Sunday, September 2, 2007
Joanne Palmer's Life in the 'Boat column appears Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find more columns by Palmer here.
Steamboat Springs Because it's Labor Day weekend, it seems only natural to write about labor, which means I can write about childbirth or jobs.
Since, at last count, I've had 35 jobs and only one child, it's easier to write about work.
I've been a file clerk, nanny in Paris, a waitress at an all-you-can-eat Italian restaurant, and sold shoes. I have kept my composure as a clown during a birthday party when my son fell hands down into the Thomas the Train birthday cake. I've been a receptionist, meter maid and worked with a woman who claimed she made love in a bathtub filled with Jell-O.
I've taught poetry to a classroom full of guys all wearing backwards baseball caps. I've been a wedding photographer and the wedding coordinator who calmed a hysterical bride missing a shoe. Newly pregnant, I arrived at a hotel, notebook in hand, to interview a bare-chested Hells Angel.
I was fired from the first "real" job I ever had. The year was 1982, and I lived in Manhattan. I had been hired by J.C. Penney's corporate headquarters to write newspaper ads for their fashion department. In a room the size of a football field sat 200 earnest, creative people, each with their very own cubicle and typewriter. Have you ever heard 200 typewriters zinging and dinging at once? Electric typewriters!
The writers had to walk back to a storage room and "check out" an ugly dress, hook it on the wall of their cubicles and write a newspaper ad about it. All ads ended with the sentence: "in easy-care poly/cotton, $29.99."
The dresses were so awful the only way to write about them was to turn an ugly feature into a pun or a play on words. For example, my neighbor in cubicle-ville took a plaid dress and wrote this headline, "Launching Plaids. These dresses really take off for fall."
This was a bald-faced lie. The only place anyone would want these dresses to go was in the garbage can.
I failed at being so clever. I hung the dress in my cubicle. I put a piece of paper in my typewriter. And then I sat. I stared at the paper. The paper stared back at me. I sat so long
It's amazing I didn't hatch an egg. I didn't go to lunch. Maybe I went to the bathroom. I just sat and stared for eight very long hours. Sometimes, on a really inspired day, I'd type, "in easy care poly/cotton, $29.99." At 5 p.m. I returned the dress back to the storage room and went home. After three months, they fired me.
Somehow after that, I got a job at a fashion magazine writing more ad copy. This time, I could write. The editor-in-chief of the magazine had a name like Squidgy and started all weekly staff meetings like this:
"Ladies! Ladies! Let's get started. Has anyone gotten engaged?"
Every day of the three years I worked there I lived in mortal fear of committing a fashion faux pas. Fashion faux pas were discussed and dissected at great length in the ladies restroom. The conversation would go like this:
Snotty editor No. 1: "Can you believe she wore textured pantyhose with that skirt?"
Since leaving that job, I've managed big budgets, flown around the country on business trips, sat in countless meetings, made weenie dogs from balloons and, guess what?
I'd rather have a trust fund.