Thursday, June 30, 2011

What was I thinking?

OK, I admit it, I was a little taken in a couple weeks ago. I actually thought I was on a project where somebody knew his ass from a hole in the ground. Just goes to show you, I guess.

Anyway, it appears that the two project managers don't speak to each other all that much. One guy tries to tell us what is going on, and the guy who's actually in charge always claims to know nothing about what is happening next. We get daily emails telling us the hours we are working the next day (and yeah, they come as late as midnight) which is sometimes the first indication we get that we actually are working the next day. So we are blundering along, not sure how long this is going or even if it is going past tomorrow. Yeah, we're working tomorrow. Beyond that? Remember, They're lying.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

About those cuts

So there were cuts on the project Sunday night. We worked Sunday, so naturally folks would get the word on whether they were staying with the project before they left, right? Wrong. To avoid an uproar, these folks never tell you while you're on site that you've been cut. This probably makes sense in a "we don't trust you not to go all psycho and shit on us" kind of way, at least from the agency's point of view. Let's face it, a fair number of contract attorneys, notified before they left work that they had been cut, probably would go all psycho and shit on the agency. Or the law firm. Or their coworkers -- former coworkers? -- or random people outside the building. So that's a risk not worth taking. But notice in a timely fashion would be appreciated.

So when did we get notice? By email at 10:10 pm Sunday. God help you if you go to bed early -- fortunately, I don't, but I know folks who were in bed when the email came. As was I, for instance, when the email came just after midnight Friday to let us know what the hours were for Saturday. I realize that as temps we have a high degree of uncertainly in our jobs, but this is really pushing it.

The gift that keeps on giving

The Garden Gnome just refuses to die as a source of blog material, even though he was cut from the project Sunday night. The dude showed up Tuesday just to schmooze! No lie, there he was, seersucker suit, bowtie, telling people he was "about to close the deal" to get on another project. He dropped by to let us know this, as if he were negotiating a movie deal or something. Of course, to "close the deal" you simply agree to the terms offered by the agency. Not sure if The Garden Gnome realizes this yet, or if he thinks he's negotiating. Must be nice to have such a rich fantasy life.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Yeah, we passed 2,000 hits the other day. I'm gonna be a media star any fucking day now. If I can inject a little sex into this blog, I've got it made. Which reminds me, what does a lawyer use as a contraceptive? His personality. Thanks, I'll be here until Thursday. Please, tip your bartenders and waitresses. And try the veal.

The Grabber didn't make it

Hotness, the unfortunate young lady being stalked by The Garden Gnome, scored a double victory today. The cuts went out last night, with people getting emails that told them they were either a) unemployed or b) still working. More on that later.

Actually, I guess Hotness scored a triple victory. First, she is still on the project, if you count that as a victory. Second, The Garden Gnome is not. In some cases, it seems that the reasons for a person being cut are arbitrary. In this case, not so much. The Gnome spent way too much time wandering the halls to get much actual work done. I hope he  gets a VERY long holiday weekend, lasting until August, perhaps.

Third, though, on Hotness's list of victories, is the fact that The Grabber also did not make the cut. In our previously described L-shaped room (puzzling fact of the day: Shaggy made the cut. He also almost got renamed Ichabod Crane, but that isn't puzzling if you've seen him.) there was an individual who sat around the L-bend from Hotness who did two things that really disturbed her. One I don't really understand, the other I do. Because she sat at the L-joint, however, she was able to view both of these activities in all their glory.

The first, which frankly I don't see as all that bad, involved The Grabber taking off his shoes. I don't approve, but his feet apparently do not stink, so I am agnostic on this. Hotness says, however, that it didn't stop there. Apparently he would stretch out his legs and flex his toes repeatedly. This seriously grossed out Hotness. However, it paled in comparison with the activity that earned The Grabber his name.

The Grabber, it would appear, suffered from a permanently uncomfortable crotch, and a total lack of social inhibition regarding adjusting same to meet his satisfaction without respect to who might or might not be able to observe. Said grabbing was, according to Hotness, vigorous and frequent, while still short of public lewdness. His failure to make the cut, combined with The Garden Gnome's demise, gave Hotness cause to breathe a sigh of relief.

Of course, I am now much more grateful for my father's advice about when and where it is acceptable to adjust the boys.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How did I miss this?

Upon the suggestion of a friend of mine, clearly TSD is Shaggy, from Scoooby Doo. Makes total sense now that I think about it. Can't believe I missed it.

Words escape me

So Tall Skinny Dude, who came in last night and went on about how great our room was, remains in search of a pithy nickname. While the search continues, he continues to make headlines. In the hallway leading to the kitchen are a pair of credenzas, about thigh-high, three feet wide and five or six feet long. Not sure whose files they hold, but there they are.

So I'm walking to the kitchen last night, not long after TSD came romping through our room, and there, laid out on the credenzas, is Tall Skinny Dude. I'm talking flat on his back, nap-time, laid out.

I guess searching for a chair without arms is more tiring than I thought.

Doesn't matter what you do

So a contract attorney comes in late today, and by that I mean close to noon, not a little after 8. He is very apologetic, saying he hoped to get more hours on what looks like the last day of the project.

CA1: What are they going to do, fire you for being late? Hell, they're going to fire you for being on time. They're just going to fire you.

