Monday, May 27, 2013

I thought the bazinga was implied

Sometimes the way people think really makes me laugh.

A while ago, while I was on the train back from Virginia actually (a trip I fondly documented on this blog), I submitted an application in response to an advertisement to 'work graduation' at the university I attend. I assumed this meant that I would work during graduation weekend doing things like setting up, handing out programs, etc, etc. I also foolishly assumed that this would all be coordinated by experienced adults.

As I wandered through the somewhat extensive application process, I learned that jobs would span what I expected, as well as babysitting, "camp" counseling, van driving, and preparation as far as a week in advance of graduation. Pretty much everything but installing the kitchen sink. I was a little weary of being seen by certain graduating assholes working like a dog, but I reflected that I'm a working girl and need all the help I can get.

It was only after I applied that I learned that my normal pay rate for hourly tasks (minimum wage + $2) would not be honored. Also I would have to work at least 15 hours, or face a penalty that the interns hinted was worse than death.

Oh yeah, the interns. Who ARE the interns? What are they interning for? I'm still not sure. All of the emails I was sent in reference to the job were signed "The Interns." That's when it dawned on me that my bosses were a group of undergrads not even responsible or professional enough to add their individual emails to the end of their messages.

The fun continued when I received an email stating that my information had not been filed with HR and that I could not be paid if I did not file it ASAP. This seemed someone suspicious to me, since I've been issued a stipend from the university for the past... five years. When I called HR they reported that everything was in order, and that it was probably a mass email listing all the other  recipients as bccs. Which is probably true since I received still another similar email two days later, and when I sent a message pointing out that this was probably a mistake, I got no response. Of course. "The Interns" were probably busy.

Maybe I missed something along the way. But I was surprised when I started getting emails for job requests during the week of finals. Now, it's not really written anywhere, but I treat my job as a full-time endeavor. It's true that I'm flexible in my hours and that no one really minds if I don't have classes and come in and work the afternoon and evening instead of the morning and afternoon. Sometimes I'll take a walk downtown for an extra-long lunch. But I don't generally leave lab for six hours to work another job. So I declined to take those jobs. I was ok with working the shifts that I'd get for the actual weekend. Or so I thought...

The plan was to have a short orientation the Wednesday before graduation and give out the shifts that everyone had been assigned through the thoughtful planning of The Interns. I had stated in my application that I would be away at a conference during this time, but The Interns assured me that this would be fine.

Again, I might have missed something. But the week between finals and the orientation was rife with emails from The Interns asking for help. I knew that they required undergrads to work 15 hours minimum in exchange for providing them with housing, but I also informed them on my application that I live off campus and don't need housing. I guess the key was that they totally ignored this fact, and since they were deducting hours from the other workers' quota for their work pre-graduation, they felt that they needed to smash my hours into the weekend. Smash. That's the only word I can think of to describe it.

I might add that no one even emailed me my hours, or sent me any of the information that I missed during orientation (even though it was REQUIRED), until I asked, but at this point that just sounds redundant. When I finally did ask, I was informed that I would be a camp counselor (without any instruction, mind you) from 4 pm to midnight on Friday. And then, lucky me, from 8:45 the next morning until 4pm.

Again, I might be missing something, but it seems less and less likely. Why would you assign someone all of their hours in a single block? Isn't it a little excessive to ask someone to care for a camp-full of children for 16 hours in a 24 hour period (the real irony on this point is that there was a question on the application specifically designed to determine one's qualification as a counselo- but how much does this matter when you're working all those hours in a row)??

I freaked out, calmed down, freaked out, and calmed down again. After Tuesday afternoon I had started getting emails from other workers asking to switch shifts. At this point, I was still away, and was sifting through dozens of emails on my phone. I got thirty emails the first day.

Finally I found someone who was looking for time on Sat and giving away a shift on Sunday. Ah, that's more reasonable, right? I knew all this would work out. I emailed the girl and she said she would inform The Interns ASAP. After almost a full day, The Interns responded.

Turns out that I wasn't allowed to switch with a non-camp counselor, not because The Interns wanted to make sure that everyone taking care of the alumni's precious children was responsible, but because there was a special list of camp counselors' emails in a secret place that the parents could access and use to find babysitters. Finally, in response to my request that an exception be made, with the promise that I wouldn't take any babysitting jobs that weekend, The Interns responded that it would be inconvenient (yes, that was the actual word they used. Inconveninent. @Q$#@@##$$$).

So for the first time ever, I quit a job. And without ever even having worked a single minute! In my resignation email, I pointed out that the entire endeavor had been very different than what I had expected, and hinted that it just MIGHT be a little more organized if everyone weren't simply assigned a random shift. (After all was said and done, I got about 90 emails asking for shift switches. There were only 120 people on the listserv.) Notably, the interns The Interns informed me that this was the only reasonable way for them to assign shifts to so many people. Which totally makes sense, because they use the same system to assign seats to people who buy tickets to concerts, and to assign campus housing to college students, and even work shifts in the real world. Oh wait...

I have no idea what they ended up doing to cover my shift. I didn't really pay attention to the emails from that listserv after that point, but I don't think there was one asking to cover my shifts. Instead, they were probably just one camp counselor short. Which isn't like a big deal or anything, and is definitely more convenient than editing some emails on a list somewhere.


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