Current Occupation: Retired
Former Occupation: Technical Writer and Teacher
Contact Information: I am the Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books, in Baltimore. Also I edit an online literary journal called the Potomac – not that I make a dime from either of these activities, so they fall into that limbo of hobby/work. Not sure where writing falls in that limbo since I do sell the occasional copy of published books. Speaking of which, my latest, MATA HARI: EYE OF THE DAY, was published in 2015 by Apprentice House (Loyola University), and another, AMERICAN ZEITGEIST, is forthcoming from Apprentice House as well.
Hell Is Other People
“If they like you, this gig could last indefinitely,” Marge told me when I got my new Kelly Girl assignment at the Business School. I’d called in to headquarters to check if there was a job; I hadn’t worked in about a week. If they like you. If you’re lucky.
“Thanks, Marge,” I mumbled, and the next day I went to the B School.
The job? Filling orders for case study booklets at the university. Various business schools around the country requested copies of relevant case studies for their classes. Titles like Mobilizing Capital for Development or Reshaping the Financial Services Landscape or Modern Recruiting: Igniting Organizational Transformation. IPOs, Paypal, tech-savvy millennials, hedge funds, personnel management. The whole thing made me want to puke, it sounded so deadeningly boring.
“Do you want to be a hired hand all your life?” my mother asked me when I called Sunday. I called her weekly at her home across the country in Potawatomi Rapids, Michigan.
“I don’t want to be part of some organization and have bosses and be a boss.”
“What’s so bad about that?”
“Hell is other people, Mom.”
“You can philosophy this all you want, Monsieur Sartre, but facts are facts, situations are situations.”
It was Friday and Sid, a regular employee but something of an outsider, was all got up in his partying outfit. He was a guy about my age, I judged, mid-thirties. He had his hair all slicked up and silver crosses dangling from his ears, otherwise all in black. Sid had a disgusting habit of picking his nose and eating it, not particularly hiding it.
Babs, the supervisor, a Southern Baptist with a twang, rolled her eyes at him, went outside with Conrad for a smoke. Conrad was another temp, like me, though he worked for a different agency.
“You think they’re having an affair? Sid asked.
“Are you kidding?” I was going through the stacks gathering copies of a case study called Leadership in Crisis. Some school in Arizona needed copies for a class in Entrepreneurship. But then I thought. “They are kind of thick, aren’t they?”
“Smoking buddies. Babs doesn’t like me, that’s for sure.”
“Babs. Well.” I shrugged. No loss.
The door blew open then on a smell of cigarettes and in came Babs and Conrad. Conrad looked a little old to be a temp, to me, but what was too old, and was I just internalizing my mother’s opinions? A bent old guy in his fifties, I judged, with a grizzly goatee. He was always sideling up to sexless Babs.
“Did you get those case studies?” Conrad barked at me, as if he were the boss.
“Don’t worry about it.”
I looked at Babs, who looked away. Sid raised his eyebrows. And I saw how it was. Probably angling for a permanent job, Conrad had decided to assume the role of deputy sheriff to Babs’ Marshal Dillon. Assistant to the trail boss. And that’s how it was done, by taking smoke breaks together. What was in it for Conrad? Did he really think they’d hire him full time? He smelled of desperation. Well, I’d be out of here in a week or two, a month tops.