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Miss Jobless

The Miss Jobless Chronicles: White-Knuckling It

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

When your unemployment check clears your account at 2:23am Wednesday morning, 2:22am Wednesday morning is the best time of the week. My heart races and I break a little bit of a sweat. At 2:20am I log onto my bank’s web site and check out my balance. I keep hitting the refresh button until the money hits my account. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh Sometimes I do this like 50 times. (No, I’m not obsessive.) When it hits, I get a little pang of joy that shoots through body. Then I do my “twirl around in the office chair” dance — which consists of two or three 360-degree rotations complete with flailing of the arms. My downstairs neighbors must love it!

If you’re on unemployment, you know what I’m talking about when I say that Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays are usually “white knuckle” days. Means you don’t have anything left from the prior week’s flow and you’re just getting by. For me, it means I’ve poorly managed my week’s money so that the contents of my refrigerator include catnip, a Hoegaarden, and a one-third-full bottle of lite Italian dressing. (I feel starving, but at least the cats get stoned.) And then there’s the can of lentil soup in my cabinet (which I am scared to open anyway because roaches play house in the cabinet). The soup’s been here since I moved in. Um, that was 2003. Oh god. Does soup go bad? I keep it there so when my mom visits she sees that I have soup. And moms who know you have soup in your cupboard are happy moms.

There’s not a lot to spend money on at 2:23am on a Wednesday morning, but you can find shit to spend it on if you try. The deli up the street opens at 5, so I usually hit it and get an egg sandwich and a coffee. That’s the lap of luxury. I have to resist other temptations (downloading tons of music, buying stuff at Amazon) or i could blow my whole week’s economic “plan” in a matter of moments.

As I eat my sandwich, I start to map out exactly what I’m going to spend my money on for the week. (By now, it’s early Wednesday morning — like 6am.) Some goes towards paying off my credit card debt, some goes in the rent pile, some goes in the utilities (phone) pile, a lot goes to food, and then I put aside a little for socialization — which often ends up going into the food pile. The piles go into envelopes, which go into my closet.

The envelope trick totally doesn’t work for me, btw. I don’t even know why I still do it. I have little willpower. Like, I’ll see a CD I want to download for $9.99 and I realize that I don’t have an envelope labeled “CD downloads.” So I take $2 from each of five envelopes and create one for downloads. That means $2 less for food, $2 less for socialization, and $2 less in three more categories. (With a penny left over!) I can usually get by doing this once in a while, but more often than not, it bites me in the ass. Like, it’s better to have $2 less for groceries than it is $2 less in your transportation envelope. That’s almost a whole subway ride less than you had before. Which means you can go somewhere, but not get back. Like, great — hello? I’m in Queens. But I can’t get back because I downloaded the new Heart CD and now my transportation envelope is empty. Which means I have a lot of music to listen to when I have to WALK back to the city. See? It gets messy.

Or, like, I’ll say to myself — I want to go out Friday night AND Saturday night. So I’ll just eat ramen noodles two nights in a row so I have enough money. Epic fail. I’m too bloated to want to go out at all. So I have the extra money, but I look hideous and you could pop me with a pin. The extra money should go to extra things — like birthday presents, and an “emergency” or two that may pop up. More often than not, it doesn’t.

Going to the grocery store is usually the first order of business on Wednesday morning. I’ve been clipping coupons and I’ve changed stores. Food Emporium is cheaper than Gristedes. (It’s also not as filthy, but that’s another column altogether.) Sometimes, they have three Lean Cuisines for $10 — as opposed to $4.99 each. Soda is $1.69 a bottle, as opposed to $2.69. And the chicken doesn’t look like it’s been dead since 1971. The downside is I have to walk further, but I just bring a big bag and suck it up.

Some people have this ritual where every time they get a $5 bill, they put it in a special pile and let the fives collect for a while, then do something special with what’s accumulated. I don’t have that kind of self-control, so I’ve been saving change and trying to teach myself to not dip into it. Then, I figure, each week, I can bring the change to a bank that has one of those change-counting machines and cash it in. Then that extra money goes towards paying off my debt. Looks good on paper, right? Doesn’t work for me.

