Chuck (charlesofcamden) wrote,

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(N)ice Work if You Can Get It

It was an ice storm. One of those ice storms; the kind that comes along once a decade or so. It hit Detroit in the wee hours of the morning, the exact worst time for affecting the morning commute. Did I say “affecting”? No, change that to “destroying” the morning commute. Rush hour simply did not happen that day.

At the time, I was living in the near suburb of Roseville and commuting to my office job in downtown Detroit. It was an open-ended temp assignment. In fact, my entire department, including my supervisor, were all employed by the temp company. None of us made it into work that day. A few tried before turning their cars around and heading back home, but most of us never set foot outside our homes until well into the day.

My boss’ boss, who was a full-time employee at the company, was a benevolent and generous woman. Knowing that we were all lowly temps being paid a lowly wage, she had an announcement for us when we came into the office the following day: We were all instructed to go ahead and fill in our hours for the previous day as if we had worked them. If anyone asked, we were to say that we had braved the elements and made it in. We were all grateful for her generosity and did as instructed. This sort of treatment helped to make us a tight-knit, loyal band of workers.

A week or so later, in the middle of an ordinary workday, we had a surprise visitor in our department. It was someone we all knew – our representative from the temp agency had dropped in for a little visit, a smile beaming on her face. It seems that, out of all the agency’s downtown temps, we were among the very few who had made it into our jobs on the day of the ice storm. Our rep presented each one of us with a nicely engraved certificate, suitable for framing, that honored us for service above and beyond the call of duty. She told us that she considered us to be the best group in her entire company. All we could do was stand there, smiles plastered on our faces, and graciously accept the honor while avoiding eye contact with one another.

After the rep had left, we discussed the matter among ourselves. We all felt a little bit odd about it. After all, we hadn’t set out to deceive anyone, exactly – we were simply the recipients of a kindness from our boss’ boss on the day of the ice storm. As for this follow-up honor… well, it just wouldn’t have been proper for us to fess up at that moment and make our rep feel like a doofus. So in the end, we were paid for work we hadn’t done, and then honored for a service we hadn’t performed. Was that fair? Listen, if life were fair, none of us would have been stuck in a temp job in the first place, so I think we all slept well at night over this matter!

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