Monday, March 28, 2011

Temp Gig At The Medical Supply Business

Oddly enough, Lara from the temp agency met me there the first morning. She talks with the owner, Cameron, privately after the three us had a brief meet and chat. It was described as a maternity leave replacement for an administrative assistant/receptionist at a company that dealt in medical supplies.

Then Cameron kept me in his office for over an hour. He discussed growing his business, my background in PR and business connections, his need for what amounted to an executive personal assistant, with pointed questions about my relationship with Lara and how did I feel about being the only white person there, emphasizing that his black women there could be vicious. He could leave out the black part, I thought, women of any race, religion, or background can be vicious. The white thing? Seriously? Would likely bother them more than me. This is 2010 in Atlanta. I have friends from all walks of life and am quite accustomed to being the minority in any situation. Some of my closest friends are black. Some are white, and several other races. No big deal here.

So the biz is medical supplies. Cameron emphasizes that he is black, his business partner is a disabled veteran, and therefore they have an automatic entrée into contracts that give priority to minority owned businesses. He wants a “white girl who can talk to business people.” Ooh. Ouch. Let’s bypass PC. This insults all the brilliant black women I’ve ever known, and gives too much credit to the stupid white women I know. But, never mind, back to the story.

The first day I’m given the introduction to the phone system. Small staff, sounds simple, right? Wrong. The first time I transfer a call with getting an okay Denise comes running out her office yelling at me. “You don’t ever, ever, send me a call again without asking first! You got that? Never!” Oh I got it all right. Next call comes and. . .

“Denise, you have a call from Diane Jackson at City Medical. May I put her through?”

“What? Hell no! You got play some dodge-ball, you understand? Play some dodge-ball. But don’t you dare send that call to me.”

“I’m sorry, Ms. Jackson, Denise is not in. May I take a message?”

“Oh, really? A message? Does she ever come in? I can’t seem to get anyone there. Are you just covering for her?”

“I am so sorry, this is my first day and I was unaware you’ve had such difficulty. Be assured I will give her the message to contact you.”

“Well, tell her this. We are forwarding this to our collection agency today. Apparently your company is determined not to pay.”

And that’s pretty much how the phone calls go from there on. They get medical supplies from companies to mark up and resell, but don’t seem too interested in paying their suppliers. Then there are the companies who place big orders and pay up front, but have difficulty getting their supplies. Wherein I’m instructed to provide a different set of answers.

The supplies are en route, but the truck broke down.

The supplies you ordered are hung up (?) in our (non-existent) warehouses in China due to a revolution. A revolution?

Oh, you didn’t say that you definitely needed them this week. You should have told Shenille that you definitely needed them.

Are you sure you haven’t gotten them yet? You may want to check with your people and see if they just didn’t tell you that you got them.

Then when I do take a message or sort the mail, I have no idea whose mail slot to put them. There are no labels for Cameron, Denise, Shenille, Mary, Gina, Charles, or anyone else there. There are, however, labeled message holders for Starr Diva, God’s Brother Man, Bootylicious, God’s #1 Soul Sister, Bucky, and so on. And heaven forbid I don’t remember it all the first time.

Me - “Okay, I put Denise’s mail in the tray for God’s #1 Soul Sister, right?”

Gina - “No, I told you that was Shenille’s.”

Bacardi - “No, it ain’t.”

Gina - “Why not?”

Bacardi - “Cause Shenille’s missed the last three Sundays at church so she can’t say she’s God’s #1 Soul Sister.”

Then everyone downstairs comes down to argue. Thankfully I’m handed a big stack of invoices to file, and they are left to grab their own messages and mail. I begin to alphabetize by the names they will be filed under. Cut to the chase here – I am an idiot. Anybody knows you make a stack here for XYZ Medical, a stack here for Jones Pediatric Office, etc. Wait a minute, you got about 60 names here and you just want to make stacks all over the desks, chairs, floor etc.? Why not alphabetize and then file? Well, I’ve just outed myself as a dimwit. So they leave me alone to my foolishness.

Ninety minutes later I’m nearly through filing. Not so easy since A through G is in the second drawer of the five drawer filing cabinet in Gina’s office, H through L is in the bottom drawer of Bacardi’s desk, and you get the idea.

