Friday, May 12, 2006

Which One of These Things Does Not Belong?

Wednesday evening I got a call from my dear temp agency, offering me a job that started today. I said yes. So today was the first day I have worked in EIGHT months. Wow. The shift was from 7:00 to 4:00. I got there at 6:30, having left myself plenty of time because I didn't know what the traffic would be like. I can't remember the last time I got up at 5:08. Well, we didn't even start working until about 8:00 or 8:30 because not everyone was there and the supervisor didn't want to explain himself twenty different times. It's a data entry position, which is fairly boring, but that's fine with me because I wanted something that would be low stress...and most of the people in the room with me were listening to music on headphones. So that's going to be me come Monday. I'm bringing the ipod in and the tunes will be flowing.

Well, the weirdest thing about the job is, I am very much the minority. In fact, I was the only white person in the room. Except for a couple higher up muckety muck men that flitted around periodically, I was the only white person I saw ALL DAY. I don't think I have ever been so acutely aware of my pigmentation...especially when the gaggle of women that I hung out with for the first hour were telling horror stories about temp agencies...One woman was telling about a friend of hers that was sent by a temp agency to a certain address, and when she got there, it was a private home. She was horrified and felt very unsafe. I guess it was in a bad part of town, there was a dog, and a baby with a stinky diaper, and these two white people, who could have been plotting to kill her for all she knew! The room recoiled in horror. I suddenly felt like a very big, visible, white fly on the wall. ( I guess the point she was making was that the temp agency was irresponsible b/c they never checked out where they were sending her...) I wanted to let out a small whimper from my conspicuously Caucasian lips, " I'm nice!"

I smiled the whole time and pushed on my cuticles like mad.

Let me hasten to say that everyone I work with seems very nice and they were very helpful and friendly...

I can't help but think about my brief two month stint at the Bank of New Hampshire Operations Center in Keene. They were very ergonomically correct there and had someone come around and adjust your office chair so that it wasn't too high or too low. And twice a day exercise or stretching was mandated to keep everyone healthy, aligned, and limber. This place is like a dungeon in comparison. We sit on metal folding chairs. For eight hours. The supervisor did tell us to take two fifteen minute breaks to get up and walk around and get some fresh air. I briefly entertained the idea of leading group stretches like at the bank...except I'm not going to get up on a filing cabinet to do it. There is no room for that anyway. At the very least, I think I will bring a pillow for my poor posterior.

The lady at the temp agency said this was a two week assignment. The supervisor at the job site this morning said, " It'll be longer than that..." I think this is a good thing.

I heard a unique word today, one that I think has never before been used in earth's history. "Pressuresome." As in, " That job was a pressuresome situation." I immediately flagged it in my mind as a blogworthy word and stifled the urge to laugh aloud.

I visited Brad at his job on my way home. I had told him about the culture jiggle that I encountered. ( It wasn't really striking enough to be true culture shock, but it was sure something. Definitely not inertia, anyway.) I had been there a while, wandering around the store and talking with his coworkers. Brad suddenly turned to a co-worker of his, who happens to be black, and said, " So, did Claire tell you about her culture shock today?" I looked at Brad in amazement, and said, " Brad!" He told this guy that I was the only white person at work. ( This guys' wife works at my temp agency...small world, huh?) Apparently, he and his coworker have had some racial dialogues- in the positive sense of the term- and this guy is pretty laid back about stuff like that...But not having been a part of these positive dialogues, I felt distinctly weird. I don't have a lot of experience with that kind of thing. I don't like talking about differences, I guess. (Don't get me wrong- I like this coworker. I'm not racist. I just don't know how to deal with racial tensions when they arise...being from New Hampshire where those issues are practically non-existant because there are no almost no minorities there!) And then his coworker said, " Oh, great! So you could walk in and kind of feel like you owned the place..." and I was almost totally bowled over with awkwardness because that is the kind of thing an extremely unPC, joking white person would say...and I would just roll my eyes and be like, " whatever"...but I did not know how to handle it coming from a black man. If I had any superpowers, I think I would have pulled a Dathan and Abiram. ( As in, having the earth swallow me up...)

Perhaps my multicultural deficiency will be somewhat remedied in the next few weeks.

8 comments:

asaphat said...

I was just contemplating a post on race today! What a coincidence! I had my own li'l awkward situation, though not nearly as tellworthy or pressuresome as your own. Coming soon...

lis said...

O wow, Claire!

That sounds like more culture shock than I've ever had to deal with.

And only you could do it in such a humorsome sort of way. :O)

But hooray for widening horizons! May they become more and more relaxing and fun.

Mrs. RF said...

Oh, my...But, at least you have some work! I rejoice with you! (she says as she still waits for work...)

Avalanche Cowpoke said...

Chuckle!

ljmax said...

Metal folding chairs!! Good grief, bring the south up to speed here Claire and save them all some repetitive stress injuries. How could anyone stand that?

Claire said...

Well, I figure they aren't too concerned if the lowly temps show up with rs injuries, LJ. The big oppressive capitalists will just slough off the weak and get some new temps...

Kristi said...

Coming from a liberal state where blacks, hispanics, and Asians mingle freely (I think), it's always kind of weird to go to other parts of the country like the South where they still are so aware of race! I wouldn't have wanted to be in your shoes! Good blog material, though. :-)

redsoxwinthisyear said...

Glad you clarified that bit about not being racist, because I was so worried for awhile that you are...