Do they WANT to get us thrown out?

I guess, ultimately, this is what contract attorneys do, and this is why they are contract attorneys. I don't mean all of them -- have you been reading this blog? -- I mean just enough of them to paint all of us with the same brush. I think maybe it used to be pretty damn close to a majority, but these days, with the big firms laying off people left and right, there are more professionally and socially accomplished contract attorneys these days. Not to say that all big firm associates are professionally and socially accomplished, but that is a different blog entry.

In any event, today  probably was the last day of the project. Certainly it was the last day for most folks, since they at least told us that (the whole "probably" thing will be the subject of an upcoming post. Show a little fucking patience for once.) Anyway, it's a good damn thing we're done, because the old school contract attorneys among us (read that: the socially inept, totally self-absorbed, unable-to-relate-to-the-world types) have well and truly screwed us. We are (were) working in a space rented out by one of those companies that lets you pretend you have an actual office - they give you furniture, an office and a receptionist so it at least looks like you are a professional. Under the circumstances, not going to help us look like anything but what we are.

In part of their effort to help people look professional, the host company stocks the kitchen with actual china plates, glasses, mugs, metal tableware -- the whole works. So what do contract attorneys, used to paper plates, paper cups and plastic tableware, do? Fucking A -- they pile the damn kitchen sink with dirty dishes. Like they were still in college and knew that someone would cave in and wash the dishes -- or, more likely, like they were still living in their parents' basement (fuck, half of them probably sitll are) and knew that their parents would wash the dishes for them.  One person -- ONE! -- went and washed the dishes, because she was on a project at the same office provider who banned the CAs from the kitchen because they couldn't act like humans. Apparently, there is good coffee available in the kitchen for free, and she did not want to be banned.

Needless to say, the CAs efforts to get thrown out did not stop there. The bathrooms are outside the office space. Because this is Washington, DC, if a bathroom is not locked but is a mere elevator ride away from the street, homeless people will use it. Trust me, you don't want that. So the bathrooms require a key. Apparently, this is too complicated for some contract attorneys.

Each room was given three keys to each restroom. For the women, all three were always there unless someone was in the john. For the men, we had to constantly harangue people to take the key from their pocket and put it back on the table so that there would be at least one key available for the person in need. CAs aren't good at sharing, and they really aren't good at inconveniencing themselves, so if no one in a room is willing to bully people into putting keys back, eventually there are no keys. They all are in the pockets of people who don't want to check for a key.

I bully people, so our room always had all its keys available. Naturally, this meant people from other rooms would come looking for a key. We, of course, would threaten them with death if they touched our keys. So if you are a socially crippled, totally self-absorbed contract attorney and there is no key available to go to the bathroom because other socially crippled, totally self-absorbed contract attorneys have kept the keys, what are you to do?

You jam the door latch with tissue, of course, so the door can't latch closed. Who wouldn't, right? Kind of like the Watergate burglars putting duct tape over the latch so the door wouldn't stay closed.  So anybody who doesn't get fired tonight as the project cuts down to the bare minimum will be running the risk of getting thrown out because the leasing company is not amused by the door-jamming trick.

What is wrong with you people? Every damn time somebody accuses me of being too hard on contract attorneys,  somebody does something even worse than I normally expect. I don't know what to say. Maybe we deserve to live in TempTown.

Dude, are you lost?

So there we are, sitting in our room, clicking away and minding our own business, when this tall, skinny dude sticks his head in the room. We think maybe he is on this project and is located in another room, but we don't really know. He could be a serial rapist for all we know. Upon seeing that the room was predominantly occupied by males, he apparently put those ambitions aside for a moment.

The derailing of his dreams of serial rape didn't stop him from waltzing right into the room like he owned it, though. This is a social faux pas even among contract attorneys -- you just don't go into a room if you aren't seated there or going to see a particular person. Tall Skinny Dude -- I really don't have a nickname for him yet -- greets one person in the room, but we are later informed that they met briefly in the kitchen once and that they are not actually acquainted. Besides, TSD didn't know that person was in the room. The whole thing was just weird.

So he marches deep into the room and starts strutting around and just running at the mouth: "Oh, you have an L-shaped room! And you have windows! And you have Jack! This is wonderful! But all of your chairs have arms."

So the truth came out. He was hoping to steal an armless chair. Not a good plan for long-term survival. A contract attorney has one thing, and one thing only: his chair. Fuck with my chair, fuck with death.

CA1: You came here to check out our chairs?

TSD: Yeah.

CA1: The last guy who tried that hasn't been seen since. It's not a threat, I'm just saying.

TSD: But you have it made here. You have an L-shaped room, and windows, and Jack.

CA1: Yeah, we're fucking temp partners here. Great to be us. We'll be fired several seconds after you. And I don't know Jack.

He then left, not sure if he had actually been threatened but clearly disappointed that we had no armless chairs. It never ceases to amaze me what will make people happy in TempTown. Personally, I think he was hoping to steal a bathroom key.

