Have you seen these?
A Year in Books - 2009-12-27
Skip Tracer, Loan Detective - 2009-11-22
New Job - 2009-11-03
The coleslaw got served. - 2009-10-21
Probably a new job. But maybe not. - 2009-10-08

A possible new job, and the scariest bike ride ever
2009-09-28 9:26 a.m.

So, I'm registered for a temp agency now. I didn't mean to, and I still have my current job, for the foreseeable future.

Two of our part-time people left. Instead of saying, "Hooray, more hours for everyone, particularly Jen!" Management cut the number of hours available. Again. And then they told us they would be looking to hire at least one more deli person ASAP. This was about a month ago.

I realized that the company's long-term goal was to keep screwing the full-time staff for as long as we were willing to take it. I kicked my job hunt up a notch.

One of the local job sites had a listing from a temp agency. "Our client has a 40-hour/week bookstore position." This seemed odd, but I assumed that bookstores in college towns get absolutely swamped with applications. Maybe it was worth it to the manager to pay a temp agency some sort of finders' fee if the agency narrowed down 500 applications to five or six.

I've always been a little leery of temp agencies. I know that waiting a week or two between assignments would make me insane. But, since the ad for this position did not say "temp," I assumed it wasn't.

I sent my résumé off to the temp agency, explaining that I was particularly interested in the bookstore job. They invited me in for testing.

The typing test noted speed, but was more interested in accuracy. I was hell of accurate, and I even passed their minimum speed requirements using my decades experience of hunt n' peck. (Technically, I don't touch-type. I use a total of about four fingers to hunt and peck really, really quickly.) I remembered a lot more of WordPad than I would have expected. I completely bombed the Excel test, but since my other scores were so studly, the temp agency agreed to interview me anyway.

I interviewed really well, and I knew it. I asked about the bookstore position. The hiring lady explained that it was the college bookstore, and that the position would last six weeks. I expressed my reluctance to give up a solid 30-35 hours a week with insurance for a 6-week assignment. She said she completely understood, and that she sometimes fills temp-to-hire slots as well, could she keep me on file, and call me if anything long-term showed up?

I said she could indeed. I knew she probably had a hundred or so people who had been in her files longer, with proven experience who would get offered those jobs first, but what the hell.

About two weeks ago, she called. Temp-to-hire, 40 hours/week, weekends off. Could I come in for another round of tests? Oh, hell yes.

This time,it was reading comprehension (easy), listening comprehension ("Bob says Susan down in accounting should have sent me the TPS files yesterday. Go ask Rhonda's assistant Phil if he still has the backup. Question one: Who works in accounting?") and combination spelling/typing accuracy. (Basically, I was read a mailing list, and asked to fill in the corresponding form, thus proving I could spell "San Francisco" and "Department Manager" and that I knew state postal abbreviations) I rocked that round of testing as well, and the hiring lady said she would definitely pass me on to her client.

I really appreciate being tested. I've been applying for some secretarial positions on my own, but I know that my chances aren't good. I can say "Look, maybe I have no relevant experience, but I'm actually pretty damn smart, and I know I can do this, if you just give me a chance," all I want, but so can everyone else. I really like that the temp agency wanted quantifiable proof, and it boosted my self-esteem to learn that I had been correct, and I am smart enough for an office monkey job.

So, now I wait. This particular position is filling two rounds of multiple openings at a call center. The client will go through the 50 or so applications, and pick some of us by Oct. 9th-ish. One round of training starts mid-October, and the next a week later. The temp hiring lady said she would tell them I preferred the later training class, so that I can give two weeks notice at my current job.
I rode my bike to work on Saturday. Rijid wanted the car to go out of town. My shift started at 6am, the buses don't run that early on weekends, and a taxi would have cost me $30. I figured out a route that was just slightly over 10 miles. I told Rijid that if we ended up in the same situation in February, I might have a different answer, but for now, it was fine if he took the car.

I rode my planned route on Friday, just to familiarize myself with it. The high-traffic parts were a little scary, but I could get most of the way there on bike trails. It would take about an hour, but since this was a one-time thing, that was fine.

The one thing I didn't take into account was that it's DARK at 5am. I have a headlight on my bike, of course. It's a teeny little strobe light. I've seen them in use on other bikes after dark from 1/2 mile away, so I know they're excellent for letting traffic see me. Me seeing anything else, not so much. 20 yards in, I knew I would not be going through the Arboretum at this time. There are NO streetlights in there, and the road is curvy. I know the west side fairly well because of all the cycling I've done this summer, so I was able to come up with an alternate route. The Southwest Commuter Path runs through a residential neighborhood instead of a forest, so there should maybe at least be some streetlights, right?

The path cuts through residential blocks. The streetlights are on the street, 1/2 a (large) block away on both sides. It wasn't 5 miles of pitch black, but there were some scary places. I knew some parts of the path are elevated 10 feet or so above the residential yards on either side, so every time I came to a stretch without visibility, I slowed down to a speed slightly faster than walking.

I was actually relieved to be on the four- and six-lane major streets. There wasn't a lot of traffic, and I had a clearly marked extra-wide bike lane. I could see it and everything.

Riding home, of course, I had the opposite problem. By 1pm, the main roads were full of traffic and I spent two miles gripping my handlebars in white-knuckled panic, but the bike path was pleasant.


Neil Gaiman
Ironic Sans
Wil Wheaton



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