I’m curious about how other people ration their unemployment checks to last a whole week. Do you use the envelope method? Does it work for you? Let me know your tips and tricks!

caitlinotoole.pngCaitlin O’Toole is a New York City-based writer and editor. A native of Washington, D.C., she began her illustrious journalism career as a Washington Post paper girl. She has since written and edited for Sesame Workshop Digital, Star Magazine, The National Enquirer, Glamour, People.com, Parade.com and Washington’s City Paper. Her work has also been featured on Fox News, ABC, MTV and VH1. She lives in Chelsea with her two cats, Lucy and Ethel. She can be reached for work at her LinkedIn page and Tweets at @MsOToole.

The Miss Jobless Chronicles: The Tranny Christmas Angel

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

The painter has completely taken over my apartment. I can barely find my cats much less clothing to put on. It’s taken him two weeks to get remotely close to finishing the job – and mind you, it’s a studio, not a 2,500 square foot loft. So my mom sent me a bus ticket to visit the family in D.C. to get away for a few days.

My parents moved from the house I grew up in to a small apartment in downtown D.C. a few years ago. My father, a writer, also rents a small room in the building’s lobby and uses it as an office. He’s about to move offices, though, which means he’s cleaning out years of old checks, tax returns, letters, awards and books. He asks me to help him, it’s easier to weed out shit with a second pair of eyes. He’s always quick to show me the folders upon folders of rejection letters he got when he was in the “business” to keep me grounded in reality – which I am often not.

In storage, we also found Christmas ornaments, including strands of decorative plastic apples dusted with fake frost, jalapeno lights, plaster impressions of my hands when I was a baby, my coming out letter to my dad, brown clay pretzels dotted with Wite-Out “salt” made by my sister Sarah, and a 50-pound clay car I made in the 10th grade. I didn’t even know where to start. So I started with the ornaments.

I separated them into two piles: one for me, and one for my sister and brother-in-law. In my pile: a Raggedy Ann doll made of yarn, which was my favorite when I was a kid; a felt gingerbread man; a crusty red robin with one eye; and a gold cardboard tranny-esque Christmas angel that used to top our tree until my dad got more work and we got new things, including ornaments.

My sister comes over for my dad’s birthday dinner, and after we eat, I bring out the bags of ornaments for her to go through. I dump them on the dining room table.

“I don’t care about any of them but the yarn Raggedy Ann doll,” she goes, picking up a stuffed pea ornament with a smiley face and a Santa Claus hat.

“I took that Raggedy Ann ornament,” I said.

“No! OK, fine. Then I get mom’s mink,” she giggles.

My mother is very much alive – an active 71-year-old with virtually no health problems. She walks in on us splitting up her possessions prematurely.

“No one’s touching my mink, and it’s muskrat anyway.”

“Well, I want the brown and white plates,” I laugh.

“That’s fine,” my sister chimes in, “those colors clash with my kitchen anyway.”

And it suddenly dawns on me what all the bickering and jesting is REALLY about – my parents’ mortality, and our anxiety surrounding it. No one speaks about it, but there are a few beats of silence when I’m wondering if anyone is thinking the same thing.

After a second or two, I go, “You can have the Raggedy Ann doll, I don’t even want it.”

“No, you keep it. As long as it stays in the family –”

“Oh for Christ’s sake,” my dad yells from the other room, “make up your minds and shut up or the fucking Raggedy Ann will end up in the trash.”

“I get the tranny Christmas angel,” I say.

“Good,” Sarah goes, “I don’t want it.”

“You two, seriously – be quiet,” Mom urges. “And anyway, we have to have cake now.”

She disappears into the kitchen and comes out with a gigantic pear torte and ten candles. It’s my dad’s 79th birthday and we start singing. I don’t look at Sarah because then we’ll both tear up.

“Happy birthday, dad,” I say, kissing his cheek.

And many more.

caitlinotoole.pngCaitlin O’Toole is a New York City-based writer and editor. A native of Washington, D.C., she began her illustrious journalism career as a Washington Post paper girl. She has since written and edited for Sesame Workshop Digital, Star Magazine, The National Enquirer, Glamour, People.com, Parade.com and Washington’s City Paper. Her work has also been featured on Fox News, ABC, MTV and VH1. She lives in Chelsea with her two cats, Lucy and Ethel. She can be reached for work at her LinkedIn page and Tweets at @MsOToole.

