If only they were all this easy.
May 9, 2011 § 8 Comments
When I was sixteen years old, I marched into Michael’s Arts and Crafts after a particularly huge fight with my mom.
I don’t have to study, Mom! School’s so easy! I yelled at her, full of snot and annoyance.
Amanda, she began slowly. I knew better than to push her further when she spoke this slowly. It was the warning sign that my supposedly unfair life was about to become exponentially worse. I want you to take school seriously. You’ll be applying for college before you know it, and I want you to be able to have your choice of school.
I rolled my eyes. Even over a decade later, I am sure I rolled my eyes at her. That always set her off.
Fine. If you don’t want to study, then you have to do something else productive. I don’t want you wasting your time in front of the computer anymore. She wasn’t joking. I had a choice now: I could choose to cave in to my mother’s keen observations, or I could fight her and get a job.
So, there I was, marching into Michael’s Arts and Crafts, on my way to apply for what would end up becoming my first job.
“Hey…are y’all, uhm…hiring…?” I asked, feeling suddenly shy and depleted of my earlier piss and vinegar that motivated me to snatch the car keys from my mom’s purse and squeal out of the driveway.
“Yeah!” the girl behind the register said cheerfully. It was obvious that I was her only source of entertainment that morning. “And actually, the manager who does the hiring is here now. I’ll go get him. You fill this out.” She handed me a notepad of preprinted applications. I had never done one of these before, and I was nervous. Who do I list as a reference? I had no choice but to call my mom, even though I wanted to give her the silent treatment. She spoke to me as though I hadn’t erupted at her only moments ago. And advised I list a few of our longtime neighbors. I don’t think either of us thought that I would actually get this job.
The cashier returned with the manager who shook my hand, took my application from me, and invited me back to his office. It was then my heart started to race. I felt like I was in an audition. I hated auditions. I gave myself a mental pep talk as we worked our way through the store, through the warehouse in the back, to his messy and cramped office tucked away in a back corner. Something tiny and meek cried out a warning of “stranger danger” to me, but I ignored her childish fear. This was a grown-up, and I was a grown-up now too, doing grown-up things like getting a shitty hourly job.
He invited me to sit down in a tattered, brown vinyl and cloth chair. It creaked beneath my small frame–I was embarrassed and nervous by the unexpected noise. He read my application silently before turning to me with a big smile and asked me a series of questions. My answers were simple to most of them: I had never worked before, so I had absolutely no frame of reference. In spite of my lack of experience (or perhaps because of it), he said, “Amanda, I’d like to offer you the job of cashier. Now, you would be responsible for answering the PA when you hear your name called or a general call for cashiers. You’ll man a specific register until the crowd dissipates or you’re released for break. When you’re not on a register, you’ll handle small jobs throughout the store which can range from answering customer questions to unpacking boxes from warehouses to cleaning up messes in the aisles. Your starting wages will be $5 an hour.”
Of course, I accepted. That was more than my allowance had ever been. I suddenly had visions of Disc-Mans and nail polish. I would be rich!
I hated my job at Michael’s, but I stayed as long as I could without seeming like a total wimp. I was even promoted to head cashier (who mans the customer service register) about two months before I quit. My second job was as a kennel worker at our cats’ veterinarian hospital. I hated that job, too. It wasn’t all about walking and playing with dogs. It was all about poop. And blood. And being bitten. And noise. And wet dogs and cats. And horrible staff managers who had impossible land-speed dog-walking goals for her laborers. I rarely saw the veterinarian who hired me, the man I admired so much. I stayed there for about a year. My third job was at Galyan’s (now Dick’s in most places) as a sales associate in the men’s casual wear section. I folded clothes, sided with wives who wanted their husbands just to try the damn shorts on, and sucked ass at earning commission. I wasn’t as pushy as other associates. If a customer didn’t find the exact style he was looking for, I wouldn’t push a different style on him. I’d just let him walk out the door. My fourth and fifth jobs were at my undergraduate–as a Writing Center peer tutor and a member of our newspaper staff, respectively. I loved those jobs. My sixth job was as a graduate teaching assistant for the English department at my graduate school. I just gave that job up in favor of my secret seventh job: writing a dissertation.
All six of my paying jobs have one thing in common: I worked very little at actually getting the job. For Michael’s and the vet, I walked in and had an interview and job offer in the same trip. For Galyan’s, my granddaddy pulled strings and got me an interview (he worked in the hunting and fishing department). My composition teacher asked me specifically to apply for the position at the Writing Center. As an English major (who had many friends on staff), I was practically a shoo-in for the newspaper job. The GTA-ship essentially went along with the acceptance into graduate school. (Although I did have to practically beg for that in the very beginning…that was as much effort as I put into getting the job.)
But, although I was encouraged by my dissertation chair to apply for this job, her encouragement stops there–she has no say in whether or not I get the job I so badly want. I have taken the steps: I met the director ahead of time, and I submitted my application almost a month ago.
And now I have come to learn that the waiting is the worst part. I’ve never had to wait more than a day before.
This is an entirely different animal. I have stopped logging into the website obsessively. It’s been over a week now since she started reviewing the application materials. I know this because I received a phone call from a representative in HR on April 29th requesting me to resubmit my application materials. “We can’t get them to open, and the department you applied to can’t open them either.” I could only stammer that they were saved as PDFs and should be easily opened. “Well,” he said, “we were able to open everybody else’s applications, but yours was the only one that caused us trouble.” That doesn’t help me. What do I care if they were able to open everyone else’s but mine? I try not to obsess over the phrase “everybody else’s”…how many “everybody elses” are there? It’s a useless question to ask and only causes me gastric discomfort.
No, they can’t all be as easy as walking in on a Saturday morning and walking out with a job.
Would it even be worth it if it were?