Unspeakably Stupid
Unspeakably Stupid Story #17:
Jesus and Me

After a year working for a shitty little newspaper in a shitty little redneck town, I was so desperate to leave my job in Unpleasantville (see USS #15) that I took a "temp" job offered to me by a recruiter. The assignment was to last "at least until Christmas", which meant a good two months, and I felt this would give me plenty of time to find a real job.

The temp job was some 35 miles away, and I had to drive through three traffic jams in each direction to get there and back. But it paid rather well, and anything beat dealing with the slobbering slack-jawed yokels, incompetent co-workers and horrific odor of Unpleasantville.

The work itself, however, left much to be desired. The company I went to work for was an internet start-up called iChristian.com. They were developing a website from which they would sell Christian books, videos, CDs, software, and bibles. Ugh!

I worked in a tiny room with seven other temps, about five other permanent employees, and our boss, Bruce, who sat right next to me. Our job was to prepare the above mentioned items for online perusal. One girl edited video all day long, choosing snippets of the awful Christian videos and turning them into short QuickTime or MPEG movies for previewing. One guy did basically the same thing with the music CDs. The rest of us simply scanned in the covers of the CDs, videos, software, books and bibles. Actually we scanned in much more than just the covers. For CDs, we scanned in the front, back, inside cover, spine, and even the CD itself. For boxed bibles, we scanned the front, side and top of the box, then the front, back, spine, and even some inside pages. The idea was that eventually they were going to have a little 3-D model of every product, so the customer could open the box and rotate the product all around to look at every surface.

I usually handled books and bibles. You would be surprised at how many fucking bibles exist. There are study bibles, keepsake bibles, children's bibles, wedding bibles, and many different versions and sizes. So there was a never-ending supply for me to scan, along with those horrible Christian books, many written by evangelists and intolerant right-wing types, explaining the existence of god, the role of women in Christian society, what the Rapture would be like, and other similarly ridiculous propaganda.

It was highly repetitive work. Most of us had a "workstation" consisting of a pair of brand new iMacs with a scanner and Photoshop.

Among the eight temps in our little room, none were Christians. The tedium of the job was only broken at lunch or when Bruce was out of the room, when we would take the time to ridicule the products we were hired to put on display.

After I was there a month or so, the website launched, just a month before Christmas. The orders began rolling in. Our job didn't change, but we did move to a much more spacious building in a completely different location.

Now my drive was only 27 miles each way, but the traffic was much worse. However, we temps got our own nice big room away from the boss. Productivity dropped dramatically, not that Bruce was paying any attention anyway. Zak, the fellow next to me, sometimes would spend a whole day building an animation with Adobe ImageStyler, just as a personal training project. I spent quite a bit of time in chat rooms or just surfing the Net. Since most of our computers had CD-ROM drives, we would bring in headphones and listen to our own CDs all day long.

Every once in a while, Zak would invite me to look at one of the CD covers he had just scanned and edited. He had a talent for hiding an image within a CD cover. The image was always that of a squirting penis. I remember him hiding one by modifying a shadow on the moon on a CD cover. You had to look for it in order to see it, but there it was: the shadow of a giant squirting penis on the lunar surface.

After the website launch and our move, some of us, including myself, were asked if we would consider working there on a permanent basis. I said I would be interested; after all, the job was undemanding, it paid well, I had nothing else going, and I wasn't really making a commitment just by saying I was interested. It looked like we would be working there for a long time; there was certainly no shortage of product to scan.

After arriving home from work one Friday afternoon just a week before Christmas, however, there was a message for me from the temp agency. I knew it couldn't be good news. The girl from the agency informed me that iChristian was having technical problems: Due to some programming screw-up, they had a backlog of some 10,000 to 20,000 orders that couldn't be fulfilled automatically. The Board of Directors had gotten together Friday afternoon and decided to "halt production" until the problems could be fixed, which they felt would take six to eight weeks. This meant that all eight of us temps would be canned at the end of the day Monday, December 20th. Merry Christmas!

I heard later that the Board had also considered just giving up, shutting down the site and walking away from the whole mess.

I wondered what the point of even continuing to work Monday was, but I dutifully reported anyway. None of us did any actual work. Zak continued to do silly animations, but I made a last request to him: One more squirting penis on a CD cover, please. He obliged by transforming an angel on the cover of a Gaither Gospel Series CD (see below) to a penis squirting a green substance. I was most grateful. I used to check the iChristian website every so often to see if the image was ever uploaded, but it never was. In fact, they still don't have their little 3D model working, so something like 80% of the work we did has never been used, and probably never will be. Considering that they were almost certainly paying the temp agency $40 or more an hour for each of the employees, and there were eight of us, they were really throwing away a shitload of money every day.

Now, one of the company's Purchasers was a gruff fellow named Jim who always seemed to be peeved about one thing or another. But he was also a cynical bastard, which was not typical in a company whose permanent roster was staffed mostly by Christians. I was always able to answer his pointed questions directly and with honesty. I had nothing to lose really, since I was only a temp anyway, and I admired his rather negative attitude. So I was the only temp who really got along with him, as the other temps tended to shy away from him because of his somewhat abrasive nature. I became his "contact" among the temps.

And so it was on my last day at iChristian that one of Jim's assistants, some shy Christian girl whose name I don't recall, presented me with a bible. She said Jim wanted me to have it. It was a study bible, very similar to the hundreds of bibles I had scanned while working there. Now, I have about as much use for a bible as a Republican has for a subscription to Playboy. But beyond that, it was sort of obvious to me that this bible was actually the property of iChristian, and Jim knew nobody would notice if he gave it away. I also wondered if it was a "double", a bible we had accidentally received two copies of. With no desire to take the bible home with me, I dumped it into the "to be scanned" box. I noticed that it landed on top of another bible -- its identical twin. Sure enough, it had been a double.

I did, however, manage to part with a lovely literary gift. The guy who worked to my left had a brand new copy of the Adobe GoLive 4.0 User's Manual sitting on his desk. Naturally, it was his last day too, and I inquired as to whether the folks at iChristian would notice if that manual happened to disappear along with us temps. "They don't even know it's here," he said, handing it over without even being asked. This was a wonderful gesture, as I had a copy of the program but no current manual.

And so it was that I managed to leave iChristian with a desirable parting gift that I truly deserved.

It is unlikely that I will ever take a temp job again, unless I become horribly desperate. I would truly hate to be one of the iChristian's investors, knowing how much money was being flushed down a toilet by whatever idiots were supposed to be overseeing production. Christ, what a racket!

EPILOGUE:

iChristian was bought about 8 months later by a larger online Christian products store. I understand some of the 50 employees were offered jobs with the larger company -- if they didn't mind moving 3,000 miles.

Aquent Partners, my contract employer, lied to me twice during the iChristian assignment. They told me a certain hourly wage, then reduced it by a dollar an hour on my paycheck, then denied ever having told me the higher figure. After the layoff, I applied for unemployment, which didn't turn out to be necessary, since I found work 4 days later. But Aquent Partners lied to the Unemployment Division, saying I wasn't laid off, but quit. They lied for no reason and no benefit to themselves whatsoever. Nice people, eh?

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