Chapter 202: Louella Gets A Temp Job

by A.C. Cherbonnier
       LOUELLA was using a mammoth copying machine, making duplicates of a 250-page lawsuit. Here I always thought working at a law firm was glamorous! she mused as she stacked the paper. It all looks like glorified word processing to me.
       A middle-aged woman on three-inch heels trotted into the copy room with a pile of papers in her arms. “Bet you don’t know they’re charging the client fifty bucks and hour for what you’re doing!” she said, grinning.
       “No way! How do you know?”
       “Work here a while, and you find out things,” she said, extending her hand. “I’m Millie Johnson. I temp here too.”
       “I tell them my name is Eleanor, but it’s really Louella. I can’t believe I’m telling you that!” Louella smiled, showing small, capped teeth. “How’d you know I was a temp? Or is everybody a temp but the lawyers? Sure seems like it.”
       “Yeah! Saves them a bundle. What’d you used to do? All us temps have some kind of past. Like, I used to be a high school English teacher. Would have had my thirty years in by now if I’d been able to stick it out.”
       “Oh, I’ve had a lot of careers—public relations, stuff like that,” said Louella airily, pushing a thick strand of enhanced red hair behind her ear. Stuff like being a supermarket cashier and reading scripts for a phone sex service! Louella stifled herself. What is it about this woman that I want to tell her everything? She even felt like blurting out how she had won a million dollars in the Maryland lottery, which even her own family didn’t know.
       “Coincidence, though,” Louella continued, straightening the thick piles of legal-size paper. “I substitute-taught for a month—junior high math in the City.”
       “Why’d you stop? No, wait—don’t tell me! Some kid robbed you at gunpoint?”
       “Nothing like that. The kids were great. It’s just that the school never gave me any lesson plans to go by, so I was winging it, teaching the kids how to budget if they only earned minimum wage. They were starting to catch on about a lot of things, but then the principal called me into her office, said I was a trouble-maker, and that parents had been complaining.”
       “So? Parents always complain. In twenty-five years, I could count on one hand the number of times a parent thanked me. I got called on the carpet too—the last time it was for using a red pen to mark up student compositions.”
       “So what? Were you supposed to use some other color?”
       “I wish! We high school English teachers were told not to mark up essays at all. Supposedly it would ruin the kids’ self-esteem if they saw all the corrections. Pretty different in the real world, huh?”
       “So you taught in the City, too?”
       “Nope, the County. And another thing, we weren’t supposed to teach grammar or spelling, either. They said the kids had already learned that in middle school, and we weren’t to duplicate the lessons.”
       “That’s crazy!” said Louella. “Will you be temping here long?”
       “Nope. I have a lead on a federal job through the Heritage Foundation. A friend of mine’s put in a good word about me.”
       “Think your friend would help me, too?” Louella blurted, blushing. “I love working in D.C.”


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This story was published on January 3, 2001.