Shimoniac Jones

I didn't lose my mind – it fled in terror.

(N)O Canada

A group of “Prominent Canadian Women” have crawled out of the woodwork to float the idea of changing Canada’s national anthem.  Apparently the line “in all our sons command”, is insufficiently feminist-friendly.

As a son, I acknowledge that the lyrics, as currently exist, do not tend toward the gender-neutral and a small tweak to “in all of us command”, or similar, might be justified.  What asses me up at the moment is the other nuts, wrapping themselves in the national flag, falling out of their trees.

Militant atheists demand that God be removed from the anthem, reactionaries thunder, “but it’s always been that way”, pacifists quibble at the concept of guarding, Feminists cry that it’s male-chauvinist, and Aboriginals…  Well “native land” and all that.

I did some research on the English language version of O Canada.  Trying to find the ‘true’ version is like trying to find the original lineage of a mutt puppy.  I count four distinct versions, not including the one officially adopted in 1980 on the centenary of the original. The original version was a hymn written in 1880, in French.  The first English version wasn’t until about 1906, translated, loosely, from the French by a doctor from Toronto.

It is telling, though, that the French-language version of O Canada has remained unaltered from the original.

Previous to O Canada the de facto national anthem was The Maple Leaf Forever, but it got beat out in the popularity contest, so it sank.  Prior to even that Canadians sang God Save the King/Queen; but only in English Canada, I have no idea what, if anything, Québécois sang.

Given the controversy surrounding this tempest in a teapot, I opined that perhaps we should follow Spain’s example and have an instrumental only anthem with no official lyrics.  I got no takers.

A point here, if there is a point, is that living things change, grow and adapt.  Only the dead are unchanging.

Another point is that if you do somehow have a legitimate beef, express it calmly and rationally.  Do not wrap yourself in the flag and shrilly proclaim that you’re protecting your patriotic rights.

Heat Break

Here in this part of Canada we’ve been experiencing high heat and humidity.  To the point where the local radio stations have been issuing humidex advisories in the morning.  To put it in perspective, on Wednesday morning on the seven o’clock newscast the base temperature was 23 C (about 73 F), but with the humidex it felt like 34 C (around 94 F), and that’s in the morning, it’s only going to get hotter from there.  I don’t care where you’re from or what you’re used to, but around here that’s a little thick.  It’s like walking around breathing through a warm, damp washcloth.

Now try working in it.

I work the night shift, and it’s been so bad at night that our supervisor has had to issue five minute heat breaks every hour both Monday and Tuesday.  Our straw boss has even been going around like a flight attendant with a cart of refrigerated bottled water looking for signs of heat stress.  A notice went up stating that heat breaks must be taken in the lunch room, because that’s the only room that’s air conditioned.

Now, I live in a house with central air conditioning, for which I regularly thank Willis Carrier, the inventor of modern electrical air conditioning.  So, Wednesday morning, I stagger into a blessedly cool, dim, not humid house, drink a couple of litres of water, juice, soda, basically whatever’s cool and liquid, then collapse into bed, enervated from the heat and humidity.  I’d barely settled into my nice cool sheets when the phone rang.  It was work; given the heat and humidity, Wednesday’s shift has been cancelled.

The last time work was cancelled, I actually bounced out of bed and goofed off.  This time… I actually had to think about it, but did a little goofing off.

UPDATE:

This morning as I was about to go to bed, since I was trying to maintain my usual sleep pattern, I received  a phone call from the impossibly perky woman in the front office.

Guess what?

Work has been cancelled for the rest of the week, see you on Monday. 😉

 

Healthy Insanity

Since it’s been a while since I’ve posted, I thought I’d pass along some advice I received once upon a time.

HOW TO KEEP A HEALTHY LEVEL OF INSANITY:

1. AT LUNCHTIME, SIT IN YOUR PARKED CAR W/ SUNGLASSES ON AND POINT A HAIR DRYER AT PASSING CARS. SEE IF THEY SLOW DOWN.

2. PAGE YOURSELF OVER THE INTERCOM. DON’T DISGUISE YOUR VOICE.

3. EVERY TIME SOMEONE ASKS YOU TO DO SOMETHING, ASK IF THEY WANT FRIES WITH THAT?

4. PUT YOUR GARBAGE CAN ON YOUR DESK AND LABEL IT “IN”.

5. PUT DECAF IN THE COFFEE MAKER FOR 3 WEEKS. ONCE EVERYONE HAS GOTTEN OVER THEIR CAFFEINE ADDICTIONS, SWITCH TO ESPRESSO.