The party's over

Looks like tomorrow will be the last day for this project, at least for most people. Might be a couple days of clean-up for a select few, but this swordfish did not have much in the way of staying power. Naturally, we were told this by someone who probably wasn't supposed to tell us. The folks in charge haven't said squat. Remind me to expound later on how the sell on this project was pretty typical, with promises of everything short of hookers and beer. It would last 6-8 weeks, people were told, and it would be 80 hours a week or more. Laissez les bons temps roulez! Big money coming, kids.

Except, not so much. Two weeks, barely any overtime, and another reminder: Remember, They're lying.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Creep factor rising

I've mentioned The Bridge Troll previously. I think I'm on a project with his older brother, The Garden Gnome. While the Troll was merely lazy and incompetent, the Garden Gnome is something a bit more.

Major parenthetical here:  Did I mention I don't usually bother to learn people's names? Yeah, projects are transitory, people come and people go and, frankly, I don't have the energy to remember who these people are. I'll see them again, in all likelihood, and I'll just avoid calling them by name, even when they know mine.

This can get embarrassing, of course. I can think of several people I've known -- or at least worked with on repeated projects -- for as much as five years, and I either still don't know their names or I only recently learned them. I confess to learning some people's names, but for the most part, I don't bother.  They'll be gone again soon anyway.

Which brings us to The Garden Gnome. Presumably, he has a real name, but if you put a pointy hat and a vest on him, everyone would say, "Huh. A garden gnome." Little bitty dude, he's older than me (which means older than dirt) but nowhere near as good looking.

And probably 20 times as lecherous. For several days now, he's been hitting on a woman on the project who is very nice, quite good looking and probably young enough to be his granddaughter. She's too nice to kick him in the nuts, which explains why he persists. I think that's the only thing that would stop him. For her sake, I hope this project ends soon. Or she kicks him in the nuts.

This can't be good

So we're clicking away, minding our own business when we get an email that makes us wonder if this swordfish is about to collect on its life insurance. From the project managers, we get an email letting us know what the weekend hours will be (lots) and (ominously) demanding that we notify them if we plan to not work any of those hours. Naturally, we began scanning our inboxes for an email from Admiral Akbar letting us know that "It's a trap!"

After all, is this just a sincere effort to help us make up for missing a day and a half during the week? Or is it a push to finish in the next few days? Admiral Akbar may not have been much of an admiral (it's a Star Wars reference, people) but he knew a trap when he saw one, at least once it had been sprung. We've had numerous notices that there are plenty of documents "for the next few days," but nobody saying we'll be going much past this weekend. Lots of hours Saturday and Sunday?

It's a trap!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oh crap, they fed us again

The project managers gave us the dreaded pizza yesterday. This cannot be a good sign. The Pizza is just one step short of The Handclap.

The Handclap, of course, is when everyone on the project is called into one room, the project manager stands at the front, claps his hands together and says something along the lines of "You guys have been great, we appreciate all your hard work and the client is really happy. Now get the fuck out of here, we're through with you. Don't let the door slap you on the ass on your way out." There are variations on the speech, of course, but it must be preceded by The Handclap (I'd call it The Clap, but that is an entirely different problem largely unrelated to contract attorney work.)

Before there is The Handclap, though, there is The Pizza. Some places routinely bring in pizza on Fridays, probably to keep the CAs guessing. If the agency brings in breakfast, that is not ominous, either. But if the agency doesn't at least occasionally bring in pizza, or if the pizza arrives on any day other than Friday, then that isn't lunch, that's The Pizza. The Pizza is that last little reward before you are tossed aside,  a surefire sign that you better start scrambling to find another project because this one is done. When you get The Pizza, it's all over but the crying. That swordfish is on ice.

So yesterday we got pizza. And sent home after lunch. And told not to come in today. And told that there is a "big load" of work coming in today to be processed and that we'll be back at it Thursday. Not sure yet if that's true, or if we've been given a Big Load and that was The Pizza. Only time will tell, I suppose.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Seriously, I said no questions

At the start of my current project, we had another example of why it is just plain foolish to ask contract attorneys if they have questions. This time, it was the person giving the tutorial on the document review software who made the faux pas. Because ofthe nature of the presentation -- it was about computer software, after all -- she was set up at the front of the room with a laptop, which was hooked up to a large monitor facing the group of CAs. She would demonstrate the software, and her actions would appear on the large monitor.

Unfortunately, the monitor was mounted at about desk height at the front of the room, meaning that anybody more than three rows back couldn't see what was going on. Having used the review platform in question before, I didn't care. In fact, the presenter busted me for dozing off. She prompted the people around me to wake me up, which they did. You ain't lived until people on three sides of you have shaken you awake. I'm glad she made them do it, though, as otherwise I would have missed what followed.

After demonstrating a feature of the review software, the presenter foolishly asked if there were any questions. I seriously doubt she expected what she got. Some dude in the middle of the room raised his hand, and demonstrated why he is a contract attorney.

Presenter: Any questions?

CA: Yeah, how would you feel about raising the monitor up so we could actually see it?

Presenter: I could, but it would take both hands and then I couldn't do the presentation.

This is a total dick question on pretty much every level. "How would you feel?" Seriously? Like the presenter had anything to do with the physical set up and decided that it would be really cool to fuck with the people from the fourth row back by putting the monitor too low for them to see.  I fantasize that, on his way home that night, the tool who asked the question was accosted by a large, angry man who asked him how he felt about giving up his wallet and all of the contents, that he replied that he didn't feel real good about that, and that the large angry man then beat him to a bloody pulp. Probably didn't happen.

