Category Archives for "employment"
A summary of what I’ve been up to this past month. Just in case anyone thought I fell off the face of the planet!
Not that I didn’t seriously consider it.
I didn’t fall off the face of the planet.
I worked on my resume. This consisted of me agonizing for days over how to explain my eleven year absence from the work force, as well as finding a creative way to make cleaning up bodily fluids sound like a marketable skill.
I questioned my existence.
I perused the job listings on Craigslist and decided I wasn’t qualified to do anything.
I perused the personals on Craigslist and decided cleaning up bodily fluids was a marketable skill after all.
I sanitized my eyeballs with bleach.
I perused the job listings on Craigslist once more and sent my resume off to the only one that I thought I might qualify for a/k/a one that didn’t make me feel like a big, fat loser.
I received a phone call requesting an interview.
I fainted from shock.
I texted my friend Heather HOLY DAMN JESUS, WHAT THE GODDAMN HELL WAS I THINKING? WHY DOESN’T SOMEONE PUNCH ME WHEN I’M BEING STUPID? That was panic for I have nothing to wear.
I went through my closet.
I found 388 pairs of sweats and Old Navy t-shirts, all hanging by threads and held together by holes.
I went shopping.
I bought a pair of dress pants and a blouse.
I bought these shoes:
I decided these shoes were totally inappropriate and impractical and ridiculous.
I decided I didn’t care.
I went on my first interview in over twenty years, 4.5 inches taller.
I got the job.
I fainted from shock.
I put band-aids on my blisters and hobbled off to the mall.
I bought some new pants and skirts and tops.
I was told by my seventeen year old daughter that the outline of my granny pantylines could be clearly seen through my new pants and skirts and that I had to wear a thong.
I said HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
I said returning to work after an eleven year absence was hard enough without having to walk around with a 100% cotton colonoscopy under my skirt.
I yelled YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME.
I stood in the lingerie department of Target while my seventeen year old daughter threw thongs at me and my ten year old daughter looked for a normal family in housewares to adopt her.
I yelled STOP IT and pulled a thong off my head.
She yelled NOT UNTIL YOU BUY ONE and flung another one at me like a slingshot.
I stomped my foot and yelled YOU’RE STILL NOT THE BOSS OF ME.
I left Target with a $3.99 piece of black, lacy dental floss and serious doubts.
I wore the thong under my skirt on my first day of my new job.
My ass did not accidentally inhale my underwear and require the Heimlich maneuver.
I discovered that thongs are actually … comfortable.
I fainted from shock.
What have you been up to for the last month?
Yesterday, I had lunch with one of my best friends from high school. We hadn’t seen each other in fifteen years, ever since our tenth year reunion. She looks exactly the same as she did in high school and I swear, the minute we sat down, it was like we were seventeen again and Mr. Shumanski caught us passing notes in social studies and confiscated them and then demanded that I explain characteristics of the Middle Ages to the entire class and Gemma tried mouthing CRUSADES to me behind his back but I was so nervous about the content of the notes gripped in his hand that I shouted the first thing that came to mind which was UMMM, GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH? And Mr. Shumanski opted for neither and instead, gave me a three page essay assignment for homework.
And that was how Mr. Shumanski came to read 1,000 neatly written words, double spaced, on the rise and fall of feudalism during the Middle Ages, as well as 25 scribbled words on the back of a trigonometry review sheet on how totally excellent we thought S.G. and S.L. were and did we think they’d ask either of us out because OH MY GOD, WE WILL HAVE A COW. I think my feudalism piece made for more interesting reading, to be honest.
I leave you with a piece I wrote a couple of years ago on being seventeen. As Archie and Edith Bunker once crooned way out of tune, “those were the days.”
Happy Sunday, everyone!
She was just seventeen, if you know what I mean …
My fourteen year old daughter asked me the other day if she could get her working papers for a job this summer. After I picked my jaw up from where it had fallen on the floor, I said sure. Actually, it might have come out more like HOLY CRAP, YOU BETTER BELIEVE YOU CAN, GET IN THE CAR. And then I got all excited because I was actually seeing light at the end of that long, dark, scary, endless I-AM-NOT-AN-ATM-MACHINE-FOR-CRYING-OUT-LOUD tunnel.
