I recently got laid off of my full-time position as the Chief Inspector of Lines at the Cleveland Legal Pad Company, which has switched to all unlined paper in an effort to save on ink costs. I was forced to take a temp job to try to make ends meet … but it doesn’t pay nearly as much or come with any benefits, unless you consider a pot of Mr. Coffee heating up on the warmer all day next to a jar of Cremora and a bottle of NutraSweet a benefit. Fortunately, helped along by other temp workers who have been stuck in this existence for years, I’ve discovered that there is a way to survive, and lead a successful temporary life.
The first question I had was, what will I do if I get sick? Without health insurance, how will I be able to afford treatment? The answer is temp health insurance. Now if I get sick on Mondays, Wednesdays, or the last Friday of every month, I can get fully paid treatment at my local pop-up health clinic. The doctors and practitioners there are also temp workers who have been laid off of their permanent jobs. When I slashed myself with a knife cutting vegetables I’d scrounged out of a supermarket dumpster (fortunately this was on a Wednesday), I went in to get the wound stitched up, but the clinic only used two stitches instead of the five that the doctor said he would have used to sew up the full-time insured. He put rubber bands around the rest of the wound and told me to keep drinking plenty of fluids to make up for any continuing blood loss. “Eventually wounds heal themselves. And if not, I’ll be happy to write you a prescription for your own needle and thread, and you can try sewing up the rest of it yourself.”
I also discovered that I could no longer afford to pay full rent on my apartment. I went to the landlord and asked him if there were other options. “I have a place available that rents for half what you pay now, but you can only use it for the first two weeks of the month.”
“What do I do for the rest of the month?”
“What most of our tenants do is find some relatives or friends who’ll let them sleep on their couch for the rest of the month, although there’s always the option of city camping.”
“Sleeping outside under a bridge. But at least for a couple of weeks a month you can live the American Dream, which, let’s face it, is better than nothing.”
This sounded OK, but then I wondered, what would I do with all my stuff for the rest of the month? My temp friend Bob explained, “Get your clothes from the temp clothing store.”
“What does that mean?”
“You don’t need to own any clothes, just borrow them when you need to. If you work in an office and you need a suit and tie, you go to the nearest T-Closet in the morning, turn in your casual outfit and put on one of the available suits to wear to work, then trade back at the end of the day so the nightshift worker can use it. It works out pretty well unless everyone your size is working at the same time.”
Then there was the problem of relationships. Without a full-time job or place to stay, I couldn’t really figure out how I’d be able to have a full-time girlfriend. But my temp friend Matt explained, “You just get a temp girlfriend from one of the online dating services. Schedule your dates for days when you’re flush, and you can lead the same kind of life you’re used to. Other times of the month, you pretend you’re busy or out of town.”
“What if one of my dates finds me sleeping under a bridge?”
“Don’t worry, most of the temp dating services specialize in other temp workers. The girls have the same problems you do. Some may only be looking for full-time relationships with full-time guys, but after a while, everyone lowers their expectations and takes what they can get. A temporary relationship with a temp guy is better than nothing, and hopefully one of you becomes a full-timer someday, or wins the lottery and you can get back to some kind of normal life.”
I’ve found lots of other products and services aimed at the temp market. I’ve got a cell phone plan that drops half of the calls I make. I get my hair cut by a barber who only cuts half of it each month. I take my temp date to temp movies that only show every other scene, but you can usually figure out the whole plot without too much trouble, especially if it’s mostly car chases and explosions. We go out to eat at places that will let us split our dinner, or have two-for-one coupons.
I go to the temp coffee shop in the morning and get a half-strength latte with a day-old scone. I’ve traded in my bicycle for a unicycle. I go to the health club where they let me use one weight at a time, so on Mondays I work on my right side and Tuesdays on the left side.
Someday my temp girlfriend and I hope our relationship blossoms into something more permanent: a temp marriage. We’ll move in together for two weeks a month and live in wedded bliss until someone better comes along with a proposal of full-time marriage, with dental insurance, a retirement plan, and maybe even a time-share on the beach in Florida.