Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The world is against me today

The day began (admittedly, not until after 1:00) with an phone call from "Unknown" on my cell. If I'm not expecting a call I generally don't answer those. I checked the message as soon as the phone beeped again, and it was Temp Agency #1, calling with an assignment that starts tomorrow and goes through the end of the month. Wow, way to plan ahead, folks. But whatever, work is good. I immediately called back, got voicemail, and said I was available.

Then Boy left here to go to his place, and he called me from the street to tell me my mailman had accosted him in the lobby, chastising him for not saying hello. We assume my mailman assumed he was me, as we're often seen together and as far as I know I'm the only white man who lives above the first floor of my building. Fair enough, but still sort of weird and rude. I've had troubles with my mailman before. He's usually very friendly. Too friendly. I haven't seen him in a while but he'll often comment on what's in my mail, or say things like "Have you been out of town?" based on what he sees there. The most frequent topics of conversation have been my unemployment checks (or lack thereof, if I'm working) and the frequency with which my Netflix are delivered. It's not like these conversations are sinister, but they are pretty inappropriate. We all know our mail carriers have a pretty good window into our business; I'd really prefer that they not acknowledge that so openly! On top of that, I'm convinced he sometimes just skips my building, and I often have tricky issues with packages or package notices.

So anyway, I figured since he was down there, this was a good time to go get my mail. I didn't have a clear idea of what I was going to say to him -- I guess I wanted to ask if he'd skipped us yesterday, as if he'd ever admit it if he had -- and I was caught off guard when he asked I'd gotten my package yesterday. Well, it had been the day before, but I said yes. He was asking because he'd left it with the super. "I rang you twice and you rang me twice but you didn't come down." He was referring to the buzzer on the door to my building, which unfortunately doesn't have an intercom, so if the bell rings in my apartment I simply have to let people in or not, but I have no way to communicate with them. Not the safest system, but what can I do? I explained this to him, and said I expected whomever it was to come up if they were actually buzzing for me (and not coming to shove takeout menus under the doors or one of the kids who lives in the building pushing every button), and he said "Oh, I don't go up," and then tried to end the conversation with an abrupt "Have a good day."

"Wait," I said, "how was I supposed to know it was you?"

"Well, I got a note saying you'd be home." This is true, I'd left the package slip from earlier asking for delivery.

"And I was home, but when you rang the bell how was I supposed to know to come downstairs? Aren't you supposed to come up, and deliver my package?"

He claimed that federal law prohibits him from going above the second stair landing. He sounded pretty convincing, but I'm skeptical, having never lived below the third floor before and had packages delivered to my door.

"Okay, well, I didn't know. Thanks for leaving it with the super."

In writing this conversation seems pretty benign, and I can't figure out how to convey the mailman's hostility. He seemed to be angry with me from the moment I stepped into the lobby, and he treated this whole exchange as if I was the rudest, most ignorant person on earth. Adding to the strangeness, I got a form from the unemployment people, but no check. Since both form and check are issued when I file my weekly claim, they usually arrive together. I'm sure the check will come tomorrow, but I started to wonder if maybe he'd held my check hostage because he was mad at me...or mad at Boy who he thought was me for not saying hello to him. It's ridiculous, of course, but we never really think about the power people like postal workers have. They carry our money, our bills, all kinds of vital items and correspondence. I don't care to think about how they can fuck those things up, either by accident or out of some kind of bizarre malice.

So by now an hour had passed since the phone call from Temp Agency #1, and I was totally rattled from the encounter with Hostile Mailman. I was getting cranky that I hadn't heard from the Agency. I was assuming they'd called someone else right after me (while I was listening to the voicemail) and that person had answered the phone and gotten the job. Which is entirely fine, but since we were talking about an assignment for tomorrow a return call didn't seem unreasonable to expect. So I called back, and the receptionist told me the woman who'd called me was on another call. She asked if I wanted her voicemail, and I said no because I'd already left a message, and explained that I was just checking in about tomorrow's job. She put me hold again and came back to say "She'll definitely call you back." Okay.

Shortly after this, Temp Agency #2 called. This is the one I work for most of the time, at Huge Financial Company. They have a day and a half of work for me next week. I tell her I'll have to call back in an hour or so, since a full two weeks of worth is clearly better than that.

Tick tock. 4:15 and no word from Agency #1. I called again, and the receptionist tells me the assignment was cancelled. Okay, that's understandable, but if you know I'm holding off on making plans for tomorrow, is it so hard to pick up the phone and let me know? It's bad enough I actually do spend so much of my time being a slug on the couch, I'd like it if these people assumed I had a life instead.

So I called back Agency #2 to accept the other gig. Shockingly, nothing went wrong with that. But then my manager decides to tell me, "by the way," that a department I've worked for several times told her they don't want to have me back because the last time I was there I wore cargo pants. The hell? Now, I only have one pair of cargo pants that I would ever wear to a corporate job, so I know exactly which ones they were. They're nice. The job is a concierge position, and it involves sitting behind a desk all day -- where no one can see my pants. And of course I was wearing a shirt and tie, which was all I was told the dress code involved (most of the company is far more casual). Now, every rational person I've told this story to so far has said, "Why didn't they just tell you they weren't happy with your pants?" Duh! I come from a world where people give notes on your job performance, and then they fire you if you don't take them. I mean, my pants??? If I'd known it was going to affect my future employment opportunities, I would have gone to the Gap on my lunch break and picked up some new ones!

I'll be the first to admit that my attitude at Huge Financial Company has not been great of late. I'm only there a couple of times a month, and I usually haven't slept enough, and I hate it. I try hard to keep any of that from affecting the quality of my work, but there's no question that I've been lazy and crabby when I'm there. But no, they don't have a problem with my punctuality or my attitude and certainly not my work, it's my pants. It's extra-frustrating because I've been there before and they've asked for me back, so they must like me, yet they don't give me a chance to fix what was obviously a mistake?

My manager at Temp Agency #2 was cool about it, and agreed with me that it's a little ridiculous. It's a big company, so there will be more work. But it just underscores very clearly all the things I hate about temping in particular, and the corporate world in general.

So, taking all of the above into account, and the fact that all I had to eat today was a Lean Cuisine pizza, it's okay that I just ate an entire box of Entenmann's cinnamon buns, right? What if they're "Light?"

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