Here’s a little something I’m adding here by popular request. You can file it over in the “Worst Job Stories Ever” department:
The temp agency had given me the address. Getting off the bus I was surprised to find a house rather than a business. I knocked on the door and the artist himself answered, showing me to a small claustrophobic room where other temps were already seated in their places. He introduced himself as being the world renowned artist of duck postage stamps. Our mission: to “deperforate” thousands of postage stamps featuring his latest duck art creation. I think it was for the state of Colorado to save their wetlands or something. We would deperforate pages of stamps and place each duck stamp individually into tiny wax paper stamp collecting envelopes.
The rules were explained immediately. There will be no talking. No radio. If you tear more than five stamps you’re off the job. However, if you deperforate so many postage stamps within the given time period you’ll receive a bonus at the end of the day. If you all hit the necessary production level we could win the privilege of having a radio. It all seemed incredibly bizarre, but I was broke. He literally came in with a stopwatch and hollered, “On your mark, Get set, Go!”
Off we all went deperforating little duck postage stamps from very large printed sheets. Some of us did well. Others, however, did not. At lunch time the artist’s wife, a woman named “Boots”, entered the room. She looked over our individual production quotas and one poor girl was immediately asked to leave the house due to her sloppy workmanship. That was when the rest of us realized the temp agency had pimped us out to work for Ilsa – She Wolf of the duck postage stamp industry! In retrospect I’m not sure why we all returned after lunch, but we did. The project ended up taking an entire month. Daily I would get on the bus, ride over the hill and prepare myself mentally for dealing with Boots, her OCD, and her complete lack of any basic manners. As the days went by she grew worse as well. People walked out daily only to be replaced by more duck stamp deperforating cattle.
After three nightmarish weeks a girl named Elizabeth and I were the only two remaining from the original crew. Elizabeth was involved in the Lifespring movement and was using her new outlook on life to not let her abusive work conditions change her attitude. Every day she tried to get me to come to one of her meetings. I was simply desperate for cash and had received many a bonus due to my expert duck stamp deperforating skills. Plus the agency assured me, daily, that they had nothing else for me to go to.
The final week there was insane. Boots had completely lost her mind and during our ten minute morning break Elizabeth and I contemplated what medication she might have no longer been taking. We might as well have been working in a plastic fork factory removing extra doohickeys from the tines. It was excruciatingly dull and Elizabeth and I were on our way to getting in trouble one more time. Yes children, we accidentally forgot and started talking. In came the Boots and her husband.
“THERE, WILL, BE, SILENCE!” she screamed.
Our radio privileges were removed again. We grew bitter and poised for rebellion, purposefully making as many tears as we could without jeopardizing our potential day end bonus. After lunch, with several days worth of stamps left to properly assimilate, Elizabeth and I waited and then we turned on the radio and cranked it. The Commodores came on singing “Brick House”. The two of us sat there ready for her and moments later she came storming in.
“WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING!!!”
We told her we were listening to music. She walked over and turned the radio off, reminding us that the radio was forbidden. I told her that her antics were probably forbidden by federal labor laws. Elizabeth told her that only the Lambada was forbidden. We started laughing and once we started we couldn’t stop. You could see the veins in Boots’ forehead start to swell which only made us laugh harder. She was going to snap. “Stop this laughing immediately!” We laughed as we collected our things and left the building. The other two worker bees followed us like mice and as we made our way down to the bus stop, Boots was standing on the front porch screaming at us. “WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING! GET BACK HERE THIS INSTANT!” It was all rather sad in a maniacal sort of way.
That night I received a call from the temp agency. All four of us did. They had heard in depth over the previous weeks what our work conditions were like and they had done nothing. Now they were calling to ask us to reconsider and return the following day. I said no. Apparently everybody did.
The next morning brought a surprise. The woman from the temp agency was standing on my front doorstep. “If I have to get down on my knees and beg you I will.” I told her she didn’t need to degrade herself like that. She just needed to agree to my terms. 1. Double the pay AND I get a daily bonus no matter what. 2. We can all talk if we wish to. 3. We can listen to the radio all we want. And 4. Boots will not be allowed anywhere near us. She almost fell down the stairs. She pleaded, “I can’t do all that!” I told her to have a nice day and closed the door in her face. An hour later the phone rang. My terms had been accepted. I got on the bus and arrived to find Elizabeth the only one there. We completed the job for the agency in three days, doubling our record workload by being allowed to enjoy ourselves without Boots breathing over our shoulder.
In the end Elizabeth and I made some serious cash, the artist and his wife got their project finished on time, the agency received their payment – and most importantly, the world was a better place for duck postage stamp collectors everywhere.