No questions, please

I have dealt previously with the foolishness of asking contract attorneys if they have any questions. See
We have met the enemy, and he is us.  That is not the main thrust of that post, but it touches on the subject. Actually, that session was a study in why you should never ever ever ask contract attorneys for questions. That fine day, to the extent there were substantive questions regarding the task contemplated, the answer had already been given during the firm attorney's presentation. His frustration was palpable.

That wasn't even the worst part of the questions posited that day, though. Like Peter denying knowing Jesus, three times CAs asked how long this particular task would last and what that would mean for the overall length of the project. Each time, the firm attorney deflected the question, claiming not to know for sure -- Remember, They're Lying -- but this didn't stop people from asking again and again, using slightly different formulations. But that wasn't even the worst of the questions.

At the start of every project, the CAs are told by the agency that all administrative questions should be directed to the agency, not the law firm, because the firm does not deal with administrative issues, only substantive issues related to the case at hand. Things like hours, pay, time off and whether there will be free food are matters for the agency. Whether sales reports are responsive is a question for the firm. This is drilled into CAs at the start of every project, usually involving the implication of a horrible death should any CA violate the directive.

Oddly enough, this oft-repeated threat of doom was not enough to stop one CA that memorable day. On that project, there was a quality-control team, checking the work of the first-level reviewers, that was being paid more money. Yes, I was on that team. Clearly resentful over not being included in the QC team, a first-review CA decided that, since everyone would be doing the task being described by the firm attorney -- I can't remember if it was This or That, or whether the attorney represented the Left Hand or the Right Hand, but I digress -- now was the perfect time for his question:

CA: Now that we'll all be doing the same thing, will we all be paid the same?

Firm Attorney: (Long silence.) I don't know anything about that.

Agency reps could be seen at the back of the room, seething. Nothing pisses off the agency more than CAs embarrassing the agency in front of the client firm, which this putz had just done in spades. Most folks figured he would be gone by the end of the day.

Oddly enough, he was not fired, or at least not immediately. For all I know, he's still riding that zombie swordfish, which, by the way, apparently still lives. It's a strange world.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Will click for food

Nothing unifies TempTown quite like free food. When the agencies or the law firms in their munificence provide a meal -- be it bagels for breakfast, pizza, sandwiches, or something more -- temps line up like Pavlov's dogs. No one needs to announce that the food has arrived, or where it is. Just follow the mass of what passes for humanity in TempTown flowing down the hallway. That way lies food.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Did they interview anyone on this planet?

It has come to my attention that the Wall Street Journal recently published an article about contract attorneys.

Because the journalism profession has fallen upon hard times, this article clearly was poorly researched. Just for starters, the reporter mentions the AT&T "proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA," stating that the doc review for that merger "has resulted in the use of 200 contract lawyers." Obviously didn't call me -- three firms, at least four agencies, and by all accounts bumping up on 400 contract attorneys. Not to mention the salacious details I could have provided.

Plus, the article purports to be an overview of how poor, poor hot shot law students are being forced into contract work by the bad economy. True, as far as that goes. Hold the phone, jackass, you clearly aren't sufficiently sympathetic. One CA they talked to would only make "$65,000 to $80,000 from document review projects this year." In a country where the median household income is somewhere around 50k per year, I don't see that statement generating a lot of sympathy. Plus, that person is a lazy ass sack, since my worst year was more than that CA expected to be the top end.

But my worst invective is reserved for the CA mentioned at the end of the article who believes that CAs have "become stigmatized." No shit, Sherlock. The article calls us the "third tier" of the legal profession, but fails to recognize that we are more like 5th or 6th, below legal secretaries and paralegals, at least as far as respect in the profession goes. But that was not even the worst thing the CA told the WSJ. Clearly, she lied when she said she has "worked in Charlotte, Moyock, N.C., New York and Los Angeles. . . . "

Face it: No one has ever worked in Moyock in any industry not involving lumber, Barco's Restaurant or Piggly Wiggly. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Actual Temp Conversation #8

CA1: I don't understand why they need someone with a college education and an advanced degree to do this. I'm just clicking in the circle, then on the purple arrow. Circle, purple, circle, purple.

CA2: They need us becase they can't keep the monkeys from going to the bathroom on the furniture. When they solve that problem, they're going with trained monkeys.

CA1: If I do this long enough, I'm going to go to the bathroom on the furniture.

On the other hand . . .

Moby is back!!!!!!! Sure, it's a different project, so he's not really "back," but Moby is on this project. And you people wonder why I'm bitter. Maybe with a little luck, he won't lie down on the floor in front of co-counsel.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

This project could kill this blog

No shit, this might be the project that sends this blog down the toilet. No Death, no Bruce Lee -- this project seems to be well-run, and the project manager is a) from the firm and b) seems to know his ass from a hole in the ground. Despite the intitial fits and starts, this is going well. The law firm's rep comes into the room periodically to see if everything is OK. He has yet to threaten to fire anyone for not producing, he has not suggested that someone else wants our seats, and he has not asked if we "want to stand out." Except for the fact that he looks a little like a fish, I can't make this guy funny. Mind you, I don't think he comes in to actually see if we're OK -- remember, They're lying. He comes in to see if we're clicking. But to his credit, he doesn't say so. He pretends to want to know if everything is OK, and we pretend that's that he wants to know. It works.

