I hate looking for work. I don’t much care for actually working either but looking for work is basically a full time job with twice the stress and none of the paycheck. When I worked at Target, at least I had some cash, pitiable non living wage cash, coming in. Now, because I’m following my dreams or whatever, I have a one bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, an out of work roommate, and a stress hernia building in my stomach.
Of course, things are never as grim as I paint them. For one thing, I have an apartment in L.A! Not the Valley or some podunk little suburb. I have an apartment in Hollywood. I can see Capitol Records from my living room. I get to pass the Walk of Fame and see the Hollywood sign every day on the way back from the library. I go to the library because an internet connection is for people who make money.
My apartment is especially nice now that our gas and hot water are running. Hot showers are probably the peak of human ingenuity. My neighbors are also shockingly nice and welcoming. The couple next door makes props and costumes for monster movies and they gave me tacos. If I ever run for political office, don’t vote for me because I will sell this entire country to Mexico if they offer me guacamole. The lady downstairs is a Script Supervisor who hasn’t given me any food yet but she is sending my name out to her contacts to try and get me a job. I would probably sell out the country for a steady gig in television too, if any of you are interested.
Unfortunately, no political or propaganda positions seem to be open so I’ve had to rely on retail and food service. So far I’m not good enough for any of that or maybe they just have really good cashiers at Target and don’t need my exceptional beauty distracting costumers. The worst part about job hunting is that it lasts forever and I am impatient. I’ve only been out here for two weeks and I’m sick of applications and resumes and promising over and over again that I don’t have a felony record. Job hunting is all or nothing, you either get the position or you don’t. Except one time I did get fried chicken.
The fried chicken place, which shall remain nameless in case they actually call me back, is the only place hiring on Hollywood boulevard. I found it on one of my pound the pavement days. Pounding the pavement is the employment equivalent of Russian roulette except you want to get shot because the bullet lets you pay rent on time. Basically you print of a bunch of resumes and give them to any business that will take them. According to legend, sometimes these places will call you back and actually give you a job. If nothing else, it is something to tell your parents so they don’t worry about you.
I walked into the fried chicken place because they had a big sign out front that said; “Now Hiring”. It was one of those places with workers behind a counter but the interior is pretty nice so that you don’t feel like you’ll catch something by sitting down. When we were looking for an apartment out here in July, we ate at a McDonald’s on Hollywood Boulevard and the restroom haunts my anxiety dreams. I waited in line to ask the young woman, Dani (Names have been changed in case they call me back) whether they had an application to fill out.
Sometimes I wonder if employers actually read applications or if they’re just testing to see how small I can write. Moments where I have to write with a pen or pencil, particularly on important documents requiring more than my signature, always worry be as my handwriting has been compared to a ransom note and “drunken, terrorist goat.” It’s improved since that particular incarnation but it takes a fair amount of concentration.
After taking about twice as long as any normal person to fill out the application, I handed it to Dani with my resume and thanked her for her time.
“Don’t you want to speak to our manager?” she asked.
“If that’s possible,” I said.
“Do you know where Danny is?” she asked a co-worker who shook her head.
“Aren’t you Dani?” I mumbled. Mumbling is really useful for when you say stupid things because people just pretend you didn’t speak.
She turned and went to look for him and I sat down and watched two other women put pieces of chicken into boxes. Chicken, unlike hamburgers or burritos, always come in a boxes. The other ones are just wrapped in paper. Chicken is serious business. I said as much to Danny.
Jobs like this are weird. Everybody, whatever business you’re in, has had a day job. Everyone has had something to pay the bills while they get a degree or try and break into the movie business. Yet in every job interview, I feel compelled to pretend that folding clothes for eight bucks an hour is my dearest life goal. Even with my unsurpassed skill at making up random barely plausible that’s somehow believed, I didn’t feel that I could lie to Danny. Not because I’d suddenly had a moral epiphany but because food service is terrible. You make food you can’t eat for rude people and minimum wage, less than minimum wage if you’re working as a waitress.
So rather that spin fiction worse than Twilight, I told Danny about how much I enjoyed having a job. This is partially true. I really enjoy having a paycheck. Having a job is a necessary evil. Still, there’s a certain satisfaction in finishing a job, in doing work that you can be proud of and generally being the best you can be.
Danny asked if I liked the food. I said I liked fried chicken but admitted that I hadn’t eaten at that particular establishment due to being broke as a joke.
Then Danny said the most beautiful words any one has ever said to me in a job interview, “Would you like to try something?”
I was suspicious. “I’m not really eating out lately.”
Then Danny said the most beautiful words a person can say to another human being, “It’s free.”
Since moving to L.A and trying to pay most of my own way, I have reached a level of frugality that I had not thought possible. I have given up buying soda, booze, chips and the internet. I sit in the dark and walk everywhere. That morning I had had a cup of tea and bowl of cereal.
I agreed to eat the chicken.
Danny left and returned with two pieces of chicken, a wing and a drumstick, a biscuit and a bowl of mashed potatoes. He said it was the most common order. I said thank you. Always thank the people who bring you food and the people who drive you places.
The chicken was sublime in the way only free food can be. It was also about a hundred degrees. I don’t understand how anything but ice cream parlors and bars stay open in southern California. By the time I started in on the biscuit, I was parched and had to ask Dani for a glass of water. I loathe asking for things from people behind the counter. They always have better things to do. At this point the lunch rush had begun so I was distracting them from paying customers in addition to not paying for my own food. But people who vomit at interviews due to dehydration are not called back so I persevered. I got my water and settled in to watch the crowd.
As I ate my free food, I watched a Japanese family, a French family and group of young men who wondered if they could get a discount for being from the state in the restaurant title, order their food. I’d never realized how many chicken places are tied to geography. Is there really much of a difference in the chicken frying techniques of Kentucky and Louisiana? Would a chicken connoisseur be able to tell the difference? Would it be covered in orientation?
After I finished my meal and my water, Danny had disappeared behind the counter to help with the lunch rush. I watched them for a while but to the untrained eye it did not appear very complicated. Doubtless, I will have intricate secret knowledge if they end up hiring me. I was at a loss. I did not want to leave without saying anything but neither did I want to sit awkwardly in a chicken restaurant with no chicken in front of me. I’d already distracted Dani once with my need for water; I didn’t want to bother her with a long line of people waiting for their food.
I sat there for fifteen minutes before I got in line and handed my resume and application back to Danny. I said thank you. He said he would call me in the next couple of weeks if I got the job. I left.
Danny hasn’t called me. Job hunting is a lot like dating except that it matters. You make many attempts before finding someone that will have you, let alone someone you actually want to be with. Unfortunately, I can’t assuage my bank account with chocolate and vibrators. I hope Danny returns my unrequited employment but, if not, we’ll always have free chicken.