Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kelly Girl Keeble

I don't which made me laugh more. The check for 22 cents or the reminder that I was once a Kelly "girl."

The 22 cent check is probably easier to explain. I worked for Kelly for just a few months when the wife was home pregnant with our second child and there was a genuine danger we would have killed each other if we spent another minute in each other's company during that cold winter of 2005. Because I worked for them, I became a recipient of a settlement given to all Kelly employees over... something or other.

But why Kelly? And what the hell did I do for them when I did work there? Read on.

The wife encouraged me (though, as you read above, I didn't need much encouragement to get out of the house) to find some paying work while she was home waiting for the chillen to arrive. I went to the city to sign up with a temp agency there, which certainly had more appeal than temping around Northern NJ, but nothing came of it. I was up against hundreds of people just on the morning I spent being assessed and having my typing speed, etc. checked. When it was clear there wasn't going to be much chance of getting anything in NYC, I headed out to Kelly in NNJ to see what was what.

I worked three gigs while a Kelly employee in about two months. I was selective of the jobs I took, but not really. As you will see when I describe them to you. The meagre settlement check will verify I was hardly in the running for temp-of-the-year.

My first job was to supervise an exam at a tech company. Eight or nine people were taking some test or other and I had to be there to make sure they didn't cheat. I forget what the pay rate was (and Kelly took some of it, of course) but once the exam started - and it was an hour long - it occured to me I didn't bring a book or anything to pass the time. I just sat and watched and listened to the scratching of pencil on paper for an hour. For less than $20, certainly.

My second job topped that. A conference at a hotel in Hackensack had been cancelled at short notice. I was the short notice. I went to the hotel lobby, and had to identify those people looking for a conference that wasn't listed for teachers, and tell them it was cancelled and that they could go home. Only one of the 20 people I sent home early did anything except say "great" and go home. She kicked up a stink wanting to speak to my boss (Kelly?) but she was very nice and was only trying to cover her back. She had me sign something to say she was there ready to attend, but was unable to. Another couple of hours doing something which someone had to do I suppose for less than $50.

The third one was magnificent. I was to assist at a conference at yet another hotel in Hackensack, this time with another employee. I forget his name, but he was a part-time Kelly temp, part-time store detective at a department store. The conference was for women, hosted by women, and was all about empowering women. And the first thing the attendees saw when they walked in to check their registration? Two men. A full day of temping netted a nice amount of cash, considering I didn't really do anything after checking everyone in and sell some materials to the women who got friendlier as the day went on. One of the lecturers got sick and cut things short, so even after helping her carry her stuff back to her car, I had worked a full day of gainful employment for the first time in two years. The highlight was eating a huge burger in the hotel restaurant at lunchtime, which probably accounted for a quarter of my pay check.

So, the 22 cent check will be deposited into the Disney saving fund and go towards a fraction of something fun, much as its source did in the cold, dark winter months and the last days when I only had one child. But the memories of being a Kelly temp will live on... until replaced by something else as surreal or story-worthy later in my life.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My John Hughes and more (bumper post)

This is going to be a mammoth post. It's been too long since I posted anything, but I have three main things I want to talk about.

John Hughes had a profound effect on me. I guess I was the right age.

When I first saw 16 Candles I was much too young to understand it. I was probably 11, hanging out with my next-door neighbor (and big brother I never had - he was 4 years older) and his friends at the dawning of the VHS home video era. Girls, partying and teenage angst were many months away but it was still funny to see Long Dong saying: "Whasss happenin' hotstuff?" But even then, I was aware this was a different kind of movie. Sounds like bullshit, but why else would I remember watching a movie when I was 11? I remember every detail - where I was, the weather, who was there. Without sounding like too much of a wanker (I hope) it moved me.

