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.
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.”
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?”
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.