On top of that, I am not in a good room. They are nice people, but nobody is trotting out blog-worthy comments except me. I've quoted me, but I can't quote just me and call it a blog. I need me some freak show, dammit.

But fear not. I have faith that this project will get funky. Trust me, I'll share.

The swordfish is strong

Yeah, got that new project going, and after a couple false starts, the swordfish has taken the hook and is running with it. It's early, so the swordfish is strong, leaping high and running fast. Feels good, doesn't it?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

1,000 hits!

Woo-hoo! OK, fine, not a big deal in the greater scheme of things. Still, do you realize how long it took me to click on my own blog 1,000 times? I should at least get points for perseverance.

The more things change . . .

. . . the more they stay the same. New project, same old problem. We sat around for about 6 hours today with no documents to review due to technical difficulties. I'm OK with getting paid to do nothing, but I sure would like internet access while I'm doing it. Not today, kids, not today.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bruce Lee for Manager of the Year?

I don't really see how he hasn't already picked up a couple of these trophies, frankly. This must be the year, though. Let's face it, "Do you want to stand out?" is classic. "If you can't perform, a lot of people want your seat" is straight out of "How to Win Friends and Influence People." But Bruce has added to his manager-of-the-year argument, and I think he's sealed the deal. On the zombie swordfish project last week, we were treated to what may be the finest motivational speech ever. Much better than the constant "speed up or we will fucking fire your worthless ass" speeches. Oh no, this one was truly inspired.

We were told that our review rate reflected our character. Not the complexity of the document, not the uncooperative nature of the computer platform, but our character. Now, I'm not a slow reviewer. I catch a little shit from the "why are you working us out of a job" crowd, but I get bored and can't help myself. In any event, I don't need or want to hear the "speed up" bullshit, and neither do a lot of other people. Yet we are exposed to it. So let's run with it.

Are you saying my character is slow? Or fast? What does that mean? You think my character is mentally handicapped? Or sexually easy? I'm confused. What is it you are saying that my review rate is saying about my character? Does this mean that if I am careful, and actually review the documents for content, I am a bad person? Or does it mean that a slow computer review platform can make me a bad person by preventing rapid review? I am so confused that I am tempted to just say "Fuck you" and not bother to even try to figure out what you are saying, Bruce. In fact, that's what I'm going with. Maybe that reflects my character. Or maybe it says something about yours, Bruce.

Hey, maybe it IS you

New project, couple guys standing around talking before things get started. Both were cannibalized from another project at the same agency -- they were working on one project and were told they weren't needed on that project but could work on another project the agency had started up. One of the CAs was philosophical about it and was glad he got rolled onto a new project. The other guy was bitching about how he wanted to stay on the other project because it had a better pay rate and hours.  It was all I could do to keep from asking him why he thought the other firm let him go. Did he think it was the professional equivalent of "Hey, it's not you, it's me." Maybe, just maybe, it was him.

What we have here is a failure to communicate

Everytime I start a new project, the email letting you know you've been selected includes dress code instructions for the first day. Usually, for reasons I do not understand, the first day usually is business formal -- wear a suit, or at least a coat and tie. Such was the case recently when I started a new project. (Yes, I left the previous project, even though the zombie swordfish apparently still lives. Kind of like marrying a hot chick who then gets fat, the project was no longer what I signed up for. Overtime -- gone. Me -- gone. But I digress.) (Unrelated note: In South Carolina, the combination of khaki pants and a blue sports jacket with a dress shirt and tie is known as a Charleston Tuxedo, suitable for all occasions from okra festival to funeral. But I digress again. If you find this digression irritating, by all means, refer to the title of the blog.)

So, having been told to wear a suit, there is always one guy who does not get the memo. Sure, business formal is a stupid requirement for the first day -- you will absolutely not have to wear a suit after that, and in fact you might be allowed to wear jeans. But while it's a stupid requirement, it's a requirement. Showing up without either a coat or a tie only signals that you either 1) can't follow instructions; 2) don't read instructions; or 3) don't care what the instructions are. None of these exactly screams of professionalism. And you wonder why temps can't get no respect?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Puzzling shit

As we close in on 1,000 page views (pathetic in the greater scheme of things, but sue me) I can't figure out who the jackholes in India and Germany are who are looking at this blog. Or at least have looked at it. Should I pander, say great things about EU investigations or how I love that document review is moving overseas? Yeah, probably not, since the EU requires funky work permits and India is just taking bread out of my MOTHERFUCKING MOUTH. I'm sorry, did I say that in all caps? My bad. In any event, welcome to the blog, my international friends, and if you don't like my opinion, by all means, refer to the title of the blog.

Friday, June 10, 2011

In case you wanted a smart legal blog

Since this obviously is not it -- let's face it, I am more likely to retell fart jokes than be smart -- I thought I would mention some of my favorite legal blogs. Technically, these are blogs by lawyers, nnot necessarily legal. Also, they are by real lawyers, not temps. In any event, I like these blogs:

I am likely to add more as I see fit, not that you care. And not that I care that you care. I promise to get back to true tales of TempTown tomorrow.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Did someone say zombie swordfish?

