Back in the 1970s when I returned to DC from a year working in Germany, I signed up for work with a temp agency. At that time in DC, as long as you knew how to type you could always get a job and make some money. That fact always took me back to my days at St. Francis de Sales High School where the nuns and priests on high decided that a working-class girl like me would be better served by learning office practice and typing and shorthand and to adopt the proper etiquette for interviews (i.e., wearing white gloves and a hat) than studying Greek myths and advanced mathematics and, for-heavens-sakes, a “foreign” language. (I tried once to break through the “academic barrier” and asked, innocently, if I could take Spanish instead of two study halls. The response was an adamant NO — when would a girl like me ever need Spanish??? ) So, at the end of four years, I graduated with a degree that would insert me immediately into the slot of clerical worker and a way to earn a living .
Back to me looking for a job in 1970, those office skills did get me on the roster of the Number 1 temp agency in DC at the time. It was called “Temp Inc.” and prided itself on having the best group of temp secretaries in a city full of typing women. I loved the place. If they sent you out on an assignment and someone shouted at you or was rude, they would pull you out and never send anyone else to that business. That kind of respect for the working woman was unheard of at the time. In addition, after a certain number of assignments, you had health insurance coverage and a paid vacation. It was like a good full time job without the boredom of going to the same place with the same people every day. I loved it.
One day, when I went into the office to get my pay, they handed me a t-shirt. On the front of the shirt it read:
Life is a Temporary Assignment
and on the back
Make it Work!
I was thinking about that shirt today when I was dwelling on this thing called aging and all of its aches and pains and sore feet. Is my temporary assignment to be with all of this right now, in this minute and not worrying about whether I made it work or not in the past? I mean, I must have done ok or I wouldn’t be here now writing this. But, did I work hard enough or on the right things or did I waste too much time when I thought time was in great supply and I didn’t need to worry about running out of it.
But it does no good to go back and do a scorecard on the pluses and minuses of my 72 — almost 73 — years. I’m with the folks who believe that now, right this minute, sitting at this computer with Rose on the bed behind me snoring is the best work that I can do. And all that I do in all the nows of my life to come on this temporary assignment of mine called life I’ll try to make it work.
PS: Even though it was beige and would be too small, I wish I still had that shirt.