It got me to thinking about my early days as a wage earner. I went the traditional route at first and built up a great reputation as a babysitter – little human beings loved me. I rotated between a couple of good, reliable families, sacrificed my weekend nights and made quite a bit of money for a couple of years. All right, perhaps “sacrifice” is a bit of overkill. I was a painfully shy fifteen year old with braces, glasses, bad hair, acne and I lived in a town 50 miles past the middle of nowhere. What else was I going to do with myself?
My babysitting career was brought to a screeching halt after I turned sixteen. I agreed to babysit for a new family with a toddler whom I like to refer to as Satan and that was the beginning of the end that came four hours later. This child’s parents had called me at the last minute, having been referred by someone who knew someone who knew someone. They practically begged me to help them out and at $2 per hour, I just couldn’t pass it up. I should have gotten a clue by the maniacal sprint they did to their car once the door closed behind me but I was naive.
Four hours later, I wasn’t naive anymore. Cleaning up thrown spaghettios, dirty toilet water and piles of poo scattered here, there and everywhere tend to knock the blissful ignorance right out of you. If the book had even existed back then, I would have said the Devil does not, in fact, wear Prada, he wears pull-ups and is three feet tall and I’d rather chew off my own tongue than babysit him again. This was painfully obvious to his parents as they pulled up to their house and found a blubbering heap of me on their front step. I resisted their pleas to give SISPU a/k/a Satan In Scooby Pull Ups another chance, mumbled something about being busy for the next two years and got the hell out of Dodge. I headed straight for the mall where I thereafter found my dream job.
I started work at a local record store in our mall and can I just say, THAT JOB ROCKED. I was seventeen with perfect teeth and good skin, thanks to Dr. Strauss and Neutrogena respectively. Puberty had finally gotten its act together and I was not all together hideous anymore. In fact, I looked pretty damn good. It was smack dab in the middle of the eighties which meant I had BIG hair and lots of it, tons of makeup, thick shoulder pads, shorty short mini skirts and high heels. Shiny black patent leather four inch heels, to be exact – the first to be seen at my high school, thank you very much. Sometimes I wore them with cute little frilly socks, sometimes I didn’t. Either way, I had a killer set of legs and a fantastic figure and I worked in a place that played the latest and greatest in albums and cassettes and attracted everyone who was anyone. In other words, I was cool for the first time in my life and I made up for lost time in a way only an attention starved seventeen year old wallflower-turned-hot-chick knew how: at warp speed.
It was vinyl heaven and we’d rip the cellophane off any album we wanted and whip that baby onto our state-of-the-art turntable, turn the sound up to sonic boom level and let it rip. We were next door to GNC Vitamin Center and our daily mission was to shake their bottles off their walls. It was usually mission accomplished by dinnertime, thanks to a particularly loud piece by Mötley Crüe. You’d think their manager would have pitched a fit, but more often than not, he’d be AWOL, only to be found sifting through our head banger section.
I loved my job. I heard all the new releases first, got huge discounts on all the music I loved, met some great people and got to dress up in funky clothes that I got at incredible discounts because I was a mall employee and friend to a lot of other mall employees. I learned to flirt and was surprised at how easy it was to get some extra sauce on my fettucini alfredo simply by inching my skirt up a bit. After work, I’d hang out with these friends, all of whom were older than me and into the bar scene. They took pity on poor underaged me, doctored up my license and next thing I knew, I was a faux 22 year old burning up the dance floors at Flashbacks and Club 2001. Good times.
Would someone mind checking on my mom? I think she just fainted.
It’s hard to believe that I got near straight A’s in high school considering the above, isn’t it? But I did. I managed to keep my priorities in order for the long haul even though they veered a bit off course in the short run. I’ll always be grateful to my friend Pete who had my back at all times, making sure I was safe every time I went out. He was convinced I would tire of the scene in short order and he was right because he was always right, something that used to piss me off at first but then became what I trusted most. Of course, the suspicious bouncer weighing in at 400 pounds at Club 2001 who confiscated my fake i.d., helped curb my underage wild ways as well. HE WAS SCARY.
