The Miss Jobless Chronicles is written by Caitlin O’Toole.
A wise man once said, "Under-employment is rough — especially when it's 100 degrees out and it's the first of the month." Okay, a wise man didn't really say that — but someone should have.
The air is thick like soup, and my shifts at ‘Snapshot’ magazine are sporadic. I'm getting some other nibbles, but companies are taking total advantage of the shitty economy and hiring people for like pennies an hour. Desperate fools like me apply, then do the work while quietly resenting it.
The perk of hanging around — however involuntarily — is that you get to know your neighbors. I've told you about June, my friend down the hall. Who's kind of like the hip Betty White of the building and has achieved a weird kind of Chelsea cult status. Now I have new friends — Liam, an older gay guy with a Houdini mustache who told me the other day that he had a dream about me. Creepy. Then there's Billy G., a sort of has-been actor who never really was. He has two dachshunds that drool and lick my feet in the elevator. The other day, he invited me up to his apartment to see his renovation which I was a little freaked out by — not that I was nervous about being alone with him — he seems harmless — but New Yorkers don't like to get close to anyone or make new friends. Sort of kidding, but I think I actually fall into that category.
Then there’s the woman in the apartment below me, who I simply call bitch face, who complains that my music is too “bassy.” I swear she came up one night when I was playing Billie Holiday and complained about the bass level.
Then there's Eleanor, who I call The Troll, because she's short and has insanely matted salt and pepper hair. As if someone took her in their hands and shook her like she was a toy perched on top of a pencil. She has a slightly pock-marked complexion, like she had a shitty acne problem in high school and can't get rid of the faint craters. Her skin always looks kind of moist and she has beady troll-like eyes. She also smells like patchouli, and few people can get away with that. She's always petitioning for some cause. Like, yesterday she had me sign a list to try and get the mail person to deliver the mail earlier. Okay…. I love getting mail as much as the next person. But really, honestly, it doesn't matter when it comes unless I'm expecting a check — then if it doesn't come by 6pm it sucks because I can't cash it til the next day. (Which, on most days, matters.)
The troll is tres annoying, if you haven’t already gathered. Like, she corners you with her clipboard at the door when you’re just coming home.
“Will you sign my petition?” she’ll say in her nasaly voice.
“Well, it depends on what your petition is.”
“We’re trying to get the post office to offer a more gender-neutral selection of stamps.”
Gender neutral stamps? Who does she think she is, the Betty Friedan of the building? Who the hell does she want on the stamps — Chaz Bono?
Like, right now I have Liberty Bell stamps. Are those male or female? I mean, it could be said that the bell part is kind of vaginal, but there is a long thingy sticking out of it, my friend lulu pointed out, that could be perceived as phallic.
In other news, I've been getting the New York Times for free because I'm up and out early in the morning and the paper delivery woman developed an insane crush on me. So she started giving me the paper every day. Right at my doorstep. Then something happened and she disappeared and some surly dude took over. And my subscription stopped. Would it be out of line if I called The Times and complained?
Underemployment wears on you and takes its toll on the old self esteem — but I'm not telling you anything you don't know. I would say I work about half of each month, then freak out the other two weeks about what I'm going to do. There's insurance concerns (I have it but it's a shit policy — no dental and no psychiatric, so if I needed to be committed for underemployment-fueled temper tantrums, it would be out-of-pocket.) There's rent, phone bill, etc… and the all-important "how to get beer" quandry. Trader Joe's has cheap brands like "No Name" and "Simpler Times" that I've been trying and taste like the poor man's Red Stripe or Stella. I recommend.
I think that it's funny that NYU — my alma mater — as well as my high school — a tight-knit, competitive, French, Washington, D.C., prep school — keep haranguing me for money. As if. Every month I get their school magazine, a glossy, well put together publication with "give us money" pleas throughout. I can't log on to facebook without a different former classmate hitting me up for cash in an IM. If you donate, you get your name in the magazine and I guess I'm supposed to give a shit about that kind of stupid status. Like, if you donate a certain amount, you reach different "frog" levels. (Our mascot was the frogs — so lame). So a $50 donation makes you a bronze frog, $100 is silver, then there’s gold, and so on. (What am I if I don't donate at all? Am I a papier mache frog? Or is there a list of non-donors in the back of the magazine in order to humiliate them?)
Anyway, so in the back of this glossy magazine that I leaf through, there are listings by class at the back, with summonses to submit all your news so the class knows what's up with you. Like I really give a shit about letting Juliette Lamar about my life. The postings by former classmates are hilarious, and, more often than not, make me feel like shit about my career so far. Like, people write things like:
"Juliette— from the class of '86 — is doing incredibly well. She just sold a screenplay to a major studio, and is the volunteer coordinator at House of Ruth, a shelter for battered women. After her year-long stint in Malawi, where she taught English, she went back to school to get her PhD. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her loving husband, their three adopted kids, a black lab, and a Lexus. She eats local produce, buys free range chicken, and drinks fair trade coffee."
The bitch is probably a member of the platinum frog club.
I never write to the representative from my class about what I'm doing. Mostly because I don't know what to say — I mean, I could say something like, "Caitlin O'Toole has a substantial amount of debt and rarely works. She often wonders why "Middlemarch" was required reading. She eats a shit diet, frets about her weight, goes on dates once in a blue moon, collects free shit on craigslist, and spends an inordinate amount of time sitting on the stoop waiting for the mail and the checks that are rarely in it."
I should seriously send that in.
Then again, maybe not.
Caitlin O’Toole is a New York City-based writer and editor and the creator of “The Miss Jobless Chronicles”. A native of Washington, D.C., she began her illustrious journalism career as a Washington Post paper girl and won the 1982 carrier of the year award — a plaque she still proudly displays in her teensy weensy Chelsea apartment. Caitlin’s career has been punctuated by bouts of unemployment, under-employment, and run-ins with neighborhood misfits, local bodega owners and an 85-year-old technophile neighbor named June. She’s written for Star, Parade, Sesame Workshop, People.com, VH1, and Fox News, and has been a guest blogger for the Huffington Post. She’s also a Kardashians know-it-all, thanks to a recent freelance stint. Please send all six-figure job offers and fanmail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also fan Miss Jobless on Facebook.