Another good week. Not as exhilarating without Vincent, but the affirmation of his presence stayed with me a long time. On Monday I stayed in bed with his arms around me, not willing to break the embrace and go to work. The night before we’d talked of him coming to meet me in Brooklyn for my 30-minute break before he left for the airport at 4:00pm. Instead, when I finally got up and got ready for work around 9:30 (2 hours later than normal) he came with me, which was perfect because that way we got two more hours together. And I could share my commute with him. Taking him with me in memory in the days to come.
I pointed out the memories and things I’ve noticed in Brooklyn. For instance, there’s a place you can buy live poultry! I took him in by the mall entrance and showed him where he could get breakfast, and the Captain America statue in the lobby. I even took him up the elevator to show him the wide empty hallways and loft offices where I’ve been doing my phone interviews. He wanted to peek into my actual office, but there’s so much issues on confidentiality that I didn’t think that would fly. Finally, we parted, and that shared adventure was done. Until next time.
A few hours later the Almost Elf cursed me again (that’s what I’m naming the continuing bad luck of jobs and opportunities that “almost” happen), and the intentional interview people asked to push the interview back a week. Of course, I gracefully acquiesced, but in my heart, I had been thinking that since my job was ending Tuesday, the interview would potentially lead to a real job just in time. No such luck.
But then, I came in on Tuesday to news that we had seven to ten more business days of work to do on the contract review suddenly. So, the universe provides. Just to be certain, I sent out the calls to all my staffing agencies, telling them the job would be ending soon, and to keep me in mind, which I have now done three times. One asked if I’d be interested in a temp to perm position paying $19 an hour. That’s what I’m making now. It’s helping me limp along, but no way could I live on that permanently, so I had to say no.
On Wednesday I received an email from someone called Jerome thanking me for applying and inviting me for an interview. I soon realized it was the same job as last week, in Flushing, Queens, that I had blown off. This time, however, the company was named, the position “Benefits Coordinator” was named, all the information they hadn’t given me before was provided so I could do research. The email was much more professional as well. So, I decided I’d go ahead with the adventure, keeping in mind it could be a scam, just to have the experience. I wrote Jerome back and asked specifically if it was a sales position and their answer was “there are sales positions, but we are interviewing for all kinds of positions to find out what you are best suited for.” Okay.
Thursday, I shared with Efrain that the days after Wednesday always felt like they held less opportunities. Like most good invitations come before Wednesday, and then peter out at the end of the week. Not an hour after I said that I got an invitation for a phone interview next Monday at Teacher’s College as Administrative Coordinator of the Writing Center. I looked up the original ad I’d applied for, and they wanted someone with a PhD or working on a PhD, so perfect. And, it’s part of Columbia University so the commute would be reasonable. And, it’s very closely aligned to my current resume. It won’t lead to an 85K job, but, there could be room for growth.
On Friday the intentional job finally scheduled my in-person interview for Wednesday morning. Now I have two interviews next week that could reasonably lead to something. Yay! I was seriously considering blowing off the fishy interview again, but Jerome called me to confirm that I was coming, so I decided to keep experiencing what was offered. I told Efrain, if it’s coming around twice, maybe I should check it out. So, I did.
On Saturday I pushed myself out of bed and got dressed in my suit. Nylons, everything, the whole shebang. It was rainy, and cold, so I wore my raincoat (I have this classy long black hooded raincoat I bought at a thrift store two weight loss surgeries ago, and I love the way it flows on me. I couldn’t wear it for years because I got too big, but I did loan it to a student for his drag show competition which he won, I believe), I couldn’t find my umbrella, and decided the coat would do. A mistake.
It took three bus rides to get to this office. I had to pay close attention to my google maps app and watch each stop to get off at the right place, wiping condensation from the window to see. After the second bus I realized that some of the stops were backtracking. Google was telling me to get off three stops after a stop that could have transferred just as well as the one they chose. Weird. The first stop I stood in the rain and cold for about 15 minutes waiting for the next bus. The second stop I stood again for about 25 minutes, now really getting chilled. The last stop a few other people got off with me and we sort of followed each other to the same place. I remember when I crossed the street to the building destination, I had to walk around a puddle of water in the crosswalk. I’ll come back to that later.
