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Interview with Chris Livingston

Way back in 2001 I interviewed Chris Livingston, who was just finishing his long-running temp web site Not My Desk. This is the interview in its entirety, and look for a new update some time soon…



Pie Driver Interviews Not My Desk

PD: So I’m going to interview you for my site. we’ll do one question at a time, and it will be this cool email string that we can go back and edit and make even cooler. Cool?

NMD: BRING IT.

PD: What made you start a web site about temping?

NMD: Allow me to set the stage for you. The year: 1942. The city: Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. The writer: 13 year-old Anne Frank, hiding in her attic, writing faithfully in her diary. Powerful. Poignant. Unforgettable.

Funny? Mmmm… no. Not a lot of humor, almost no mention of fiendish fax machines, vengeful copiers, or unpredictable office chairs. Little talk of nose-hair issues or ties getting caught in paper-shredders or male co-workers’ nipples showing through their dress shirts. No essays, not a single one, about fart noises.

Obviously, there was a niche, just waiting to be filled. That’s where I came in.

Okay, seriously, I had been writing essays about my temp jobs and sending them (unsolicited) to my family and friends. One day it occurred to me: why should only they suffer, when I can hurt others with my immature and predictable stories? There’s a world of strangers out there, and I can reach them, and annoy them, through the internet.

PD: What sort of disease did you contract that made you want to eschew the full-time job-thing for the uncertainties of the temping world?

NMD: Well, for a while there, it wasn’t so uncertain. There were jobs galore out there. I could pick and choose. I could specify what I was looking for, be picky about location and pay. I could wear nothing but big cotton briefs to my jobs and no one would complain for fear of me quitting. Many of my interviews ended with me forcing the interviewer to do a little dance for me and shower me with fresh-baked cookies. It was a temp’s market. The tables have turned these days. Now they’re wearing the big cotton briefs, so to speak.

PD: Now that the boom is over, and George W. is firmly planted in the White House, is finding work become easier or harder?

NMD: It’s definitely harder. Back when Clinton was running things, he’d call me every few days to make sure I was finding work. Nice guy. But does Bush do that? No. Of course not. He calls maybe once every two weeks. What a jerk.

PD: Are you, as rumored, the Uber-temp? Or more of the Anti-Temp? Or just a plain, old Generic Temp?

NMD: I’d have to go with Anti-Temp. Definitely not Uber-Temp. An Uber-Temp would be a Jack-of-all-Trades, completely proficient at everything, like Lara Flynn Boyle is in the film “The Temp”, before she freaks out and starts killing everyone in predictable ways. I’m not a Jack-of-all-Trades. I’m more of a Jerry-of-a-Couple-Things. I can do a few things okay, but I have to fake the rest.

Also, it’s rare that I really take advantage of the resources the Generic Temp has at his or her disposal. I hardly ever call in sick, or skip work, masturbate in the lobby, or walk away from jobs. I’m also not really looking for anything permanent, like a lot of temps are.

So, I guess I’m the Anti-Temp. I care a little too much about what my employers think of me to be a complete pill. And I don’t steal as much as I should.

PD: What came first: the employed temp or the unemployed temp?

NMD: This is a silly question. Too silly to bother answering.

Although…

No, it’s silly.

But…

Hm. I mean, to be an employed temp, you need to sign up at a temp agency and get an assignment. Between the time a temp signs up and gets assigned, I suppose they are officially a temp, yet not employed. So, it would seem that an unemployed temp would have to come first. But then, let’s say the “temp” decides he doesn’t want to temp, or is so droolingly incompetent or surly or ugly that he never does get assigned… was he ever a temp? AGGGGGGHHHHHH NOW I WON’T SLEEP!
DAMN YOU, DAVE OF PIEDRIVER!!!!

PD: What’s the competition like in the “Web sites about temping” world?

NMD: Well, the wonderful thing about the World Wide Superweb Interhighway is that there are so many “lanes” or “avenues” that each “traveler” or “surfer” can “go” where they “want” with little or no “hassle”. This means the competition is nil. People can read my website right along with their other hundred or so favorite semi-daily temping humor journals.

Still, I pretend I’m in fierce competition with other sites, just to add a little excitement to my life. I also pretend there are agents of a shadowy branch of the government after me, when in reality, they’re just after my neighbor.

PD: Do you see any way of amassing large amounts of wealth by running your web site? People have got rich on less, you know.

NMD: The way I see it, I have a few options for getting rich. 1) Let people read the first paragraph of an article, then charge them for the rest, like Salon.com does. 2) Put up tons of pop-up ads, as well as placing full-page ads between the front page and the articles, like Salon.com does. 3) Change my site name to salom.com, and get bleed-off traffic from people trying to visit salon.com. And charge them for it.

The fourth (and best) option would be to charge money to people who want to interview me, like you are. Say, about $75,000 per interview. Deal?

PD: If Notmydesk becomes a Hollywood blockbuster, who do you see playing yourself? Who would be your as-yet-nonexistent girlfriend? Who would play me?

NMD: Look, if we’re talking NMD the Motion Picture, there’s really only one answer. Who could play me? Who could capture the innocence, the playful mirth, the wide-eyed wonder? Who could bring the pain, and power, and promise to the screen? Who could emulate the joie de vivre, while at the same time mirror the despondency and desolation? Really, only one man. Michael Winslow, the sound-effects guy from the Police Academy movies.

As for my girlfriend, she could be played by a digital amalgam of Christina Ricci (body, limbs & head) and an anklosaurus (powerful, heavily-armored club-like tail used for smashing enemies). And you could be played by Haley Joel Osment.

PD: What if they wanted Paul Verhoeven to direct and Joe Eszterhas to write it?

NMD: Hey, Verhoeven did RoboCop, and I’m down with that. As far as I know, Joe Eszterhaus is incapable of ‘writing’ anything.

PD: What if Episode Two sucks just as bad as Episode One?

NMD: Thing is, hombre, it don’t matter none. If Episode II sucks, we’ll go to III with the everlasting hope that it will somehow save the prequel trilogy. If II is good, we’ll hope III will continue the trend. Either way, we (Star Wars fans) are gonna be in the queue on
opening day. Sure, we would like nothing more than to wash our hands of the whole affair. But who are we kidding? And besides, wasn’t bitching about Jar-Jar (and the rest of the Episode I suckiness) a lot of fun? You might say we are the Gundark, and Lucas has got us by the ears, and no amount of wrestling will get us free, and holy shit what a giant fucking dweeb I am for having said that.

PD: And so Not My Desk heads into oblivion with only a temporary name badge to keep him employed. Ah, NMD, you are my hero…

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