6. WRITE “FOR SEXUAL FAVORS” IN THE MEMO LINE OF ALL YOUR CHECKS.

7. FINISH ALL YOUR SENTENCES WITH “IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROPHECY.”

8. DONT USE ANY PUNCTUATION.

9. AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE, SKIP RATHER THAN WALK.

10. ASK PEOPLE WHAT SEX THEY ARE. LAUGH HYSTERICALLY AFTER THEY ANSWER.

11. SPECIFY THAT YOUR DRIVE-THROUGH ORDER IS “TO GO”.

12. SING ALONG AT THE OPERA.

13. GO TO A POETRY RECITAL AND ASK WHY THE POEMS DON’T RHYME.

14. PUT MOSQUITO NETTING AROUND YOUR WORK AREA. PLAY A TAPE OF JUNGLE SOUNDS ALL DAY.

15. FIVE DAYS IN ADVANCE, TELL YOUR FRIENDS YOU CAN’T ATTEND THEIR PARTY BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT IN THE MOOD.

16. HAVE YOUR COWORKERS ADDRESS YOU BY YOUR WRESTLING NAME, ROCK HARD SHIM.

17. WHEN THE MONEY COMES OUT THE ATM, SCREAM, “I WON! I WON! 3RD TIME THIS WEEK!!!!!”

18. WHEN LEAVING THE ZOO, START RUNNING TOWARDS THE PARKING LOT, YELLING, “RUN FOR YOUR LIVES, THEY’RE LOOSE!”

19. TELL YOUR CHILDREN OVER DINNER, “DUE TO THE ECONOMY, WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO LET ONE OF YOU GO.”

AND THE FINAL WAY TO KEEP A HEALTHY LEVEL OF INSANITY…

20. START A BLOG AND HAVE PERFECT STRANGERS COME BY AND READ IT.

THANK YOU AND HAVE AN INSANE DAY!

Donor Fatigue

I’m tired of natural and man-made disasters happening and someone coming on the radio, television, or whatever begging, pleading, or trying to guilt me out of my money. If that makes me sound uncaring, so be it. My sympathy gland has dried up.

What sparks this particular tirade is a local event that probably didn’t make the papers outside the area, but encapsulates the whole situation. A local family was burned out of their house, they had no content insurance on the house, and they are now being housed in a motel by a local charity until more permanent quarters can be arranged. They might be able to move back into their house, depends on what the fire investigators and the building inspector find. Hurry up and wait; now you’re in limbo.

The fact that they had no content insurance is only one of the things that stick in my throat. My mother, bless her, has always been a fanatic about making sure that you have insurance. She gave my sister a hard time until my sister got content insurance for her apartment. In fact, as I recall, my parents paid her first few premiums. My mother said, “Budget the insurance with the necessities, because insurance is a necessity.” Later Mom was proved correct as sis was burgled and had insurance to help replace the pilfered items.

A closer look at the family shows that the family doesn’t bear closer examination. It’s a single mother family; I read that with absolute neutrality, I’ve known single mothers where that’s the best choice. Mom is 34 years old, and her three sons are 17, 15, and 13; I raised an eyebrow at this. Of the four people living in that house, no two shared a last name. That final fact turned me off. I’m sorry, as shallow as that makes me, this woman’s lifestyle choices have succeeded in alienating me. The mother works part-time, as does her oldest; kudos to her and him, but too little, too late.

The kicker is that the embers from the fire were barely cool when some local philanthropist-type was bleating about helping this poor underprivileged, deserving woman. To that end he/she/it had already opened a trust account to defray expenses and pay for moving, cleaning, or whatever. I hardly dare to think of what ‘whatever’ might encompass.

All of this is in microcosm, what I rail against in macrocosm.

When I was younger, I was the most credulous kid you could imagine as far as helping the `less fortunate’. It was about the first time the Ethiopian famine got world-wide airplay and we had celebrities flogging their particular pet charities. I collected my pennies and believed with all my heart that I was making a difference, after all adults were telling me so; and adults would never lie to a child.