Eventually, I found my way to college, maintained an almost perfect 4.0 grade point average, graduated Summa Cum Laude, became a productive taxpayer, got married and started a family, in that order. All of it to the immense relief of my parents as I think it’s entirely possible I may have shaved a couple of years off their lives.
(As a side note: I am now well-versed in the theory of karma, having a teenage daughter of my own right now. I TOTALLY GET IT.)
Anyway … that record store and the mall it lived in don’t exist anymore and I don’t know of anyone who even owns any actual vinyl today. Any remnants of that seventeen year old with the drop dead figure are long gone now. But sometimes when this 41 year old wife and mother of two plays the oldies station in her car and hears Smokin’ In The Boys Room, she’ll sing off key at the top of her lungs, ignore the gawkers in the passing cars, and tap her flip flopped feet on the gas and brake pedals. And for a brief moment, that woman will yearn for some shiny black patent leather four inch heels.
And some killer legs to go with them.
I’m officially announcing that I’m available for copywriting and freelance services. I suppose I could have unofficially announced this by writing the same exact sentence without the “officially” part but then I wouldn’t feel as important.
I figure if I’m going to sit on my ass all day in front of this computer, I might as well get paid for it, right? That roar you just heard from the other room? That was a resounding “BOOM” from Nate. Whereas normal people typically shout out an enthusiastic YES accompanied by a hearty fist pump to show excitement, Nate prefers to channel a cannon from the civil war era. He usually reserves a BOOM for those times when the Buffalo Bills score a touchdown or he is proven right about something. Either way, it’s an infrequent occurrence so enjoy it while you can.
Believe it or not, people have hired me to write for them and lived to tell about it. And they weren’t even whacked out on meth at the time. I know! I’m still trying to wrap my head around it too!
You can find more information on my HIRE ME page. I even put a link to it in my navigation bar above my header! It’s more official that way.
One more thing before I go wreak havoc on my Friday. Remember Lorilei Murphy of Studio Rosey Posey at Scrapbookgraphics.com? The one who sort of made me immortal without going all Twilight on me by sucking out my blood? She’s created a new digital scrapbook kit for Mother’s Day called Floret currently on sale at scrapbookgraphics.com:
Can we take a moment to appreciate the pretty?
OOOOOOOOH, IT’S SO PRETTY!
She also made a set of four templates that come in layered psd files with elements and papers from the Floret kit. Layered psd files mean you can move all the elements around to your liking. In other words, digital templates are crack for tweakaholics like me who cannot sleep at night until something is moved a *smidge* to the left and then a *smidge* back to the right forty-two times or thereabouts.
Lor included some journaling prompts about mothers-in-law and that’s where I come in! I’m an expert on mothers-in-law because I’ve owned two of them and didn’t drive either one to drink. Not that they’ll admit to, anyway. That’s my former mother-in-law above left and my current mother-in-law above right. And now, I fully expect Hallmark to beat down my door at any moment and beg me to lead their next holiday ad campaign!
Or not. Because, you know, not everyone “gets” me. But to know me is to love me! Right?
To find out the winners of last Friday’s giveaway, click HERE.
Quite a few of you have asked why I gave up my digital design business.
Picture, if you will, a piece of old firewood, charred beyond recognition, sitting in a pile of ash.
Stick a sloppy mess of stubbornly premature white hair on it, as well as some black horn rimmed glasses and old sweats held together by holes. Glue it to a computer chair, surgically connect a monitor to its face and a keyboard to its fingers and feed it an intravenous diet of sugar and fat through a USB port so that it can gain back every single pound it lost five years previously in Weight Watchers. Give it a lifetime, free pass on an emotional roller coaster with intermittent pit stops at SAME SHIT, DIFFERENT DAY.
Call it Andy.
