In 2008, I had eight job interviews and eight rejections, making me the Michael Phelps of Failure. For those of you who are new to the sweatpant-clad shambles I call my life, I've spent the better part of two years 'freelancing', which is what people with a B.A. call 'unemployed and spelunking the sofa cushions in the hopes you'll find enough crumbs to make a whole tater tot'.
Despite having to scrimp and pinch like the Quimby family, largely subsisting on the types of prefab foods that most people only crack out of the can during when the power goes out, I've really only missed having a for-real job on three occasions:
1) During Fantasy Football season. At my last office, my team "Angelina Ate My Babies" was a two-time champ, riding the meaty legs of LaDanian Tomlinson to both victory and an engraved paperweight that was sadly abandoned in a dusty corner of my cubicle as I hurriedly collected my belongings and allowed the HR director to escort me out of the building.
2) The time my sister came to visit and, shortly before leaving, excused herself to the guest bathroom where she quietly unwrapped an entire roll of Pillsbury Brownie Batter and dropped it in the toilet. She was halfway home when I found it and I immediately regretted that I no longer had an office where I could do the same thing. I also regretted not taking pictures.
3) Every time I have to buy toilet paper. Offices are always full of oversized rolls that--if you take the time to pluck them from their plastic orphanages--are ready to be taken to a loving home. Granted, it's almost as cottony soft as a handful of aquarium gravel, but it gets the job done. Kind of.
Just because I'm skeeved by All Things Office, from the unflattering fluorescent lighting to the breakrooms that offer nothing but bleach-scented tables and signup sheets for day trips to the yarn factory, that doesn't mean I stopped looking for work, even the kind that requires an embroidered vest and less personal hygiene than I'm accustomed to, as this journal entry reminded me.
Anyway Oh Eight started with the prospect of a jobby job at a photography studio as a coordinator, which--other than terminated--is the word that appears most frequently on my resume. They called me for an interview on a Sunday afternoon at their studio on the darker side of downtown where the graffiti is misspelled and and the litter is from off-brand products.January 16, 2008"Went to Borders to check on my application. Talked to the manager and may have blown it by using the word 'temporary' but tried to recover by throwing in a bit about 'but if I like it I'll stay forever like it's that hotel from The Shining'. He's supposed to call me for an interview but I'm not optimistic."
I smeared on some eyeshadow and wriggled into my nice pants--the pair that hasn't been stained with EZ Cheez and disappointment--and hoped I'd land somewhere between 'impressive' and 'pathetic' which is what the forty words in the classifieds seemed to crave.
The owners, a married pair of photogs with equally abstract names and matching pairs of chunky eyeglasses--the ones people wear because they can't scrawl "LOOK HOW CREATIVE I AM!" on their foreheads--were cordial but cold and immediately expressed some hesitation when they learned how long I'd been out of work.
We ticked through the standard questions about my experience, my education and why I had a dryer sheet clinging to my left breast before digging into what they called the "meat and potatoes" of the interview. My "meat", they said, would be to manage the studio and prepare it for their client, a local manufacturer of multi-packs of socks and underwear. The male photog--I'll call 'im Testes--quietly asked if I would be comfortable with partial male nudity, which is a question I haven't heard since prom.
I nodded. "Sure, I'm cool with meat," I said, scratching at my face trying to find the UNDO button.
The "Potatoes" of my day would take place in the kitchen, Ovary (the she-tographer, natch) said, leading me to a well-appointed room in the back of the building. It was all stainless steel and granite, the type of spread showcased in ads in magazines for the kind of life I don't have. Testes pulled a complicated looking bowl out of the dishwasher and grabbed a bag of fruit from the fridge. "Arrange these," he said, dumping several varieties of apples and a couple of oranges onto the counter.
"Um...like...for a picture?" I asked, an honest question.
"No," Testes said with a roll of his eyes that was exaggerated by his Douche Bigalow glasses. "For our clients to eat."
"Well, uh, OK," I said, immediately dropping an apple and kicking it across the floor. "Obviously, I can juggle too." I gave them a smile faker than Ovary's tits.
"Wash that," Testes said as I retrieved the apple from under the counter. I rinsed it, dried it on my sweater and stared hard at the bowl, like I expected it to grow feet and race back to Crate & Barrel. I approached it from a couple of angles before making a haphazard fruit pyramid, presenting it with a fluttery hand gesture I'd seen either on QVC or at a funeral. They nodded, saying nothing.
"Now. Coffee," Ovary said deciding that my feeble mind couldn't handle sentences with a subject and a predicate. She shoved an unopened package of French Roast at me and I dutifully answered questions about my typing abilities while fumbling with the grinder, unceremoniously dumping the beans into the machine. I was so sorry I'd changed tampons for this.
As the coffee brewed, they asked about several items on my resume. "And why did you leave your last job?" one of them asked.
"They, um, let me go." I said because I love both euphemisms and lying. "Downsized."
"And the one prior?" Ovary poured a cup of coffee, grimacing after the first sip. She'd barely swallowed before she emptied the rest into the sink, handing me her mug to wash.
And that's when I gave up.
"That place? Got fired. Stole a sofa from the lobby."
Ovary sighed as Testes bravely poured coffee into a mug with their picture on it.
"Well. OK then," he said, choking down a swig of coffee and taking Ovary's cup from me. "We appreciate your giving us your Sunday. We'll be in touch."
He pressed a hand into my lower back, guiding me toward the door with more force than necessary. We were halfway down the hall when I heard the sound of several pieces of fruit plopping onto the floor and rolling across the reclaimed wood. Isaac Newton, for the win.
Neither one of them would shake my hand as we stood on the sidewalk. I didn't care. They watched as I backed into their sign as I left, knocking it into a small patch of grass where their logo--a cat's face--stared at me with the same dead expressions I was getting from them.
I didn't stop.