It's not about the house.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Take A Long Draw on the Skull Bong and Recant the Tale of the Master*

On a whim, and because it’s too hot to hang drywall, I’ve decided to list all the jobs I’ve ever held. I think this is all of them. If I’ve left any out, then they were probably traumatic or illegal.

Yes, I was actually entrusted with other people’s children. I lost one once, too. She turned up eventually, so all’s well that ends well. That’s a story for another time. I hear tell, though, that teenaged girls don’t do this anymore. They’re all too busy sending text messages, giving blow jobs, and building up their college resumes. And if that’s the case, then I’ve got one question: who’ll eat all the potato chips in the kitchen cabinets?

I guess that’s what you’d call it. I was eleven. I got a little drunk with power and yelled at a six-year-old for drawing in the sand with a stick while he waited for the bus. It was an important lesson in how not to be when you’re the grown-up. There was this other kid who took off his underpants without taking off his pants. I still don’t know how he did it. He was weird.

It was a camp everybody brought their horses to, so counselors were also riding instructors -- but not really. We weren't licensed or anything. In fact, nothing about that camp was licensed when I worked there. I was twelve years old for god’s sake – twelve! – when they first let me be a CIT. The kids were brats, the food was hideous. I think I was nineteen when they let me be Head Girls. Then I graduated from college and figured it was time to get a real job. See how well that worked out? Hm. I wonder if the horse camp’s hiring…

Yes, ma’am, I did. All through high school and college I worked at Mickey D's, and I never came out from behind the grill. Oh, they tried to make me, but I said nuh-uh. I didn’t want to risk anyone I knew coming in and seeing me in my ass-zit-giving polyester uniform. This was explicitly against the rules: Hamburger University doctrine says that everybody must learn everything. But I got away with it ‘cuz I was good. I could run a 12:12 on the turn all by myself. And if you know what that means then you’ll understand why I, to this day, get a little twitch in the corner of my eye if I see somebody going ketchup-mustard on a hamburger bun instead of mustard-ketchup.

I guess that’s what you’d call it. I groomed the horses and tacked them up for riding lessons at my college barn. Not for long, though. There weren’t enough hours available, and I needed to make more money than I could make there. Though for the life of me I can’t remember what I did instead—Oh! Wait! I remember…

Not really. Not at a restaurant. That aforementioned college that I went to? They have waitressed meals. Or, rather, used to have. I've no idea if they still work that way, but trust me that it’s not as snooty as it sounds. Waitressing was only at dinner time, and it was family-style. You’d take orders from the table and then bring platters with four of these and three of that. Plus drinks. And then dessert. And when the meal was done, you’d bus. Sometimes, though, you had to spend the whole meal in the dishroom. That was infinitely worse. Other people’s garbage. Yuck. Speaking of which:

Also at college. Your basic milkshake-and-popcorn shift. I was the manager of the place my senior year (which, if I remember correctly, consisted of little more than writing out the schedule). But I took a break from it my junior year to be a….

Who can tell me what this is? Anybody? No? Okay, I’ll tell you. It’s the girl who sits at the front desk of the dorm and opens the door for people who don’t have a key. She also calls up to your room to tell you that you have a visitor, which she used to do on a system of bells that was strung to every room. Therefore the name. Mostly, these days, it means you get all the gossip in the building, you know whose boyfriend didn’t send them flowers on Valentine’s Day, and you get to read other people’s newspapers before they do – and, while doing all of this, you’re getting paid! Oh, yeah: some girls used the time for doing homework.

Ugh. The less said about this, the better. I found a dead guy once. Well, he didn’t turn out to be actually dead, but I thought he was, and so it counts. Drugs are bad, kids. Drugs are bad. Do them, and you’ll wake up in an Econolodge, face to face with me and my Flock-of-Seagulls haircut.

Not really a bookstore. Really the book section of a hardware store. If you’ve ever been to Spag’s, you know why this is not as crazy as it sounds. This is where I learned that Harlequin romances come out every month like magazines; that people know which day they’re due to arrive; and that people get pissed if you’ve been lax about putting the Harleys on the shelf. (And when I say “people,” I mean overweight middle-aged ladies in airbrushed kitten t-shirts. I’m one of them, now – overweight and middle-aged, I mean, not airbrushed and harlequinned. Spag’s is a Building 19 now. C’est la vie.)

