Today I thought I would post a chapter from my latest memoir, Hearts on the Line. In 2009, I had some interesting experiences whilst trying to find my purpose in life. A variety of part time jobs and many tears. This is a tale of what happens when we take a job that doesn’t resonate with our soul.
My radio interviews have generated a lot of sales for my book, and the positive Amazon reviews are growing. Several chick lit blogs featured the book and the blog comments are enthusiastic. My publisher says it’s too soon for any royalties, though.
And I still don’t have any new clients and no money coming in. I’m going to try to get a temporary job while I’m continuing with my matchmaking business. I’ve answered a listing on Craigslist under Exec Asst and am meeting a woman named Melody who owns a flower shop this morning for a job as a part-time personal assistant. “Oohh,” she said to me on the phone after I’d faxed my résumé, “You probably had your own assistant in your previous job.” Her tone said my-how-the-hotsy-totsy-have-fallen, but she asked me to come for an interview. If the job works out, I’ll have to miss my high school reunion, which I hate, but I don’t have much choice.
The flower shop is in the Orthodox Persian Jewish area of Los Angeles. I park and walk along the street, reading the Persian storefronts. Years ago, I studied the beautiful ancient script with an Iranian professor. I arrive at the store five minutes early to find it locked with metal bars in front of the door. After fifteen minutes, I’m about to give up, but I call the number this Melody woman gave me.
“I’m running late,” she says, “but I’m on my way. Sorry about that.”
I walk to Starbucks for an unnecessary third cup of coffee, and as I take the last sip outside the flower shop, a frazzled, heavy-set woman in her fifties with waist-length, overly bleached blonde hair arrives, looking like she just got out of bed. She unlocks the front door and turns on the lights.
I follow her to the back of the run-down and neglected-looking shop, passing tacky arrangements of fake flowers in wicker baskets, shopworn-looking gift items, and junk jewelry. A few cut flowers droop in a refrigerator with sliding glass doors that desperately need some Windex. Piles of magazines and newspapers clutter the spaces between helium tanks, deflated balloons, and spools of ribbon. I accidentally kick a dog bowl full of water onto the cracked cement floor.
In the back room, a layer of dust dims stacks of vases, an old toaster oven, coffee mugs and more. An ancient computer monitor sits on Melody’s desk, her in boxes overflowing beside it. The trashcan is piled beyond the top.
Melody wheels over an extra chair from the broom closet. “Take a seat,”
I long to explain my allergies to shit holes and bolt for the door, but my shriveling bank account says, Sit! Stay!
Melody swivels her chair toward me, explaining she’s got rental units crammed full of college kids and a few crazy tenants that need supervising. One owes her five thousand dollars, but is stalking her. She hasn’t paid the mortgage on three of her places for six months and has declared bankruptcy.
She boots up the computer, grabs a stack of papers, and hands them to me. “Could you track down the person in charge of payments at these ten banks that I delivered balloons to last year? They never paid me. Of course I never sent them an invoice until a month ago. You want the job, right?”
What I would like to do is go home to bed and hide under the covers and hope for a miracle. “Um, well, how much does the job pay?”
“How about this: we’ll, start at eleven an hour, but I’ll pay you cash.”
I give her a weak smile. “Okay. Say twenty hours a week?” Did I really say that? ~
“Twenty-eight, starting tomorrow at 10:00 A.M.”
This summer has been delightfully cool for Los Angeles, and I loved it, but on my third day of working for Melody, the temperature has climbed into the 90’s. I’m standing outside behind the flower shop with a young Mexican named Roberto who’s been working part time for Melody for two years now. Unfortunately, there is nowhere to go to escape the sweltering sun beating down on our heads.
“She is always late,” he tells me in Spanish.
“She emails me at all hours of the day and night,” I say.
After twenty minutes, I’m dripping with sweat when I finally see her white Volvo turn into the lot. She parks, and we follow her inside where it’s refreshingly cool. Roberto tends to the flowers. Melody and I settle at her desk, sorting through her bills and papers. She expects me to immediately know how to solve her banking and bankruptcy issues and snaps at me when I can’t recall the details to something she told me hours earlier.
Around noon, sirens scream outside, so we check out the commotion. The next street is totally blocked off with police cars.
