Sunday, February 25, 2007

There Will be a Quiz Later

We’ve all had those jobs from . . . well, you know. If you haven’t, you’re either very peculiar or the son/daughter of a politician – and in many cases, that could be both. At any rate, as I look back on my job history, I find that my mind goes to what I did to put up with the conditions to avoid running into the night stark, raving mad.

My first job out of college was working for an insurance company as an adjuster for workers’ compensation claims. I hate to break it to you, but as sexy as that might sound, it wasn’t. After I got over dealing with people who were slightly off center – claimants, clients, co-workers, bosses – I found that a Black Hole had formed near the base of my desk, and it was sucking the very desire to enjoy life itself out of me. And upon discovering this phenomenon, I looked around at others in the office and determined that they, too, had Black Holes at their desks. Be that as it may, I started looking for any and all chances to step away from my desk and reclaim my joie de vive – I believe that’s French for “white hole” – which still sounds creepy but far better than a black one.

Each morning, I would put together a three-question, multiple-choice quiz for my co-workers. It was just random bits of information I would pick up from the radio on my drive to work that morning or some other arcane reference I somehow remembered learning back in college. At first, I had about four people who humored me in this exploit, but before long, I had people walking up to me asking for the quiz if I didn’t have it “distributed” by 9:00 a.m. At the height of it all, I was passing out 40 or 50 quizzes each day – this was before e-mail was widespread (yes, I’m old), so the copy machine got a good workout. Had my immediate supervisor found out about this little endeavor of mine, I’m convinced that she would have chained me to my desk and increased the sucking capacity of my personal Black Hole – I believe she had the power to do that.

Leaving the exciting world of workers’ compensation insurance, I ventured into forklift sales. I know, I know. Sexy. But oddly enough, it wasn’t either. In this type of job, you were out of the office left to your own devices. In my case, I had a geographic territory about the size of a postage stamp with the potential for forklift sales slightly less bleak than a snowball’s chance in . . . a really hot place. Needless to say, when I wasn’t out looking for another job, I would go to a Barnes & Noble and take a nap in one of those really soft, oversized armchairs. My manager had the habit of roaming around and calling you out of the blue to see where you were, so I found the Barnes & Noble location ideal because it was in the center of my territory and the chances that he would walk in were, well, even bleaker than the aforementioned snowball’s prospects. I say this because I was fairly certain that his “reading material” was limited to magazines with lots of pictures in them – if you know what I mean – and those were delivered by mail to the office.

So, if you find yourself in a less-than-ideal work environment, you have two choices: find a new one or start fantasizing that you’re an undercover agent who is looking to expose the company’s use of motor oil as the secret ingredient for its special sauce. Failing that, there’s still time to run for President – most of those people have spent years avoiding a real job.

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