AJ Ericksen's Blog World

Saturday, February 7

Looking Back - Looking Forward

My brother, after many years away from school and making a decent living, is a few weeks into college. He's working hard at his studies, but he's still having a hard time finding a decent part-time job and is becoming more broke by the day. I remember how tough the job hunt was for me. Even more, I remember how bad some of those jobs were. In that vein, I decided to post a little unfinished piece I wrote while I was working temp jobs at call centers with one Paco Hepwortho, a.k.a. Bill Solomon, before starting law school.

I've never "published" any of my writings, so I hope you enjoy this little piece from July 2002, "Marketing Ally":
The anonymous building sat inconspicuously behind the hamburger stand and Durfey’s Dry Cleaning. I was told that is was a second-rate dance club years ago, before I moved into town. A person could easily live for years within a couple of city blocks and never notice the place or its employees. And, yet, I found myself within the bowels of the building on a dog-day Wednesday afternoon.

The temp agency sent me to put in a few hours on the phone. The work was a pre-election poll, just a couple of questions: Are you pro-life or pro-choice? Do you consider yourself republican or democrat? Am I interrupting your dinner or your favorite television program? It was the same thing but in a new locale. Without a book to read or an afghan to knit, time moved at an interminably slow pace. And the facility itself only worsened matters.

The call center was kind of like a casino: lots of background noise from the incessant chatter and humming fluorescent lights overhead, despondent people everywhere you looked (The only people with a trace of a smile were the managers; the house always wins.), and countless flashing screens. However, the call center had more water-stained ceiling tiles and minors. I’m told there are no windows or clocks in Las Vegas casinos so the gamblers lose track of time. Having seen the scores of zombies in cabana shirts and blue-haired old hags with their asses glued to the stools like their hideous fake nails to their fingers, I am convinced the plan works. I suppose the time flies for those folks. But inside the windowless cave-call center, the batteries seemed to by dying on Father Time’s watch. I arrived at 4 o’clock, and by 4:23 I was convinced was at least 10:37. During a couple of minutes of technical difficulties, I dozed off and awakened certain I was in hell.

Taking stock of myself—feeling for wallet, keys, checking my fly, and wiping away any drool from my siesta with the back of my hand—I soon realized where I was. I looked around me for a wall clock and, finding none, checked my watch. 4:46, Lord the day was going to be long! What was I going to do?

Still looking straight at the computer screen, I glanced at the people to my left and to my right. I have always been a good judge of people—at least, I am quick to judge them—and I dismissed these two miserable sods almost instantly.

To my left was an old guy whose name was, I think, Don. I say I only think his name was Don because we never spoke to each other aside from me asking him where the men’s room was. Anyway, he looked like a Don. He was probably in his early fifties, but he looked much older; life had worn him down. I wondered why an old guy like that was working among high-school kids for a pauper’s wage of $7 an hour. Was he a recovering alcoholic, recently abandoned by his wife after losing his job at the plant? Was he retarded? I didn’t know, and I didn’t really want to find out. Imagining was much more fun. The worn out aqua socks that he wore with his grey polyester slacks that were improperly pressed so as to reveal his fly although it was zipped.

To my right was a large black man named Ben. I’m certain of his name. He thrust out his hand to introduce himself, and, being much smaller than he, I was helpless to refuse him. He was only in his twenties, but he had a few wisps of grey in his bushy eyebrows. I would have been intimidated by his size if he didn’t have such a comical voice. He sounded like a cross between Daffy Duck and Bryant Gumbel—not the real Bryant Gumbel, rather like David Alan Grier’s impersonation of Bryant Gumbel. I think his tongue was too big for his mouth. When he said, “Political questions,” it sounded more like “plit-cul qwes-sions.” I was happy to get phone calls just so I didn’t have to talk to him. . . .


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