Spring is here! Or, it’s almost here! Maybe. Don’t pack your coats up just yet, but get ready to.
And get ready for parties! After a long winter of hibernation and binge-watching all the shows, it’s time to emerge, shake off the Doritos crumbs, and re-enter society. That means, unfortunately, it’s time for small talk.
If there’s one thing The Wheelhouse Review hates, it’s small talk. No matter who you are, talking about jobs/weather/pets/hometown repeatedly is a waste of time and effort for both the listener and the talker. Oh, you work in finance and are from Ohio? My first reactions to these are “Liar’s Poker” and “James Garfield” respectively, and I can tell you, those topics aren’t exactly conversation starters. They’re conversations stoppers.
So what do you do? Well never fear, dear readers, I’m here to help. Again. I covered a few topics at the end of summer, but now it’s springtime, and you’re going to need a whole new set of….
Party Non-Sequiturs: Spring Edition
Not to be confused with “Spring Break Edition.” I don’t think there’s a lot of small talk at spring break
(Editor’s note: For the previous installment of this novel see here. This installment continues from Chapter One of Part One: Before The Lines)
“What’s up, TORP?” she yelled, and I felt some saliva hit my face, positioned as it was between her and the interloper.
He narrowed his eyes in momentary confusion. “It’s actually Reynolds,” he said, jerking his thumb backward. “You know Thorpe?” It took me a second to realize that this was the actual name of one of his friends, who was now taking a shot with his group.
Cara didn’t catch on as quickly, naturally, and just began to laugh. “It’s a joke, dude,” she said, weaving toward me as she extended her hand to the newly identified and pretentiously named Reynolds. “I’m Cara, and these are my friends…” she trailed off, and I waited to hear our names, but she seemed incapable of finishing her sentence and just smiled. Which was no problem for Reynolds, who had yet to look at the rest of us.
“My friends and I were wondering if we could buy you ladies a round of drinks,” he said, still not taking his eyes off Cara. My inclination to refuse what would probably turn out to be a roofie-laced beer was rendered moot as Cara climbed over me and stood unsteadily, pointing at the table from where he had just come. “I want one of those shots,” she drawled, and with that she stumbled into the fold of lookalike men.
Unlike Gretchen Weiners, my hair isn’t full of secrets. I’m happy to chat about things going on in my life, past and present. However, there is one significant and influential part of my personal history that I talk about rarely, if at all: I used to be door-to-door salesperson. This wasn’t just a one time youthful folly. Reader, I spent four summers – including two after college – in this profession. It is one of the best and worst things I’ve ever done, one of the most difficult, one of the most influential and definitely one of the most embarrassing things. Because who wants to admit to being one of the most annoying stereotypes around?
The job was selling educational books (and a little bit of software) as an independent contractor of the Southwestern Company. Not encyclopedias and definitely not magazines, which were truly a dodgy pyramid scheme, but reference books to help with homework. In the hierarchy of college summer direct sales jobs, it was at the top. I was recruited by my college roommate’s boyfriend, who was about to embark on his third summer with the company. My parents had actually bought Southwestern reference books from a college student years before, which we carried to China and I read through from cover to cover, multiple times. So the sketch factor was low. The only question was whether I was up for the challenge. Continue reading
“The job will not save you, Jimmy. It won’t make you whole, it won’t fill your ass up … A life, Jimmy. You know what that is? It’s the shit that happens while you’re waiting for moments that never come.”–Lester Freamon, The Wire
A week and a half ago, after approximately 19 months of applications, interviews, thank you letters, and 15 of those months enjoying “funemployment,” I was offered a job. Today is my first day. As I watched the last remaining week of my “funemployment” unfold, I was flooded with a mix of emotions.
On one hand, there was joy and relief to finally have some certainty for the foreseeable future, not only in my income, but also that I will remain in Washington DC. On the other, there is still a sadness to see what has been a remarkable and life-changing/giving season of my life end, and to deal once more with the grind of employment. I’ve been reflecting on what this passing season has taught me about life, work, and humanity, and am hoping that I have learned the lessons well enough to avoid past mistakes in my job.
So I think it’s fitting here to quote my first boss after college and ask the question, “is everyone out of their ever-loving minds?” Of course, he didn’t say “ever-loving” but I’m trying to keep this clean. According to a survey conducted by Good Technology, 80% of Americans just don’t stop working. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American parents between the ages of 25 and 54 spent the largest percentage of their time working. And for 40% of the working population, a 12 hour day is common.
Because when work is your life, you’re not even really a person. Courtesy of Online Career Tips