By which I mean, I worked in a store that sold Christmas decorations all year round. It was in Faneuil Hall. Those damn Annalee dolls (on the left) still give me nightmares. Me and my friend Rusty used to make up dirty stories about the Byers Choice. Well, seriously, look at them (on the right). How could you not?

This was my foot in the door to my One Real Job. They advertised for telemarketers, and I answered the ad because I was tired of eating plain white rice three meals a day. They really meant taking catalog orders over the phone. Except their computer system didn’t work, so what they really meant was taking angry phone calls from customers asking if they were ever going to get the things they ordered. Trust me when I tell you that if a customer service person says they’re letting you speak to their manager, they are handing the phone to the guy sitting next to them while they flip you the double-fisted bird.


To the president of the above-mentioned company. This was back when I still thought I might be Madonna, and he hired me because I came to work in fishnet stockings (oddly enough, this was the reason that I’d lost the Christmas job). I didn’t care. I dug being objectified back them (hell, I wouldn’t say no to a little objectification if I could merit it today) and besides: the job paid a whole sixteen thousand bucks a year. Woohoo!

Even when I had this job, I didn’t quite understand what it was. Same company, opening record stores now, I’m supposed to buy “non-music merchandise” – but I had to run everything by the Art Director to make sure it was visually appealing enough to sit next to a CD on the shelf. Whatever. This was in the days before the internet, and it sure took a lot of explaining to the folks at Inland Book, that I had to have one copy of everything shipped to the office so A.D. could approve the cover art. Argh.


The company moved cross-country and I chose not to go with. So? They were in the skids, I knew they wouldn’t last, and I didn’t want to wind up in San Francisco with no job and no friends. And I couldn’t get a new job because I was cranking out the Great American Novel. I couldn’t very well do that if I had a health plan, what? The highlight of this phase in my life is the day I spent scraping dried-up, crusty egg off of a clay-tiled kitchen counter, and then having the owner call that night to tell me I was fired because I “just hadn’t done that good a job.” Fuck you very much!

She called herself a decorator. Really, she was a hand-holder, order-placer, and marker-upper for people who were filthy stinking rich. I mean really rich. $264/yard curtain-fabric rich. Wholesale. She, too, was a world-class cunt. I quit her when Johnny painted a few rooms in her house and she accused him of stealing paintbrushes. I mailed her my last paycheck and my key to her house, with a note that said “You have behaved badly and I no longer wish to be associated with you.” Would Miss Manners be proud? Or chagrinned?

Does anybody out there know what this phrase means? It would be disrespectful for me to snark about this job – which I still hold – like I have with all the rest, so here’s a link to the Wikipedia page that defines it. That’s not quite what I do, but it’s close enough. All I’ll say in addition to it is: ah, My Lady. She is the dearest of hearts. And I connected with her indirectly through the “decorator,” so at least that cunt was good for something.

Oh. And also?

* Whoever guesses which of these jobs was the one that inculcated this phrase, will win a rant in their honor. It may be poeticated, it may not. Search on...


jen said...

Im gonna go ahead and say chambermaid. Mostly because I like saying chambermaid.
I would have paid good money to see your flock of seagulls haircut.

su said...

no I don't think you would have!.. Once the folks on the loading dock made paper sideburns and taped them on for Ege's bene as she arrived to the book dept summer gig.

EGE said...

No, no, the sideburns were NOT the Flock-of-Seagulls haircut. That was a different look entirely!

Maybe someday I should doodle a post called "Bad haircuts I've given myself."

Khurston said...

oh so few entries for the rant contest i have to get one in. i have no clue, but i'm going with camp counselor. sounds about right.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing Merchandise Buyer, but my gut says Editorial Director.

Anonymous said...

You write very well.

Anonymous said...

I will say only this. It is from Dennis Miller's stand up routine from the 90's. Not sure which one. How did you come by the phrase? Not sure which job you had is associated with it. Perhaps personal assistant?