Wednesday, November 22, 2006

rex's holiday memories: the day before thanksgiving 2002

This was in the midst of my two years as an office temp in Knoxville, specifically during my stint in the file warehouse of the large mobile home manufacturing company, and on a rare day when I was the first to arrive. I think perhaps that everyone else on that side of the building took the impending holiday as an excuse to come in late. At any rate, this left me with the responsibility for turning on the lights. It seemed simple enough at the time.

I began with the usual places for light switches to be located. It has been my experience that they are generally close to the door, and I began there with my foot propping the door open to bring in a little light from the hallway. However, the light switches were nowhere to be found, and this unfortunately meant that I would have to leave the propped door and its sliver of light and venture along the wall in pitch darkness looking for them in their seemingly inconvenient location.

This front part of the warehouse served as a small data entry room with computers along the wall that were usually manned by ladies who spent all day complaining about how their husbands and boyfriends never gave them any sex. This was quite common in my experiences in the data entry hen houses of Knox and Blount counties, and I sometimes wonder if a sociology thesis could be written on the matter, though writing it myself would negate the time and effort I’ve taken to fruitlessly attempt erasing these scenes from my mind.

But I digress.

Anyway, I’m feeling along the wall just above these computers and running my hand over motivational posters, lists of codes, and photographs of husbands, boyfriends, and litters of children proving that someone at sometime had in fact been kind enough to give these women some sex. I’m getting papercuts and probably an assortment of germs but I’m not finding any light switches.

Then the lights come on.

I turn and see one of the ladies from the data entry section across the hall in the mailroom just as she has finished engaging the row of light witches that had previously been obscured by a billboard beside the door. I think I said something along the lines of, “Ah. So that’s where they were.”

The woman looked over at me and began screaming at the top of her lungs. She did not stop for at least a full ten seconds.

Now, I had interacted with the data hen house across the hall on a few occasions when they needed files or had brought in baked goods. They were a much older hen house and gave off a more grandmotherly atmosphere. There wasn’t quite as much sex talk.

The woman presently screaming at me was quite short and probably in her mid sixties. She had a small head covered in short dyed black hair and wore large glasses, large earrings and Hawaiian shirts usually covered by a large olive drab cardigan. In the children’s cartoon of my life story she will be played by a deranged turtle.

Anyway, she screamed at me in a bug eyed primal terror for about as long as it just took to describe her and then stood there panting. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of one of these outbursts, but it is at first unnerving and then quite hilarious. Then initial surge of adrenaline that comes from the shrill and piercing call of the deranged little turtle quickly turns to an uncontrolled laughter that doesn’t stop with the screaming. I continued laughing as she stood there trying to catch her breath. She didn’t think it was that funny and even looked like she was about to go for round two. I wanted to apologize but I couldn’t quite get it out between the laughter.

She was still bug eyed. She was red and shaking, and just when I thought she was going to start with the screaming again she said, “You don’t expect for somebody to be there when you turn the lights on” and then quickly retreated back to her side of the hallway.

I was still laughing my ass off, but the current emptiness of the room really highlighted the fact that I was the only one doing so. The laughter then fizzled into an awkward evaluation of how exactly one is to proceed after an occurrence. I could either just go about my work like nothing happened or follow the turtle across the hall where, as I then began imagining, she was weaving a tale about how that temp who always hides in the warehouse taking a nap or reading a book finally snapped and had been waiting in the dark across the hall with a meat cleaver all night.

Going across the hall didn’t seem like the thing to do, but across the hall soon began coming to me and cautiously peeking through the door. There was fear in the eyes of little old ladies, and I began laughing again. However, I managed to stumble through my side of the story a number of times, explaining each time how placing a billboard over the light switch was bound to lead to a bit of confusion, though sending the turtle lady into cardiac arrest may not have been so foreseeable. It was an honest mistake, I essentially told them, though their blank stares seemed to ask me why I liked hiding in the dark to scare old ladies.

Thus proving once again that it is always the temp’s fault.
Anyway, our little Thanksgiving lunch was a bit awkward that day.

4 Comments:

Anonymous sista smiff said...

Oh lord...where's my Depends?

I have worked in such Hen Houses and I think I know that same lady.

12:49 PM  
Blogger newscoma said...

I want you to know that I'm going to need a new laptop when I read your stuff because I keep spewing beer all over mine.
Brilliant.

3:32 PM  
Blogger John H said...

hey..thanks for making me snort coffee on my keyboard!

9:45 AM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

I am honored by the expelling of liquids.

11:40 AM  

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