They musta, because that swordfish got back up off the ice again and walked today. Plus we got the word to come in Monday. Seriously, in "Sean of the Dead" all it took to kill a zombie was a vinyl record album to the forehead tossed frisbee-style. Are we going to have to go nuclear? This project isn't even funny anymore. Just sad and pathetic.

Is the good news bad news?

When things get busy in TempTown, we generally view that as a good thing. It's easy to find work, nobody sits at home for long between projects, and life is good.

Or is it? The problem with lots of work in TempTown is that agencies will hire people like Moby and the Hobo just to fill seats. Sure, they got a law degree at some point, and this job isn't exactly rocket science, but guys like this are part of why temps have a bad rep. This problem raised its head for me recently in the bathroom. As I stepped up to the urinal, I noticed that the guy to my right looked very familiar.  (Yes, I just confirmed that the author of this blog is male -- like anybody ever thought that "Ernest Hemingway" was a pseudonym for a chick. But I digress.)

This guy wasn't just familiar -- he was infamous. He was The Bridge Troll. The Bridge Troll was infamous for two reasons -- he looks like a troll who sleeps under a bridge, and he is incompetent even by temp standards.

Let me explain. The Bridge Troll is about 5'6", squat like a fire hydrant, balding on top with a comb-over do. He wears glasses, which always look like he rides a motorcycle to work through bug-infested areas without any kind of face guard. Seriously, smashed mosquitoes on the lenses. He appears to have slept in his clothes, maybe for the last month or so. No way is he not homeless.

Alas, he is even less competent than his appearance suggests. Presumably, the man can offer proof that he graduated from law school, but that only proves he went to a law school that prided itself on its graduation rate, not on the quality of its graduates. He raises incompetence to an art form.

The last project on which I worked with The Bridge Troll, I was on the QC (quality control) team -- we would check to make sure that the temps were not out in left field. It quickly became clear to the QC team that The Bridge Troll was coding a document, and then using a function of the review program to code the next  200 or 300 documents the same way. This is known as "mass coding." Most systems won't allow it anymore, but this was back in the day and is why the system designers changed things. Part of the problem, of course, was the Troll was coding the first document wrong, then coding the next 200 documents the same way. But that isn't the worst part.

Unfortunately, the law firm running the project was offering incentives for speed. They were holding a raffle at the end of the project -- the more documents you reviewed, the more entries into the raffle you would receive. Quality? Not an issue. So The Bridge Troll was mass coding, easily winning the daily raffle race. The QC team was going crazy fixing this guys' crap, but in the end, he won the raffle. He got $2,500 for being the worst document coder in the history of mankind. If he looked at a single document, I am the fucking pope. And he made more money off that project than I did. Go figure.

In any event, I was standing there, certain that The Bridge Troll, whom I had not seen on a project in four years, was at the urinal next to me. This is key -- the belief that The Bridge Troll was too awful to find work gave me hope that the profession could be saved. Thinking he might be next to me, on a project, was not good.

Unfortunately, we were in the bathroom. There is a very limited time frame in which you can look at the guy peeing next to you. The dude next to me was heavier than The Bridge Troll, but who hasn't gained weight over the last four years or so? I couldn't look for too long without appearing creepy. Even The Bridge Troll will deck you if he thinks you're looking at his junk, and you'll deserve it.

So, bottom line, I don't know right now if the market is so hot that The Bridge Troll finally got hired again. I hope not.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Actual Temp statement #8

Temp on her first project, given some shit for moving through documents so fast yet commenting on "interesting" documents:

CA1: It's easy to narrow in on an interesting doc you find since you only do about one batch every three hours.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Blast from the past

Not gonna lie, with a whole lot of nothing to do, this project has gotten boring. And so I cast my memory back there, Lord -- how many of you putzes just missed the Van Morrison reference? -- to a project I was on in the first half of 2009. We started with 10 people, ran about 3 months, then added 20, and another 2 weeks later added 30 more. And then the trouble started.

We were located at the law firm. When it was 10 of us, five were in a conference room, and the other five, me included, were in a file storage room next door, along with the files. Naturally, we were far from the law firm's real offices. We were in the other tower and nine floors away. Plausible deniability for the firm.

Unfortunately for the firm, the addition of 20, and then 30 contract attorneys meant those folks were working inside the firm's actual space. Sure, they tried to put them in out-of-the-way places, but nature will prevail. Sure enough, those contract attorneys began to explore. They wandered not just the spaces of the firm, they wandered around floors in the building that were leased by other companies. The result was a memo from the firm -- NOT the agency, alas -- telling the temps to stop wandering around and scaring the natives. I have never understood what those wandering temps hoped to find. But I would kill for a copy of that memo, because while it did not read exactly like this, it sounded like this:

To: You worthless sack of shit contract attorneys in the North Tower, 10th floor (South Tower, 2nd floor, pay no attention)

From: Actual attorneys who want nothing to do with you

Re: Roaming the halls, scaring the natives and being generally offensive

All contract attorneys working on the 10th floor will immediately cease wandering the halls, as your presence is disturbing to those of us who will be here long after you are gone. Further, those of you who are wandering the halls on floors that are not leased by the firm will please stop doing so, as the companies leasing those floors are disturbed by your presence and are planning to mount an effort to evict our firm if you people don't stop scaring them. And you're disgusting. So go away. Now.

