Toward the end of my senior year in high school, I was getting really tired of working in retail sales. My Father told me about a program at his company (Digital Equipment Corp.) called T.A.G., or the Temporary Assistance Group. They were basically an internal secretarial pool. If someone needed help for a day, a week, a month...they would call T.A.G. and get a temp. Dad told me that these TAG's all seemed to be young kids, like myself, and gave me the phone number for personnel so I could call and inquire. That was the end of the help from Dad. Never let it be said that my old man ever helped me get a job. *wink*
Now I HATE calling places/people I don't know. It's always been a phobia of mine. It took me a while to screw up my courage, call personnel, and stammer my way through a conversation about being a TAG. The very intimidating woman on the other end of the line told me to come in the next day at 8 in the morning to take some tests. Tests?! Oh crap. The next morning, I was freshly scrubbed, wearing my Sunday best, and ready to pee my pants as I sat in a plastic and metal chair outside the office of the very unfriendly personnel woman who ran the TAG screening. She put me at a table in an empty room, handed me a test booklet and a pencil and told me "You have 30 minutes to complete this first exam." It was a basic math competency test. No sweat!
I spent the next 2 hours taking a series of little tests about spelling, grammar, reading comprehension, basic office protocol...the only thing I was dreading was a typing test. I'd taken touch typing in my Sophomore year and done well with it, but I'd only used my typing for school work since that point. No real need for speed when you are typing a term paper (unless you wait until 2am the night it's due). At the end of the 2 hours, the woman actually smiled and told me I did very well on the test booklets. Wahoo for me! "Now I'll take you to the typewriter room for your typing test..."
Typing test?! Oh crap. I walked to this new room like a condemned woman. She sat me down at an electric blue IBM Selectric (well yay! It's the +-same typewriter we have at home!) and explained the test. There was a laminated sheet, face down on an easel. She told me to flip the sheet and begin typing when she said GO. I would have five minutes to complete typing exactly what I saw on the page. Margins were not set, I would have to hit a carriage return at the end of each line, do exact spacing, indents, etc. I was really sweating badly at this point. She picked up an egg timer that looked just like the one my mom used, set it for 5 minutes, and said GO as she let go of the dial. I flipped the sheet over and began typing my ass off...
I typed a few last characters as she came back into the room. She took my page out of the typewriter and left. Sweat was pouring down my face in a most embarrassing way. (I've always been a big sweater. I know...ladies "perspire", they don't sweat...as my Granny always used to say. But dammit, I sweat like a pro athlete! No doubt!)
She came back a few moments later with a frown on her face. "You only typed 26 WPM. You need to type at least 35 to pass the test and be an entry-level TAG."
"You can take the typing portion one more time in 2 weeks, if you would like to try again?"
Wahoo! I wasn't out of the game yet! I decided for the next two weeks I would eat, sleep and breath typing. I practiced every day, several times a day. I typed letters to my Grandmothers, to my friends, to myself...my Mom gave me some of those goofy typing phrases to practice with. The quick red fox jumped over the lazy brown dog. The quick red fox jumped over the lazy brown dog. The quick red fox was a big of a dare-devil, wasn't he. Why does that lazy brown dog just lay there like that? Maybe he is just too old...
I went back to DEC Personnel at the appointed time, two weeks later. Praying for a miracle, I was ushered back into the type testing room and sat at the same electric blue IBM. The personnel lady patted me on the shoulder and said, "Don't worry. You'll do fine." She set that annoying egg timer and left the room. I began typing my butt off...again.
As time ticked away, I passed the point where the timer went *ding* last time and I kept typing. Woo! Look at me go! I typed and typed and typed and typed and...wait a second. It had to be five minutes by now, right? I had reached the end of the page and had just begun typing the same thing over again. I snuck a peek at the time. It was at one minute remaining. Cool! I kept going. I looked up again about a minute later. One minute.......and holding. Uh oh.
The timer was STUCK! What should I do?? I snuck a peek out the door. The personnel lady had her back to me and was talking on the phone. In one swift motion, I leaped over to the timer, turned the dial to zero, almost dropped it when it went off with a loud *DING*, placed it on the table and rushed back to my chair. She came through the door a moment later and asked "How do you think you did this time?"
I grinned. "Oh, I think I did WAY better this time. I was really nervous last time." Yes, my good ol' Catholic guilt gnawed at me a bit, but I was overriding it with thoughts of working in a real office, with real grownups and a good paycheck.
Ms. Personnel Lady reviewed my test and was stunned. "You typed over 90 WPM! That qualifies you to be at our executive secretarial TAG level." Oh my. What had I got myself into? She handed me a clipboard full of forms, explained how the program worked and told me my salary. $7.25 an hour. WOW! That was a fortune to a high school kid used to making minimum wage (back then it was under $4). I told her I planned to work for the rest of the Summer, then I would be starting college. She told me I could also come back to work during school breaks, if I wanted to. I was in a joyous daze. She handed me a time sheet and told me I would get a call in about a week with my first assignment, after they processed all my paperwork and put me into the system.
I was on my way! I didn't take the work very seriously at first. I was probably one of the worst TAGs ever. I got in late, took long lunches with my new co-worker friends, did half-assed and slipshod work...I was a carefree teenager! What did I know about having a good work ethic. This was only temp work, after all. Who cared? I remember going to this Polynesian restaurant in Acton where the waiters never asked for ID and I had my first scorpion bowl. It's a powerful rum concoction in a glass the size of a fish bowl. I was plastered! I went back to work after my two hour lunch break where my current assignment was to photocopy this huge pile of documents. TAGs always got the crappiest work. I was barely able to stand. I can only imagine how straight those copies were. *giggle*
Little did I know this was to be the start of a real career for me. Little did I know that my destiny awaited me in the electronic bits and bytes of the DEC corporate intranet.