Then, two years later, there was another famine in Africa and I gave again with my whole heart remembering the warm satisfied feeling I had gotten before. By the time the fourth famine came around, I was older and jaded; I felt guilty and bigoted for wondering if famines were some sort of African tribal ritual. I later found out that mockery aside, it is. Famines, plagues, earthquakes, civil wars, and inter tribal rivalries decimate and devastate populations and the usual suspects come out crying for aid, for assistance, for more and more money to solve the problem. The peoples of Africa seem determined to follow the same path as their ancestors, no matter that the path leads right over a cliff to extinction. All they seem to know about is handouts, shifting for themselves is something they’ve apparently become unfamiliar with.

This is actually the West’s fault. For decades, the rich West has felt vaguely guilty over its wealth as compared to other parts of the world. Especially a part they exploited vigorously and with great abandon; read `slavery’ and `colonialism’. So, what do you do about that vague feeling of guilt? Simple; throw money at it, get a warm satisfied feeling and go on with your life uninterrupted.

What we have forgotten is that money is not wealth. Money is a concept inherited from the ancients as a method of disposing of a surplus now and gaining a want or need later. Wealth is potable water, food, and shelter. By throwing money at the problem, we’re actually making the problem worse because when more money is available for the same limited amount of goods, the price of those goods goes up. This is called inflation. When you print more and more money to chase the same limited amount of goods because the price has gone up, this is called hyper-inflation. See Zimbabwe as a recent example.

By forcing our solutions onto other peoples’ problems, we make the situation worse and the people we’re trying to help either helpless, or resentful, or both. How do we address the problem? We do that by acknowledging that there is a problem. How do we fix the problem? Can the problem even be fixed? I don’t know, but I do know that you can’t just keep on doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. That’s the classic definition of insanity.

When you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got.

Atheist Churches

That’s right friends and neighbours. You read correctly. There is a small but growing movement afoot world-wide to create churches, or something, free from the tyranny of religion.

When I first heard about this brand spanking new phenomenon, all I could think was `everything old is new again’. Back in the nineteenth century there was a movement called the `Rationalist Church’, where atheist ‘preachers’ went from gathering to gathering denouncing God. It died out early in the twentieth century as atheism itself waned in Western society. This new movement seems to be a kinder, gentler version. Those involved simply gather together and socialize with those of their kind.

Humans are social animals. Atheists, denied the community of faith-based churches, need feedback and approval from those like themselves; so they have chosen to recreate a familiar and even comforting experience. Also, since life in heavily urbanized areas tends to be isolating, these gatherings provide what could be called face time with people who acknowledge your existence.

Proving the social nature of humans, many of these `churches’ have reached out to others like themselves, some have reached out to the broader ecumenical community, and a few have begun stirring the pot to see what kind of shit they can disturb.

They may be social clubs, but they’re not merely social clubs. Most examples that I’ve been able to research have a charitable and philanthropic bent. Some raise money for local charities, some for a national or international charity. They have speakers who talk about living ethically without religion, being kind to your neighbour, and that sort of thing.

There’s another fact about humans, we don’t like change. We prefer things to stay familiar. It’s all about evoking the familiar and comforting rhythm of ritual. The ritual, for want of a better word, of most of these groups seems to follow that of religious churches with a lecture, discussion, singing, and donating.

What I find highly amusing is the fact that these gatherings, which are for all intents and purposes social clubs, call themselves churches. It’s either an ironic misappropriation of nomenclature, a cynical thumb in the eye of the religionists, or an oblivious Pavlovian response; the last being that they call it a church because that’s what they’ve always called it.

To see some of these atheist churches in action, I have a couple of links to follow: here and here. I’m especially impressed by the fact that the Secular Church has Ten Commandments, just like the Christian Bible. On the other hand the Satanic Church managed to codify eleven.

So, since the motto of the militant agnostic is, “I don’t know, and neither do you.”, I’ll leave these fellow travellers to their mumbo jumbo and just wish them all the very best.

Tell me what you think.  Is this a good thing?  Is it a bad thing?  Or is it just some passing fad?