Truth be told, it was a pretty great ride that started in the basement family room of our old house, over five years ago. I was a stay-at-home mom with an intense creative itch that desperately needed to be scratched and it needed to be scratched in such a manner as to earn money. I had always earned my own way and while I loved the fact that I could be a stay-at-home mom, I found it exceedingly difficult to give up that kind of financial independence.
I called up to Nate to please wake up our computer from its sleep mode and help me find the Internet. And he pretended he didn’t hear me. So I yelled up to him to please wake up our computer from its sleep mode and help me find the Internet. And in Nate’s world, this translated to PLEASE GET UP AND NEVERMIND. So there I sat.
Because I had no idea how to wake up our computer from sleep mode. I had no idea how to even use the computer, except to turn it on, screw it up and turn it off if it didn’t immediately respond to screaming and threats to fling it out the nearest window. I spent as little time as possible on the web. I had no idea what a chat room was. Or a blog. Or a forum. Or an online gallery.
Email was a necessary evil that I tried to avoid at all costs.
Eventually Nate took pity on me and came down, woke up the computer, made sure I was comfy, gave me a kiss and left me to find direction and purpose in my life via Road Runner.
After a couple of hours, I found it.
Who cared that I was tech challenged and prone to calling Nate at work, demanding to know why the Internet was broken and how soon could he fix it? Who cared that I didn’t own a digital camera? Who cared that I had never heard of Photoshop before in my life? Who cared that I didn’t know the difference between JPEG and J.LO?
Not me, that’s who.
I ran up the stairs, yelling to Nate.
Me: Nate! Nate! Nate!
Me (going all Shake & Bake on Nate’s prostrate body): Nate! Wake up! I’ve found it! I found it!
Nate: Wha? Wha?
Me (stopping in mid shake): I know what I want to do! I found it! I found my direction!
Nate (rolling over): K, put it on my dresser.
Me (sitting on Nate’s head): Wake up! I know what I want to do with my life. WAKE UP.
Nate: (sighing and budging me off of him): Ok, ok. OK! Just give me a second, will you? OK!
Nate rubs his eyes and runs his fingers through his hair. Takes a deep breath.
Nate: OK. What?
Me: Are you ready?
Me: Are you sure?
Nate glares at me.
Me: I want to do custom digital design.
Me (all excited and jumping all around): Well? What do you think.
Me (still jumping): Nate? Nate?
Blink. Blink. Stare.
Me (pausing): Nate? Are you having some sort of seizure?
Nate (starting to blink rapidly and shaking his head): Nooooooo. No. I am not having a seizure.
Me (jumping all around again): Well? Well? C’mon! What do you think? Huh? Huh?
Nate (speaking slowly and deliberately): Did I hear you correctly? Did you say custom digital design?
Me (standing still): Yes.
Nate (still speaking slowly and deliberately): Digital. As in, on the computer?
Me (hesitantly): Yes?
Nate (collapses onto the floor in hysteria): Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha …
To his credit, Nate eventually came around and ultimately became incredibly supportive, saving him from almost certain death and me from appearing before a parole board to plead my case of temporary insanity.
And so it began. I filed all my paperwork on behalf of my business, Selective Memories Digital Design & Photo Art. I bought Microsoft Digital Image Pro, graduated to Photoshop Elements and eventually full-blown Photoshop.
I did 8,410 tutorials and signed up for some on-line classes to learn how to use my software.
If it wasn’t so graphic in nature, I’d describe the process I went through to learn Photoshop and a variety of other software programs. Suffice it to say there was blood, sweat and tears involved. Also some feces and vomit, but I won’t bore you with that part.
And if it wasn’t so graphic in nature, I’d describe the process I used to build and maintain my own website and dream up products and test vendors and research merchant services and network and market and advertise and a whole slew of other business related matters. Lots and lots and lots of feces and vomit there.
I spent an enormous amount of money on product testing. Enormous. I’d methodically work my way through a slew of vendors for various products. We haven’t yet replaced some old, frayed carpets and peeling wallpaper and cracked tile and a 2000 Honda Accord with 80,000+ miles on it due, in part, to the fact that I refused to settle.
Who knew that stupid obsessive-compulsive, anal retentive disorder that forces me to seek out perfection could be so freaking expensive?
