Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The People Warehouse

Welcome to The People Warehouse. Your temporary work assignment will begin promptly at 8:30 a.m. Listen for the door click that grants you access to the lobby. Join the single-file line of employees showing their IDs to the receptionist. Do not attempt to bypass the line. You will be buzzed into the building.

Turn off and put away your cell phone. If you are spotted using your phone inside the building, even in the break room, you will be immediately terminated. Do not think about sneaking off to the bathroom to text. You are being watched.

Enter the first room on your left, a monstrous grey space that smells like disinfectant. Note the rows upon rows of half cubicles. Try not to think about cattle. Everything is the color of boredom -- a steely shade similar to mushroom soup. The thin industrial carpet is tan -- or maybe just dirty -- with curved shapes that resemble dolphins. Don't stare at the floor too long; you might be selected for a random drug test.

Observe the incongruous posters in the style of Keith Haring that are hanging from the ceiling. They provide the only color in the room. Focus on these works of art instead of the disturbing number of people around you who look like Far Side characters.

Perch on an uncomfortable blue desk chair that will soon make your back hurt. Give nicknames to the people milling around -- Pappy for the anxious man who keeps mumbling about the snow forecast, and Gitmo for the woman in a black hat with animal ears who might as well be a military prisoner wearing a hood. Know without really knowing that she has an overwhelming collection of Hello Kitty merchandise.

Pay attention when your team leader introduces herself, explains you'll be reading student essays, and asks if everyone can identify subjects and verbs in sentences. Look around for hidden cameras before you realize she isn't joking.

Do not lose control when she wants you to change the size of your PDF so it fits better on your monitor. Do not lose control when she wants you to click through the document instead of using the mouse to scroll. Do not lose control when she identifies herself as a writer, asks about the origin of your moniker, and explains that she's always on the lookout for interesting character names. Prepare to become a bodice-clad heroine in a novel with rake, duke, or prince in the title.

Listen patiently as the team leader tells you to log into the system by typing your name. Explain that you have already done this step, having been helped by a coworker. Inhale deeply when she barks, "Well, where is it then?" Remind yourself it's too early to start punching people in the throat.

Read the arbitrary and subjective scoring guide you're given for essays allegedly written by sixth graders. Remember phrases like "It’s unnecessary to obsess about spacing" when the rubric explains that some children will run their words together. Groan softly when the guide explains that sadt is a misspelling of "study" and should not be marked wrong. Weep for the future.

Receive a disjointed 45 minutes of training before being set loose to grade. Do your best but still "fail to qualify" to continue as a test scorer. Consider arguing about the lack of useful information you've received, the egregious errors you've been told to skip over, the condescension that has smeared the morning. Decide instead to leave, knowing you will find a better way to make money. Pull on your red coat as you walk outside and blink against the bright sun. Switch your phone back on. Enjoy taking a breath that doesn't smack of Lysol.

3 comments:

Steph said...

Wonderful.

Chi Sherman said...

Thanks, Steph. :)

Kym Tuvim said...

And, this is why I can't work for other people. Hang in there, Chi!! This is going to be an amazing year for you doing YOUR work, in your own beautiful way!! You're a writer. You're owning it and the universe is saying, YES!!!