Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mercy, Mercy Me

I had been wrapping up another 12-hour babysitting shift when the doorbell rang. Placing the baby on my hip, I opened the door to find my fiancé standing in the hallway with paperwork in one hand, and the other hand behind his back. Before I could ask him anything, Steve outstretched a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and said, “I got a job. It’s in Charlotte!”

Less than two weeks later we had packed up and moved into our new home in North Carolina. One week after moving, we got married in Pittsburgh, left immediately for an impromptu honeymoon in Cabo and then returned home to an unfurnished, box-lined house.

Once back in the States, I began to unpack as well as continue my job search. It seemed to be the same story, just in a different city. Blanketing the South with my resume, I was relieved to receive a call from a hiring agency a few towns over.

The recruiter was a woman who if had introduced herself as Paula Deen, I would have believed her and asked for an easy pork chop recipe. Ms. Deen said that the hiring company, a non-profit, wanted to meet with me immediately in regards to an event planning position. I asked her for the company’s name and received a long pause.
“It’s the Sisters of Mercy,” she said cautiously.
“Nuns?” I asked.
She confirmed my suspicion and quickly gave me the address.
“I’ll go,” I said imagining myself as an extra in the real-life version of Sister Act.

My dreams of Whoopi Goldberg quickly faded upon entering the front door of the campus as I was greeted by multiple women sporting bowl cuts and Christmas turtlenecks that seemed to be straight from the Michelle Duggar clothing line.

Nonchalantly, I fastened the top two buttons of my blouse and strategically placed my tattooed foot behind me. Jesus and Mary statues lined the halls and seemed to scrutinize me as I was led into the conference room. There I was given the job description and was told that my main role woud be to host coffee socials for geriatric nuns. The "perks" to the position would be free lunch daily in the convent, prepared by the blind, deaf and generally senile sisters.

Thanking them for their time, I headed back to my car for the 45 minute trip home. While on the road, multiple accidents created an interesting detour that had both my GPS and me confused and in need of a cocktail. Not knowing where I was or how to get home, I laughed to myself.

Even in a new city, I couldn't escape the nunsense.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I am Sorry, Miss Kardashian. I am For Real

There is nothing quite like being unemployed and watching rich people spend more money in one trip to Bloomingdales than most Americans have in their 401Ks.

I had just returned home from a ten-hour babysitting shift when I flipped on Keeping Up With Kardashians on E! In this particular episode, Kim spent over $20,000 in one trip to a clothing boutique and caused her family to call an intervention on her over-spending ass (yes, pun intended).

After the intervention, which was not led by a paid actor, but by a "real" therapist, Kim began to justify her spending to her family and all viewers. Kim’s argument was that she works hard, so why shouldn’t she spend her own money?

This made me livid. So please do sense my sarcasm when I say, you do work hard, Kim. You work hard at dating your ridiculously over-rated boyfriend. You also work very hard at driving your Bentley and reminding the public of how desperately you want to forget your explicit video.

Is Miss Kardashian so blinded by her own lip-gloss nowadays that she has no concept of the current recession? And, honestly, what was E! thinking? Were the producers sitting around brainstorming on how they could relate with the American public and this is what they came up with? Was having Kim drop a down payment on a house on the spring line at SAKs the realistic way to do so?

Perhaps I am too close to the unemployment situation to make an unbiased observation. Or just perhaps, it's time that celebrities actually put the real back in reality TV.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Window Pain

They say that when one door closes, a window opens. I suppose that I have always believed in this due to my uninterrupted employment since high school. That is, until it was interrupted in December 2008.

At fifteen-years-old, I got my first job as a hostess at a steakhouse. Wearing my best GAP khakis to the interview, I was on a mission to earn the Hoss’s uniform- down to the orthopedic black high tops and the bow tie covered in meat cleavers.

In college I began to work at a bead store, designing custom-made jewelry for hippie brides, and then moved on to making lattes at Starbucks for yuppie moms. During my summers at home, work was hard to come by. My choices were to either work the loading dock at Wal-Mart during the graveyard shift or to work from 4PM to 11PM at one of the many local factories.

