This year mark’s my ten year anniversary of walking out of my J.O.B at a high-end matchmaking service in Beverly Hills. It right in the middle of the recession and I was scared shitless! Little did I know, the Universe had big things in store… in celebration of my milestone, I thought I would share a chapter from my memoir, Hearts On The Line. In this chapter called Blues, you’ll get a sneak peek into where I was at when I left.. the struggle to stay afloat and chipper while desperately seeking a new job. If your struggling to find meaning in your work, or looking for something new… you will relate and hopefully this will give you some laughs along the way.
I am in the bathroom multitasking: enjoying a cup of hot java, listening to a motivational CD, and finishing a mani-pedi—another small frill, formerly provided by experts, now a DIY project on the cheap.
A vacuum is turned on in the apartment directly above us, Serena’s apartment. It’s awfully loud for 8:15 in the morning. Someone is pushing it around as if the dust bunnies were fighting back. Adolfo worked late last night and needs the sleep, but I’m afraid the noise will wake him.
After ten minutes or so, I’m humming and shiny, ready to knock ’em dead.
I wince. Probably not the best choice of words, given where I’m going. I have a job interview at 11:00 in Bellflower, twenty-six miles south of Hollywood. It’s the only job posted that comes close to utilizing my skills. I think I’d make a wonderful funeral counselor. Really. I’m a people person. Would being a funeral counselor make a wonderful me? Maybe. At least it would be real people in need of kindness and help.
In the kitchen, I refill my coffee mug. Adolfo staggers out of the bedroom in his boxers with a look of insanity in his eyes and looks up toward the roar that charges across the ceiling.
“Good morning, mi amor,” I say.
“Morning,” he grumbles. He walks to the sliding glass door that leads to the terrace, opens it and slams it shut twice to send a protest message.
The vacuum noise continues.
“Probably Serena’s maid,” I say.
He turns to the dining room wall and pounds on it with his fists. The roar doesn’t stop. He goes back into the bedroom and returns, dressed in sweat pants and tennis shoes. He disappears out the front door, leaving it open. I soon hear him pounding on the door upstairs, the roar moving away from the sound of the door, more pounding, then arguing in Spanish that lasts about ten minutes while I’m doing affirmations as I fix us a nice breakfast of toast and eggs:
I will get a great job and we can buy a house in a quiet neighborhood. I will get a great job….
The noise has stopped. Adolfo returns. He gives me a hard look, and I know he’s thinking that if I hadn’t quit Double D, we could be house-hunting.
“Don’t say it,” I say.
The vacuum starts up again.
He sighs. “She said that today is her last day working for Serena.”
I give him a cup of coffee and the toast and eggs. “I have an interview today.” The chirp in my voice adds, so be proud of me and optimistic.
“Not that funeral parlor in Bellflower.”
I remind him that I’m a people person.
He shakes his head. “It’s too far. A waste of time and gas.”
“I have a very good feeling about this interview.”
He doesn’t wish me luck.
In Bellflower, I park on the street and then climb the stairs to the second floor of a 1950’s office building that smells of musty old carpets and chemicals. A plump middle-aged woman with a bad perm and a warm smile gestures toward a chair among fifteen other people, all filling out questionnaires. A tall, lean gentleman in a black suit with a white carnation and a name tag that says Carlos presents himself and asks us each to tell a little bit about ourselves and why we are interested in being a funeral counselor.
Seriously? He’s either seeing how good we are at sounding sincere as we BS him or he’s weeding out the necrophiles.
“And,” he says, “say whether you have ever worked on a commission-only basis.”
The ad did not mention commissions. Why would a counselor need to work on commission?
The gangly gentleman sitting next to me with a Chicago accent and garlic breath says, “I’ve been working in the wellness industry for many years, and I know that commission-only work is the best type of work to have.”
I patiently listen as each person tells how he or she has always wanted to process dead people and how thrilled he or she would be to work on commission. My turn.
Big smile. “I love helping people, but I’ve never worked on commission only.” No one looks at me directly, but I see the corners of mouths twitch into a look that I’m positive means Ha! She’s out of the running. “I’m definitely willing to give it a try,” I add with all the perkiness I can manage.