Any questions?

Zombie swordfish

The swordfish, deader than a doornail on Friday, remains, inexplicably, alive. It is ALIVE! as the Frankenstein movies will tell you. Told we would be done by 6 pm Friday, I went drinking at 3:45 (seemed like the thing to do at the time). Folks worked until 11 that night. OK, now we're done.

No. People were called in from 8 to 8 Saturday. Did nothing, but that stopped no one. OK, now we're done.

No. Called in for 8 to 8 again Sunday. And did nothing. We are now at 24 hours of doing nothing because somebody is afraid to pull the trigger and fire the temps. Why? Because this project is so fucked up they know they are going to need help fixing it. Am I lying? No, but They are. So after a weekend of doing nothing, are we done?

No. Back in Monday, still doing nothing. Surely, that has to be it. How many times can the swordfish walk the walk of the dead? We must be finished, right?

No. Despite one-fourth of the folks on the project calling in sick Monday, not to mention however many simply moved on to other gigs, the call went out to return Tuesday. And finally, at 2:30 Tuesday afternoon, there is something to do. At least until 6, which surely must be the end of the line, right?

No. The zombie swordfish lives. Supposed to be back again tomorrow. Work to do? Who knows? Last day? Who knows? Will I be there? Who knows. Stay tuned, same Bat time, same Bat station.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Loose lips sink ships

It has come to my attention that there is massive speculation in the last day or so regarding this blog and the identity of the author. In response, I would like to point out several things. First, this blog is not about the current project; it is about life as a Temp, and it will continue beyond this project. Second, attempts to figure out who is authoring this blog will be more likely to result in the end of this blog than anything else, as I make my living in TempTown and would like to continue to do so. Should my identity become known to agencies, I consider it unlikely that I would be able to do so. So my response to this speculation is, how 'bout y'all shut the fuck up and enjoy the blog? Or keep talking about who's writing it -- whatevs. I would not focus at all on anybody sitting near the midget married couple in the big room. And I think you can rule out Moby and the Hobo, since they've been shitcanned and all. Otherwise, could be anybody, right?

Actual Temp Statement #4

The associate apparently now running the day-to-day things came in the room the other day and made a "we're nearly done can you please finish this shit" speech, which prompted this statement:

CA1: Associates are like dog whistles to me. I can see them, but I can't hear them. It's not like I'm ignoring them. They operate on a frequency my ears just can't hear.

Now THAT is power

As the project draws to its herky-jerky, inevitable end, most people are worried about being let go before they find another place to land. Unfortunately, as several folks I know have let me know, that is not all they have to worry about. Apparently, the agencies are so powerful and control our lives to such an extent that they know 1) when we are about to be let go by the law firm even though they have not yet been told, and 2) are able to fire you from projects you aren't even on. Doubt me? Try this, an email received by at least three people I know regarding another law firm's part of this project, even though none of them are working for the agency or the law firm in question (remember the entry about the middle hand, and how I didn't want to talk about what the middle hand was doing while I was talking about the left and the right hand? Yeah, so this is from the agency representing the firm that is the middle hand. If you don't understand this, you can read through previous posts, or you can refer to the title of the blog.):

Thanks – we are still waiting for the official list from [the law firm] as to who is ending, but it sounds like you are!  

We are staffing a new review and wanted to see if you would be interested in assisting!  Please read below for details and let me know ASAP if you are interested:  

Hard to decide what is the main problem with this email. Is it the whole "Hey, we don't know who's getting fired, but you're getting fired" vibe, or is it the WE'RE FIRING YOU FROM A PROJECT YOU ARE NOT ON vibe. Not that is power.

Lettin' it all hang out

So there's this guy on the project who has a strategically located seat and apparently is seeking maximum publicity from this location. That's the only explanation I can come up with for this. The individual in question (I started to type "gentleman," but that clearly does not apply, sits in the first seat in a room at the end of a long, straight hallway. He is clearly framed in the doorway for anyone walking down that hall, and that is a LOT of people on this project. Were he to sit upright and facing his computer, his orientation from your viewpoint as you came down the hallway would be facing to your left, with his left profile facing you. Alas, that is not the case.

For whatever reason, this individual sits facing the doorway, with the computer to his right side. He is face-on to the people walking toward him down the hall. It gets worse.

He is supine, and by that I mean he is reclined so far he is horizontal in his chair. Worried, apparently, that this might not be sufficiently unsettling, he chooses to put his right leg up on the desk, with his left foot on the floor as far to his left as he can move it without dislocating his hip. Think of it this way: He is Minnesota, and you are Texas (or Mexico, or Honduras, depending upon how far down the hallway you are). His right leg is resting firmly on San Francisco, and his left foot is planted somewhere in Virginia.

And yes, in case you're wondering, we do call him Captain Crotch Shot.

On the up side, he hasn't been in for several days. On the down side, it's probably because he has decided to skip the dying days of the project,  not because anyone at the agency thought his behavior violated the norms of social decency.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Actual Temp statement #3

Temp walks into the room, looking like a character in "Silence of the Lambs", leaves a copy of The Financial Times for another temp.

