At the end of 2018, I quit a cushy 9-to-5 job that I had been at for two years. I wanted to spend more time making things but I needed extra income to stay afloat. In 2019, I worked at seven different companies as a temp — some big, some small, some recognizable, some obscure. All of the jobs were in or around midtown Manhattan. Here’s what happened.
Popular App For Helping People Find A Gym | Sales Associate | 2 Months
My job was to research gyms in Europe for an expansion of the app. After finding good gyms, we had to make demo pages for the gym to help the sales team sell the concept to the gym owner.
Two weeks into this job, they installed large screens in my area that displayed, in real time, all of the sales team members’ numbers. This included closings, calls, emails, etc. It was like an ESPN ticker but depressing. Some of the members took selfies in front of the screens when they were having a particularly good day. I sat right underneath the screen, so throughout the day, I had to step away from my desk so someone could take a photo that said “Sam K. - 12 Calls.”
“They installed large screens in my area that displayed, in real time, all of the sales team members' numbers. This included closings, calls, emails, etc. It was like an ESPN ticker but depressing.”
One Friday, to boost team morale, our bosses said we would play a fun game. We all gathered around and were told to bring a piece of paper and a pen. Our boss said we all had five minutes to write down every U.S. state by memory.
Architecture Firm | Mailroom Assistant | 3 Months
When I walked into this job, I met the mailroom boss and he almost immediately said, “Hey Matt, so Iʼm going out for surgery and will be gone for two months.” I said, “Wow, good luck, I hope everything is OK. When do you leave?” and he said, “Tomorrow.” And I said, “Oh.”
I got to know everyone because I received and sent all of their mail. At the beginning, though, people would come up to me and ask very specific questions and expect me to know exactly what they were talking about, and it was always like, “Have you ever seen me here before?”
Every day at 5 p.m., I would leave the office with the letters that were going out and I would hand-deliver them to the guy in the mail truck parked outside the building. One day he was reading a book and jotting down notes, and I asked, “What are you reading?” and he told me, “Finneganʼs Wake,” and I said, “Wow, and what are the notes for?” and he looked at me and said, “Iʼm just trying to write down everything as I read it,” and I still donʼt really know what was going on there.
Linens Startup Company | Customer Support | 2 Days
I literally did nothing for two days. We were supposed to send generic copy-and-paste email responses to people asking questions about our comforters and sheets, but my inbox had three people to respond to each day. There was one other temp with me. His name was also Matt and he also had a background in improv comedy. I donʼt always believe in God, but sometimes I do, and sometimes it seems like heʼs making fun of me.
There was a catered lunch the second (final) day and a speech from the CEO. He passed around a black, faux-plastic, 12-by-12-inch tile and explained that he couldnʼt quite yet explain to us what it was, but he wanted to pass it around so we could all touch it. He then told us that this was the future of eco-friendly production for the company. Everyone applauded and cheered but nobody asked, “Hey, but like, what the fuck is it?”
“People would come up to me and ask very specific questions and expect me to know exactly what they were talking about, and it was always like, 'Have you ever seen me here before?'”
In the afternoon we did an icebreaker because there were two new (full-time) hires. We were asked to say our name and one fun fact. Other Matt looked at me like, “Really?” and I looked at him like, “I guess.” By the time it got to me, I didnʼt know what to say, so I figured I’d say something true and unexpected: “I recently shot a small role for ‘Law & Order: SVU.’” Everyone went nuts. “We should have a viewing party!” and I was like “Yeah!” and then two hours later it was 6 p.m. and I left.
Bag Resale Startup | 3 Days
I walked around in a windowless storage room with a list and collected various designer bags that were being resold at little pop-up shops. It was kind of like being on that old game show where you have to hunt down stuff in a supermarket. I had a giant laundry bin and I would chuck the bags in. That part was really fun.
One day I tried to bring my coffee into the room and put it on a shelf, and my boss came in and was like. “Whoa, no drinks in here, you can finish it in the kitchen though.” So I walked the iced coffee 100 feet away and sipped it in the kitchen while people at desks worked around me.
The bathroom was down a building hallway and had a passcode that they gave me but once you tried to come back to the office there was another code and a doorbell. One time I was coming back from the bathroom with a full-time employee and nobody was answering the doorbell. He saw me struggling and I was like, “Hey, whatʼs the code — sorry, Iʼm a temp,” and he looked away and stuttered a bit: “Uh, I’m uh, not supposed to really uh tell uh the code to temps,” and so I scooted against the wall so he could squeeze by me and type it in. And he said, “You understand,” and I did not.
Marketing Agency | Assistant | 1 Day
There were tons of boxes of Ferrero Rocher chocolates in one corner of a room, literally hundreds upon hundreds. My job was to open them, write down how many were there, what brands, and then stack them in another corner of the room. I did this for five hours straight and was told that was enough and that I did a really great job. There were still many unopened boxes when I left. I think this might have been a joke or possibly a bad reality TV show.
Luxury Soap And Body Wash Company | Data Entry | 2 Months
Sometimes, at some places, you feel like you canʼt connect with anyone. Itʼs rarely actually you in these situations — itʼs almost always the scenario or the people — but itʼs easy for several slip-ups to make you feel insane. Most of this job I spent typing product codes into an ancient computer program that allowed soaps to be shipped out to retailers. I spoke maybe one sentence out loud a day, and it almost always bombed.
I told someone I was going to Nashville for the weekend and she said, “How? Do you fly there?” and I was like, “Yeah, of course I fly, haha.” And she said, “Wow,” and that was it.
“I donʼt always believe in God, but sometimes I do, and sometimes it seems like heʼs making fun of me.”
I had to train someone on my last week, and when she came to my desk, I jokingly said, “I knew this day would come: Time to show you the ropes,” and she looked at me like I had just killed her dog.
There was pizza being ordered and someone was like, “Cʼmon Matt, we have pizza, go get some!” and I was like, “I actually brought a sandwich today, thank you though!” and she was like, “Oh, who cares, you need to eat pizza now!” and watched me ’til I got up and got pizza.
My boss was leaving the company, and on her last day, she was being presented with gifts and she was tearing up while all 10 employees gathered around her and spoke. I was returning from the bathroom in the hall and, because I never had an ID made, I had to knock on the glass door to be let in. When someone came and let me in, I walked into that scene and had to walk between my boss (giving a thank-you speech) and the semicircle (lightly crying) to get back to my desk.
A Popular Radio Show | Data Entry | 1 Week
I would sit in a booth for several hours listening to episodes of the radio show and jotting down music cues. It was bliss — the easiest money Iʼve ever made. I didnʼt make any friends because I was largely alone, but there was one other temp doing the same job. One evening we were taking the elevator down and we made chitchat about the work. I expressed how much I enjoyed it, and he agreed. He looked at me and said, “Also, you canʼt beat working here; Iʼve never had a temp job that was as interesting as this place.” And I said, “Yeah.”