Friday, July 20, 2007

Temp Time

Here’s a little something I’ve learned in the few weeks I’ve been back in the U.S.: it’s not so fun to stay at home all day here. There is nothing blissful about morning coffee, about long, sunny afternoons, about sitting down at my desk. There are myriad reasons for this. First, I don’t really have adequate coffee-making paraphernalia right now, and there is no splendid terrace (kitty-corner from La Pedrera!) on which to sip it. The long, sunny afternoons here (once spent strolling down Passeig de Gracia! Walking to the port! Browsing through a museum!) are dulled to an unrecognizable blur here in our suburban, air-conditioned apartment. And I don’t have a desk to sit at yet. Any “settling in for the day” takes place on the floor.

All of this, clearly, is a far cry from the pleasures of working from home in Spain. And so I had the thought this week that perhaps it’s time to find an office job—just for a little while, just until we know better what our plans are, just to bring in a little extra cash to jump-start our savings for a house. Writing is too hard to do without any kind of domestic calm; freelance work is less desirable since staying home is less so too; there aren’t any museums or beaches in which to spend my hours; and I’ve started to strain my eyes from reading so much. (That’s all just a long way of saying I really need to get out of the house.) So I called a long list of employment agencies this week, intent on finding work as a temp. I’ve temped before, in New York, many years ago; admin temp work is actually quite satisfying when the money’s good, and, lacking any domestic detritus to organize here, I was actually looking forward to organizing someone else’s stuff for a while.

This decision, I see now, was perhaps ill-advised. First, no one will give me any work; they say it’s a waste of time for me to even come in for a typing test but that they'll keep my resume on file in case a job comes up that fits my skills. No one seems to get that I'm not looking for a job that fits my skills--I just want to get out of the house during this strange, unsettled period. I finally did make it into one place for an interview, and I see now why the other places were reluctant—a large part of the “orientation video” I had to watch after filling out paperwork talked about the importance of not filling soda machines or lifting water-cooler bottles if it wasn’t explicitly part of my job description. The recruiter I talked to seemed puzzled about what I was doing there, unsure even what to ask me, and she wouldn’t even tell me any of the jobs available. “Just an example,” I coaxed. “Just to have an idea of what’s out there.” She said one current offering was working in customer service at a manufacturing firm for $11/hour. Irate customers and dismal wages—I shuddered. “Right,” she said, cringing. “This isn’t New York.”

It seems the executive-level, high-paying temp work I expected based on my NYC experience is simply nonexistent here. After my interview there I was, back at the apartment by 2pm, trying to figure out how on earth one spends one’s days without furniture, without cooking utensils, without museums or places to walk or cafes in which to people-watch, in this Soulless City that is our suburban home.

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