One summer, to maintain employment, I went through Kelly Services and was placed at a bra factory. My job was to pile as many bras into one box as possible and then send it down a conveyor belt to the whole host of chain-smoking, flannel-loving women on the line.

Water bras were the worst. Not only were they a disaster when accidentally popped, but also they were collectively the heaviest bras to pick up. Practically lifting the equivalent of my own body weight above my head on to a moving belt, my efforts would be quickly destroyed as the silicon bandits would bounce right out of the box and fall on to the cement floor with a thud. Needless to say, I was the only employee to not sport a mullet that summer, nor have a romantic relationship with a woman.

It was in February when I was offered a part time gig to baby-sit a four-month-old girl in my apartment building. After having been through a multitude of terrible interviews in the past few months, I thought it just might be my best career move to date. So, I accepted.

I am extremely tempted to see my current state as stagnant, if not moving backwards. Nowadays, I feel like a teenage girl learning the honest value of a dollar, as I am knee deep in diapers and formula. No longer do I feel like the young and brazen Manhattan career gal. I can't tell you the last time that I wore a suit. I don't have an office, a telephone extension or even a business card to validate my existence.

What I do have is a baby girl that smiles when she sees me and laughs at my jokes. It's times like those that make me forget about the door that closed behind me and remind me of the window ahead.

Monday, March 30, 2009


As I exited the train at Roosevelt Island, a thick white fog covered the city across the river. Squinting, I tried to locate the Empire State Building as I stood waiting for the bus to take me home.

A woman quickly approached me and broke my concentration. “Habla usted español?” she asked. “No, I am sorry” I said while shaking my head. I had taken one semester of Spanish during my senior year in college and only retained the phrase “vacaciones de primavera” (spring break!).

The woman stayed at my side and attempted to speak English, but I was unable to understand her. Somehow, I managed to communicate to her that she was at the bus stop and needed a quarter to ride.

Soon, a young girl stood next to me. The woman asked the girl if she spoke Spanish and within seconds the two were having a conversation. I began to walk away, but the girl called after me and asked if I knew where 4 River Road was on the island. I told her that I lived next to the address and offered to show the woman to the apartment. The girl conveyed the message, as the woman smiled and put her arm around me.

As quickly as the woman spoke, the girl translated. “She just moved here from the Dominican Republic,” the girl said. “This is her first day of work as a caretaker and she doesn’t want to be late. She says this is her only chance at having a good life.” As I began to assure the girl that I would take the woman to the correct address, I was interrupted. “She says that we are her guardian angels,” my interpreter stated.

When the bus arrived, the girl walked away and left the woman with me. She sat at the front of the bus with her hand firmly planted on the seat next to her. As I walked towards her she patted the seat, motioning for me to sit down.

The mile long ride took longer than usual. We tried to carry on the conversation from the bus stop, but it wasn’t working very well. When we arrived at 4 River Road, we exited the bus and I pointed to the building. Like old friends departing, she gave me a firm hug goodbye.

As I walked home, I noticed that the fog was even thicker than before. I began to think that the haze was not much different than our language barrier. Even though I couldn’t see the city, I had faith in its existence.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Day Dreamer

Ask any New Yorker with a television, and they will tell you exactly which Brooklyn wedding venue uses the slogan, “We make your dreams come true.”

I was stuffing the last chotzky from my desk drawer into a company tote bag when my cell phone began to ring. It was my last day at the office, and I was taking personal calls.

A woman with a smoker’s cough and a thick European accent gruffly said that she was from the Brooklyn venue and wanted to know if I could come in the following day to meet with the owner- Mr. M. The only thing that I had scheduled for the next day was to sign up for unemployment, so I figured a job interview should take precedent.

I had miscalculated the hour-long train ride into Brooklyn and began to run from the subway to the venue. It was two minutes until my scheduled 9:00 AM meeting and I had six blocks to go.

