Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

How times change: Advice to a temp worker, 1968

Laura Celise Lippman 
Seattle, Washington, United States

Photo by author

Because you’re only a temp worker,
be sure to look busy. Keep your desk
neat, but not too tidy. He will check
on you regularly, peering from his
office to your desk. Make sure
he hears your typewriter clacking on
and off throughout the day, even if
all your work is done. Make
sure your hem falls between your
knees and thighs, and cross your legs
just so when you take dictation.
Keep the coffee area clean. He likes
his coffee with two sugars and one
teaspoon of half-and-half at precisely
ten a.m. and four p.m.
Even if you have cleared the
backlog of unfiled letters and
documents and reorganized his
files and the secretary’s desk
and straightened the stationery,
DO NOT read your book anywhere
you can be seen. If you keep it
in the top desk drawer, slide it in
quietly when he comes by, smile,
say Sir, and bat your eyelashes.
When the assistant VP who finished
high school five years ago asks
you to follow him to the stacks
to take dictation, giggle like he
made the funniest joke ever and
make him believe you will follow
him, but don’t. Sit down and 
type, clickety-clack. Don’t make
typing errors. Do not pre-type letters
with fill-in blanks, even though
he writes the same letters,
which bore you to tears again
and again. Do not correct
his grammar, no matter how
appalling. Remember this is
a temp job. Remember in
a few weeks, you will be
at a marine biology station
far away, standing in a tide pool
in your jeans and hip boots,
collecting specimens on a beautiful
and remote coast. Remember if you
look pretty and act docile and flirty,
you will keep this job and get $1.25/hr,
which will pay for the airfare
to get you the hell out of here.

LAURA CELISE LIPPMAN’S work has appeared in The Journal of Family PracticeAvatar Review, Brief Wilderness, The Broken Plate, Chained Muse, Courtship of Winds, Crack the Spine, Crosswinds, El Portal, Evening Street Review, Flights, Pontoon Poetry, Poydras Review, Journal of Family Practice, The Meadow, Neologism Poetry Journal, New English Review, Red Ogre Review, Roi Fainéant Press, Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders, Spotlong Review, Synkroniciti, and The Vashon Loop. She is a co-author of the book Writing While Masked, Reflections of 2020 and Beyond. She attended Bryn Mawr College and received her M.D. from the Medical College of Pennsylvania, now Drexel University. 

Spring 2024



One response

  1. Love this poem — happy to see it again. Have a great trip — see you when you return (with lots of stories).

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