This post has been illustrated by the ridiculously talented David Hovey. He’s also much funnier than me, a better writer, and taller. He is my natural nemesis; the strapping Bruce Willis to my less strapping Samuel L. Jackson.
(David Hovey did not illustrate these google images.)
I don’t think I’m very good at being employed. That could be because I haven’t been it–employed–all that often, but it just seems like maybe employment isn’t for me.
I was so good at being a “student”; going to class, spending way too much time editing papers, making pretentious comments from the middle section of the classroom–freshly pressed do-gooders sit in the front, meticulously disheveled hipsters sit in the back, and I am neither a good nor trendy person.
I am truly excellent at napping and getting worked up about pointless academic topics in small groups, but actually being responsible for tasks in a work environment makes my palms slicker than Slimer of Ghosbusters.
I also, much like Slimer, would rush at Bill Murray in a teeth-bearing scream if I ever met him. Fear leads to respect, and respect leads to love.
However, for some reason I recently lucked out and got a job! It’s not a permanent job, but it’ll keep me busy for a bit and make me some moneys so that I can keep buying the $1 bags of Sugar Babies from the sketchy deli below my apartment.
Yesterday I woke up super early, too excited/nervous/sweaty to sleep any longer, for my first day of job training! The night before I had laid out my outfit, placed a microwavable Quaker oatmeal packet out on the kitchen counter so that I could save those two critical seconds it takes me to grab it in the morning, and used my remaining nervous energy to clean my entire bathroom.
On the train there, I notice two girls who no doubt used to sit in the back of the classroom in college–long shiny hair, super tight pants in playground colors, thick belts cinched over flowing floral tops–and figure they’re headed to the same place I’m headed. To top it off, they have adorned themselves with the ultimate accessory: the male BFG (i.e. The Buff ‘n Funny Gay).
We all get off at the same stop, where the Burberries/BFG immediately light up cigarettes, whip out their phones, and proceed to text, smoke, and walk. I stay a good fifteen feet behind them They get wolf-whistled by all the construction workers we pass. “Disrespectful,” I think, and then when the construction workers promptly go back to their work as I walk by, I am highly offended.
I eventually lose sight of the Burberries/BFG. Despite checking train schedules and trying to diligently manage my time, I have still arrived forty-five minutes early. I sit outside the office where I am supposed to sign in and wait. I read The Help and tell myself that I am not allowed to cry before 10AM. After the office opens and I’ve signed in, other people start to arrive, and everyone seems to know everyone else. The air is thick with “Hey, guuuurl!”
It takes over an hour for everyone to arrive and get signed in. I’ve been there for a couple of hours now, and I am, of course, hungry. Just as I unwrap my granola bar and stick half of it in my mouth (cause what good’s a granola bar if you can’t eat it in two bites or less?), our manager stand up and tells everyone to circle up. Everyone quiets down as she looks around, smiles.
I smile back, swallow my huge mouthful of granola, and start choking violently. I spit a mouthful of chewed granola into my palm and just hack, fighting to take an in-breath. “Keely, are you ok?” my manager asks with genuine concern, as I nod and wave in an attempt to tell her “Yes, proceed,” through the hack, hack, hacking as the tears my eyes are streaming.
(Really, David Hovey? That’s what I look like to you?)
I regain composure, immediately look down at the chewed granola in my hand, and in a panic, pop it right back into my mouth and start to re-chew. When I look up, everyone is looking at me–moments before it might have been with concern, but now it is with disgust.
“Sorry.” I say through the wad of granola, wiping the tears of exertion from my eyes. I check my phone to make sure I have not cried before 10AM. It is 10:11AM.
After an introductory speech, we’re shown a place to stow our bags and given a 5-minute restroom break. I hear my mom’s voice in my head, like I often do when making decisions. It says, “Baby, you’re here, you might as well try to pee.” I sigh, send her a telepathic “GAHD, MOM!” and pick the last stall.
I have to push the lock a little harder than I usually do to get it to move, which is weird, but we all know that excess estrogen makes locks stick–and women’s restrooms are hotspots for feminenergy (the estrogen-based energy that is formed and released into the atmosphere of a room whenever women share secrets).
But when I try to open the lock, it won’t budge. I use both my hands to try and move it. Stuck. I begin to panic. I don’t have my cell phone to text my mom–not to ask for help, just to let her know that no, I should not always try to go. If I don’t have to go, I don’t have to go, and now I’m going to die in this bathroom stall because of her. I try to begin pacing, but I’m in a tiny bathroom stall.
What feels like ten minutes but is probably only about two, passes, and I stop fidgeting with the lock. Instead of calling out for someone to help, because I’m already the fatty who couldn’t wait until lunchtime to shove that whole granola bar down her esophagus, I decide to throw myself against the door. I do so once, nothing. I fidget with the lock again, step back, and shove my shoulder into the door. I fly out of the stall and straight into the door of the stall across from me. My shoulder hits the opposite stall door with a thud and the girl inside yells, “WOAH, OCCUPIED!” I hope she doesn’t make a mental note of my shoes.
Next, we get fitted for uniforms, and who should be fitting us but the almost-forgotten BFG! He is friendly and tan and totally ripped in his fitted t-shirt, and all I want to do is be his best friend. He explains that we’ll have to share a dressing room to try on the uniforms.
Three other girls and I are the first to be fitted. BFG pulls out a t-shirt and another strip of cloth. Well, it’s a little Sabrina the Teenage Witch circa 1997 to put us in cloth headbands I think to myself, but at least I won’t have to worry about what to do with my hair. He looks at me and smiles, “Do you have a skirt already?” he asks, holding up the headband. I gawk and take the hanger, holding it up to my waist. It covers about as much of me as a TV censor bar.
I think of Sabrina Spellman, naked and weeping. Then I irrationally think of Clarissa from Clarissa Explains It All, standing next to her holding a knife.
BFG ushers me and one of the other girls to the dressing room, then smiles at the other girl, who makes a goofy face at him, like they know each other. Then it hits me. She is one of the Burberries from the train ride. She doesn’t have her floral top on anymore, so I didn’t recognize her. BFG swishes the dressing room curtain closed. Burberry looks up at me, holding the skirt, her face a mirrored image of my own horror. She looks at me. I look at her. We burst out laughing.
“Are they serious?” she cackles.
“I know, I thought it was a headband,” I cackle back.
“I would be so fine with a headband, even if that is a little Party of Five.”
Oh my stars, I have found a friend! And my friend is one of the Burberries?! As we laugh, I think to myself that I shouldn’t be so judgmental. So Burberry is a major hottie who looks cooler than Rizzo with a cigarette in her hand. So construction workers wanna do her. So she has an accessory that gets her a free pass into any gay club in the city while I’m at home reading Roald Dahl. Burberry just made a snarky nineties reference, and a better one than Sabrina. This chick is obviously cool, and I’m the tool for pigeonholing her. I decide that together, we will take bathroom breaks, and fill the air with camaraderie and femininergy!
“I mean, I’m a dancer, I’ve had to wear some crazy shit, and this is skimpy to me,” she says, and casually whips off her shirt, revealing a perfectly chiseled six-pack.