Out of breath, I arrived at the venue and was greeted by a man with a vacuum. Not saying a word, he led me into a large office space. The stain glass windows and mahogany walls sucked the youth from me instantly as I walked through the door. Four older women sat at their respectable desks, drinking coffee and gossiping in a loud whisper. It was just like Sex and the City. But except for Chanel, the women wore polyester stretch pants, “The World’s Best Grandmother” sweatshirts and spoke Ukrainian.

The woman closest to the door looked up and motioned for me to come to her. She handed me an application and told me to have a seat and wait. A half an hour later, Mr. M walked through the door. I had recognized him from his commercials. The four women stood up from their desks and said in unison, “Good morning, Mr. M.” Not saying a word, he went into his office and slammed the door.

Ten minutes later, Mr. M reappeared and motioned for me to come inside and sit down. I took a seat on the one chair that was not covered in papers and introduced myself. Speaking in a thick Ukrainian accent, he began to talk about the business and repeatedly referenced his lapel pin. I nodded along with a smile, concentrating on every word, but understood next to nothing.

When it was my time to speak, I told Mr. M that I was newly engaged. Thinking that a soon-to-be bride working with other soon-to-be brides would entice him, I had been clearly wrong. “Oh, no!” he said in broken English. “I will ruin your life. Now, you go call your father and ask him for money!” Confused, I assured Mr. M that I was capable of having both a job and a fiance, but he did not want to hear any more. Instead, he wanted to take me on a tour of the venue.

Before I could decline, he grabbed my hand and began to guide me through the three-story space. The rooms were carefully decorated in bright colors, with gold-plated molding and ornate cherubs clinging to every last inch of the ceiling.

So, this is what Tony & Tina’s wedding looks like, I thought.

Towards the end of the tour, Mr. M escorted me into an unfinished space. When we arrived, men on scaffolds were listening to light rock and painting the ceiling. Quickly they each greeted the owner and continued to paint. Arms crossed, Mr. M took a step back and looked up. He looked at me and then looked up again. “Young lady, do you see what I see?” Inside I was screaming, please just let me go home! But instead I said, “I see a beautiful ceiling.” “No!” he shouted. “That peach colored paint does not match the other peach colored paint!” I examined the two sections of ceiling and then looked over at Jerry Stiller’s twin. The painters and I tried our best to explain that one section had dried, and the other was still wet. But Mr. M was convinced otherwise.

In a huff, I was escorted to the front door. There Mr. M handed me the venue’s promotional brochure and told me to go home and rest.

Needless to say, my dreams didn’t come true that day. After all, I don’t keep them within gold-plated mahogany walls, but rather a much more carefully designed place- my heart.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's Not You. It's Me.

In most relationships, the woman remembers everything- the first date, the first kiss and most importantly- the anniversary. Not only does the man not remember the specifics, he also doesn’t see the need to be reminded of them. In this instance, I am the man. And The New York State Department of Labor is the woman.

I received a card in the mail this week reminding me of our three-month anniversary. “What have you been up to?” the enclosed questionnaire read in bold letters. “Well, waking up at noon, watching Unsolved Mysteries re-runs and baking copious amounts of cupcakes,” I said aloud while scanning the letter and hoping that it didn’t involve yet another trip to the unemployment office.

I had been summoned to the Downtown labor offices at 5:30 PM on New Years Eve. Sitting in a small, dimly lit room full of recently unemployed people wasn’t exactly how I had imagined ringing in the New Year. But, in fear of losing my benefits, I attended the “required course.”

A woman in her mid 70s stood at the front of the room. Roughly 100 pounds and dressed in a wool suit and large-brimmed hat, she appeared to be a little girl playing dress up. The feather in her hat swayed each time she peered over her thick, brown glasses. “Can anyone tell me what Craigslist is?” she asked slowly, not to confuse anyone. Everyone began to mumble his or her answer. “Raise your hand if you would like to respond,” she quickly scolded. This went on for 45 minutes as she went through crazy new websites such as Linkedin, Monster, CareerBuilder and (perhaps you have heard of it)- Google.

