Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Word, PowerPoint, Excel - I Own You!

I found this gem while looking around my completely unorganized folder of Word docs. To put this in context, my wife and I moved to D.C. from Portland, Maine in 2006, when her marketing company offered her a promotion. We'd never even visited the capital before, but decided to make the move. I temped for a couple months before finding my current gig. The following thoughts were written down after an interview with a staffing company. I'd never heard the word blog back then; I was just angry and wanted to remember how I felt that day.

What I didn't write down at the time was that I ended up at the Tidal Basin during the peak of the Cherry Blossom Festival. So the office temp tests nearly broke my will, but I experienced one of the signature D.C. events by accident - and in my suit, I looked damn good doing it.

I am 30 years old and I suck at Excel. I suck at PowerPoint too. And for the record, I suck at Access. Am I going to let my abysmal test scores define me? Is my entire post-college existence going to be measured by my knowledge of Microsoft Office software? Am I doomed to fail because I haven't become a paper-pushing automaton?

These were the questions I contemplated as I stared at the crumbling grout between the bathroom wall tiles. The faint smell of warm chlorine permeated the air. Damp with perspiration, my heart raced, a vein throbbed in my neck, and I silently muttered a profanity-laden tirade and seethed with frustration.

My registration session with the staffing agency - my first attempt at finding a new job in our new city - had not gone well. I had been humbled by the software tests. My recruiter didn't listen to a word I had said; she'd already read my resume and pigeonholed me in her mind. The glaring fluorescent overhead lights and the tiny, windowless meeting space felt like an interrogation room. A woman erased and replaced figures on a dry-erase board with foul, pungent markers. Occasionally a bell would ring, celebrating a successfully completed task; clapping and muted cheers emanated from the cubicles. I felt claustrophobic, nauseated and out of place. I wanted to run.

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