Lights dim. Carlos presents a forty minute slideshow of elderly people holding hands and looking at each other with wistful expressions that are supposed to convey how relieved they are that their decisions on caskets are all nailed down. So to speak. We can earn thousands a week while making a difference in people’s lives. Lights back on.
I’m beginning to see this job through Adolfo’s eyes. Still, thousands a week…. I wonder how I’d get customers. Surely, the company would send me to the homes of people who have requested this service…?
Actually, no. I’d have to knock on doors and ask strangers if they received the info the company sent—which they didn’t ask for—and then try to weasel my way into their home and onto their sofa, remind them they aren’t getting any younger, and ask if they like durable bronze or carbon steel.
I’m dying to get up and walk out right now, but that would be too rude, so I suffer through the rest of Carlos’s presentation, avoiding Mr. Chicago’s garlic breath, and bolt the first chance I get. Damn. Fifty miles, waste of gas and time. I dread admitting to Adolfo that I should have listened to him.
Overlooked advice I will now pay attention to: more research before interviews.
Back at home, I’m not smiling; I look frazzled. Adolfo steps into the living room to greet me, takes one look, and shakes his head.
“So stubborn…” He starts to return to his studio, stops, and frowns. “Look at this.” He unzips his trousers and drops them to the floor. “Pinche calcones de mierda!” (F-ing shitty underwear!) He turns around, giving me a grand view of his adorable little cheeks. His underwear is a thong!
I burst out laughing. It is the funniest thing I have ever seen, my macho Latin lover standing there in a little red thong.
He’s not amused. “It didn’t say anything on the package about being thongs!”
It feels so good to laugh, I can’t come to a complete stop.
He goes into his closet. I’m changing out of my interview clothes. He hands me the other two thongs in the bag. “Here, you can have them. You wear thongs.”
“Yes, but I can’t wear these, mi amor. The front is too bulky where the male equipment is supposed to go.”
“Just try them.” Waste drives him crazy. “You won’t be able to tell once you put your pants on.”
“Now who’s stubborn? I’m telling you I can’t wear these.”
“You’re so stubborn you won’t even try them.”
Aaarghh. I grab the little bag, stride into the bathroom, try them on, and check myself out in the mirror. Absolutely ridiculous. I get an idea and stuff the extra space with a washcloth rolled just right, slip on a pair of black sweats and walk back out.
“Honey, you were right.” I jut the stuffing forward. “They fit perfectly.”
“I’ll just put them in the Salvation Army bag,” I say.
Now he looks crushed that his hard-earned money has been squandered. The old us would have been laughing together by now. I know he is blaming me for the financial pressure he feels. But can’t he see that I’m trying?
Before I sit down with my new best friend Craig of the endless lists, I want a little visit with my dear old friend, “the striding man” as my dad used to call Mr. J. Walker. I open the cupboard, and he’s not there. I check other likely places. Not there. I start to ask Adolfo…. It hits me. My true love must have hidden the bottle.
I hate this. Part of me wants to go demand that whisky—on general principles, of course. I’m not desperate. Really. The only path to dignity, though, lies in pretending I never even noticed its absence. And then I’ll wait until he’s at work and search the man cave.
I sit in front of the computer, scanning job listings with the only addictive things I can find: coffee and the remains of a bag of chocolate chips. Pretty good.
Now, what have you got tucked away in your lists, Craig, honey?
Sexual Harassment Training
At my place of employment we have to take a sexual harassment course online. I am quite adept at sexual harassment, so I feel there will be no benefit to me taking this course. If you would like to take the course for me, I can pay you with 20 Cliff Bars (retail value is $2/each). That’s really a steal, if you like Cliff Bars. If you are not interested in that, we can discuss a barter situation, especially if you’re hot.
I will provide the login URL. You must have your own computer. Unless you’re hot, in which case you can use my computer and I’ll watch. This requires no nudity. Unless you’re hot, and you’re using my computer. In that case nudity could be considered a bonus.