Desperate to not return to the labor offices, I promptly began to fill out the questionnaire. Listing a number of possible productive things that I could be doing with my time, it asked that I check off all that apply.

Sending out resumes- check!
Making business contacts- check!
Not losing focus and staying positive- eh, check!

I placed the completed anniversary letter in the mail today. As I walked home, I wanted nothing more than to break up.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Blog Is About You

I was in Williams- Sonoma, browsing over-priced meat tenderizers when my phone began to ring. It was a 212 number, so it had to be one of two things- either a job opportunity or a reminder for a doctor’s appointment that I had made months ago. I was hoping that it was the first one as I answered my phone.

The bubbly girl on the other end quickly introduced herself as Jennifer from a local PR firm. I had recently sent my resume to the agency and Jennifer asked if I could come in the next day for an interview. I was thrilled and agreed to the 5:30 PM time slot. It was after she mentioned for the fourth time that their offices were located in the “Penthouse Suite” that I made my best Charlotte York face and cheerfully said that I would see her the next evening.

I spent the night before the interview researching the firm with the best tool I know- Google. I quickly found the website, but thought it was odd that it hadn’t been updated since 2005. Their clients included Mariah Carey, Foxy Brown and Kim Cattrall so I thought, “How bad could this place be?”

I arrived at the office 10 minutes early to find the once enthusiastic Jennifer to be anything but. With her shirt buttoned lop-sided and confetti-like paper in her hair, it looked as if she was spending her nights nestled in shredder scraps while spooning toner in the supply closet.

After signing in, I had a seat next to a young man who appeared to be the missing band mate of Fall Out Boy. Not looking up from his Blackberry, I quickly began to scan the amethyst-themed office. Designer candles lit each corner of the space filling the room with a floral scent, as four plasma screen TVs blared CNN. An embroidered pillow sat on an overstuffed chair that read,
I was born free. Now I am expensive.

From behind a closed door, I heard an interview in progress. A voice sounding like Wanda Sykes on helium began to loudly discuss the recent Alli commercials featuring Wynonna Judd. “Well, it’s clearly not working, because that girl is still fat,” the woman boldly stated. I looked over at Pete Wentz’s stunt double with a crooked smile, but got no reaction.

Close to an hour after my scheduled time, Jennifer escorted me into “Wanda’s” lair. Perched behind a large glass desk, the owner sat cross-armed with a headset that looked to be sewn in as a part of her weave. I wanted to remind her that she wasn’t at Wendy’s, nor was she working the drive thru, but instead I outstretched my hand and introduced myself.

Not looking up from my resume, she began to ask a question but quickly became distracted by her computer. Typing with two fingers, she told me to “hold on” and proceeded to write nothing short of a novella. After what seemed to be an hour, she looked up and said, “So, you didn’t answer my question.” “You didn’t ask me a question,” I said in my sweetest voice. Annoyed, she pulled out a list of questions and stated that perhaps it would take more prying to get an answer from me.

“Do you have a spirit to serve?” she questioned. I had no idea how to answer this and politely asked her what she meant. “I mean, if you see a napkin on the floor- you pick it up!” She shouted at me. Before I could respond, the owner pushed back her chair, got up and screamed, “Jesus served, why can’t you?” A part of me wanted to ask, who is this Jesus that you speak of? Oh, is he the new pitcher for the Mets? But, instead I sat back and listened to her sermon.

At this point, I had mentally “checked out” of the interview. I answered a few more questions as quickly as possible wanting nothing more than to be on my way home. Then she announced, “My last and most important question is- regardless of who you voted for in this election, give me one word that best describes Obama’s campaign.” “Determination,” I quickly stated. “That’s it?” she snorted. I reminded her that she asked for one word, and one word is what I gave her. Getting up from her seat, she thanked me for my time and had Jennifer lead me to the front door.

Shocked from what had just transpired, I walked to the subway in a trance. I began to think about the immaculate office space and the sprite that dominated it. My thoughts immediately went to the embroidered pillow.

Sometimes, no matter how expensive you are- your talk is still cheap.