Life’s short, work’s temporary

Izaak Diggs is a curmudgeon currently working temporary assignments somewhere in Sacramento

This is the life of a temp:

Temps get good at reading maps, finding disposable cups and completely closing themselves off. They are ghosts—just real enough to add notes to Excel spreadsheets and stuff envelopes. To “permanent” employees, they are faceless and invisible, skirting the edges of the fragile workplace societies. When you are on vacation, you seat temps at your desks, where they are surrounded by your knickknacks and family pictures.

Because you do not see them, you speak freely with your doctors, lovers, problem children.

Nonetheless, temps are real. They were once “permanent,” like you. They had knickknacks and went to lunch with co-workers. They pinned up pictures in their cubicles and e-mailed jokes to people they knew in other departments.

You take for granted that you will have a job on Monday morning. You work hard, try to be an asset to the team, but this Friday could be your last.

At a few minutes to 5, the office manager comes to you with an expression made up of equal parts regret and disdain.

“Could I speak with you a moment?”

You are led to her office. Your supervisor is waiting for you, stone-faced, in a chair to the right of the office manager’s desk. There is a short conversation. You are asked to sign some papers, and then you shake their hands, though you are so numb you can barely feel your legs.

Congratulations. You are now unemployed.

Remember this when you see a new face—another temp with an awkward smile and forced eagerness. Show us where the fridge is, so we can put our lunches away. Point out the bathroom. Remind us to take a break every couple of hours, because we’re afraid to take them. If we don’t impress you, you’ll give a bad notice to the agency, the odds of our getting assignments decrease, and we can’t pay our bills.

This is the life of a temp. This is our reality. And I mean our reality, because it could be closer than you imagine.