whenever i think about getting a real job - one that doesn't involve an ability to hunt and peck on a keyboard and a talent for being an opinionated smart ass in print - i break out in a cold sweat. i have gone on too many job interviews in my lifetime where i was told i was either over or under qualified.
whoever hired me to sell encyclopedias door to door when i was twenty-one didn't seem to care whether i was qualified at all - over or under. he just dropped me off somewhere on staten island and told me he would be back six hours later. "what should i do"? i asked. he looked at me with pity, "sell encyclopedias kid - that's why i hired you". after having three doors slammed in my face, i made my way home via ferry, subway, bus and cab vowing never to sell anything door to door and never to set foot on staten island again. i have kept both vows.
i have had so many jobs since that it is hard to remember them all. i do, still have nightmares about typing tests (on manual typewriters) that seemed to go on forever. with sweat dripping down my face, in an effort to get the correct keys pressed down, i never once passed a typing test, but i kept on trying. just like alberto gonzales and condi rice and all the other good government employees (think scooter libbey) i lied to get my jobs and i am sure on occasion i lied to keep a job, though truth be told, there were not that many jobs back then i wanted to keep. when i was young i worked hard, because i wanted to eat, not because there was any corporate ladder i was eager to climb.
i remember one job in particular that i hated so much i only lasted until lunchtime on the first day. it was working for one man, in times square, writing classified ads. i took the job, somehow convincing myself that this could have been how hemingway started. if that were true, then i understood both his drinking and his suicide. at any rate, after three and a half hours, locked in a smoke filled room with this really creepy man, i went out for lunch and never came back. the husband was appalled. "you must call him and quit. he probably thinks you were hit by a bus and are lying dead in a gutter somewhere". i didn't care. i was not going back. i even took the phone off the hook for a week just in case he tried to call me. this was in the days before answering machines when screening calls was not a possibility. my mother was furious. not being able to reach me for a week and also thinking i was lying dead in a gutter somewhere (it seemed to have been a theme in my life at that time) she was forced to come to my apartment and climb 5 flights of stairs, in order to see for herself, that i was indeed alive.
the thing about jobs - what people do and why they do them - is puzzling. you meet very few people at 40 who are doing anything remotely similar to what they thought they would be doing at twenty. life has a way of moving you along and placing you exactly where you are supposed to be. i've never met a six year old who dreamt about being a garbage man and yet we seem to have plenty of garbage men and god bless them. i am sure alberto gonzales never expected to be attorney general of the united states. for that matter, i am sure even his own mother was shocked. talk about being under qualified. maybe i should have stuck it out with the creepy man in times square. who knows where i could have ended up. if alberto gonzales can be attorney general i could have easily been secretary of state - unless, of course, they asked me to take a typing test.