatched socks, the underwear that's inside out or share that I took not one but two wrong trains on the way to his office.  The Director just nods, tells me not to worry, that the tests are only a formality and that my resume and references will speak for themselves.

So now I just spent three hours participating in a formality.  If I had known this was the case, I would have stapled fifty bucks and a case of donuts to my fat resume and let that speak for itself.

Sitting across from this man, his desk a pile of files and papers, I realize how naive I am, a small town girl completely out of her element in the big city.  I thought I would walk in the door, sit across from some Holder of the Perfect Job, give him my resume (he'd be a him so I could score some cuteness points, unless she was a lesbian, but then that complicates things because I don't want any job that bad), and he or she would look up from their mahogany desk covered with family photos, motivational posters splayed across the walls, smile sweetly at me and tell me something along the lines of "OMG, we've been waiting for someone like you for so long.  I have the perfect job for you.  I know you're requesting this much of an income, but I hope you'll settle for more money, an office with a view of the Hudson and an assistant to run for your coffee". 

And it would be perfect.  It would be part time, not requiring me to wake too early.  It would pay great, allowing me to resume my coffee addiction and to donate money to bookstores all over the city.  It would be filled with so many creative opportunities for writing that my fingers would cramp and for photography that the squint line that's partially formed would develop in to a full blown crease!  I'd meet other creative people dancing with their muses and all would be orange balloons, milk chocolate bon bons and an occasional box of Dunkin Donuts donuts.

Of course, there would have been an embarrassing scene where a mop and clean trousers would have to be found, since I'd have peed myself on the spot if he'd said anything other than what he did, which was to call in every day and bother him so that he remembers me and can place me.

Okay, so I didn't actually think it would be that easy.  But I didn't think I'd wait for over an hour just to spend the next two hours feeling stupid, trying to answer questions that didn't make any sense to me since I've forgotten everything I ever knew about working on pc's.  Yes, I've gone to bed with Mac and there's no going back. 

So, the big guy encouraged me to rework my resume so it was "less artsy and creative" and more "administrative assistant'y".  Okay, so now I understand.  This temp agency is looking for secretaries, receptionists and administrative assistants.  I misunderstood their website when it said, "we place for all kinds of professions".  Regardless, he sends me back out to the reception area, thanking me for my time "Elizabeth".

Now that I have this straight, I still feel stupid, but I can pick my moronic self up by my thrift store boot strings, look in the reflective windows at, OMG, I thought this was Macy's, but it's Victoria Secret.  So, now I not only feel stupid, but fat, short and ugly too.   

After spending ten minutes trying to figure out how I can keep eating chocolate and Doritos, yes, sometimes together, not exercise, unless you count walking to the store to get said chocolate and Doritos, and have thin, little thighs like the Victoria Secret girls, I head to the nearest deli to celebrate/admonish myself in a binge of sugary and high calorie delights.

The skinny ship sails along on rivers of cheddar cheese and baked potatoes smothered in butter.  So, I'm a fat, lazy idiot who just had a huge revelation!  I don't want to be a receptionist, secretary or an administrative assistant.  While those are all respectable jobs and I've done all of them, I have put in my time and don't want to do them now, here. 

That is not why I came to New York City.  I didn't come all the way to New York City for jobs I did when I was in my 20's.  I came all the way to New York City to push past my self-imposed limitations and to actively pursue my creativity, my desire to write and photograph for a living.  So, there I have it, staring me in the face, a more clear vision of what I want, how I want to make a living.

So, my time spent at Temp Agencies R Us is worth the time, the effort, the beads of perspiration and the hours of clenched cheeks.  I learn what I absolutely do not want to do and what I absolutely do. 

In a moment of creative bravery, I return to the temp agency and catch The Big Guy leaving for lunch.  I ask him if it will be okay for me to come back sometime to observe and chat with the workers and job seekers, to write a story on seeking employment through temp agencies.  He is ecstatic and shakes my hand with such ferocity that I'm lifted off the ground.  

Yes!  This is it.  This is me in New York City.  Me out in the world just being me, meeting people, making connections, soaking in the vibrancy of the city and stoking the fires of my own creativity.  I can feel my muse doing back flips and somersaults, the splits and some crazy cheerleading moves I never knew she knew.  It would be nice if she’d drop and do a few sit-ups now and then, but I appreciate her enthusiasm.

Flip!  Sault!  Split!  Cheer!  Gimme a T.  Gimme an I.  Gimme a N.  Gimme an A.  Goooo Tina.  Now, where'd I put my decaf skinny mocha with extra whipped cream and that cannoli dipped in chocolate?




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