The Miss Jobless Chronicles: Paul, the Pothead Poet from L.A.

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

I don’t think I can pull off this “I’m pregnant” thing. (See 10/4/10 installment of MJC) But I’m in a pickle — I can’t go back and tell Carl at Pest Zappers that I lied. So I call and tell him I got another gig. He was cool about it — even congratulatory. But then he asked me what it was, what I’d be doing, and I hadn’t come up with something in advance.

“Um, I’m going to be a … a … um, a tollbooth attendant. On 95.”

“Oh! I have a friend who does that — which exit?”

Errr…

“Um, they’re not really sure where they’re going to place me yet,” I say. “I think it’s going to be Weehawken.”

“Good benefits with that job, congratulations.”

“Yeah, I like that it’s social — I’ll be working with people, I’m a people person. Plus, I get to be outside. Well, half outside — half in a little box. My arm will be outside.”

“Well, good luck to you,” he goes, and that was that.

Meanwhile, my landlord has been painting my apartment, and I swear you’d think he was painting the fucking Sistine Chapel because it’s taking so long. So I’ve been ‘homeless’ for five days, from 9-5, with nothing to do but wander the city.

It could be worse — I could be in Toledo or something. Wandering around New York City isn’t so bad. Mostly, I spend my time walking. Walking. And walking. And writing in the coffee place ‘Joe’, nursing my $3 iced tea and asking for water refills. Sometimes I bring my own iced tea from home and just keep refilling my cup.

When you walk around the city a lot, you become struck at how lonely New York City is, even though it’s so busy. Lots of lonely people wandering around, waiting for… waiting for something to happen, someone to come along and talk to them.

‘Joe’ on 23rd and 9th is like the Central Perk or Cheers of my neighborhood, it’s like where everybody knows your name. There’s this one guy, Paul, who lives in my building and always smells like pot and kisses me hello, which is gross since I don’t even know him. But I don’t have the heart to say “Get your slimy pot lips off my cheek.” So I air kiss him back and we chat, mostly about nothing.

Paul just came here form L.A. and he’s SO L.A. SO mellow. I can’t even stand the way he talks so slowly and deliberately. And he’s always smiling, which, of course, is enough to drive this grumpy New Yorker totally batty. I want to say, “What the fuck are you so happy about?”

I think he’s in fashion because today he was reading a Women’s Wear Daily at his usual perch in the window, systematically licking every page as he turned it.

He’s taken to calling me “Slick,” which makes me want to simultaneously vomit and scream.

“Hey, Slick,” he goes as I walk in, “‘sappenin’?” And he plants a wet one on my cheek, barely missing my lips.

“Nothing, I’m displaced because my apartment is being painted. So I’m killing time. What’s up with you?” I’m too polite.

“Aw, you know. Just — you know, hangin’. Chillin’. Soakin’ it all in.”

OK, I have no idea what that means, it must be L.A.-speak. Whatever it is it’s annoying as all fuck.

“Great, well — I’m going to get a tea. See you later.”

“Yeah, check you, babe.”
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The Miss Jobless Chronicles: My Big News!

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

So after my somewhat no duh realization that all the jobs are where the money is, I am determined to get a job at Pest Zappers as an exterminator. Bed bugs and stink bugs are very New York City 2010 and I want a piece of the action. I spoke with Lloyd at Pest Zappers’ flagship location last week, and he advised me to call back and speak with Carl, the manager. So I do. What I didn’t count on is that, according to Lloyd, Spanish is Carl’s first language. So I summon up my high school lessons in the language and throw in some Spanish words and broken Spanish phrases to impress him.

“Hola, Carl!” I go, somewhat proudly. “Yo soy interesando en una position en su compania! Porque no me gustan las chinches, cucarachas, y ratones!”

He laughs.

“Caitlin, I do speak English, you know! But I am glad you don’t like bugs and rats, that is why Pest Zappers is here!”

“Oh, my goodness, estoy muy embarazada!”

“Oh! Congratulations! That’s exciting!”

Congratulations? On being embarrassed? I figure what I said must have been lost in translation. I move on.

“So I really want to work with Pest Zappers. How do I go about applying?”