Why do these clowns even bother? Next:
I’m looking for a good, fun, petite white or Latina 19-27 years old with a small waist and nice round bubble butt. You also must have a good-looking face. If you’re betweeen (sic) the age of 19-27 and if interested contact me and attach a recent photo. Pay is 90-120 for a night out with nice older businessman with chill fun personality. Submit here with a note of interest. Location: L.A. and SFV
Adolfo has stepped into the kitchen.
“Hey Adolfo, I need you to check out my butt for this job.” I stand, poking my posterior at him. “Would you say I have a nice round bubble butt?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Never mind.” I frown at the screen. “There are just so many sickos on craigslist.”
Do these guys get any responses at all? Maybe: Hi, chill, fun, old man, I have a nice firm bubble butt, and I charge $500 an hour for what you have in mind.
At this point I have zero hope for finding a job on craigslist. The name of the website should be changed to: bullshit.scammer.idiotslist.com.
It’s been a month and a half since I left my job.
Still no work for me, and my bank account is falling fast. I answer a few ads every day, but my pursuits never lead to anything.
I’m walking through Runyon Canyon. I had to quit the gym, but if I take longer walks to compensate and to meditate to psych myself up, Adolfo says, “Don’t think that you are on vacation,” or, “Time to get back to work, Marla.”
“Good morning,” a jogger says to me, a lady I’ve seen before.
Is it? I want to say to her, but I force a smile. The sun is shining. It’s chilly. I’m a mess. Someone says good morning, and I’m trying not to whimper.
I wouldn’t go back to work for Gary at Double D, yet I’m more stressed than when I worked there. I thought the Universe would support me, and I’d be on a truer path by now.
Adolfo and I bicker over small things. If I brew my coffee with four tablespoons the way I like it, I get a lecture on squandering money, which he insists has nothing to do with the fact that he simply prefers coffee with only two tablespoons.
And we bicker over big things. If I go for an audition for a commercial, he tells me angrily that I’m wasting my time. I must focus on getting a real job. As if I haven’t tried.
I interviewed at Jenny Craig last week. With my coaching skills and upbeat personality, I thought that I would make an amazing program director, following up with clients to keep them on track with their goals. I had an initial interview over the phone before that, which I passed, so they called me in to meet me in person. I thought that I was a brilliant interviewee, but I haven’t heard a thing.
I’ve sent out so many freaking résumés for jobs that I am not only highly qualified for, but socially perfect for. Coordinator at a little wedding chapel over on Wilshire…I mean who would be more perfect than I for such a position? They even said that people who speak more than one language are a plus. Well, hellooooo….Spanish, French, Italian, Persian, and English? These didn’t work for whoever ran the ad?
What about the youth hostel on Hollywood Boulevard that was looking for friendly people who are familiar with Los Angles and have foreign language skills? Why didn’t I get that? Or the tutoring gig that I applied for and drove an hour each way to be interviewed? They told me I was hired, so I went and got a TB test from my doctor, a background check—both of which cost me sixty-five dollars—and letters of recommendation from three of my friends. I never heard from them again. I emailed four times to find out what was happening, and each time I got an email back asking what area I wanted to work in. Each time I told them the same thing: ANYWHERE in all of Los Angeles is fine. I never got an assignment. I know that there is a recession, and that hundreds of people must be applying for the same jobs, but is the Universe trying to tell me something?
I’ve just come in from walking in Runyon Canyon. Adolfo is eating breakfast.
“Hey Marlita, there is a new restaurant called Bouchon opening up in Beverly Hills, and it is going to be packed. I heard that the waiters there will be raking in the dinero.”
I know where he’s going with this, and I can’t move.
“Why don’t you go over there and apply for a job?” he suggests, ever so helpfully.
I want to turn right around and head for the canyon again to hide the tears stinging my eyes. “Gotta pee,” I say, and dash to the bathroom.
I’m soon in the shower, letting the hot water fight off my rising panic.
When I was living in Chicago and waiting on tables, usually in two restaurants at a time, one for lunch and one for dinner, I was exhausted all the time. I also felt embarrassed because I simply knew that I had some other calling and talent, maybe even something great within me. The longer I stayed on the wannabe actor/waitress path, the more afraid I became that I’d never do anything that brought me the sense of self-respect and inner joy I yearned for.
