The Miss Jobless Chronicles is written by Caitlin O’Toole.
I’m glad fall is finally here. The New York summer was grueling and, for the most part, I found myself irritable and slightly homicidal. The height of annoyance? Standing on the subway platform in the blistering August heat while some asshole plays "Que Sera Sera" on the pan flute. It was even worse than the time I heard “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” on the steel drums.
Autumn usually means more job opportunities, so I’ve picked up a little work, which is good. Helping a friend jump-start his new political blog. And writing celeb news content for a website. It’s good to have structure. Even though I’m telecommuting (my editor is in L.A.), I make myself get up at 6am, get showered and get dressed as if I am going into an office.
Lately , I’ve been wearing my 21 Jump Street t-shirt and a tailored black jacket. Sometimes, a skinny gingham tie, white button down and my blue and black checkerboard Vans. I look like a Cheap Trick groupie or an extra from “Miami Vice”. Don Johnson would be proud.
Forcing myself to sit down at my desk at 9:30am and begin working sends an affirming message to myself. It’s good for me to get out of my sweats and into the habit of looking un-grungy. Which can be a challenge when you’re not working or working very little. (I think it was Seinfeld who once said that wearing sweats is like “giving up.” It’s so true.)
Because I am bringing in more income, I’ll soon no longer eligible be for my current health insurance plan. It’s that freelancers’ insurance dilemma, which I will touch on more in my next column.
Daman and Saleem, two neighborhood bodega owners, are still fighting for my business. (See “The Bodega Wars”.) Basically, Saleem is the Pakistani man who runs the convenience store part of the Lukoil station, and Daman, a handsome Indian man with an unfortunate bad complexion, runs the bodega across from the gas station on 10th Avenue. To me, Tenth Ave. is no longer just a bustling gateway to the Lincoln Tunnel; it’s become Kashmir. If I go looking for a diet peach Snapple at Daman’s and I don’t see it, I’ll head across the street to get one at Lukoil. Daman will literally run after me.
“Wait! What are you looking for,” he’ll shout as I’m halfway across Tenth.
“Oh, you don’t have it — diet peach Snapple…“
“No, we have! We have it!”
He runs inside and runs back out to the street with my tea. Anything to keep me from going to the gas station; the enemy. I pay him right there on the street with a pocketful of lint and change. It feels like a drug deal, only we’re dealing in Splenda.
In an effort to lure in customers and compete with Daman, and in the never-ending battle to make his establishment more attractive, Saleem has purchased ten huge palm trees and put them next to the gas pumps. Because when I get gas, I like to pretend I’m in a tropical paradise, don’t you?
My neighborhood is spotted with art galleries, and for that reason, as well as the fact that the Highline just opened on 23rd and 10th, masses of New Yorkers flock to my hood, leaving trash, cigarette butts, and the occasional graffiti tag on the mailbox outside my door.
Saleem, at Lukoil, decided to jump on the bandwagon and host an art exhibit. So in between shelves of second- and third-rate snacks — like Herr’s jalapeño cheez curls and Andy Capp’s hot fries and Lady Linda honey buns — there are mixed media collages and sculptures and random scribbles with obscene price tags on them.
As I went there the other day to marvel at this new “gallery”, one of the “artists” was there — and I bumped into her horribly executed painting as I went to grab a soda.
“Mind the art, please,” she goes.
I said I was sorry, but what I wanted to say was “I do mind the art. I mind it a lot.”
Then I think, this poor girl is going to have that on her resume — that she showed at the Lukoil station in 2011. These are desperate times for sure.
My fucking Cat died and it was June’s fault (June is my 83-year-old neighbor). Kidding, but it’s nice to have someone to blame. I was away on an assignment and she was watching my two babies. When I got back, one of them, Lucy, was on her deathbed and June hadn’t noticed the cat’s strange and sudden withdrawal and depression over the weekend. I took Lucy to the kitty ER the night I returned, convinced I had to put her down, and she died in the cab on the way there. She was 16 and kind of had one foot on a banana peel anyway, but still. It’s costing me $200 for a private cremation, money that I totally don’t have, just so I can have an ugly wood-carved box full of my fucking cat’s remains that I don’t even know what to do with.
Lance, my gay upstairs neighbor, somehow got my phone number and left a sweet sympathy message; June made me gazpacho and left it outside my door. It was truly vile and barely edible. I threw most of it down the drain and wrote her a note telling her how tasty it was.
She cornered me in the hall.
“Caitlin O’Toole,” she goes, always having to say my full name when she sees me. “How are you feeling?”
“Better, June, thanks for the soup. It was delicious,” I lied, praying she wouldn’t ask me for specifics.
“Don’t you think it was kind of too chunky?”
“No, chunky is good, I like chunky.”
“Let me know if you need anything, Caitlin O’Toole.” She smiled warmly and kissed my cheek. I do have nice neighbors (not counting The Troll).
I had this idea to start writing “Miss Jobless: The Musical.” I think it has definite possibilities. It would feature songs with titles like “Bankruptcy!” and, at the end of the show, “Bankruptcy! (Reprise)” during which the whole cast comes out, as in “Rent,” to perform the finale. It’s still a work in progress, so I’ll keep you all posted…
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.