CA1: That guy doesn't drive a  windowless white van, does he?

Actual Temp conversation #7

A temp referred to the actions of a female temp who apparently looked fairly disreputable. This resulted in some identity confusion for which a second temp sought clarification:

CA1: Are you talking about the woman who was scratching her boobs and then looking at it?

CA2: No, that was an actual homeless woman in Caribou Coffee that Scott was talking about.

CA3: Not to be confused with a temp. Although the confusion is understandable.

The swordfish is dead

That sumbitch is on ice somewhere in the bowels of the boat. We got sent home today, done. Naturally, we're being told we'll be called back Monday. Remember, They're lying.

More rules to live by

Always sit at the end of the row. This cuts in half the chances that you will be sitting next to a full-on raving freak show. Of course, it also cuts in half the chances that word will trickle back to you that the person next to you is complaining about sitting next to a full-on raving freak show.

Also, if possible, sit at the end of the row against the wall. This greatly reduces the odds of unintended interaction with people who think they are in charge of things, whether from the agency or the law firm. After all, do you want to stand out?

Thought of the day

Many agencies seem to think that temps are like dogs -- that they can kick us as much as they want and we'll keep coming back as long as they give us treats. Or, in our case, paychecks, although I think some temps would keep coming back for dog biscuits. And maybe they're right -- after all, most of us do keep coming back. Like a dog, though, we no longer trust them, and we'll run away at the first chance we get (even if only to another agency). We'll also tell our friends to stay away. And, like a dog, such treatment dramatically increases the chances that we will pee on the furniture.  Doesn't seem like a good business model to mee -- amazing how many agencies seem to follow it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cannibalism rears its ugly head

It's inevitable. As a project reaches end days and the pressure mounts  -- They push the temps to hurry up and finish, we speculate endlessly about when the swordfish will finally gasp its last and leave us unemployed -- sooner or later, a temp will turn on his own. It is never pretty.

Tonight was that night. All day, we mindlessly coded some document on a stunningly simple issue on which we were given essentially one choice on how to code. With almost all thought removed from the equation, we were pushed to move ever-faster. Bruce Lee, the head enforcer for Them, went around in the morning informing temps that they needed to "step it up." Death, another enforcer, made no appearance -- apparently, no one was in need of a visit from Death. But I digress.

Late in the day, the mission changed for some of us. We were put to work on another group of documents that needed to be finished by the end of the day. At first, no problem, but as our review progressed into the evening, the system began to slow and the review pace dragged to a crawl.

I'm not sure how to make clear how maddening this kind of thing is. You click the appropriate coding on a document, click "Save and Next" to move to the next document, then go paint a replica of the Sistine Chapel on the ceiling waiting for the system to actually make the move to the next document. Or you could just fall asleep waiting for the next document. Regardless, it does not make for rapid review, which They were pressing for.

At about 8:30 pm, the cannibalism finally occurred. The team leader from the next room -- each room in the review center has at least one team leader who is supposed to pass on the wishes and orders of Them, except of course when They wish to crack the whip in person -- came in and told us to speed up because these documents had to be completed tonight.

"I know the network has been slow, but you can't blame the network. I've finished four batches. I can't use the network as a defense for you when I've finished four batches," said Studley McSupertemp.

So there it was. We had just been called slackers by a fellow temp because he was catching flack from Them and HE had completed four batches. As it turned out, he meant "finished" quite literally -- at least some of his batches were begun by people who left without completing them. Not only did this mean he hadn't done all the documents in all of the batches, it also meant some of the temps in his room had already bailed. Yet here he was, jacking us up and letting us know he couldn't defend us. Apparently, we would have been less blameworthy had we simply left earlier. (And as we discovered minutes later, we apparently also were more blameworthy than the members of his team who were in the internet lounge, splayed out in the comfy chairs there, SLEEPING! But I digress yet again.) Oddly, he was not knocked flat by the force of everyone in the room thinking simultaneously, "Fuck you, yes we can blame the network!"

Studley McSupertemp then left in time to miss the chorus of mutters of "kiss my ass" and the final crash of the network. Once everyone was able to log back in, the pace was back to normal. This is a frequent pattern when the client is too cheap to purchase sufficient server capacity for the review network. The system gets slower and slower, explodes, then is OK again for a while. Repeat as necessary.

We expect Bruce Lee to come around and berate us. After all, we are prepared for Them to treat us like unreliable first-graders. It's part of the game and doesn't bother us. We don't respect Them, either. But at least they stab us in the front.  When one of our own acts like Them, even for a moment, it's a stab in the back.

The swordfish is on the deck

We're pretty much at that stage in the project I am on where the swordfish could die at any moment. If you don't know what I am talking about, scroll down to the swordfish post or, in the alternative, refer to the name of this blog.

Actual communication from management #3

Bruce Lee, enforcer for them, strides into the room and informs us that we, the quality control team, need to work faster. Naturally, because the threat of firing is always They're first go-to weapon, Bruce let's us know that a lot of the first-review people would like to be promoted to QC.

"You need to pick it up. There's a lot of people out there who want your seat!" Bruce tells us.

At this point in the project, fuck me, give it to them.