Monday, October 17, 2011

Hamlet had it easy

Sure, he was dealing with existential questions -- you can't get much more basic than debating whether you should continue "to be" -- but Hamlet never worked with temps.  So while Hamlet did his balancing act -- on the one hand, kill Claudius, on the other hand, can't handle the angst that accompanies deciding to kill Claudius, so maybe kill himself instead -- the results of his decision would be readily apparent. Either Claudius would be dead, or he would be. Turned out pretty much fricking everybody was dead before it was all over, but now I digress. Hamlet, for all the weighty decisions he faced, never had to deal with the forced familiarity of Temp Town.

As I've explained, I don't bother with learning temps' names, because the project will be over in a matter of days or weeks, and I will either see them again or I won't, and I don't much care which. I don't make arrangements to "stay in touch," or get together later, or whatever. We work in the same room by chance; we are not friends. Granted, there are some temps with whom I am friends and keep in touch, but they are the exception. In any event, I do not pretend to be buddies simply because we are working on the same project. I put on my headphones, ignore you, and click. I don't pretend the relationship extends beyond mere proximity.

Alas, many, many, many, MANY temps act like being in the same room makes us BFFs. They presume a familiarity that is not there, and, worse, they act on it. They will cheerfully ask questions about your personal life without concern for whether it is any of their business, or share details of their own as if you wanted to know. This leads us to the dilemma, silence or rudeness. Frankly, I am inclined to go with rudeness.

Example one: there is a woman on this project who feels compelled to ask questions about by experiences outside the workplace that, while often trivial, are none of her business. The other day, I came in later than usual (actually, much later, since she was already there, and I usually get there about an hour before her), and she promptly greeted me with questions about whether I got caught up in the Metro fuck-up of the day. Because I do not consider the reasons behind my time of arrival any of her business, I simply pretended to be deaf and ignored her questions. Unfortunately, I have done this with her before, and it doesn't work.

The failure of the silent treatment always makes the nuclear option more attractive: don't be silent, be rude. Having used the silent treatment on the first temp, the second temp who got inquisitive got nuked. I walked into our work room, leaving Nosy Temp 1 out in the hall, only to have Nosy Temp 2 say, "Good morning. Get caught up in the Red Line mess?" I'm afraid my response might have gone for a little shock and awe. I looked at her with my best dogshit-on-the-bottom-of-my-shoe expression and said, "You have no evidence it is a good morning and there actually is a lot of evidence to the contrary, but please, believe whatever you like." I sat down, put on my headphones and started clicking. I truthfully have no idea what her or anyone else's reaction was. I ignored them. While it is easy for an outsider to claim that rudeness is not appropriate in the face of what is arguably routine, mindless small talk, outsiders have not experienced the utter inanity that Temp Town small talk encompansses. You've got to nip that shit in the bud.

Sure, call me misanthropic, call me nasty, call me whatever. You can also call me "that guy in the corner who nobody talks to," which is exactly what I want. Rude 1, Silence 0. Second half action after this.

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