Careers are for the unicorns of a classier, well mannered generation, or people who have artsy dreams like to be a filmmaker or a model for underwear. What about people who just don’t want to live in a basement with three rommmates and be chained to a desk all their life? I just want a little bit of money and to have wacky times so I can write about them and one day show my grandchildren what a wacky life I had. Sure, it would be great to hand them over the empire I built, or give them a picture of me shaking the hand of a celebrity that I worked with when I was an important person in the world, but the thought of them saying, “Grandmother J was so kooky! Did you read about the time she herded llamas for a bottle of port in Portugal?” just makes me feel like I’d be setting them up to actually live life better.
I applied to work at a restaurant called Pieology today. When I look at potential jobs now, all I’m really looking for is the potential chaos it could invite into my life. If I see an ad for an “Executive Assistant” and one for a “Night Area Manager,” I’m going to choose the less vague and spooky job, and construct a resume around my ability to manage an area at night. Anything that seems like an emotional roller coaster job is out- for example, positions at all women gyms- a job that I know I would too frequently experience the high highs of life, the hilarity and hope, and also feel the low lows, the anguish and confusion. To me, a place called Pieology where the higher ups, the ones in charge, are asking potential employees to have a bachelor’s degree and to “be inspired to make a difference one pie at a time,” as well as “practice self-control and embody the values of Pieology” is not a for profit establishment, but a place of intense mystery, like a cave in the arctic. What goes on in this Pieology place? But to explore that strange and mysterious cave, I need to be able to say in a serious and convincing tone, “I embody the values of Pieology.” And that’s something that takes hours of practice and I would go as far to use the term “method acting.” I’d have to spend some time psyching myself up for an interview at Pieology, if job hunts have taught me anything it’s you must go in with a plan and some answers for these people asking you to make a difference with some dough and pasta sauce. When I was in Hawaii for a work exchange program, I applied to work at Choicemart, a grocery store that sells expired pastries and box wine, to make some actual money while I was working for a free place to stay and my interview went something like this:
“How did you hear about Choicemart?”
I stared up at the ceiling and saw my Scandinavian work exchange boss standing in the kitchen taking a shot of 2% milk and telling me, “I saw a sign at Nochoicemart today saying zey were hiring. Zat place has no variety! Ze produce is disgusting!” I looked across the table at the sweet brown haired human resource manager blinking, “Well, I always shop here, and I saw the sign in the window.”
She smiled, “So why do you want to work at Choicemart?”
I again looked at the ceiling. “Well…” I need money. No. I have no car and I can walk to Choicemart from my trailer. No. I want to make Choicemart friends… because I’m curious and I want wacky times… I blinked. “I have always wanted to work in groceries.” I folded my hands in my lap and tried to look truthful and not like I was holding in farts. “A grocer?” she stared into my soul. “Yes, I have good customer service skills,” I proclaimed. No I don’t! I’m SO crabby!
“What are your salary requirements?”
“Mine?” I asked shocked.
“What would you like to make?”
Sixty-five dollars an hour! One hundred dollars an hour! One million dollars an hour! “Well, I mean…”
“What do you need to live?”
“Need? Well, I live in a trailer rent free and-”
“You live in a trailer?”
“Let me explain,” I said, my voice an octave deeper.
Looking back on past jobs and past interviews, the job I enjoyed the most, I didn’t even get paid for. It was an internship for a photographer and when I walked into the studio for my scheduled interview with a woman named Nina, I was met by a tiny boy wearing saggy pants, “Hi, Jennifer? I’m Nina.” I shook his hand, “Wait….” I smiled, confused.
Nina: “Have you ever archived art before?”
Nina: “Do you have any experience archiving editorials or publications?”
Me: “Um, no not really.”
Nina: “Have you ever worked with artwork before?”
Nina: “Are you familiar with photography?”
Me: “Um, I mean, no, not really.”
Nina: “So like, can you start today?”
I stared at her blankly. “Um, no not today,” I said uncomfortably.
“Ok, so like Monday?” she said while looking down into her lap and stroking her pant leg.
People sometimes like to give you interview tips like, “remember to wear strong deodorant,” or “don’t forget to blink when you make eye contact.” The main tip I give people is “don’t think about genocide or starving children to put your life and what you are about to do in perspective.” Before an interview for a job at a PR firm, I told myself, some people would give anything for an opportunity to have this job, you are lucky to have been born into the world the way you have. By the time the tiny well dressed woman sat down across from me and opened with, “I’m going to be candid here, have you seen The Devil Wears Prada? I am the devil,” my eyes welled up with tears. Children who have nothing. I am thankful for this opportunity. But why am I thankful again? Genocide. The devil. My bank account. I can’t do it, any of it. Too much, too much.
A cocktail waitress is a money making scheme most people throw my way. “Hey why don’t you cocktail waitress? You’d make so much money!” It’s how I now separate my true friends from people who only know me superficially. “You cannot cocktail waitress,” my mom told me, “that has disaster written all over it.” I frowned, “What do you mean, people tell me I’d make a ton of money!” My mom nodded, “Yeah, if you were nice to people.” I suddenly saw myself in a fancy cocktail lounge wearing in a tight dress, offset with knee high socks with Van Gogh’s Starry Night stitched into them that would surly be a dress code violation, handing martinis over to business men and whispering, “you flirt with me, and I stab you with your steak knife.” He would choke on his own spit and complain to management and I would yell after him as he left, “Whatever old man! I’m not your sex worker! I’m just trying to make a car payment!” I would be fired and go home and write about the whole thing for my grandchildren to read about one day. It may be worth it after all.
Sometimes when I have dinner with my parents, I like to ask them about the good old days, the days of class. “Dad, tell me that nice story again,” and my dad puts down his fork. “The one where I graduated and got a job with a salary that could pay off my student loans and pay for my own apartment in a safe neighborhood all on my own, or the one where I met your mother in a library and took her on nice dates and there was no such thing as tinder?” I’ll start daydreaming, no tinder? What a classy world!