goodbye to all that

I now do my accounting as an independent contractor. Which means I'm self-employed, which means I name myself Employee of the Month each and every month. No more temp jobs - at least until I blow this gig and end up once again as a temp, doing those jobs no one else wants to do. Or maybe I'll end up making my money as a writer. (Cough cough.)

The last place I temped at was a nonprofit organization, so there wasn't much to poke fun at in these pages - without the profit motive, all the strange and idiotic behavior seems to disappear. The only person I felt like making fun of was the director of the place - a Minnesotan, yet she talked like a stuffy Easterner (Garrison Keillor Syndrome.) The organization claimed they loved me, but a few weeks after I left, my temp agency called me at home (I was loafing while taking some much-deserved - yet not much-earned - down time) and said the nonprofit got mad because during my last week I was cracking self-deprecating jokes about my accounting skills. Hey - rent a fucking sense of humor! Besides, I'm damn brilliant when it comes to that debits-equals-credits shit - the proof's in the pudding! (Not that the sort of debits-equals-credits shit that I deal with is that tough - yawn.) I guess what they were really pissed off about was when I let on that I had an economics degree, not an accounting one. Turns out my agency told them before I had started that I had an accounting degree, but didn't bother telling me that they had lied. Apparently, eleven years of accounting experience plus the good work I did while at the nonprofit wasn't enough.

So that got me to thinking about how damn glad I am that I majored in economics, and not accounting or any of the other business majors. I was in business school (a pretty dull place) at the University of North Dakota during the Reagan eighties (I refuse to call it the "go-go eighties" - "go-go" has wonderful connotations that shouldn't be messed with), when so many undergrads (pretty dull people) thought money and being a hardass while making it was such a cool thing. The accounting majors were of course nerds. Management majors were unimaginative. And marketing majors were, shall we say, intellectually challenged. But us misfits in econ (that term is coming back now, saying to unimpressed people: "I'm an econ major") were considered weirdos, viewed with suspicion by all the wannabe cutthroats. We econ majors read books that weren't text books and we learned and discussed lots of theories where not everything was in black and white. That last part drove the accounting majors nuts because they liked everything to fit together neatly. The management majors couldn't handle it because John Maynard Keynes wasn't going to help them when they were running a K-Mart in Mandan. And the marketing majors, if they thought too much about Milton Friedman and monetarism, would end up flunking out of their cakewalk core classes with their brains so totally fried that they'd end up doing sales at the used-car lot a couple years ahead of schedule.

Of course, these days I never apply economics knowledge in my daily life except for an occasional riff like "that's what the market will bear." And if you were to ask me, I'm sure I couldn't tell you exactly how the nation's economy works. But that I at least didn't major as a nerd, flunky, or himbo is one small dignifying thing I can carry with me all these years later. (Tangent: I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the English composition teacher at UND who told me to not major in English - the thought of ending up as one of those "cultured," harping, dead-poet-reading, sentence-diagramming, grammar-correcting, you-can't-be-a-writer-because snobs* is a sobering one.)

So anyway, I know a bunch of you readers out there are all worried because I'll no longer be writing that wacky-temp-job stuff. That material was drying up when I was still temping, though. Only so many episodes I could document before I just sat down and started writing "office jobs suck" or "boy are these people clueless" or "Corporate America bites the big one" or "I am a better and more enlightened person than everyone in this office except that petite brunette with the dark, smoky eyes in the corner cubicle who if she only knew I existed and took a couple hours of her free time to talk to me would find me a slightly charming and kind of witty guy; too bad I'd get bored by our third date and I'd suddenly stop calling her and would never pick up the phone when she called - thank God for caller ID - and then a few months after everything fell apart I'd once again vow to next time take this dating and love stuff more seriously."

If you will really miss those temp job missives, I'll let you in on the recipe to coming up with 'em. This way I figure you also can learn the craft of the rambling temp-job diatribe and you'll let me off the hook for letting you down by going out and scamming the world via my self-employment gig. Here ya go...

The Recipe:

one or two hapless managers
one quality movement undertaken by the corporation
one dozen corpspeak catch phrases (i.e. "empowered," "coaching," "thinking outside the box," "there is no team in I")
a handful of coworkers who totally buy into the corporation's quality movement
at least two tasty female coworkers who I secretly lust after and/or have crushes on
frequent self-deprecating mentions of my business acumen
occasional mentions of me gleefully goofing off and getting away with it
many coworkers who are brainwashed into thinking their corporate existence fulfills them beyond the realm of their financial concerns (make sure to rip any of the gerbils who refer to their office coworkers as a "family")

Mix and match and write as you feel best. Use a bunch of swear words. Take a certain smug, I'm-so-much-better-than-these-people tone. Eventually, people will want to live vicariously through you. You'll be the talk of the town!

If you want to do this as Method, quit your job and actually go do some temporary accounting. The temp agencies will take you as long as you have a pulse and can count to ten (using your fingers is okay.) If they end up liking you (show up for your assignments and you've got that covered), tell them you are looking for a permanent job and they'll totally love you! They'll call you all the time! Bingo - instant, adoring, fawning friends! Go for broke! Tell them I sent ya! Good luck!

* these English majors wanna be some super-genius novelists / they end up music journalists / chicks ain't that into it - Lifter Puller, 1999



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