Guestpost #10: Jess Grant – Ten things I’ve learned from temping as a receptionist at a reinsurance office

Jess Grant is one of the best improvisers in Canada. She is a Mainstage ITC performer (as part of two “House Party” teams), a gifted actress, and an overall terrific person. When she is famous, I will tell people that I asked her out but she turned me down. This is her ITC bio:

  1. There is such a thing as “reinsurance.” I’m more afraid of disappointing the ghost of Susan Sontag than of being involved in car accidents or twisters. The idea that insurance companies need insurance is way outside my schema. For those of you who have worked as grocery store clerks or have engaged in sex where there is a penis or penises present, you can relate to reinsurance when considering the phrase “double bagging it.”
  2. Reinsurance people like things to be REALLY secure. The door to this office is made of two large plates of clear glass and a large brass door knob. The door has an invitational style but it’s locked firmly. The receptionist (me) needs to press a button to let you in. And that’s a major part of my duties here: button press’n.
  3. I’m not that great at button press’n. A few times, I’ve hit the button twice by mistake thus relocking it. This has caused some pretty important business dudes to bash their shoulder against the strong glass. With one quick error, I’ve made a few people walk in the footsteps (or errr…wing flaps?) of the birds that die when they smack into the sides of skyscrapers during migration. SOLIDARITY TWEETY!
  4. Lunchtime in the underground mall that’s below my office building, part of the PATH, is a lot like a high school. Examples of this are: there are couples holding hands that I envy, I never know where to sit at lunch (“Sorry, this spot is taken”) and when I’m done eating, I never know what to do so I just roam around the halls aimlessly.
  5. Everyone looks important inside a gilded elevator. The interior of the office’s elevator is reflective and has a brass sheen. Every morning, I pile in like so many other 9-to-5ers. I like to furrow my brow and stare hard at the small T.V. screen above the door that relays the current news, weather and stock stuffs. Something comes on about Libya and oil prices. I push a long sigh out of my nostrils, sagely nod at my fellow passengers as I get out at my floor and change the track on my Ipod from Miley Cyrus to Mini Pops.
  6. Vice-Presidents of Reinsurance firms are huge film buffs. Day one and upon meeting me, one of the Higher Ups asks “Temp? You’re not going to be like that woman from the movie The Temp, are you?” “I don’t know that one,” I say, “Is it a horror movie?” I get a feeling that the film to which he’s referring involves a female protagonist who uses her sexual charm on her boss who, despite his honest and hard-working attitude, just can’t say resist the tantalizing way she takes a “message,” sharpens “pencils,” and eats “bananas.” You know, a whoreor. “Well, she ruined the guy’s life,” he says. Suspicion confirmed.
  7. Of course, reinsurance people need reassurance. I say, “Oh, I see,” and he asks again, “So are you?” I’m stunned. This man, a mere stranger to me moments ago, was asking me to confirm whether or not the reason I temp is so I can have brief sexual encounters with my bosses, become obsessed (“Why won’t you let me SHARPEN your PENCIL!?!”) and boil his family’s pet rabbit. I know I’m being objectified but I also feel like I have a weird power over him. I spy Susan Sontag’s ghost over his shoulder. She holds my eye, then sagely nods. I look back at him, smile sweetly and say, “Only time will tell.”
  8. There are lobbies all over the world with fancy carpets, lovely plants and plush clean couches and that no one ever sits in. There is one at this office so there are probably many others, right? It’s such a waste. Think of all those rowdy Superbowl barbeques and/or Solstice vegan potlucks and/or whoreor movie marathons you’ve been to and there hasn’t been any place left to sit!
  9. When asked how your weekend was, it’s better to say “good” rather than “great.” This was advice I was actually given by someone here after I’d said my weekend was “great.” Apparently you’re supposed to downplay the satisfaction you experience vis-à-vis your weekend. And no one wants to know how interesting that play about the lack of human rights for the women in the Congo was…save it for the ghost of Susan Sontag.
  10. Reinsurance folks feel the need to apologize for themselves. After work one day, I hit the elevator button to go down to the lobby and one of the Sort of Higher-Ups hit the button to go up to the next floor. We stood there in silence and the elevator heading up arrived first. As he walked by me, he said “Sorry.” Why was he sorry? Had we been in a “who-is-quicker-at-controlling- the- elevator-with-her/his-mind” competition and I didn’t realize it? Cheerfully, I said, “you don’t have anything to be sorry for.” I felt silly after I said that. It wasn’t appropriate; I’m not his therapist for crying out loud. I should have been more professional, I feel. I should have just said “good.”


Filed under tenthingsivelearned, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Guestpost #10: Jess Grant – Ten things I’ve learned from temping as a receptionist at a reinsurance office

  1. This is hilarious–and it mentions the MiniPops, which is just the icing on the cake!!

  2. Pingback: Ten Things I Have Learned | QN Podcast (formerly Quirky Nomads)

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