“Well, why don’t you come in and speak with me? What’s your Tuesday look like?”

“Looks good to me. Do I need to bring anything with me?”

“Your resume, and three references.”

Cool. I’m in the door, I think — references? A resume? Who in my life can refer me for an exterminator position? And how do I tailor my resume for such a position? Hmmm. I sleep on it.

Next day, I get a call from Carl.

“Caitlin,” he goes, “I’m a little concerned about your working here while being pregnant. All those chemicals could really be detrimental to your unborn child. Do you want to reconsider? If not, I can just have you sign some kind of waiver or something — ”

“Pregnant? But –”

“How far along are you?”

“Um, well –”

“You don’t have to be shy about it, I’m not going to deny you a position at Pest Zappers just because you’re pregnant. I just want you to be aware of all the risks that are involved.”

That’s IT! I quickly assess the situation. I have NO idea why this man thinks I’m expecting, but that’s a SURE way to get a job — I’ll pretend to be pregnant! He can’t NOT hire me, because he’ll be afraid of a lawsuit. I’m BRILLIANT! AND I’M PREGNANT! Well don’t just sit there, congratulate me!

“Thank you for your concern,” I go, “but I know that the chemicals Pest Zappers uses are as safe as any, and I’m not worried about it. Plus, I really need the work. I have to save for my little one’s future, you know!”

Oh god. I’m insane.

“Great,” he says. “Well, I’ll see you Tuesday! Adios!”

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The Miss Jobless Chronicles: Follow the Money!

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

When I was in 10th grade, I studied civil disobedience and non-violence, by way of the civil rights movement and Gandhi.

There are a few things I remember about the great Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: His birthday is October 2; he applied the concept of non-violence to achieving India’s independence; he shaved his head with Gillette Fusion HydraGel Moisturizing Shave Gel; and he wore a dhoti made by Michael Kors.

I also remember a few quotes: “There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill for”; “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”; and “Complete nonviolence is complete absence of ill will against all that lives. It therefore embraces even sub-human life not excluding insects or beasts.”

I remember reading that Gandhi would actually step around bugs on the ground to avoid squishing them.

And that’s where Bapu and I differ.

cockroach

I’ve been killing bugs for years. On purpose. For as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s the New Yorker in me, but I consider bugs a nuisance. And now that there’s a bed bug crisis in New York City, I’ve decided to follow the money and become an exterminator.
Screw forklift operating. This is supply and demand, baby.

I am determined to land some interviews in the extermination field. So I solicit the help of my best friend, Laura, for a mock interview. We do it over martinis, which makes it extra productive.

“You have a lot of TV, print and online experience on your resume,” she says, straight-faced. “Why are you interested in being an exterminator?”

“I’ve always had an aversion to bugs. I grew up in a wooded section of Washington, D.C., and the bugs there weren’t only ugly; they were damned annoying. Those 17-year cicadas are like, super gross. I remember when one got in my car when I was on the Key Bridge, and –”

“OK,” Laura interrupts. “Now, as you well know, there’s a bedbug crisis in many urban cities across the country, particularly in New York. Is there anything you hate more than bedbugs?”

“Enya.”

“No, seriously, Caitlin — they’re going to ask you why you want to be an exterminator. What are you going to say?”

“Well, I think I will say I’m an equal opportunity murderer. I’m pro-choice, I’m pro-death penalty, and I’m pro- bug killing.”

“You’re hopeless.”

“Thanks for your support!”

We finish our martinis, and I decide to pound the pavement tomorrow and hit up every exterminator company I can find by phone.

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The Miss Jobless Chronicles: June, Part II

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.
I like to think I’m pretty savvy when it comes to technology, gadgets, texting and texting etiquette, but I’ve got nothing on June — my 82-year-old technophile neighbor and confidante.

It’s Rosh Hashanah, and she’s been busy with friends, as she always is, but she carved out a little time for me over the weekend.

The best, fastest way to get June is to send a text to her beloved iPhone. So I do. I ask her where she wants to go for coffee.

“Idk,” she texts me, “wut do u want to do? shd we go to la grainne caffe?”

She’s got all the lingo down pat. We make a date for Saturday (although she warns that Friday night will be a “late one out” for her and that she might be groggy). I take my chances and book it.