But it was Ferris Bueller's Day Off that really spoke to me. I was working my way through high school when I discovered Ferris. Everything about him was so cool. He didn't play by the rules, but he wasn't out robbing banks or causing harm to anyone. He just realized that he was young, and it wasn't going to last forever. So he did something about it. Watching Ferris at work is a rollercoaster. When he shows his despair or joy directly to the camera, he breaks that wall. Ferris is your friend. I loved that feeling. I have talked before how the first real jealousy I remember feeling was towards the movie Dirty Dancing. It made the girls I hung around with all goo-goo eyed and obsessive. But, luckily for me, Ferris came along right around the same time and made me feel good about myself and, more importantly, that everything was going to be allllllll right.

The Breakfast Club... now there's a movie. I'm not sure how I managed this, but I suggested to my English teacher Mr. Tull that we should watch The Breakfast Club during one class. He agreed and also got the class next door to sit in with us. At the point we all sat there ready to watch (my own videotaped copy of the movie, recorded from BBC2), I had seen it at least six times. But there were people in the room who had never seen it before. We, all 60 or so of us, sat in silence at let it wash over us. Even more incredibly, Mr. Tull then said we could write an essay on the movie that would count towards our final GCSE result about what we imagined happened to the characters on Monday morning when they returned to school. I totally got an A. As a 15 year old, it was one of the pieces of writing I was most proud of. I wish I still had it. Maybe it's at my mum's house?

In the wake of my book I found it kind of funny that people would commiserate with me after John Hughes's death recently. It wasn't like I was obsessive about him. I was just a fan. Even though he was notorious for shying away from the public eye, I had no idea what he looked like. But - and this is a main point I make in the book - remembering how it felt watching Ferris on the verge of being caught or watching Bender sticking it to Mr. Vernon was so powerful and is still so very powerful to me 20 years on. And I have John Hughes to thank for that. But like I said at the start, I guess I was just the right age and I had very little to do with that.

Secondly, I just returned from a week away in Washington DC with the family. The weather wasn't always cooperative, but there were some truly cool moments from our vacation. The coolest without a doubt was our boat trip up the Potomac. We chugged along, pulling up at what looked like a remote dock and ended up walking in the back door of a fresh fish store. We snagged a great parking spot for our boat and landed some of the best shrimp I have ever tasted. They were as big as chicken drumsticks and so, so fresh. Another highlight was the Mall. I've seen the Lincoln Memorial before, but it was the first time for the kids. And it's still pretty spectacular. I had just read some article about how rough looking the reflecting pool is, partly due to the huge inauguration crowd, and it's looking pretty skanky when you get up close, but the WWII memorial was pristine and the sunny day made it even more of a sight to see. Then there were the many, many hours spent in the pool and at the waterpark watching the kids grow in confidence - starting out in their lifevests, hanging on to me, and then graduating up to negotiating the slides and sprinklers unassisted giving their parents some valuable R&R time.

Thirdly, there will not be many times I will succeed at beating nature, particularly when a bloody huge tree is involved, but this morning, I fought Mother Nature and smacked her sweet nose.

I can't even remember when I first noticed one of the trees in our front yard had actually rotted away at the bottom and was leaning at a 20 degree angle, resting against another tree. I just assumed at some point it was harmlessly blow over and I would cut it up for firewood at some point. But it managed to survive a blustery fall and brutal winter and increased its angle of lean to about 45 degrees. This is how it stayed for months, surviving a blustery, stormy summer. On our return to NJ yesterday, I noticed the initial rotting had eaten all the way through the trunk at its base and a beautiful collecting of fungus was rapidly spreading up the bark. It was also not connected to its roots anymore and only the support of a very thin branch was preventing it from falling on to our neighbors yard. All I could think of last night was this tree falling down and smashing into my neighbors house. It didn't make for a good night's sleep. So, this morning I went out there poorly equipped with a pick axe and a saw meant only for sawing inch-thick branches from twee fruit trees, not tackling a thick trunk of a decades-old, 30 foot behemoth.

Turns out, I was better equipped than I thought. I lifted the whole thing from its soggy stump and dragged this heavy beast far enough that the treetop cleared the branch it was resting on and it came to a controlled rest entirely on my property. The weight off my mind is absolutely worth the probable poison ivy rash I picked up during what is the manliest thing I have done in years.

So, now you're all filled in and up to date. And if you want some firewood, I got plenty now. Yeah, that was typed all smug.