A temp agency is not the way to go

I think I made more money playing nickel-poker than I did working at that blasted factory last summer.

As an English major, I am fully aware that I will die penniless and homeless. What I am worried about, however, is that in the meantime, I have to find a job to pay for my apparently worthless college tenure. There are countless jobs I’d love to have: Conan O’Brien intern, “Saturday Night Live” writer, professional brain-stormer, professional barn-stormer, etc. The list goes on and on. Unfortunately, the highest-paying jobs that I sign up for are ones that I hate. For instance, last summer.

Getting a job through a temp agency was, to say the least, a mistake. Although they give their employees detailed intelligence tests and placement questionnaires, everyone that comes through the office will get a job at a factory. I was no exception. A week after applying, I was sent to work at a foam and plastics sweatshop, equipped with aluminum walls, a staff of non-English speakers and a floor covered in several inches of hardened, grimy goop.

My initial job was to use little razors to cut off excess material from parts – for nine hours a day. The thought of this was not so bad, but all of the time I spent on the clock was coupled with an “added benefit,” specifically, the dreadful music of my co-workers. They only listened to two or three different artists, all of which played in the same genre: homemade Mexican synth-polka. Its sound quality was like that of a bootlegged Who concert recorded from a mile outside the venue.

Fridays became “English music days” after I started to complain, but the employees just listened to a talk-radio station impatiently for an hour or so before resorting back to the same old dissonant classics.

Every song sounded the same, and every one became more grating over time. The bass lines were exactly the same form track to track, using similar (off) keys and slowly bouncing between the two notes of the polka pattern. The backing rhythm featured sounds that came from some sort of Atari music-creation game. Covering that was the piercing sound of a synthesized accordion, which sounded like it came from an Alvin and the Chipmunks album and sped up even more. Every time I heard the song “Amorcita,” I felt like letting one of those little razors slip.

Needless to say, I was going insane.

My prayers were answered when my boss promoted me to a position where I got to work away from the awful music and, instead, listen to the high-decibel sounds of air drills and industrial fans. It was very soothing. From that time until the end of the summer, I happily made little red CPR dummy babies out of foam. It seemed like my main duty was to pour toxic molding-plastic all over myself – ruining my shoes and pants on a daily basis. But I liked the work a lot better than in my previous location.

And just when I was getting used to the semipermanent stains of goop on my skin, my doctor informed me that I was allergic to the polyurethane dust floating around the factory. Apparently the complete lack of ventilation was wreaking havoc on my allergies. I quit a week earlier than expected.

I think I made more money playing nickel-poker than I did working at that blasted factory last summer. That was just adding insult to injury. You see, I don’t even care if I’m not paid well as long as I don’t mind the job. I applied for 12 California internships online, most of which are only for college credit. Even though it won’t help my financial woes, I know that as an English major, experience is key.

I’m trying to work on a television show, but I’m not getting my hopes up. Like every year, my summer-job dreams will eventually be crushed. I’m running out of options, so another factory stint might be imminent. I always thought school was the biggest waste of time, but now that I’m getting older, I want to milk it for all it’s worth. I’ll do anything to stay away from that factory.

In closing: Conan O’Brien, give me a job for summer!

Mat Koehler welcomes comments at [email protected]