She beats me to the cafe, which is on 9th Ave. and 21st. Her back is to the door, and she has her iPod on, so when I come up behind her she jumps a little bit.

“Oh, hi! Caitlin O’Toole. My favorite name ever. ‘Caitlin O’Toole’, she repeats, this time in a pseudo-brogue. How are you?”

“I’m good, what are you listening to, June?”

“Jobim. I LOVE Jobim. Do you know of him? It’s actually a Jobim/Vivaldi mix — as the weather cools down I love his guitar concertos. I’ll have to make you a mixtape. Here, listen to this.”

So I put on the headphones, and “Girl from Ipanema” is blasting. I pretend like I’ve never heard it, though I had never heard his particular version.

“I love this! Love it.”

I take off the headphones and realize that I’ve been screaming. I pull up a chair.

“What other music do you like?”

“Well, I have to confess — I am curious about that Lady Gaga — the Atlantic Monthly calls her ‘Gagaloo’,” she giggles. “I couldn’t tell you what she sings, but I think she’s so wonderful and free. The Atlantic says she is the embodiment of a pop star, and well — I have to agree. Pop music has been so disappointing these days.”

“I do like Lady Gaga,” I chime in, “but more for her persona than for her music. She sings that song ‘Poker Face’ — know that one?”

I start to sing the chorus, and June lights up.

“Oh! That’s HER? I thought that was Britney Spears. Yes, I know ‘Poker Face’. Do you like Sondheim? I have to make you a mix. I’m going to do that today.”

“Awesome. And I will make you one.”

“What’s happening on the work front, Caitlin O’Toole? And what do you want to order?”

“Well,” I look down. “I’m doing this blog thing — which is really fun — and I just got a little freelance work, so I am glad. Fall’s here and things should pick up. Um, I’ll have a peppermint tea.”

“Excuse me, miss?,” she goes to the waitress. “Two peppermint teas over here, would you? Thank you so much.”

“What’s happening in your life?” I ask June.

“Well, you know about my son, right?”

“Yes, you told me — he is schizoaffective, right? Is that the right term?”

“Yes, well, I still say ‘schizophrenic’ because I am old school and more people understand that term. But yes, he is. And he has not been well.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“I know you are. Thank you. Anyway, so he has been in the hospital all summer, they can’t get his meds quite right and he has been… well, let’s just say not well. It’s so hard to see a child struggling.”

And her eyes well up. I clutch her hand and we’re quiet for a moment. All of a sudden I feel like a whiner for complaining about my unemployment. There is just so much to be grateful for. Like my friendship with June.

She pays the bill and we get up and link arms and walk towards our building in the cool fall air.

Next up: My new obsession: getting a job at Orkin. Yep — the bug people.

caitlinotoole.pngCaitlin O’Toole is a New York City-based writer and editor. A native of Washington, D.C., she began her illustrious journalism career as a Washington Post paper girl. She has since written and edited for Sesame Workshop Digital, Star Magazine, The National Enquirer, Glamour, People.com, Parade.com and Washington’s City Paper. Her work has also been featured on Fox News, ABC, MTV and VH1. She lives in Chelsea with her two cats, Lucy and Ethel. She can be reached for work at her LinkedIn page, Tweets at @MsOToole, and blogs at Shits and Giggles.

The Miss Jobless Chronicles: Miss Jobless Gets a Job (Sort Of)

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

So I got me two weeks of work. A man at a how-to-market-your-invention hotline hooked me up. I know, strange. Strange that HE hooked me up… and strange that I will be working for the first time in a while.

My “tan-too” invention is also in his hands (and now it’s in yours). It’s basically a little sticker-stencil that you put on your body when you’re in the sun. When you get tan, you peel it off and presto! A design! Initials, a heart, a unicorn. You think I’m kidding but I’m gonna get rich off that bad boy. They’re going to be the next Silly Bandz. Kids will eat that shit UP. And parents will be happy because they won’t get that nagging “Can I get a tattoo?” question from their children. Or if they do, they can say, “No — but you CAN get a TAN-too!” THANKS MOM!

And when it rains it pours. I also got a one-time freelance assignment from a guy who’s launching an Internet start-up. Here’s the winning cover letter:

Hi there:

I’m interested in the position, and I hope you’ll consider me for it.