A New Pope, Same Old Story

So Pope Benedict the Whatever decided that he’d had enough of trying to save the Catholic Church, and pulled the pin on his career. He announced his resignation when declared his retirement. I note that he gave about two weeks notice, which is generally standard for professionals who resign, or quit, their jobs. As regards Pope Benny the Dick, I’m still waiting for the other red shoe to drop. What happened? Was it a financial fiasco, sexual impropriety, paternity suit, dealing in fake relics, did he exorcise the Holy Ghost? The possibilities are endless, and worrisome.

The conclave happened so quickly, that I barely got a chance to tell my favourite conclave joke. Yes, as a matter of fact, I do have a favourite conclave joke. If there’s black smoke, boo hoo, no new pope. If there’s white smoke, hooray, there’s a new pope. If there’s grey, greasy smoke, the cardinals are having steak. There it is, take it or leave it, I grant permission to use it next conclave. As a side note, my mother observed that the conclave occured during Lent, so steak probably wasn’t on the menu. Grilled salmon, on the other hand… 😀

The former Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, styled the first, got one hell of a promotion to Christ’s Vicar in Rome. Going into the first round of voting he was on the board, but as a 33 to 1 against long shot. Perhaps his papal motto should be Equus Tenebris Sanctis; that’s approximately Latin for Holy Dark Horse.

So, now we have Pope Frank. Wow. Of course, as an iconoclastic Militant Agnostic, I view all organized religions with a large helping of dubiousness. The more, and gaudier, trappings a religion has, the less I feel they have the welfare of anyone at heart; anyone but those at the top of the heap, that is. I tend to agree with Robert A. Heinlein in my view that religion is for the benefit of the priest-class rather than the congregation. The new supreme pontiff will have to put the church’s money, and a lot of it, where his mouth is, before I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t necessarily doubt Pope Frank’s honesty, honour, conviction, or anything else; but I do know about a phenomenon called bureaucratic inertia. It’s also called captured by the system. A reformer goes into a department to clean it up and make it efficient, but winds up embracing the established culture.

The Catholic Church is two thousand years old; they’ve had twenty centuries to become set in their ways. Assume an average human generation at twenty years. Boys and girls can sire and birth young sooner than that, but it’s a convenient rule of thumb to use. That means one hundred generations have passed since the founding of the Catholic Church. Another way to look at it is that the organization is more than twenty-five times the age of the guy leading it.

That sheer weight of numbers and the resultant ossification of procedure practically requires high explosives to shift.

My mother, who describes herself as a recovering Catholic, rather cynically opined that the reason the conclave elected such an obscure candidate was so that they (the bureaucracy) could pull the wool over his eyes and continue business as usual. Her version of business as usual was money-laundering in the Vatican bank, influence peddling, covering up for sexually deviant priests, and other similarly distasteful activities. Mom has what you might call a dim view of Mother Church.

If true, I think the PTB (Powers That Be) are in for an unpleasant surprise. Frank is a Jesuit, the Society of Jesus have a formidable reputation for scholarship, perseverance, and loyalty to the Pope.

So, as with so many other things, I wait and watch.

Things I’ve Actually Said At Work

In honour of my second-favourite blogger in the whole wide world, BrainRants, I’ve put together a post of things that I’ve said at work that are less than politically correct.  This is not a complete list because my memory isn’t that good and the sheer number of things in that category is too large to enumerate.

I didn’t used to be a ranty type.  I was a security guard for a while and we were told that low-key behaviour was desirable; that was OK, low-key was my preferred M.O.  Working where I work now, I’ve changed over the years.  I’ve found that ranting and insulting trusted co-sufferers is a good way to build team spirit and blow off steam before you explode and take off on a three-state killing spree.  I’m still not as in-your-face as some of my co-sufferers, but I’ve still pulled one or two out in recent memory.

Before you try any of these at home, or the office, make sure of your audience. Some people will be amused, some will be offended, some will try to punch your lights out.

Your results may vary.

A temp worker, who is apparently a fruit, nut, and twig type, (talk about you are what you eat) decided on his own to take me to task for my admittedly less than perfectly healthy eating choices. Since I don’t remember asking his opinion, or advice, I told him, “You know, you can take a fuck off out of petty cash.” Amazingly enough, he was offended by my offence and complained to the supervisor that I had used abusive language on him. Compared with what some of my colleagues might have said, I was mild, even restrained.

