Saturday, January 26, 2008

Weird jobs

Zoe has tagged me to list seven weird jobs I've had. I'm not sure if I've worked at seven jobs in my whole life, but let's see.

1. My very first job was in an Italian bakery in Buffalo, NY. Alas, the owners' first language was Italian, not English, and a fatal misunderstanding arose. I thought they wanted me to work Tuesday afternoons and Saturdays--a nice schedule for a teenage girl getting her college applications in order. It turned out they wanted me to work every day except Tuesdays and Saturdays. I was fired. It was a relief.

2. I was a "page" at the public library. This involved re-shelving books that had been returned, checking out people's books, "reading" the shelves--making sure the books were in the proper order--and working at an ever-growing list of books that were missing but that had been "claimed returned." I turned out to be good at that last task, and found a number of books that had been missing for ages. This was my first real introduction to working with that terrible beast, the General Public. I would wile away the hours observing and judging people's reading selections.

3. I was an environmental activist. I worked for NYPIRG. This job involved going door-to-door asking people to pledge their love of the environment with a donation. Preferably $15 or more. It was our habit to all go out for lunch and then car pool to whatever site we were canvassing. On the second day, we ate at a dive in Niagara Falls, NY. My fellow activists dumped me in the type of neighborhood in which all the houses have chain link fences in the front yard, and pit bulls behind all those fences. I didn't even bother to knock on their doors, I knew no pledges would be forthcoming. Niagara Falls, NY is one giant slum, for those of you who don't know. I wandered around the city, finding not even a coffee shop where I could rest my legs. I was also starting to feel sick, and when the day was finally over and we were driving back to Buffalo, I threw up in the car of the semi-hot environmentalist who was car-pooling us. It turns out I'd gotten food poisoning from the restaurant we ate at. That night I wrote in my diary, "The entire stinking city of Niagara Falls can die of cancer for all I care

4. I was a nanny. Not quite like the Nanny Diaries, but it was enough to scare me off of taking care of other people's children forever.

5. I was an unpaid writer. My sister worked for Artvoice, the Buffalo, NY equivalent of Cville Weekly or The Hook, and she would get me writing gigs from time to time. The editor's policy was not to pay his writers. Like all aspiring writers, I hoped it would pan out into something. It didn't.

6. I was an editor. A new-age bookstore hired me to edit their monthly newsletter, which offered a myriad of classes in new-agey things like rolfing and fen shui. They also paid me to write reviews of the books they were selling.

7. I am a mother. For someone in my social class to have a baby at 23 and forgo a real career in order to care for him, and then have three more babies in quick succession was weird. Not just weird, unheard of. I practically became an outcast. And there were no stay-at-home mothers in 1993. I thought that as long as I was married and not on public assistance, I could have as many babies as I wanted and no one would judge. I was never more wrong about anything in my life. I've learned to recognize the look on people's faces, when they learn I'm the mother of a fifteen year old, as they quickly count backwards from what they guess my age is and then come to that fatal conclusion: TEENAGE MOTHER.


  1. I almost worked for NYPIRG. Actually, I did one round of door to door for them, and decided I just wasn't cut out for it.

    I also worked for Artvoice! At the time, it was called Arts in Buffalo. I went there after graduating from college to see if I could get a writing gig, but instead I was sent out to sell ad space! More door to door. After a couple of rounds of that and a whole lot of crying, I was assigned a story.

    My first story/interview was about John Lombardo, former member of 10,000 Maniacs and devout Buffalo barfly. After that I wrote a story about Michel Weber, awesome singer songwriter. And then I had some poems published in it unexpectedly. I had left some poems and writing samples with editor (Jamie someone?) and then one day the poems just appeared in the paper.

    Nietzsches was fun. But, I would work at Talking Leaves all day, 9-5, and then at Nietzsches from 8 to 4am! OUCH. I was trying to save up money to move out west, and I did.

    I didn't become a mom until I was 30, but was a stay at home, for the most part, for four years. Loved it. But always felt insufficient in the eyes of many of our friends.

  2. LOL!! The editor's name is Jamie Moses, and I'm pretty sure he's still in charge. My sister had quite a time working for him. She sold ads too.

  3. yes, jamie moses! he's a musician too. oh those buffalo days! one of the benefits of working at nietzsche's was the great bands i got to see. . . .

  4. You are a hero for finding those missing books. Libraries need more people like you. :)