Damn the Man,  The Sacred Arts,  Writing

Permanent Employee

“Have a seat, Natalie,” the HR Director said, gesturing to the uncomfortably stylish chairs facing her desk.

I sat and crossed my legs. The skirt I wore tightly squeezed my hips when I sat, as if they were encased like polyester-covered sausage. I seemed to have gained weight in the seven months since I’d started temping at the sleek marketing company. Perhaps it was the coconut cake I scarfed every day as a “snack” to get me through another painfully boring afternoon scouring the web for tech resumes…or maybe the hazelnut latte that went with the cake…or maybe the lack of exercise from working two jobs and going to grad school at night…

“How would you feel about coming on as a full-time, permanent employee?” she asked. “We’re really feeling the need, and we could use you in so many more capacities.”

I felt myself surge. Permanent! Full-time! Benefits! A new car! A new wardrobe!  A real job at a real office!

Too naïve to know I should dial down the wide-eyed enthusiasm, I gushed, “Wow, that would be incredible!”

She smiled warmly. “Of course, you’ll want to think about it. We would need you as a salaried employee, which naturally would require overtime.” This reminded me of the New York posters that I had seen in my last company, which had made clear of the overtime factor.

I immediately got the hint. I thought about the days I had to take off occasionally during finals week, the crazy speeding necessary to get to my 5:30 Modern Lit seminar on time.

“Plus, we would like to place someone in this position who is in it for the long haul. This could really be a great opportunity for you. There’s a lot of money in recruiting,” she added with a glint in her eye, as if doling out an insider-trading tip.

She didn’t have to tell me, though. I saw her enormous bi-weekly paycheck every time I stuffed the envelopes on payday. I had also googled her beachfront address. She made more in one year than I would in ten.

Despite my naïvete, I understood her suggestion.

“Uh, yes, I would need to think about it,” I concurred.

I looked at her, really looked: her smart haircut, her plump frame, her windowless office that drove me crazy after an hour of filing. I thought about her sixty-hour work weeks, her inability to squeeze in any exercise or social life, her endless board and budget meetings, her thrill at finding just the right candidate to fill the empty executive position.

Then I thought about me. The tedious hours staring at a screen, the scheduling and re-scheduling of interviews, the never-ending mounds of paper to be sorted, copied, printed, filed, collated, hole-punched, wrestled with into binders. How each day I left the office drained of my humanity.

How I restored that humanity again at night by strengthening my mind with lively discussions and writing. The harmony of words, the soothing palliative of art, this saved me everyday.

I knew my strengths. I also knew I wouldn’t work much longer in HR.

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