The supervisor later took me aside for questioning. When I related the entirety of the proceedings, he laughed, told me not to do anything like that where he would hear, and sent me on my way. The temp in question just happened to get cancelled at the end of the week.

Just after New Year’s the senior setter at work had to take over as supervisor after our previous one quietly and mysteriously disappeared; as the setter put it, all of the hassle and none of the pay. Actually, from what I’ve gathered, he gets paid more than a supervisor. Needless to say, he was under stress from having to do two jobs at the same time and started taking it out on the rest of us. Needless to say, I asked him, “What’s the matter, Pumpkin? They discontinue your favourite brand of panty liner and the new ones chafe?”

I was floored when he just looked at me and said, “Yes. As a matter of fact, they do.”

Then this past week, the QC was complaining about actually having to do his job. I’m afraid I was less than perfectly sympathetic. I said to him, “You know what, Buttercup? It’s time to take a deep breath, change your tampon, and actually do your job.”

This was the same guy I once told, “Stand back, I’m about to be impressed.” I thumped my chest a couple of times, faked a belch, and said, “Sorry, just gas.”

Recently, I sniffed ostentatiously at the air after a colleague’s snide remark remarking, “I smell sarcasm… Oh, it’s you.” Good for a laugh.

Fate knows that a good laugh helps get you through a difficult time. 😉

Religious vs. Spiritual

Ever since I was a young iconoclast, I’ve been thinking about this topic and pondering over it. I vacillated between the tags of religious and pious before settling on pious because pious has a certain feel. Piousness seems more extreme than mere religiousness. Piety, in fact, suggests, at least to me, zealotry; a definition of which is: fanatical partisanship. I’ve always been a little cautious of zealots, they’ll do anything they think they have to do to achieve their aims.

Case in point, a couple of weeks ago my mother and father went to a doctor’s appointment. In the lobby of the office building that held this doctor there were a random selection of magazines and other reading materials; Dad said that it looked as though most of them were forgotten by previous visitors.

One of the magazines that was there was an Evangelical Christian example. It was a slim publication, a medium grade periodical. Inside were a series of articles aimed at helping the reader live their life the way the authors thought they should. I managed to read less than a quarter of it before the cognitive dissonance almost ruptured my skull. The two main thoughts running through my head, chasing each other in circles, were: “How stupid are they?” and “How stupid do they think I am?”

There wasn’t a topic that was safe from their rigid, blinkered, dogmatic approach. I saw articles denouncing evolution, linking secularism with social and financial ruin in Europe, and one comparing the Titanic disaster with not believing sufficiently in God. There were ten articles in it but I could only stomach three before my personal limit for intolerance was reached. My father, Archon’s Den, actually managed to get all the way through it without having a stroke or killing anyone.

Clearly the writers, editors, and publisher are very religious people. Perhaps it’s unfair, but personally I can see some of them presiding at a witch hunt or book burning; the remainder would just watch.

There was a local man of God, now deceased, who wrote a weekly column in the local paper about a variety of topics usually based on some happening in a local church or in the wider religious communities. He was broad-minded and attended services for other denominations and even other faiths. He also studied them and applied lessons learned from them into his own life and sermons.

Now, being militant agnostic, I read his columns religiously. I think it’s always a good thing to know what they’re up to; it’s like with children, when they get real quiet, you know they’re doing something they shouldn’t be.

The topic of one of his columns was about how religion could be a force both for great good and for great evil. The column was, as they almost always were, intelligent, well thought out, and insightful.

He wanted to find a way to encourage the good and negate the bad. The problem of course was that he was inside the very box he was trying to examine the outside of. I wrote him a letter after reading the column. I was disappointed, but not surprised, when I didn’t get a reply. For a supposedly retired minister he was a busy man and surely received dozens of pieces of mail each week as a result of his columns, his ongoing activities, etc.

This is a letter I wrote him; it’s from about eight years ago.

Dear Sir: I am a regular reader of your weekly column and I always have to admire your self-honesty and your struggle to find greater truths in the familiar. This past Saturday’s column was a prime example of both and I would like to share with you an insight I had several years ago on this subject.

Please pardon any apparent errors in word usage that you may find. I have found that certain words mean different things to different people, and the words that I use have a particular meaning to me. So, to you these words may not mean the same as they do to me, but I think that you will be able to determine what I mean by context, if not by denotation.