Periodically, Nate would peek in on me and ask me if I had gotten my first client yet.
And my stomach would turn and I’d bite my nails and chew on my lip and break out in hives and drool and shout OH MY GOD. ARE YOU INSANE? LOOK AT THIS COLOR! IT’S TOO DARK! IT’S TOO LIGHT! IT’S TOO HEAVY! IT’S TOO MUCH! IT’S NOT ENOUGH! GO AWAY.
Until one day Nate chased me around the house, tackled me in the living room, sat on me and calmly tried to explain to me that it was like having a baby. There’s never a perfect time for it. You’ll never be 100% ready. There comes a point where you have done everything you can possibly do and then, you just hold your breath, close your eyes, jump in and depend on a little thing called faith to get you through.
I believe his exact words were I LOVE YOU. NOW, PISS OR GET OFF THE POT ALREADY.
So I pissed.
I got my first client. And then another. And another. I got most of my work through word of mouth because a personal referral speaks volumes, much louder than any advertisement in a magazine.
It’s a whole hell of a lot cheaper too.
I learned valuable lessons on my journey, like only offering one revision because otherwise, you’ll find yourself on the tenth revision when your client calls you up to tell you that the subject of the design, specifically a mother who had passed more than fifteen years ago, came to her in a dream and told her to go with the original design. So you slap a smile on your face and silently send up a few curse words to God and ask that He forward them on to the mother’s spirit because for shit’s sake, she’s dead already so would it have killed her to stop by your house on her travels and give you a heads up say, nine revisions ago? By the time you’re done, the project will end up costing you money and for your efforts, your client will present you with a $5 gift card to Dunkin Donuts as a tip.
Proof positive that I will do almost anything for a donut.
Despite the many bumps in the road, I eventually built up a great client base and was somewhat steadily busy throughout the years, especially during the holidays when I’d be completely stressed out with work right up until Christmas Eve with clients squealing into my driveway, running up to my door, grabbing their packages and breathlessly thanking me for tolerating their collective predisposition to wait until the last minute.
I had become very successful in my industry, provided you don’t consider oodles of money as success. I never made a fortune but my work had been published in several magazines, I had built a nice sized client base and had earned a stellar reputation.
I loved my clients (the ones whose designs were not dictated by the afterlife) and I loved my work.
And then 2007 came.
By then, I was mentally exhausted. Out of the 50+ hours a week I spent on my business, only a tiny fraction was spent on actual designing. The rest of it was chock full of unsexy, tedious crap. Networking and marketing and website maintenance and bookkeeping and advertising and product development and testing.
Blah, blah, freaking blah.
And then came a holiday vendor fair on which I had spent six months and a shitload of money, only to discover on the day of that the producer was a psychotic nightmare who had misled me, as well as several others, with regard to expectations. As in, I shouldn’t have had any.
May there be a special place in the depths of hell for that woman and may she choke on a gas fireplace during her stay.
Bitter – party of one?
By early 2008, the desire to design was sucked right out of my heart and soul, the very same heart and soul that had nurtured it for five years.
It left me sad and empty. I grieved its loss.
Several months later, I contemplated a small, fresh start. A few pre-made designs online, under a new name. No custom design work. Just a little “something” to scratch that creative itch that had once again begun to tickle me.
But once I sat down at my computer and faced that blank, white screen, my fingers started flying over that keyboard and that little “something” went in an entirely different direction and took on a life of its own, going back to its roots and its love for the written word.
And so The Creative Junkie was born.
Nate was right. You’re never 100% ready to have another child. You just close your eyes and jump in and depend on faith to pull you through.
It was May of 1990 and I had big hair and big shoulder pads and had just graduated college. I should have graduated in 1989 on the same weekend my brother graduated from his college but I didn’t because a couple of years earlier, I chose to take a different path known as LOSING YOUR MIND and that delayed my degree a little. I wound up finding my mind eventually and with some new batteries, it was as good as new and I graduated college with a 4.0 GPA and high honors. And hey, at least my bout with temporary insanity relieved my parents of the dilemma of two kids graduating from two different colleges on the same day. Try to remember that, Mom, OK? It’s that old cloud and silver lining thing. A little manure to make the roses grow. I’m the rose, not the manure, just to clarify.
