I’m sitting inside a storage closet. There is no office chatter coming from the hallway. Its Good Friday. This room houses a surplus of desk chairs piled high and paper products for the pantry kitchen around the corner that I have to restock. That’s why I’m here. I’m on the 44th floor of a high rise building near Bryant Park at the offices of So & So. So & So occupies floors 35-44. It’s a Law Firm. I think. Or a Financial Services something or other. I’ll google it.
I’m temping. Just here for the day. 10 hours. Every 15 minutes I do my requisite once over of the pantry kitchen, a pit stop where the executives’ secretaries and office manager types caffeinate and mark time. The higher ups don’t come in here. They ring a bell. I bop into the pantry, proud in my identity dissolving mandarin collar chef’s coat, and go about making fresh pots of Starbucks coffee, filling sugar caddies, stocking the soda fridge, then turning all cans to face the same direction, wiping down counters, and rearranging the fruit bowl, again. I steal an opportunity to chat up one of the employees, Gary, who I learn is in charge of all the incoming and outgoing mail and has worked here for 28 years, “when I use to have hair!” he beams. “Go check out the photo on the wall up next to the CEO’s photos! Just kidding, they don’t have my picture up there.” Then Gary whispers something about paper shredders being contraband since Eliot Spitzer. I run back to my hovel to take notes on Gary. I could play Gary.
When Louis showed me around this morning at 7am and told me I could whole up in this storage closet between rounds and that there wouldn’t be much for me to do today, I was pleased to find the room already outfitted with a make shift desk. A faux wood side table, the kind you’d expect to see in an executive office lounge setting, was fitted over two stacked plastic bins, so that the side table reached perfect desk height and was arranged in front of the nicest swivel chair from the heap. It didn’t look like a mistake. Was it the handiwork of the previous temp? Who also thought to use her surplus of time and quiet in this cell to write her one woman show and comedy sketches?
As the day stretches on, I’m checking the kitchen pantry less and less. The quiet has intensified. Has everyone gone home except for Gary and I? In my windowless storage closet, insulated by carpet and the transporting sound of the ac whirring, I’m cozy, unaware of time, my imagination as sneaky and playful as a gremlin at 12am.
Being a temporary, can be a strange and wonderfully nuanced way to almost make a living. An outsider like me can inhabit every new work experience or gig as adventure in which she encounters characters worthy of a close up. Her enjoyment is intensified in knowing its just for today. I have no stake in any of the relationships I almost make in this one day nor no time to develop feelings about co-workers’ individual quirks or the odd ways some things are done here. I’m just a guest, I remind myself. There is sneaky delight in knowing there is nothing I can screw up, yet I will manage to leave this darn office pantry with more sparkle than was here before. Today I’m a mere pair of hands- Miss “no problem”, “can I help you with anything?”, “I’ll be in the storage closet if you need me”.