Thursday, May 15, 2008

J-O-B, and neglected car upholstery

Last Monday was my finals-week exam time to return my comp. students' portfolios. The following day my real-life non-permanent job began... down the hall from the English Dept. copier, couch and mailboxes I've known and loved for two years.

Rewind: Back in February I was in full freak-out mode over applying for jobs to begin, yes, 6 months later. In Chicago. When you don't have a local address and use your cover letter to explain your eager but far-in-the-future relocation, you're doomed. Only later (a few weeks ago) was it confirmed by a friend that you do in fact have to ensure a few little omissions make it into (out of?) your cover letter ("I am available for interviews next week." "Please contact me at my local address." etc.). But, in all that chaos I managed to send in an application for temporary work through HR at the University. A week before the end of classes I came upon the job offer at a restaurant from the chair of the dept. I had precisely one day to transition from T.A./grad student to Administrative Associate for the summer months.

So I jumped in. It feels the same, really. My own office, check. Thermostat that's broken and always too high, check. Oh, how there are many office supplies at my fingertips. And, oh, how the job requires organization. I'm in Excel heaven. I'm still slightly confused at every turn regarding forms. My duties include but are not limited to: walking down the hall to check my mailbox seventeen times a day, awaiting for the invoice/phone bill/returned copies of travel reimbursement forms, or walking to the copier (often at the same time I decide to check my mailbox) for photocopies. Because this job requires lots of record-keeping. It also requires understanding for all departmental procedure regarding business interaction with Human Resource, Business Services and the fund-giving foundation here. I've slowly been training in Banner, the University database structure, for all financial needs. ThisIsAlltooAlientoMe. And so is this staple remover. We found one in the office and cannot figure out how it removes staples.

What's more difficult without this new phase is how to deal with the rest of my day when office duties and departmental assistance are not required. I wake up now at 6am (okay, okay, 6:30), grab coffee and out the door at 7:30, to arrive at 8, lunch at 12, home at 5. I've restarted novel reading at my lunch hour (Amidon's Human Capital, currently). I should be walking Mt. Sentinel on lunch breaks; I've two weddings to attend this summer. Even more obscene: I've forgotten how to correctly surf the Internet and read whole articles about politics, literature, cute animals. I miss learning about Edwards' endorsement of Obama. About who's reviewing what new collection of poetry. About what Slate has to say about any of it.

Sure, this isn't new to anyone. The office environment is known and loved(?) by many. I've worked jobs before just like this-- one for a health care company (gasp), contracted by Xerox. I sorted mail. I made spreadsheets. But...when will I sit down and write? When will I reassess (or dare to even look at) my manuscript in that crumbled pile of old mail and trash accumulating at home. You should see my car. It looks like I've lived in it for days. And there's bird shit on the car door that I haven't cleaned off. I must address that situation. Tomorrow.

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