The email from the week before had assured its recipients that although they would see many people there, the interviews were one-on-one. Well, they weren’t lying. The waiting room was full of people, about 14, all dressed in different interpretations of “business attire” which we’d been asked to wear. Although the interviewers themselves were in jeans. I had been told I was meeting Sabrina, and she came out and took three people before inviting me into her office. I also noticed that out of all the people going in, only one came out. In my turn Sabrina asked me what I wanted in a job? Growth, I said. She assured me there’d be growth. I told her I’d had a two-hour commute and three busses, to get there, but that the first woman I’d talked to said the job would be located in Manhattan in two months. She didn’t blink at that, but it turned out to be a lie. She told me there were three levels to the hiring process, the current interview, a second interview and then a final interview with an executive – all taking place in 48 hours. She invited me to stay for a presentation and then I could decide if I was interested. What the hell. I had already sort of decided to try to make it to Brooklyn after the interview as they were offering overtime. I figured if I could make it there by 2:00pm (I arrived at Flushing at 11:00am), I could make some needed monies. But in the spirit of why not, I agreed to stay. It was 11:30, one hour after all, I could still make it Brooklyn by 2:30.
She escorted me into a room at the end of the hall and sat me in the back of a room full of long tables with two to three people sitting at each, a lot of Halloween decorations, and two screens with a PowerPoint presentation on them. I was given a personality test to fill out, and then the first man started talking. He started with a “Good morning.” And when the response wasn’t enthusiastic enough he did it again “Good Morning!” We all dutifully raised our volume. He then explained that he was interviewing us by our responses to his talk. Our body language, posture, etc. So, we should be aware. Ah. This was the second interview Sabrina mentioned. He spoke very quickly and explained that this wasn’t sales, no advertising, what the product was (supplemental insurance for working class families – if a breadwinner dies, what’s there for the families to live on, etc.). Honestly, the product itself didn’t sound too bad. Then he hit us with “how many of you in this room would buy this product?” We all raised our hands. Then, “How many do you think buy it in a room full of 10?” We all offered answers, but the answer turned out to be 42%.
I kept looking at my watch during this, hoping it would be over in an hour, so I could go to work. At the same time, I was forcing myself to keep an open mind. I might be particularly gullible, but there were moments when I found myself thinking, “I could do this” and “career change” and “why not?”
The speaker had promised to wrap up in an hour and we could ask questions afterward, but he suddenly introduced a second speaker to the platform and left. The second speaker was an older man with a heavy Egyptian accent who kept making jokes. He told us how he’d arrived at the job, and his life story (a medical doctor form Egypt, comes to New York, works in a fancy Italian restaurant, makes it to manager, then finds himself where we are sitting now, and can’t believe it.) He then proceeds to tell us about the incredible residuals, and the management structure of the place, and how we can retire, should we be lucky enough to get the job, in 10 years and live off the residuals $70,000 or more a year!
Finally, he wound down around 1:00pm. We were asked if we thought we could do this job, and at the very end explained that it required licensure at $250 cash ($275 credit card), which we could do anywhere, but they offered it in their office. Then a week of training, and then we’d be out their working under a trainer and making money. I went ahead and filled out the interest form and left. But I was skeptical.
It was now a little after 1:00pm, and I was debating going to Brooklyn. Google was telling me to take the Q28 to the train and said I could get there in an hour and a half or two hours. I debated if three hours of work would be worth it. While debating I made it to the corner outside the building where that puddle I mentioned earlier was. Now it was a flood, at least a foot deep and covering the entire end of the street. I and others threaded through the traffic stopped at the light, because there was no way to cross at the crosswalk.
I located the bus stop but as I approached I noticed firemen were helping people out of a car and into a boat, to get them to dry(er) land. Right there, at the bus stop. The whole area was flooded. The cold rain was still coming down. Traffic was getting redirected. It was a mess. A white-haired man was standing forlornly in the middle of the road, 20 feet behind him a car was marooned on the meridian, tires blown. I asked him if he was okay. He said yes. I asked him if that was his car. He said, yes, it had just lost control. I remembered that I had seen him talking to police next to the wrecked car on my way in two hours before, so the loss of control of his car couldn’t have been the rain. I suppose he was waiting for a ride from someone who would have great difficulty getting to him. All the roads around were flooded.
