Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Luckily it was a racer.

Good ol' Gustav turned out to be a speed demon in terms of making its way across the Gulf - and thank god. With its eagerness to get to the coast it struck as a Cat 2, and while some serious damage did obviously occur, it was not the large scale catastrophe that we'd feared. (Of course, now we've got Hanna, Ike, and Josephine all waiting for their turns at mass destruction, but lets not talk about that just now.)

There's also the benefit that the storm made landfall at 10am Monday instead of afternoon Tuesday, as was originally predicted. Now, go ahead and call me selfish, I don't care. But if I'd had to wait till Tuesday to see what that sucker was gonna do I might have died! I doubt I'm the only person who felt that way: get me through this emotional rollercoaster TODAY, a federal holiday, not on Tuesday when the real world starts up again and I have to, like, do stuff.

See, I already had big stress for Tuesday. Unlike the first employment agency that I worked with who scrapped me for reasons unknown, the one I'm working with now produced pretty much immediate results - in the form, of course, of interviews. Two of 'em. Both at massive law firms, both on 42nd Street... and both on Tuesday. Did I want to sit there trying to pass my MS Word skills test while wondering if the levees were holding? No, no I did not. In point of fact, I didn't want to be taking that test at all, because I don't want one of these jobs at all. But I sure did take it, twice.

Let's back up though. OK. So the storm hit, and some outlying areas are a bit beat up at the moment. I fear that Cocodrie, the little town where I once went to field school, has seen much, much better days. I haven't heard of a death count (post-Caribbean), and I hope there isn't one though there probably is. Dear Hurricane Overlords: may the people who lost houses etc. not get screwed by insurance companies and/or the feds, amen. My parents as far as I know are still hanging out in Alabama; from what I can find on the intarwebs it's a little fuzzy as to when people can return to Metairie. But basically Gustav is over and done with as far as me sitting on the edge of my chair, glued to nola.com and having panic attacks.

So then comes Tuesday, and 9:20 a.m. finds me on 42nd and Third Avenue in a building tacked onto the back of the Chrysler Building. I was given the street number but not a floor number; I wouldn't really need it since they fill the whole building. They rented it after they filled up the first one around the corner. Of course, that's just their New York offices. Now, let's talk about numbers a little bit. During my previous sentence on Third Avenue, I worked on a 13th floor. Not the 14th where the numbers jumped, as per hoodoo etiquette, but a floor that both was and was called the 13th. OK. So. This interview? At 666 Third. Is it just me? Or is that striking?

Anyway. I go in. And it's the same old rigmarole. Fill out this application (even though I'm coming through an agency and this place already has my resume). Take these skills tests (that I've taken before): Basic office skills, proofreading, MSWord (30 question), typing (5 minutes). The results of each segment print out next to me as I go; I perform significantly more poorly than I had when taking the same tests at the agency. I go back to the waiting room knowing that I've blown it, expecting the nice recruiting girl to come tell me thanks but no thanks.

To my surprise, the interview portion goes forward. And it's those damn questions. You know. What have you been doing since March? (how much do I hate this question? I really should have though up some plausible, un-checkable answer, but I really haven't.) What do you think are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Why are you the right person for this position? (Because I need to pay rent and any college-educated person who's not a lazy ass can do this. How's that?) I finish up with the first girl, and she actually sends me to their other building around the corner.

I go way, way, way up and arrive in a fancy waiting room with plush leather seating and exquisite lily arrangements. And I know immediately: this is where they send clients. The secretary manager comes to bring me back into the trenches - down a flight of stairs, because the elevator only stops on even floors and her office is on an odd one - and we enter cubicle land, with not a scrap of leather or lily in sight. She asks me the exact same questions that the first girl did, because apparently one of the skills necessary for this position, and all of these positions in fact, is to withstand a barrage of impossible-to-answer questions over and over for three hours straight. Well, Miss Manager having done her way with me sends me on out into the world, with nary an indication of whether they like me a bit or when I might hear anything.

I emerge at 12:20, leaving me precisely 40 minutes to figure out what to do about lunch, make it over to Sixth Avenue, get through security and arrive smiling at my next appointment. At 12:45 I was in the lobby of the next building. Lunch? Um, no.

So the second interview is in a building that is either still under construction or is being renovated. There was no number on the outside, so it took deductive reasoning and a friendly front desk guard to confirm the location. I needed to get to the 28th floor, but the setup is such that the elevators don't go there. No, there is one immense elevator that goes to the 23rd floor. Not that it goes there also. As in, that's where it goes, and only there. From 23, a guard put me on a special elevator that requires an ID to be entered into a slot and then the correct floor to be typed in. Security much?

I emerged on 28 to find a really beautiful lobby area, very modern and light and... orange. But once again I was gathered and brought to where the work is really done, not nearly as attractive. First things first of course: at the first place I'd expected testing, but apparently the second place was also to follow that route. I handed off my application, luckily forwarded to me previously by the agency, and a copy of my resume, and set to it. To take. The exact. Same. Tests.

Ok, not exactly the same. The 26 questions on the office skills test vary slightly each time, though the number of them that are strictly spelling is maddening. The MS Word test was the advanced 55 question version - the same first 30 questions, and then 25 additional, more difficult questions. These are exactly the same every time, the only possible variation being the shorter or longer versions. The typing passage was the exact same passage, lucky for me, and better yet this time the passage was on screen rather than being on a separate sheet of paper. I don't know what I scored, but I know it was higher than 60wpm. The proofreading test? Exactly the freaking same, every single time.

Seriously, Prove It! should start giving companies their money back. I've done these tests so many times now that I can practically recite them, and I've only been at this for like two weeks. It's basically just testing me on whether or not I know the Prove It! tests, which has little to know bearing on my actual skill. It's the office version of the SATs. Typing speed is another matter, but really, giving the same passage over and over? Yeah I'm gonna do better the second or third time, duh. Ridiculous, but... ridiculous to my advantage. So maybe I'll skip making a stink for the time being.

I actually liked the people at the second place, even though it's humongous. There are approximately 220 attorneys in the New York office alone; well over 1000 company wide. But what would matter most is who I personally work with. So. They too sent me on my way with little idea of what my chances were, though I know I did better on the testing and I had a better rapport with two of the three people I spoke with there than with either of the two at the first place. So now we wait; my agency girl will speak with them tomorrow I guess.

Ugh. I just want to get a damn job; stop jumping through pointless (but flaming) hoops and start getting paid. I'm completely exhausted by my day 'out in the field', and Jonathan's stuck on site so I'm not going to see him until late. Nothing for it but to take the rest of the evening easy I think; I deserve a rest after being tested to the max.

TO THE MAX!

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