I have found that there is a difference between being “pious” and being “spiritual”. It may sound self-contradictory, or even counter-intuitive, but I have perceived a difference.

Pious people burn books, and people, because they are closed-minded and afraid of any idea that hasn’t been given them by a religious leader. A spiritual person reads those books and listens to those people because there might be truth to learn from them.

Pious people have and will commit the most heinous atrocities because `those people’ don’t believe what we do and are therefore, by definition, evil and beyond the pale. Spiritual people will only try to persuade and teach by example the correct path.

Pious people are certain that since `unbelievers’ are evil, they will go straight to Hell to suffer all the pain and torment; the pious even experience a certain malicious pleasure in the thought of the “heathens’” suffering. Spiritual people believe in their hearts that people of good intent, whatever their religion, will go to Heaven, Paradise, Nirvana, or whatever, and that people of evil intent…, well the Spiritual hopes they get better soon so that they can join the party.

Pious people blow things up and kill people to make their point. A spiritual person will, at the most, lecture in a firm voice, or set themselves on fire to make their point, making sure that the flames won’t spread.

Pat Robertson and Osama Bin Laden are both, to my way of thinking, Pious people. Mother Teresa and Mohandas Gandhi are both, also to my way of thinking, Spiritual people. Therein lies the difference. Pious people believe that people serve the church. Spiritual people believe that the church serves the people.

Perhaps that is all that needs to be said, all the rest is window dressing.

Yours etc.

Shimoniac

Snow Day

Here in this part of South-Western Ontario they declared Friday February 8th 2013 to be a snow day.  The radio broadcasters talked about Snowmageddon and other such hyperboles.  The flat truth is that it’s been a pretty energetic storm.  We got twenty-five to thirty centimetres of snow in less than twenty-four hours, which for this area in the past four or so years is an impressive total.  If you’ve gotten more than that, I don’t want to hear it, what I got is more than enough as far as I’m concerned.

Local residents with snow-blowers and entrepreneurial spirit have been able to augment their income by servicing neighbours driveways and sidewalks.  Local malls and other businesses, usually open later on a Friday, closed early and sent people home at about 18:00.  The region I live in declared a snow event, which bans parking on the street and encourages residents to curtail all unnecessary travel for the next twenty-four hours.

That’s not the best part though.  After work Friday morning, I came home, shovelled four inches off the driveway, ate anything that didn’t move too quickly, and went to bed.  As a reminder, I work the night shift so my days and nights are reversed to most people.  I got up about 13:30 to get a drink of water, but it was still way too early to get up.  While shuffling back to bed, my mother called my name from the other room.  I was dimly confused by this call; she knows my schedule and knows that, although I was vertical, I was still sleeping.

I mentally shrugged and shuffled over to answer her hail.

“Grmpph?” I asked.  Translated, this means, “Yes mother, you called?”

“Work’s been cancelled tonight.” She replied, “We got a call about 11:00, saying they’ve cancelled the afternoon and night shifts today on account of the weather.”

“Cool.” I replied.  Meaning, “I’ve heard your report and will begin processing it as soon as system resources come on-line.”

I then reversed direction and returned to my bedroom, flopped back into bed, pulled the covers back over me, wiggled to find the warm spot, and relaxed.  It was at about this time that the three or four neurons previously responsible for navigation and motion, released from their previous duties, began to process the recently supplied announcement.

Boing. 

My eyes opened, ‘Snow Day’; instant three-day weekend.  Thursday night some of us had entertained ourselves by counting the days until the next one and now we have an unexpected free one.

Score!

I bounced up out of bed, short of sleep or not, I’m not going to waste a free day off by sleeping for pity’s sake.  I’ve read some books, petted some cats and a dog, drunk some hot chocolate, surfed some internet, and generally goofed off.  In short gentle readers, I’ve had a wonderful mini-vacation.

So, assuming continued electricity here, I’ve got nothing to do and an extra day to do it in.  If you’re in the same boat, here’s a salute and pass the popcorn.

Temporary Workers a Permanent Pain

The company I work for uses `casual labour’ to fill out the workforce. The usual term is `temps’, for temporary worker. These are contract workers from employment agencies. There are six full-time machine operators on my shift, and there are at any time from six to ten `casual labourers’ to fill out the roster.