So, there I was, ready to enter THE WORLD as a car and student loan indebted, full fledged adult with lots of Aqua Net in my hair. I thought of law school but that took money and I had none so I thought I’d get a paralegal job at L.A. Law in the interim. Who cared that L.A. Law was only a pretend world unfolding in a studio lot 3,000 miles away on the opposite coast? Not me. I knew there was a real live L.A. Law equivalent somewhere in my hometown. I could smell it. It was either that, or the Aqua Net. They kind of smelled the same.
Are you seriously trying to tell me you don’t know what L.A. Law is? Who Victor Sifuentes is? Arnie? Kuzak? Grace? Anne? Stuart? For crying out loud, how old are you? Quick, someone check out my wrinkles and tell me how old I am. I forgot.
I answered an ad in the paper seeking a paralegal in a downtown law firm. Downtown. With tall buildings filled with shiny windows and important people and lunch dates and office cocktail parties. Just like L.A. Law, except without the smog and plastic surgery. I had never driven downtown and the thought of one way streets and off ramps and on ramps and parking garages and pimps and murderers scared me. Not that I had ever actually seen a pimp or a murderer but this was the city and they were bound to be on every street corner next to the hot dog vendors and it really was a miracle that so many more did not die downtown every day.
Then I reminded myself that I was a college graduate, an adult, for crying out loud and I was perfectly capable of driving myself through downtown traffic in daylight for an interview. Without getting lost. Making no moving violations. Finding a legal parking space. Finding the building. All without getting murdered or becoming enslaved in the process.
Then I called my friend Chris and cried and pleaded and begged her to take me.
She dropped me off in front of a tall, mirrored building and I entered the lobby and immediately got lost trying to find the elevators. A nice young man approached me, assured me that he was neither a murderer nor a pimp and directed me to the elevators. Soon I found myself in a plain, ugly lobby of a law firm and I supposed that if I closed my eyes and smoked some crack, I could pretend that it was L.A. Law. But I was a nice girl from the country who wouldn’t know crack if it bit me on the face so I sighed and took a ripped chair in the corner of the waiting room and waited for Victor Sifuentes to come out, fall madly in love with me, marry me, whisk me away to Greece where we’d settle down and start our half Greek, half Latino family.
I bet you wished you watched L.A. Law now, don’t you?
Victor never made it, unless I wanted to close my eyes, smoke some crack and pretend the little old man in a wrinkled suit, glasses and comb over was Victor. But like I said, I didn’t know what crack was. So I waited for the little old man to walk over to where I was seated, at which point he introduced himself as Bill and asked if I was Sandra. And I said no, I was Andrea. And he apologized profusely, shuffled his feet, turned seven shades of red, mumbled something about Sandra sounding like Andrea and asked if I wanted to be interviewed anyway. I had nothing better to do that day so I agreed. He led me back into his corner office and we sat down and he smiled at me and then began my interview.
My interview lasted for about ten minutes during which time I learned that he was a senior partner, that Jan had been his trusted paralegal for the past twenty years and she had recently retired, he handled estates and trusts with a little bit of real estate thrown in, I was the only one who had responded to his ad, he had two dogs named Buck and Roo, would I mind feeding them every once in while, it sure was sunny out, his wife was ill, he liked pasta, where was that damn pen he needed, I’d also be helping his son who was an associate down the hall, neither he or his son cared that I didn’t type, I was his first and only interview, the job paid $20,000, full health benefits and paid parking but shhhh, don’t tell anyone else that, was I interested and could I start tomorrow?
I looked around the ugly office, the dirty rug, the grimy windows, the piles upon piles of paper stacked on dingy chairs, the faded and worn and frayed carpet, the brown case files littered across his desk, the mounds and mounds of files piled so high that he sometimes had to peek around them to look at me. I was afraid to breathe too much lest they all topple over on his head and crush him to death.
