Sometimes I Don’t Know My Ass From A Hole In The Ground

 

This was the statement I made to my supervisor in a telephone conversation. She was in charge of district-wide testing of all ESL students and I was one among the staff members responsible for administering these tests and working the follow-up clerical tasks. Clerical work has always tested my resolve. This annual testing ritual was met with mixed emotions. I enjoyed interacting with students. Paperwork, on the other hand, was torturous.

I had commandeered one classroom which served as the holding place for piles of tests. That is to say I carefully arranged test forms by grade level and assigned each pile a different desk top. And then I stared at each pile. I stared for a couple weeks. All of us working this cycle of testing had a deadline. I knew the deadline. However, that did not make a dent in the staring binge I had launched into. I was to use a certain protocol to detect anomalies, correct them and record data in a binder. Ugh.

My work was not progressing. I had elevated staring at the piles to an art form. They were right there on the same desk tops that I had placed them on nearly four weeks prior, undisturbed. I called my supervisor.

“What was that process … I think I forgot step 4a … You mean there is no step 4a …What happened to it?”

Ultimately, I had to confess. “Sometimes I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground.”

The supervisor roared with laughter. I collected the tests, took them to her office and she finished the clerical ordeal. Sometimes.

Registrar of Voters

Do you long for a mindnumbing clerical job? Do you pine away for some task that keeps you at your desk for eight hours a day? Well then, step right up into what proved to have been the way in which I spent each workday for two-and-a-half years. Santa Ana, CA was home to the Orange County Registrar of Voters. In my life during early 1978 to mid-1980.

Imagine the pleasure of working around the clock on election nights. That was when I wasn’t discovering second-hand smoke. Smoking policy was quite different in that era. The largely female-occupied office space was populated by over half the workers puffing away. The woman to my right, two women behind me and my supervisor two desks down.

I was hired with the title “Temporary Extra Help” which translated to no benefits, no benefits, no benefits, ever. Over two years of no benefits…and low pay.

A smoke-filled, very large office. Oh we had windows, but they didn’t open. Sad faces dotted the landscape of this place. My fellow workers seemed to send a message.  Didn’t bode well.

So, after my two plus years of fielding phone queries, using the files to file, and the microfiche to microfiche, I left. I thought I would die there at my desk. After all some of the women seemed to have already arrived at that destination.

Time to leave the clerical pool.