I’m a dynamic, seasoned writer and editor with over 15 years of print, TV and online experience. I also have some management experience — I was in charge of teams of freelancers and interns at Star magazine, Parade.com and People.com. I’m completely comfortable in a “go-to” role, and I thrive on a good challenge.

Would love to meet and discuss the details!

I’ve attached my resume, as well as a Madonna clip (from The Enquirer).

Thanks!

He called and we spoke for about an hour. I felt like I was being grilled by a professor in J-school. He asked me about my rules on attribution, how to write a great news story for kids, and ethics and the Enquirer. It was clear almost immediately that I was the right person for the job, a one-off for $500. I’m already on it.

I started as a temporary researcher at the women’s magazine the other day. It’s great to be a temp, because you don’t get involved in the office drama that swirls around you. You just sort of fly under the social radar and do your job. I love it.

People are pretty nice there. It’s rather frantic and there’s no learning curve since it’s such a brief gig. I just kind of walked in and… started. So in that sense, it’s a little stressful.

Meanwhile, I am preparing for unemployment (again) in two weeks. It seems to never end. My life has become a series of unemployment peaks and valleys — mostly valleys, it seems. (At least these days.) When you get any kind of work, you have to alert the Department of Labor. Then, they write to your employer and ask if there’s any more work for you. I know — embarrassing! With that kind of humiliation, they make it pretty hard to WANT to work.

More…

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The Miss Jobless Chronicles: The Invisibility Cloak

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

Unemployment can mean long, maddening days inside glued to the computer, looking for work and networking. And quite frankly, all this time alone and the unforgiving summer heat are having a rather interesting effect on my brain.

I’ve become fixated on an idea that’s as old as time: becoming invisible. An article on Discovery.com fuels my fascination:
It states that for the first time ever, scientists have created an invisibility ‘cloak’ made from silk, and coated in gold.

I become fascinated by the idea of such a cloak. How would it work? How much would it cost? Why a cloak? Why not, say, invisibility khakis? And if you wear the cloak, is it like wearing nothing? Is it like the Seinfeld of cloaks? Or does it make the wearer invisible, too? I clearly have a lot of questions.

I imagine the TV infomercial: “And if you act now, we’ll send you not one but TWO invisibility cloaks for the price of one. That’s right, TWO cloaks for $19.95 (plus the cost of shipping). And if you call now… we’ll also send you an set of invisibility Ginsu knives… the latest in cutting-edge technology.”

I imagine receiving this cloak in the mail.

Knock knock! Who’s there? UPS! So I open the door and a box is floating in midair, while a phantom voice asks me to sign. When I open the box, there’s nothing in it.

After I crack myself up with invisibility cloak jokes, I begin to wonder what other high-tech contraptions might be in our future. Equipment that can videotape dreams? A printer that attaches to the brain and prints out thoughts? (Instead of the brand Brother, it would be called Big Brother.)

My grandfather used to invent all sorts of things. He invented a little contraption out of tongue depressors that you could stick in the toaster to take out your toast. And an apparatus out of wire coat hangers that you put in the top of a garbage bag so you could stuff it with leaves while raking without having to hold the bag open. He was a smart man.

About ten years ago, I came up with this idea called “Worldwide Workout.” It was basically exercise equipment with TV screens attached that would take you on an exciting journey while you worked out. For example, as you’re on the Stair master, the screen shows the steps of the Statue of Liberty — which you are virtually “climbing.” As you’re on the rowing machine, you are part of a virtual world that makes it seem like you’re rowing down the Nile. Enter: the Nintendo Wii. I TOTALLY invented it. I TOTALLY did. Just like Al Gore invented the Internet.

Anyway, determined to make a buck, I come up with other inventions — since Nintendo clearly ripped off “Worldwide Workout”. One is a cereal bowl with two compartments — one for the cereal and one for the milk. That way, your cereal doesn’t get soggy if it sits for a while. The other is a product called “tan-toos”. They’re stencils that you put on your body while you’re in the sun. Then when you take off the stencil, you have a lighter image of a picture, or your name, or whatever the stencil is of. I figure you could get some interest from a skincare company, or Band-Aid company, like Johnson & Johnson. It will appeal to kids who may be too young to get real tattoos, but still want to feel cool.