At this point I decided to go home. I didn’t know how to get to a train from where I was at, and Google wasn’t helping. I started back to the bus I’d come on, to retrace my route. The stop was without shelter, and the rain and wind were strong and cold. A woman who’d sat near me at the interview was there too. I’d noticed her when she got off the bus. Her business attire consisted of a pastel suit, cut like a man’s. I asked her what she thought about the whole thing as we waited for the bus to arrive. She told me she’d been doing marketing for years, selling phones, and it was the same thing. We started comparing notes and she said, “I don’t even remember applying for this job.” Well, neither did I. We also started comparing the lies of omission. They said it was not sales, but the salary was based on a commission of signing up four people a week into the program, which they kept assuring us was ridiculously easy. Then the whole hard sell of their pitch. How they wouldn’t tell us what it was about before we arrived. To her it was all familiar. They had kept insisting some of us would get the job, but we agreed probably all of us would. Part of the pitch was that they were opening three new offices, and that’s why they needed so many people, and meeting on a Saturday was unusual. Well, I knew they’d met the week before. And out of the new offices the mentioned, none were in Manhattan. Finally, it all came down to spending $250 cash ($275 if on a credit card) and being out of paid work for two weeks during the licensing and orientation period. Not to mention the commute.
We waited there in the cold and the rain for 45 minutes. The traffic was barely moving. When the bus finally arrived at 1:50pm, I was determined to go home and take a hot bath. Once again, I had to take three buses, but at least the waits in between weren’t so bad.
Arriving home at 3:45, I did, indeed, take my first bath in the apartment. I am not one for baths, preferring showers, but Vincent loves them, so I had stocked up on bubbles and bath bombs. He’d planted the notion that I would want one on a day I felt especially cold, and this was that day. I never take baths in standard tubs because, well, boobs float and they’re always raising out of the hot water, or my knees, are bent, leaving parts of me warm, and parts of me chilled. But this old-fashioned bath in my apartment is a full five feet long and 18 inches deep. The faucet is on the side, so I can stretch out, fully immersed, in the hot water with my cat looking on curiously.
After the bath I felt the need to accomplish things. I picked up my medication, got a flu shot, got a hair cut at the little place on my street. That was an adventure. I’ve mentioned already that the neighborhood is Hispanic. Vincent and Anthony had both gotten their hair cut at this place, and I’d been considering it. If you recall from previous posts, I had a great haircut done at a Great Clips I found on the upper east side, but when I tried to find the place again it was not listed, and I presume it closed. My last haircut was at a Great Clips in Kalamazoo that I usually frequent. When I told the woman how I wanted it, to replicate the nice cut in NY, she took out shears and just shaved my head. It was terrible, although several people did compliment my haircut. Now grown bushy, I wanted to look good for the Wednesday interview and I decided to take my chances at the place on the corner.
It’s a big open area with one side devoted to men and the other to women. I walked in hesitantly and made my way to the woman’s side. A woman about my age greeted me with “Hola!” and I responded with “Hola!” Then she looked to a man, who seemed to be the head barber. He came over and asked what I wanted. For a second, I almost thought he meant what was I doing in their shop? But I said I wanted a trim, and he translated to the woman. She spoke no English at all. She did do a terrific job, however. Never the shears, all scissors, taking her time. At one point she left me, and I could see her cross over to the men’s side, looking through the drawers. She came back with a tiny white package and took out a single razor blade which she used to trim the nape of my neck. The whole time I was reminiscing about my grandfather who had a barber shop with twenty barbers under his employ at one time, or so I heard on my recent trip to Bradford. I imagine it would have felt a little like this place. I also imagined that this is exactly what it would be like getting a haircut, or other mundane task, if I lived in a foreign country. The navigation is the same.