Cameron hardly shows up at the office. Too bad for him because he has some hard working employees who are extremely smart and could run the company beautifully by themselves. While the others are doing who knows what but are in the power positions. One day he calls and asks me to meet him in a parking lot about five miles from the office, so he can give me his office key and have me use his computer to respond to his e-mails.

So, now the gals know that I, the temp, the temp of one week, make that the white girl temp of one week has the boss’s keys and they have to ask me to get in his office. I feel a beatdown coming on. Bacardi comes stomping down the stairs, she always sounds like a herd of bison when descending those steps but now it’s more of an earthquake. She bodyslams my desk, nostrils flaring, breathing heavy.

“Just what do you know about office work? Huh? Just how long have you been a temp? What makes you think you know what you doing, huh? WHAT? And what makes Cameron think you da shit?”

“Look, Bacardi, I’m obviously no kid and I’ve worked many years. Cameron likes that I have a background in public relations plus a BA in Journalism. Anything else you want to know you’ll have to ask him. I’m here to work, not take anyone else’s job.”

Two weeks later I’m finally getting in the groove of what the boss wants from me. I’m setting up meetings for him with potential clients, and mending relationships with former clients. I’ve also researched businesses and provided opportunities for new contracts (with some guilt) and have begun to give his company a presence in social media.

I did have occasion to tell Cameron the ‘meet him for his keys’ thing was not a good idea. He laughed, very pleased with himself, and said he knew what would happen. But he did it just to “shake them up and keep them on their toes.”  Nice guy.

Then Cameron asks me to quit the temp agency and work directly for him. That is a breach of contract with the agency for sure. By now I’ve also learned that Lara has to come to his office every week for payment in advance because his credit is, well he has no credit. Cameron says for the temp agency to demand payment up front for my services is an insult to his intelligence. I decline because of the legality issue, and besides, I like this temp agency and I especially like Lara.

The next day Cameron asks me several times if I am close to Lara, how often we talk, or if we get together socially. I know why when I learn he has called her to say he’s discontinued my contract. The next day he says I’m on his payroll under a different company name so it’s all legit. Just great, Cameron, thanks. I go to lunch and find that while I was out Ryan, the barely post-pubescent branch manager of them temp agency, came in person to get the scoop. When I get back I’m told to park my car behind the building in case Ryan returns.

Cameron leaves, that three hour workday must be hell, so I begin taking my things to my car in small bits. Then I offer to take out everyone’s trash. Hey, I’ve done a good deed and I can hide my keys behind the bag. The trash is flung into the waste container, and I am in my car and gone.

13 comments:

sleepjunky said...

Wow. Just wow...!!!

Collin Kelley said...

Holy crapola! That was hilarious and sad, JP. There's a book in all these crazy temp tales.

Petula said...

Wow, that's some serious drama and roller coaster riding. How did you even survive? ...

You tell a good story though! :-)

Petula said...

Hi! Amber's last name is Lloyd! Thanks. :-)

John Hedtke said...

I had a job at a software company a little over 20 years ago (they're now long out of business) that used to do things like that. A Net-30 was automatically a Net-90 on all their bills and they were hell to get money out of for anything. One of the things I remembered was that you accrued vacation during the year for the next year, so if you quit, you'd lose out. I'm not entirely sure it was legal, but it was certainly cheesy.

Helen Ginger said...

This is totally whack-o. I'm so glad you got out!

Helen Ginger said...

Came back to tell you I've decided to steal the name Bootylicious. It's my new nickname.

One Hot Mama said...

Great story!! I have worked many temp jobs and it's really interesting to see how things work in different companies. There are a lot of wackos out there!!

Donna said...

Loved this. Love true stories. Other than the book reviews, all the stories on my blog are true - it's my life. I am a new follower. Thanks for visiting my blog. Donna
http://mylife-in-stories.blogspot.com

Jack Scott said...

Makes 'The Office' sound like Microsoft. What a delicious tale. I'm surprised you lasted more than a day but then I might have stuck at it just for the comedy!

Jennifer Perry said...

Ginger, Can't help but think "Bootylicious" now everytime I read your blog!
John, would love to hear about it. And to Jack and everyone, yes, I can't help but see the humor value in these situations, as though that part, even more than the money, were gifts from heaven! Couldn't make it up. I've got plenty more that I'll continue to share for your entertainment! Thanks to all for reading.

Medical Supply Blog said...

Good to see the post here.

Rhen Nicey said...

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