In my recent feverish state, I've had some weird dreams and some weird memories. Yesterday, I remembered a job I once had that I'd forgotten all about. The memory made me laugh and cringe at the same time.
When we were newly married, the Captain and I left our home in the Armpit of Ontario to seek our fortunes out west. We moved to a place I like to call Big City and proceeded to look for work. For two months that summer, before landing my first teaching job, I found steady work as an office temp.
One Monday morning I got a last-minute call for a week-long job. That job was simply described as "reception". I figured I could handle that, and made my way, fresh-faced and smiley, to the industrial park in Big City, on the lookout for a large furniture factory (read: sweatshop) with a small office attached.
When I got there, the tone in the office seemed a little...off. The pleasant smile and attempts to seem friendly that I'd used to such positive effect in my previous temp jobs seemed boisterous and inappropriate here. Then I learned what my job for that week would entail.
One of the sales reps had gone the week before for bypass surgery on his heart. He had made it through surgery with flying colours, only to relapse that weekend during his recovery and die in his hospital room. So, this week, my job was to answer his phone, explain to his clients what had happened and refer them to another sales person. For $8 an hour.
Now, because I was in a cubicle where the rest of the office could hear everything I was saying, I wanted to be sensitive. So, for the first few calls, I explained to the clients that Mr. Sales Rep was "no longer with us." This seemed to work well for a while. Until someone got nosy.
I guess it must've been my fifth or sixth call of the morning. When I gave my spiel, the man on the other end asked, "Where'd he go?"
What a thing to ask a wise-ass with only a basic understanding of the tenets of Christianity! Somehow, it seemed a little cheeky, even for me, to say "Since I didn't know the guy, I'm really not sure. On the one hand, the entire office seems genuinely upset at his passing. On the other, he was in sales. So it really could've gone either way."
At this point, I realized I was going to have to be a bit more transparent. I started telling people he'd "passed on", which, of course, elicited questions. People wanted to know what had happened. They wanted, as humans often do, to be a part of the drama. The entire week, I attempted to speak in hushed tones so as not to upset anyone within earshot. The only time I was able to breathe and speak freely was the afternoon the entire office attended the funeral and I was left there alone. Good times!
I guess they must've thought I did pretty well because at the end of the week, I was offered a permanent job at the front desk taking "regular" calls. I tried to keep up the dignified demeanour I'd developed taking the death calls. I thanked them for the offer, but gracefully declined, stating I was holding out for a teaching job.
So now I have yet another reason to add to my long list of why I dread returning to work. Hopefully the fever passes soon...