I always stopped at a church on the way to work, and I prayed to God to help me find a way out of the restaurant business. I didn’t know how or what I would do, but I wanted out. Every time I went to Europe, I went inside cathedrals and left notes at the altars, asking God to help me end my waitressing days. I burned candles and prayed that one prayer over and over.
I choose to believe that God brought my first L.A. matchmaking job so I could finally leave waitressing behind me. It felt like a deliverance.
Then when I was working at Double D, I earned much more money. I held my head high. I didn’t know just who my truest self would be or the best path to get me there, yet I’ve grown ever clearer over who I am not. I’ve written many scripts and little stories and affirmations, picturing how I wanted my life to be: working from home in my slippers, writing late at night or early in the morning, going on auditions—a dream that will never truly die, I suppose.
I envision a life of abundance, personal satisfaction, and of being my own boss….
Adolfo laughs at all this. He thinks I’m a hopeless dreamer and that this is impossible. Yet he is his own boss, doing what he loves. Why can’t I have this too?
I don’t know what I’ll do, but I do know one thing for sure. I will never go back to being a waitress at this point in my life.
I’m completely waterlogged.
I step out of the shower, dress, and dry my hair. The second I head back into the living room, Adolfo comes out of his studio.
“Marlita, if you worked at a Beverly Hills restaurant, you’d make a lot of money. Just check it out.”
“Adolfo,” I face him directly. “I retired from waiting on tables nine years ago. I was a VP of matchmaking at a high-end company in Beverly Hills as well as several other cities. You would ask me to serve the same clients as I was matching? Do you realize how humiliating that would be?”
“You have no job, Marlita.”
I want to be furious with him, but I can’t. He’s only stopped supporting his brother and parents two years ago. He had to send money to Mexico for fifteen years. He needs someone to help pull the load, not add to it.
“Anyway,” I say, when I can safely hide the tension in my voice, “this restaurant is probably going to be hiring gorgeous young actors. Forty-somethings don’t get hired for prime restaurant jobs in this town.”
He nods gravely. “Yeah, that’s probably true. I still think you should consider it.”
The tension between Adolfo and me is so great that I have to get out of the apartment as much as possible. On Sunday morning, I head over to my usual Starbucks at Hollywood and Highland. I sit with a vanilla soy latte—now a special treat—on a bench outside and look at the Hollywood sign. I’ve been working so hard all of my life. I wish I could use this time to re-energize, re-group, and feel good about myself, but I just feel deflated. A tear slips out and drops into my coffee cup. This jolts me more than the caffeine. This is not who I am, someone always tearing up, wallowing in the negative. I have to find a way to shake this off.
I finish my coffee and continue my walk down to Sunset, working up a sweat as I reach the Harmony Gold Theater. A sign out on the front steps announces a Sunday service at 10:00 A.M. What is this? I had no idea a church group met here. I walk up the stairs, but I’m all sweaty in my work-out clothes and a baseball cap. I’m wearing no makeup. Sitting at a table, a gray-haired woman with an encouraging smile greets me and tells me that they’ve been gathering here for the past year.
“Well, great,” I say. “I’ll come back next week when I’m better dressed.”
“Oh, please,” she says, “Come in anyway; you look just fine.”
The tension drains away in the warmth of her welcome. Inside, the lights focus on the stage, and I sit in the privacy of the darkness in the rest of the theater, absorbing the message of love and positivity. Candles and flowers soften the place. I listen, sing, and pray, and then walk home with a peaceful glow and calm feeling in my heart. I vow never to lose this again. It is my single most valuable possession. And I am in charge of it. I had let fear pull me out of the peaceful center that Gurudev connected me to with such patience. I will remain positive, despite my circumstances. Cars tailgate, motorcycles roar, horns honk, but the sky is blue, and everything is working out in a divine flow.
- The tears I’ve allowed have washed my spirit clean.
- I leave my fears behind.
- I leave those blues up there in the glorious infinite sky.