I used to be a waitress… I loved that job. I poured every inch of my awkward, accident prone, “need to please” self into that job. I learned to plow through crowds of people with trays lifted, hips shaking. I got passed my insecurities and smiled through the specials with a shirt covered in ketchup, beer or mayonnaise. I had a drink every night after my shift and was immediately transported to another bar for more drinks and endless laughs! I fed off the anticipation of a full house and easy money… the people were a healthy mix of nutbag and earnest.
But waiting tables wasn’t where I thought i wanted to be in the end. And it became pretty clear to me that people gave you the best tips if they thought you were not only struggling, but if you made them believe you were struggling to be more like them. I played the “I’m going back to school” card so frequently that after a couple of years, regulars were wondering why I hadn’t graduated and “done something” with my life.
So I took the plunge. I fixed my resume by sprinkling in every office job I’d had, quit my job at the local bistro, lived off my tax money and waited.
I’ve been at this job for a year now. I’m technically the receptionist, but they allow me to call myself a Legal Assistant. I got the job in the winter. My interview lasted all of ten minutes so I was sure they had already hired someone else. I was so sure, in fact, that when I got the call, I answered it on the toilet in the restaurant next door. For whatever reason- mid stream I exuberantly accepted and started the following Monday.
Being an office aid/legal assistant was so out of the realm of places I wanted to be in life that for the first few months I modelled my behavior after characters like, Melanie Griffith in Working Girl. I was one pencil skirt short of answering the phone with a wad of chewing gum and a thick Staten Island accent. So out of my comfort zone was I, that I had to rehearse ways to answer the phone and warm up outside the conference room door before interrupting meetings. But it felt good to call myself something other than a server. Those days were behind me. I was (pause) an Assistant of the LAW.
I stuck it out through the spring and hit me after the $1000 Christmas bonus, annual raise, paid time off, full medical coverage, weekly-steady pay… that I might have, for the first time in my life, landed smack dab in the middle of adulthood- or as I would later find out- a state of functional psychosis.
I’ve taken all the appropriate steps and might just be on my way to a raise again this year. For someone without much of a plan, I’ve managed to rack up quite a laundry list of shit to accomplish in order to feel like a “real boy.” I am still (11 years later) paying off student loans that I don’t have a degree for. I have two sons, who need an exorbitant amount of “stuff” in order to survive. I recently bought a shiny SUV and have sacrificed both living space and dignity to stay one more year in my matchbox apartment to save for a house. For those of you wondering.. This is what “winning” looks like-and I don’t mean the Madeline Albright. I mean the Charlie Sheen winning= the desperately loosened tie, the bugged out eyes, the creepy smile and quivering upper lip when I say everything’s fine-that kind of winning.
What’s happened is that time and obligation have scratched away at the newness of this job and I’ve come to realize that just beneath the faux finish lies a really tacky mustard yellow. The daily grind alone is suffocating. I’ve had to stop acting like this was my job and start working and I’m finding it’s a lot harder than I thought. First of all, the people suck. They’re old and rich and rude and think people like me work jobs like this because I like it…maybe they think this is all I can do. Some days I feel like I might have an anxiety attack from just watching the clock tick. I’ve actually started petitioning my friends to inflict pain on themselves in order to lessen our time spent slaving to the man. I’ve devised that, on Fridays, we go to the bathroom (or a secluded part of the office) lightly suffocate ourselves-only to the point of passing out. (stay with me) When coworkers (bonus points for bosses) rush to our aid, we tell them we “get so anxious on Friday because it’s almost the weekend that we just pass out.” My hope is that we will all do this repeatedly every Friday until it catches the attention of local, (eventually) nationwide news! (eh…eh…?) They’ll call it an epidemic or something and maybe we can swindle an extra day out of our weekend.
To be honest, most days I spend the mornings sucking down coffee and the majority of the afternoon shitting it out. My in between moments are spent determining if one piece of paper looks like another, making small talk, and daydreaming about what the people in the building across from us do.
(sigh) But I show up everyday and against my better judgement, keep asking them to give it to me harder with less and less lube.. so I think they respect me. If I’m lucky, I’ll make it long enough to pay off some loans by keeping my head down, perking up only if someone asks me a direct question and otherwise adhering to a strict smile and nod policy. In the meantime, I will be using this blog to help document some of my thoughts and stories so that in the event I never leave this rat race, people know I once had a pulse…