The guy who runs the antique store two doors down says, “There was a bomb scare at the Jewish school.”
After ten minutes, it looks like they got everyone out.
“I hope they bomb all the Persians,” says Melody.
Okay. Melody just slipped into the lost-all-shred-of-respect file.
That is not something that you say to me. I lived in Iran and connected with some of the most wonderful, generous people I have ever met. I just might have been Persian in another lifetime.
“Persians are sneaky and liars,” she says, sealing the deal.
I want to slap her across the face and walk out, but I’ve mentally spent the first paycheck. My stomach is grumbling. “I’m just going to run next door to Subway and get a sandwich,” I say. “Do you want anything?”
“Forget it. That place is terrible; it’s kosher,” says my Jewish employer. “Go to the one a couple of miles down the street. I have some coupons.”
I’d already eaten next door, and it was really good, but whatever. She gives me coupons, five bucks, and tells me what kind of sandwich she wants. I hustle the three blocks down the street where my car is parked. Every two hours I have to move my car so I don’t get a ticket.
I make a series of annoying u-turns trying to find the sandwich place, park, place the order, return, re-park, and walk four blocks in the sun.
Melody unwraps her sandwich, and purses her lips. She screams, “You used the wrong COUPON! I wanted the TWELVE- INCH sub for $2.99 not the SIX-INCH CLUB for $4.99! I EXPLAINED all this. Weren’t you LISTENING? I guess I have to write everything DOWN!”
I feel a lump forming in my throat as I fight back the tears, but I will NOT cry. I’m working in a shit hole for eleven dollars an hour and getting yelled at for nothing. Less than a year ago, I was VP of matchmaking and earning a great salary with health insurance. What the hell am I doing?
I’ve made a terrible mistake. All my affirmations and trust in the universe…and look what it brought me. How did I attract this?
I manage to hang on that afternoon. I build Melody a website on Go Daddy. The people at Go Daddy are helpful, polite, and efficient, but Melody yells at the rep over the phone, and then gives her a bad rating in the email survey. I cannot stop the fantasies of strangling this woman.
The next morning, I’m standing yet again out in the parking lot, the hot sun beating down on my head. My cell chimes with a text from Melody. “Late again, oops!”
The long day ahead flashes before me like a bad dream. What if I simply walk back to my car, turn on the ignition and just take off? Do I dare? A trickle of sweat drips down my neck, and I think my scalp is red and crisp as bacon. My feet….They are carrying me down the alley though I haven’t told them to. They break into a jog on Pico. I don’t stop until I reach my salsa red Toyota.
With the air-conditioning on full blast for the ride home, I realize that I shouldn’t have done that. I’m as bad as Gabby walking out on Gary to go to the Pink concert. Adolfo will not be amused.
“Marlita,” he says when I get home, “you should have told her in person. It’s only fair.” He looks so disappointed in me, as if he’s facing a lifetime of erratic behavior from his wife.
“I know. You’re right. This was totally out of character for me.”
He doesn’t say anything, but the sad look says, maybe it is your character. He disappears into his studio.
Feeling about as low as road-kill, I face the messages on our home answering machine and my cell phone: “I thought you were coming in today. Are you okay? What happened? Melody.” I quickly send an email explaining how sorry I am, and that I should never have accepted the job in the first place.
Pondering the past eleven months, I scrub the kitchen and then fix Adolfo a nice lunch of soup, salad, and sandwiches. The year has been all about changes and thinking and acting in fresh ways. Some of my decisions have been good, some bad, and some downright dumb.
Yet, it feels deeply wrong to turn my back on my talents and dreams and do some lame job that offers little opportunity for satisfaction. Maybe I was the one who broke faith with the universe by accepting that job with Melody. And maybe I’ve been so focused on success and fulfillment, I’ve minimized the importance of character.
I can do better.
Anyway, now at least I can go to Seattle for two weeks.
And I don’t think Adolfo~will try to talk me out of it. We need a
break from each other or we’re going to drive each other crazy. If we haven’t already.
* I sure am getting clear on what I don’t want, thank you very
* Also clear on who I don’t want to be, thanks again.
* I figure out a way to be the best me I can be.
* Good things come out of that.