I call the main number at an invention web site and speak with a man named Chris about the tan-too idea. Chris is very enthusiastic about it and feels that it could be a big hit.

“So, what’s the process?”

“Well, first, we send you a free kit and that’ll explain how to get started.”

“What’s in the kit?” I ask him.

“A video and a brochure.”

“OK, yes, please send it to me. I am desperate for cash.”

“What’s your line of work?” Chris asks.

“I’m a writer. In New York City.”

“That’s funny, my cousin is a writer in New York. I wonder if she could help you. Give me your email address and I’ll get back to you.”

Long story short… Chris came through. It’s strange how connections work. I have networked for months and a man on the other end of the phone at an invention hotline gets me a freelance job? Amazing.

I got the inventor’s kit and am working on getting my ideas out there. I’m also working as a researcher at a well-known women’s magazine (where Chris’s cousin works). The work is only temporary — about two weeks. But it’s something. Something…. until the freelancer’s blues kick in again.

caitlinotoole.pngCaitlin O’Toole is a New York City-based writer and editor. A native of Washington, D.C., she began her illustrious journalism career as a Washington Post paper girl. She has since written and edited for Sesame Workshop Digital, Star Magazine, The National Enquirer, Glamour, People.com, Parade.com and Washington’s City Paper. Her work has also been featured on Fox News, ABC, MTV and VH1. She lives in Chelsea with her two cats, Lucy and Ethel. She can be reached for work at her LinkedIn page, Tweets at @MsOToole, and blogs at Shits and Giggles.

The Miss Jobless Chronicles: The Man With the Googly Eye

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

Second editor’s note: The alternative title for this post could be “MediaJobsDaily Costs Caitlin A Job.” Crap.

The summer’s almost over and I’m glad. The job market should pick up a little bit in the fall, when everyone is back in the groove. Or so I hope.

It only takes me a hot minute to get over the fiasco with my ex at the recording studio. I very quickly press on.

I’ve been answering help wanted ads on craigslist for months to no avail. I remember the days when craigslist was a great place to find a job, now it’s full of unpaid internships for mid-level people. A few weeks ago, though, I applied to a paid position at a very well-known, elite “country” club (located in the city — name withheld) and got a call back. The position was for someone to lay out their uppity in-house magazine using Quark Express and InDesign, skills that I picked up at “Snapshot” magazine.

I put on my Sunday best (black pants, button down, sweater vest — I decide that a suit is not necessary) and head uptown for the interview. It’s clear almost immediately that my outfit choice is far too hot for the 90-degree day. (Why do I always do that?) So by the time I get there, I’m sweating buckets — but I duck into a Cosi for a half hour and dry off in the A.C.

I get to the country club five minutes early. The interview is on the 9th floor and I want to give myself plenty of time to get up there in case of a crowded elevator or trouble with security. (I’m really anal retentive about being on time — not just to interviews, but everywhere.)

The club lobby is huge, dark and uninviting. There are Victorian-style white couches and chaise lounges cordoned off with violet-colored velvet ropes. Paintings of past club presidents executed in dark greens and grays adorn the walls. Massive marble columns from floor to ceiling punctuate the overly-air conditioned room.

I realize pretty quickly that I am completely underdressed — the vest-and-slacks combo that I felt so snazzy in when I left the house isn’t going to cut it, I don’t think. There are ancient-looking leathery gentlemen with canes coming into the building, watch chains twinkling on their three-piece suits. And I’m standing there in my J.Crew ensemble.

There is a sign: “Ladies and gentlemen must be properly dressed before entering the club.” Now, this could mean anything from “no bathing suits allowed” to “suits and ties only.” I quickly gather that it’s the latter. Oops.

I press on anyway and tell the security guard who I am. He looks me up and down, asks my name (Miss Jobless, of course — don’t you know me?) and tells me to take a seat on one of those (uninviting)Victorian couches, which I do. Within seconds, I am beckoned back to the security desk and given a building pass.

