Tuesday, October 30, 2007

East of Scranton

I'm at work.

I've been at work since 8:30. Okay...more like 8:37, and by the time I checked in through security and got up to my "cubicle" on the 4th floor, it was closer to 8:45. It's 9:35 now. Do you want to know how much work I've done?


not one bit

This wouldn't be a problem if I wasn't freelancing. I want to appear to be valuable to this company so that they keep me.

But it's been a while since I wrote about work, so you may be confused. You may recall that the last time I wrote about work, I was working on the catalog for a medical supply company. At the time, I called it a short-term assignment. I think when I wrote that, I believed short-term meant 1-2 weeks. I was wrong. I suspect that if I had been happy with the hourly rate there, I would still be working there. When I finally found better paying and more interesting work through a different placement service, I was told repeatedly that I would be welcome back any time. Unlike my former employer, these people seemed to think that I was actually a valuable asset to a company. Then again, they weren't paying me as much...

Anyhow, I got the chance to leave that job for a more interesting one that was closer to home and paid better. It was supposed to be a week, with the possibility for extension. They were a packaging design company. I worked on a bag of Easter Eggs for Tootsie Roll (coming to a WalMart near you this spring) and some boxes for solar path lighting. My favourite was the color changing ones. You can get these lights that are ugly enough during the day, but at night, they harness the power of the sun that they've been soaking up all day to create a disco-esque atmosphere of light that changes from blue to green to red and back again. Groovy!

So that job went on for a week, and they were really happy with me. And I really liked it there. The commute was reasonable, and the work was almost fun. By Wednesday, I was told that they wanted to keep me, probably for six more months. On Friday, I was told that they wouldn't need me the following week, but if I could return on the week after that, then they'd need me for six more months. My representative from my placement service called me on my way home and told me that they wanted to know if I'd be willing to work for a little bit less, if they could guarantee a longer term assignment. I said I had to think about it.

This is the problem with working for a small company. Their budgets are too tight. A large corporation where one can become faceless is starting to look good, if I want to make a decent living.

By Tuesday of the following week, I was talking to a variety of reps from the same agency about three different jobs. Technically, I was still in the mix to come back for the packaging job, but they seemed really interested in getting a better deal. And they couldn't commit to bringing me back when they had agreed to do so. The big project that they wanted me for was taking a little bit longer to get started. It was a bad omen, anyhow, when I heard who the client was, as they were also a client of my previous employer--one of the projects that I was accused of mismanaging when I was fired. (It was my boss' client. He was on vacation during a crucial point in the project. This was my fault, apparently).

Anyhow, it appears that since I was such a hit at my first assignment for this particular placement service, the reps actually tried to get me placed elsewhere. On Thursday of that week, at 9am, I found myself navigating the byzantine security procedures of the corporate headquarters of Office Max.

Once I was photographed, fingerprinted and frisked, I was given a visitor pass and allowed to wait in the designated waiting area. A woman sat opposite me with two large road cases--I told her that I had chosen to travel light that day. It got a laugh. When I was single, it would have been a nice opening to conversation with this desirable specimen of the opposite sex. When I was single, I would probably not have been able to get the words out. Funny how easy it is to speak with people when there's nothing at stake. Two quick sketches later, I was greeted by a guy about my age who introduced himself as "not Eugene." Eugene was the guy to whom I was supposed to report. I soon discovered that one doesn't get to speak to Eugene for very long. He runs around a lot and attends many meetings. I don't envy his job.

On the way up to the fourth floor, "not Eugene" told me his name was actually Scott Swan. We made a little small talk about traffic and he showed me to my work area. In the first paragraph, I referred to my "cubicle". I put it in quotation marks, as I have again here. The reason is that they seem to have run out of space, and so I'm really sort of just out in an open area. It's a bit weird. Better than a broom closet, though. And I have a really nice view out some really big windows.

Scott told me that he didn't know what I'd be working on, but that Dwight, who was in a meeting but would be out shortly would be responsible for giving me work.

That's right. I work for an office supply company, and one of the guys who I work for is called Dwight. If you don't watch the US version of The Office, this might mean nothing to you, but if you do, you will understand why I am amused every time I think of this.

Dwight's last name is Darling. I began to worry that I did not have an appropriate name to work here, but it turns out that so far, Scott and Dwight are the only two alliterative names that I have encountered here at Office Max.

So anyhow, Dwight took me around and showed me examples of what the creative department did at Office Max, and then threw a little assignment at me.

I've been working for a long time in situations that require extremely quick turnaround. I think Dwight didn't expect me to finish as quickly as I did. I now know that he was impressed with my speed and thought the end result was good. But for the first few couple days, I was sort of left to flounder. I like to distinguish myself quickly as a valuable asset. It wasn't until the middle of the second week that I began to understand that I was allowed to take more time with things. Not that I need it.

Which is why I find myself sitting here getting paid to write my blog. Oh wait...looks like someone has something for me. Off to earn my keep.

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