I wanted Victor. I wanted beautiful people in big glass offices with lots of windows and lots of office romance and drama in sixty minute increments. I wanted silk dresses with big shoulders. I wanted big hair. Bill had no hair. I wanted L.A. Law and this was so not.
Bill was a mess. A kind hearted, scatterbrained mess in a wrinkly brown suit. One look at the dazed expression on his lined face and I knew that he was lost without Jan. I knew Jan had taken care of him, scheduled his appointments and then penciled them in 1/2 hour earlier on his calendar so he wouldn’t be late, opened his mail, wrote his correspondence, and kept a spare pair of his glasses in her drawer, just in case.
He needed Jan and Jan was gone and I was the only prospect. He needed me and my big hair. I needed to grow up and pay for car insurance and food. I needed him and his no hair. Not to be confused with nose hair, which he did have and which totally grossed me out but if I just didn’t look too closely, I supposed I could learn to overlook it. Ugh.
So I sobbed inwardly, said a tearful silent goodbye to Victor and my half Latino, half Greek children and accepted the job and I could literally feel my hair deflate. Bill broke out into a smile and lead me down the hall where I met all of the other attorneys. I met his son who seemed to have his act together because his paper piles weren’t as many and they weren’t so precariously high. Then I met the other senior partner. Let’s call him Obnoxious Asshole. OA did not want to hire me because I could not type and when he found out that Bill had offered me $20,000, he was apoplectic and had a coughing fit. Thank God he wasn’t privy to the free parking because he might have hacked up a lung and that would have been messy.
I would have taken my deflated hair and run out of there screaming VICTOR, SAVE ME but it would have meant trampling right over Bill whose frail body looked as if it would give out at any moment. Bill patted me on my shoulder pad, took OA aside and, as I later found out, quietly ripped him a new one. OA glared at me, gave me a cursory welcome, took what was left of his ass and stomped away, leaving me alone with Bill who apologized for the spectacle, advised me that OA wouldn’t be a problem and he’d see me in the morning.
I soon learned that Bill was not only a nondescript, aged, disorganized, slovenly mess but a rain maker as well. He had big money clients who went where he went and in a law firm, nothing speaks louder than money, certainly not an Obnoxious Asshole down the hall who made a habit of dropping “F” bombs in his wake.
Bill came in late, left early and all he ever seemed to do in between was go to lunch. He was either scheduling lunch, driving to lunch, calling me from lunch or returning from lunch. At least once a week I’d accompany him and we’d frequent the same two or three restaurants. At first I tried to make conversation to cover those uncomfortable silences that began as soon as we sat down and lasted until the check came but I soon realized that Bill was quite content to eat in silence. He just didn’t want to do it alone. He drove a beat up old van that was held together by rust and smelled about 75 years old – much like Bill himself. I didn’t have to worry about making polite conversation in the van because I could have detonated a bomb and you wouldn’t have heard it over the muffler that dragged underneath the van. It dragged for the entire duration of my employment with Bill.
My L.A. Law dreams had been flushed down the toilet long ago but I have to say, the depth to which they had been flushed still caused me pause every now and then. Like when I was sitting at my desk and Bill caught me rubbing my forehead and asked if I was feeling well. I told him it was nothing, just a light headache and his hand dove into his jacket pocket, searched around for a minute and emerged grasping one small Tylenol capsule covered with dust and lint and BLECH. He brushed it off and carefully placed it on my desk, told me to take care of myself and then shuffled into his office and quietly closed the door so as not to disturb me. It was the sweetest thing anyone had ever done for me, even if it did make me hurl.
I quickly got into a routine. Every week, one particular client would demand that his will be revised to disinherit his younger brother. Then the brother would come in and demand that his will be revised to disinherit his older brother. My job was to make sure they didn’t bump into one another while all the disinheriting was going on because that would have awkward and Bill was, simply put, allergic to awkward. And yet, he was the walking definition of awkwardness. How he managed to be in the same room with himself and not go into anaphylactic shock is beyond me. I was on constant guard with an epi pen, just in case.