That’s right, full-time workers are out-numbered by temps.

Now, in theory at least, contract workers are supposed to put in 480 hours of work, and then either be hired or let go; that works out to three months. That’s how it worked for me five years ago; I started in the spring, was hired in the summer, and worked out my probationary period by autumn. The reality is that in a surplus labour economy such as currently exists, the company might simply extend your contract and keep you at temp wages and no benefits for as long as they see fit.

One co-worker called temps ‘goldfish’. When I asked why, she said it was based on their transient nature and ease of replacement, how they only last fifteen minutes then they’re gone and you go get a new one. Now that I’ve been there five years, I know what she’s talking about; I’ve found myself, more than once, referring to a new temp as New Guy right to his face.

A couple of weeks ago I was training two new temps at the same time, I called one `New Guy’ and the other one ‘Other New Guy’ to their face. When ‘Other New Guy’ mildly complained, I told him that if they were still there in a week I might bother to learn their names. It’s a couple weeks later, they’re both gone and we’ve had others come and go in the meantime. I do wonder from time to time if my open lack of respect of them actually makes them move on, then I remember, ‘goldfish’.

Over the years here, I’ve lost track of the number of temp workers who have come and gone. I lost track in the first year, four more just add to the blur. Scores easily, hundreds probably, have come for a day, a week, a month, nine months, then they’re gone. The problem is that every one of them needed and got training on however many jobs they were assigned to, taking up hours of my and other workers’ time, and now they’re gone and the training time is wasted. There have actually been times I’ve wanted to just tell some dim-witted, slack-jawed, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breather to simply stand there out of my way while I did the job because they weren’t going to be asked to come back.

Although, in the blur of bodies, there have been a few who did manage to be memorable, though not often for positive reasons. There were two different older gents, who went code blue on us and required an ambulance to be called. They didn’t die, they just passed out. There was the jittery guy who we’re pretty sure was on some illegal stimulant, because a baggie containing some white crystalline powder and a rolled up piece of paper was found on a table kind of behind his machine. It might have been sugar, but it got tossed out anyway. There was rooster-crow guy, who would, at random, emit a startlingly life-like imitation of a rooster. Then there’s the clone of Richard Simmons who actually left in the middle of one shift literally crying and accusing the most inoffensive lady I know of ‘destroying his confidence’.

We had a temp last year who had his contract fully extended twice and wound up working for us for nine months before realizing that he wasn’t going to get hired; it was even his second round of working here as a temp. I think it was the fact that three or four other temps were hired in those nine months that finally clued him in.

I actually felt bad for him, he liked to do a particularly s**t job that no one else likes, and did it well. I felt that we should have hired him on that basis alone. I think it was his background in automotive that did him in. He wanted, and expected, to do the same job day in and day out for months or years. However, the Powers That Be, feel that all workers should be able to perform a majority of the jobs before being hired, and he was kind of a one-and-a-half trick pony.

In my experience the majority of temps want to move into a full-time position. Those are usually the ones you want to keep around as long as possible; hopefully have the company hire on full-time. Then you get the ones who seem to make a living, marginal at best, by drifting from place to place. They just want to skate by and collect a pay cheque. Those are the ones you desperately hope get arrested, strip-searched, and deported; preferably to some third-world country where they get thrown in jail.

The most difficult temps to deal with are those who do want to make it through their contracts to a full-time position, but just don’t have the candle-power of a brain-damaged chimpanzee. They need special handling. On the one hand you reassure them that the company does actually hire temps, but on the other you think to yourself what a hypocrite you are for raising their hopes when you know they don’t have a chance.

I have a kind of code I use to rate temps: clueless, useless, hopeless, worthless, and pointless. All temps, by definition get clueless; they’re coming into a job they generally know nothing about. I was that way when I started out here. Useless temps are those whose cluelessness is persistent and/or permanent. Hopeless indicates persistent clueless and useless behaviour in spite of all efforts by the temp in question. Worthless is someone who is all of the previous and isn’t even trying.
Pointless should be self-explanatory. They’re the ones you want to slap a label on reading ‘Contaminated Scrap. Discard at once. Do not reuse. Do not recycle.’

Post Navigation