In a funny way, sitting there sort of felt like being in a police line up -- only our crime was to be an office temp for hire. Waiting there in the lineup, most of the workers preferred not to make eye contact or talk to anybody, but there was the occasional extrovert who’d attempt to reach out and strike up conversations, friendships, even.
To work, I’d bring along a big tote bag with a book or two, a notebook to write in, makeup, hairbrush, sanitary supplies when needed, extra shoes, food. In the era before cell phones, we didn’t tote any such electronic devices around (how the hell did we live or do anything before them? Blows my mind!).
Sometimes -- because I lived south of Houston Street and because I earned a good reputation as a reliable worker who NEVER called in sick (through fifteen years of temping it’s true: I did NOT call in sick, ever) -- Denise at Accurate would say it was OK for me to just call in to the office to see about work and not wait around, which I found dispiriting and kind of hated doing.
But otherwise, when they would change the rules back to playing the waiting room game again, I’d be there with my comrades-in-temps, between assignments, sitting there patiently (or not), waiting for a job in the front Accurate office (then located on the 21st floor, 2 WTC in the World Trade Center before it fell in 2001).
There was a back office with two or three desks where Denise and the counselors received their phonecalls from the firms, probably a 10 by 12 -foot room pretty crammed up with people and furniture (like an old sweat shop).
But us worker bees waited in the front office, a 12 by 15 foot- room if that, occupied by a receptionist desk, a copier, a fax machine, two typewriter desks (for testing applicants on their typing speed and accuracy), and about eight chairs in an L formation to the left of the door, in the corner.
In one of those chairs, waiting around for work one December, I started writing my first Christmas song, “Xmas Wish List,” which I still sing in December when the mood calls for a rockin’ Christmas song. The chorus goes, “Since you’ve been asking/I guess I’ll tell you/How ‘bout a blender, candles and a cat suit?/Imported Olives, purple leather gloves/and a sweetheart who’ll love me, too?”