Several of Bill’s clients disinherited a relative or two or ten on a monthly basis. The richer they were, the more often they would disinherit. It would have been comical had it not been so sad.
Bill hand wrote all of his wills and he’d drop them on my desk and ask me very nicely to type them up and I’d say “Sure, Bill! How soon you need them? Friday? ” And he’d say “Oh, how about twenty minutes?”
Blink. Blink. Stare.
And he’d ask earnestly “Is that OK?” I honestly think he would have let me reschedule all of those wills into the following week if I had asked him, but I never asked him because I didn’t want to let him down. But it was quickly apparent that the Hunt & Peck method of typing I had practiced for years was no longer going to cut it in the real world and if I didn’t want to disappoint Bill, I’d have to finally learn how to type. So I took a class, learned home row and the rest is history.
Well, not really history because that makes me sound old and I AM NOT OLD, DAMMIT. How old am I again? I forgot.
Bill also handled real estate but he hated to attend closings because they interrupted his lunches so pretty soon, I was attending the closings as his representative. Representing the seller was a piece of cake. I kept my mouth shut, collected the checks, smiled and left. But representing the buyers was a totally different story. I held their hands as they signed their lives away and when they asked for certain clauses to be explained, I faked my way through it and just drew their attention to the one that said MAKE YOUR MORTGAGE PAYMENT OR WE’LL GET MAD AND FORECLOSE because that one seemed pretty important. My goal was to get out of there before I drowned in stress sweat. They could have been signing away the rights to their first born for all I knew and the thought that I may have participated in any number of illegal adoptions kept me up at night.
Bill’s son, Bill Jr., also known as Steve for reasons unknown to me, used to work at the public defender’s office before going into private practice and occasionally, he still took an assignment or two from that office. I worked on several murder defenses with him and it was, by far, the most fascinating work I have ever done.
I got pretty good at drafting all the necessary motions and briefs on my own for Steve’s approval. He would tell me what our defense was and I’d lose myself in legalese, telling myself that we were fighting for the downtrodden, the poor, the unjustly accused and that innocent until proven guilty included the monster sitting in Steve’s office on whose brief I had just typed “illegal search and seizure” in response to the victim’s blood stained clothing having been discovered underneath the monster’s closet floor. And I would repeat everyone deserves a fair trial by a jury of their peers over and over to myself as I typed “coercion” on his other client’s motion to dismiss, all the while trying to ignore the written confession detailing exactly how much bleach the defendant poured down the victim’s throat before beating her to death. I’d accompany Steve to the jail to take pictures of the scratch on his client’s abdomen and as I drafted our motion in support of self defense, I’d try to wipe the memory of the photos of his victim lying dead in the kitchen with a gaping gunshot wound in the back of his head. And I tried simply not to think at all after clients were stopped for their second or third or fourth DWI and I had to draft countless motions to subpoena the companies who manufactured, sold and installed the breathalyzer machine, as well as anyone who had ever come in contact with the machine within the previous five years who could have potentially damaged it and caused it to perform inaccurately.
I adored Bill in a quirky, weird, oh-my-God-what-is-that-on-your-shirt kind of way and between Bill and Steve, I had become quite a good paralegal but after two years, I knew it was time to move on. Bill constantly surprised me by managing to find his way to the office every day but I knew that soon, he’d just go straight to lunch and not bother stopping in anymore. And I could no longer do Steve’s work and sleep at night. I wanted something that wouldn’t cause my moral compass to spin out of control and stab me in my conscience every night. Something that would afford me good money and a good night’s sleep, without ulcerated intestines.
Another law firm dangled an offer in front of me. Their carpet was plush, their chairs were elegant, their furniture was cherry and mahogony and their offices were covered in glass with sparkling windows galore. People spoke in hushed tones in the hallways and lobby. Nothing smelled. Nothing was stained. No rusty mufflers. I would have my own office and a staff down the hall.
The only catch was … I’d have to work in foreclosures.
Oh, and by the way, they’d match my salary.
I threw my moral compass out the window, told my intestines to suck it up, and sold my soul for a wall full of windows and a river view.
It was the most L.A. Law thing I ever did.