Later that night I got a call from Sabrina asking what I had thought about the presentation. I knew this was where she’d make me a job offer, but I explained the commute was just too much. She mentioned they had a Bronx office, and maybe the training could be done there, but she didn’t know. I left it at that, letting her know I was interested, but couldn’t do it right now. I really hope it ends there. If not, I don’t have a problem stringing them along and wasting their time, like they did mine.
Last Wednesday at the contract review job some of the old faces from the Manhattan office showed up. I was curious about what they’d been doing in the four weeks I’d been in Brooklyn. I didn’t get a chance to ask until Friday night when I saw Ann at the subway going home. Out of all the people I’ve been working with and surreptitiously getting to know, I’d had a conversation or two with Ann. She’s a bit different from most of the others in that she’s older, though not as old as me, I think. She’s very outgoing, with a loud voice, and she asks lots of questions. She dresses like a tomboy and has long, athletic legs. She also works in the mornings at Trader Joe’s. My usual opening salvo in conversation is “so are you waiting for your bar results too?” I couldn’t remember her answer from two months ago. But out of the returning people that showed up on Wednesday, she was the only one I’d ever spoken to, and I was glad to see her out of the office, so I could ask a few questions.
She was sitting on the bench on the platform, and I approached and said Hi. She seemed a little distressed, and after a moment I noticed her knees were skinned and bleeding. “What happened?” I asked. She’d fallen on her way from work, straight on to her bare knees. I reached into my faithful purse and gave her a tube of Neosporin. I have one of those bags that carries everything. She thanked me and began applying the medicine.
I asked what she’d been doing since September, which was what I really wanted to know. I had wondered if some were working in a different office, although it seemed unlikely. No, she’d suddenly got a call to come in on Tuesday and there she was. She said she liked the Brooklyn office because the big space resulted in white noise that drowned out the distracting conversations at the other place. I thought that odd, because she’d been one of the biggest talkers who annoyed me at the other place. She asked me what I’d been doing, and I had to confess I’d only been without work one week. I could tell she wondered about that. It also seems that we’re all tasked with different parts of the job now, instead of doing the same thing. My impression is the original five of us are the best at capturing the more intricate information. The conversation was a little awkward, so after a moment I told her I needed to walk to the other end of the platform to make my transfer easier, and I said goodbye. I also wanted to read my book on the train and not have to share my attention. I went to my normal spot, but after a minute or two she showed up and sat next to me on the train. We kept talking, and I asked her a lot of questions. I am curious about her.
So, here’s the thing. On some levels we are parallel. I don’t know if she has a family, I was trying to ask questions without prying too personally. What brings you to NY? Where are you living? What kind of work are you looking for? She too had just packed it in and decided to move to New York City about four or five months ago. She wanted to get into finance and has a master’s in business administration. She’d had some bad experience that morning at Trader Joe’s with the management, but I couldn’t quite follow her story because she’d start talking in the middle of a thought, sometimes. I ended up talking about my own adventure.
The curious thing came up when I asked her why New York? She’s from Minnesota, had never been here before, and I got the feeling she wasn’t loving it. She was staying with friends and was trying to work enough hours at Trader Joe’s to get health insurance. That’s a lot of pressure. I told her it was my third time in New York and I loved it. Why? She asked me, truly curious. Almost incredulous. The energy, the diversity, the stimulation, the stories, I answered. The list goes on, but I found it hard to state something she could relate to. I tried to explain how NYC in terms of diversity is where the nation will be in 10 years, and how wonderful is that? She looked puzzled by the concept. I wanted to pull out my book. Finally, she got off, revealing she was attending a masquerade at the library on 42nd street. I admired her for getting out and doing things.
Once she left I mused on the difference of someone making this life change without the excitement that I feel. When I asked her why she’d come to this city that she’d never lived in before, she’d answered “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” Hmm. That saying has come to mean so many different things to me over the years and chapters. I am curious as to her age, I told her mine, hoping she’d volunteer hers, but no such luck. In the end, I looked inside and found that I am still happy, and still certain this is right. For me. Not for everyone. I think a lot of happiness comes from living in the moment. New York helps me do that, and thus I feel alive in a way I didn’t before. Before I felt I was existing while dying. Now I feel truly living, treasuring every moment.