First stop: Human Resources. Which looks like a Lord & Taylor ladies lounge, if you’ve ever seen one — it looks like no one’s bothered to update or change anything for decades. And there’s not a soul in sight — it’s like the Bates Country Club. A glass cabinet houses a sign with details about minimum wage and work discrimination. Finally, another person arrives: a young man in a three-piece grey flannel suit, who sits next to me and asks to borrow my pen. (Really? You came to an interview without a pen? Idiot.) A few minutes later I get called into a small office and forget to get my pen back — so I am the idiot on the job interview without a pen.

The woman who beckons me into her office fits in with the decor completely because she looks like she just stepped out of a Good Housekeeping magazine. I shake her cold, clammy hand and have a seat — which is sort of hard to find since her office is overflowing with books, papers and strange artifacts.

“Hi, I’m Elaine,” she goes. “Tell me your name again, I can’t seem to pull up your email on this computer.” (Which looks as ancient as an Atari, by the way.)

“Caitlin O’Toole.”

“Cat-land?”

“Caitlin. C-A-I-T-L-I-N.”

“Oh! Caitlin,” she smiles. “A friend of mine has a granddaughter named Caitlin, but she spells it with a K, I think. K-a-i-t-l-a-n-d.”

“Well, there are so many different ways to spell it,” I go, half biting my tongue, half smiling to myself because I know that my spelling is the “real” spelling.

“Okay, first I need you to fill out some paperwork — it’s just routine. Do you have a pen?”

“No, I’m sorry — I actually lent it to –”

“Here,” she goes. “Just fill that out and I’ll be right back.”

The pen, which is probably as old as she is, seems to be out of ink. I grab another one off of her desk when I am certain she’s gone and replace it with the defective pen.

The “application” is standard — and annoying. No matter how hard you work on your resume, they always ask you to write in your last three employers. I usually write “see attached resume”, but more often than not, they want you to list the jobs anyway. So I do.

“Sesame Workshop, Parade, Snapshot, Fox….” Reasons for leaving? Er… Supervisors? Er…. May we contact your previous employers? Please don’t…. Have you ever been convicted of a crime? Does my DUI count? (So kidding.) So I fill out all of that and wait for ‘Elaine’ to come back. (We’re on a first name basis.)

“Are you done? Okay, good. Now why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself.”

“Would love to.” I have this answer down pat — God knows I’ve practiced it enough. “I’m a seasoned writer and editor with many years of print, TV and online experience. I’m freelancing at the moment — I’m developing a TV series — which means long hours working alone. But I’m a team player at heart and I would really like to be in an office environment and grow with the right company.”

“Very well,” she goes, “now I’m going to take you in to the newsroom to see the editor of the magazine, Mr. Bond.”

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The Miss Jobless Chronicles: The Ex-Files (part 3 of 3)

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

So anyway, as I was saying last week…

I’ve been working for $10 an hour at my ex-girlfriend’s recording studio. It’s a little demeaning — not because of the rate or the kind of work, but because I’m working with her — the love of my life who dumped me 10 years ago.

I’m starstruck because the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been recording at the studio, Avatar (formerly The Power Station), and part of my duties have included ordering lunch for them and presenting it to them like it’s room service in a swanky hotel.

“Hi,” I say, handing Karen three vegetarian wraps for her and the band. I’ve set them up on a shiny black enamel tray I got from the very well-stocked kitchen. Also on the tray: diet Cokes, tall bottles of Evian, glasses of ice, cloth napkins, Pirate’s Booty, Flake imported candy bars, fresh cantaloupe, and a single white tulip in a small silver vase. (One of the studio’s homey little touches.)

“Thanks!” she goes. “What’s your name again?”

“Caitlin,” I say, beginning to break a little sweat.

“Cat-land?”

“No, Caitlin. And by the way — what do you like to be called? I mean, is it ‘Karen’? Or do you like people to say the ‘O’ after it? As in, Karen O.?”

I feel like a fucking idiot.

“Karen is fine,” she smiles, probably sensing my nervousness. “Just Karen.”

“Oh. I mean, O.K. Well, enjoy your lunch!” I cant stop staring at her indelibly-red lips. “Let me know if you need anything else, anything at all.”

“Will do, thanks!”

She’s sweet. I walk away, wanting to hum “Maps” so badly… “ohhhh they don’t love you like I love you… mappppppps….”

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