Behind The Front Lines of Corporate America
The true story of how one woman entered an office building.
“Ribs” by Lorde blasts in my ears. I vaguely need to poop but can’t, for I am standing on 8th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, looking up at a shabby brown building flanked by a Shake Shack and a sex shop. I’m wearing my most corporate getup conceivable (turtleneck and houndstooth slacks with snakeskin boots) in an effort to blend in, for the brown building I’m frowning at could very well be my new place of work.
Like many aspects of my life, looking for a job has been an exercise in humiliation and rejection.
I’ve spent the past several weeks scouring Indeed.com for opportunities that match my most finely-honed skills: agreeing with anything anyone says, masturbating, giggling with Sarah Jessica Parker about the fake bird afixed to my hair. Most of the companies I’ve applied to have been unresponsive. Occasionally I’ll receive a rejection letter. I feel like the guy from Titanic calling “Is anyone alive out there? Can anyone hear me?” except that a few of the people are definitely hearing me and choosing to drown in the icy Atlantic rather than offer me a job interview.
In all fairness, not every single one of my applications has been painstakingly constructed. I may have accidentally called a few companies by others’ names due to some unfortunate copy-paste work. And of course there’s the infamous time in college I handed out a bunch of paper resumés down Newbury Street, the trendiest in Boston—I’d passed out my employment history to about fifteen or so businesses, including snobby boutiques like All Saints and Pinky Otto, when I glanced down at one of my resumés as it transferred from my hands into the talons of an aging Marshall’s employee. Somehow, the name printed in bold, blue serifs at the top of the page did not read ‘Hilton Dresden.’ Instead, because of an unforgivable printing error related to the resumé template I’d used, the name at the top of the page read: ‘Information Technology.’
It’s a typo that has gone down as one of the all time greats among my loved ones. It even inspired this powerful short film starring my little brother Hayden. Trigger Warning—it’s a tear jerker:
Luckily the story has a happy(ish) ending: I kept going on my walk down Newbury Street, scribbled ‘Information Technology’ out with a pen, wrote in my own name, and handed over my freshly christened CV (is that a synonym for resumé??) to the Starbucks Copley Square, along with their pen. They hired me and I trudged through the blistering Boston snow at 4 AM for several semesters to make denizens of the Westin Hotel their cappuccinos. Dreams do come true!
But that was years ago. I’ve since learned the invaluable lesson of checking that your name isn’t ‘Information Technology’ before handing someone your resumé. And several years post-grad, I’ve done quite a bit to make that document more than just lies about having worked in a nonexistent diner in Wisconsin for five years. To quickly brag: since graduating, I’ve interviewed many of my favorite actors of all time, created really funny video content for major magazines, written pieces I’m extremely proud of, designed a T-shirt line featured on VOGUE (like?!?!), acted with the literal funniest person ever, John Early, on the most underrated show of our time, Search Party (on HBO no less!), AND grown out my hair and gotten way hotter! So WHY is it so hard to even get a RESPONSE from a shitty startup making advertisements for fucking granola bars?
Back to the houndstooth slacks. I’d applied to anything and everything I could find, having quickly exhausted all the editorial, assistant, and film/TV job postings and moving on to advertising, graphic design, gallery stuff… anything where there might be a way for me to disocciate and pretend I’m on Mad Men or Sex and the City. By the way, there’s nothing more awful than when someone is like, ‘What kind of work do you want to do?’ Like… contradiction alert, don’t you think luv?
Finally, someone responded. A self-described “advertising agency” wanted to hop on a phone call. They asked for my availability via text. Already I thought that seemed a little weird. But as someone desperate to make money quickly, I replied, offering 11:30 AM the next day as an interview time. Hours went by. I never heard back and assumed it was a scam. The following morning, at 11:28 AM, I woke up. Checking my phone, I saw they’d confirmed our interview and expected to see me on Zoom in two minutes. Whipping a button-down onto my slender clavicles, I stumbled into the living room and croaked “Hey! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me!” into my laptop. Ten minutes later, I had an invite to come and “shadow” one of their “account managers” for a full day at their headquarters in midtown.
Which brings us to yesterday, and to me, up at 7 AM to drink coffee and water and a smoothie, showered, turtle-necked and out the door by 8:45, two copies of my printed resume (name-checked) clutched in trembling demanicured hands, my curls pulled back into a modest ponytail. “I’m nothing to be afraid of,” I wanted my outfit to say.
“Ribs” ends (side note: I recently stripped to “Ribs” at The Bell House—shoutout to the heroic Nick Kraus). I remove my headphones, gulp, and sidle over to a metal door, careful not to make eye contact with the man loudly eating a ShackBurger in front of it. Up a greasy elevator I go to the third floor. Two girls, both looking to be fresh out of college, accompany me, and I learn they’ve been invited to shadow, too, though they are quickly whisked away by other corporate-ish youths to shadow with other “companies” occupying the space. I can’t help but notice enviously that their assigned hosts are women.
My shadowing guide approaches me after I’ve been sitting on a rigid red plastic chair for a half hour. He’s hot, I’m able to confirm right away, with a nice ass fit tightly into dress pants, but the pleasantries seem to end there. He shakes my hand perfunctorily and motions for me to follow him.
“Where are we going?” I wonder aloud. Moses, as we shall call him, explains that we’re headed to the Bronx.
“Why the Bronx?”
“I’m going to show you our offices up there,” he mumbles, hurrying out onto the piss-stained sidewalk.
I wonder to myself why we didn’t just meet there, if that’s where their real office is. But I board the 2 train with Moses as he begins to grill me about “who I am.” I start to explain my work experience, and he scoffs.
“I don’t want your resumé. I want to know who you really are.”
Is he flirting? Absolutely not. Are we making eye contact? Yes. I tell him I enjoy laughing. We board the train as he explains to me that he played basketball growing up, and that he had strict parents. Up, up, up we go. I ask if he can tell me more about the position—like what is the position, and what are the responsibilities, and what does it pay? He explains that he can end this shadowing day at any time he wants, and that if I make it to lunch he will then explain more about the various roles at the company.
He proceeds to make me write down different acronyms: stuff like “the AIR principle,” which, I learn, stands for “Acknowledge, Ignore, Resume.” It gradually crystallizes that these are different techniques Moses uses to sell stuff to local businesses. As we climb further into the Bronx, Moses reveals to me that I will be accompanying him as he walks cold into various small businesses around the neighborhood to try and make them buy office supplies: printer toner, paper, etc. OK Dwight Schrute!
If it weren’t for the prolonged eye contact Moses and I are making, during which I wonder to myself if Moses has a future in chasing after trans girls, I might have been out of there by now. Moses quizzes me on the acronyms he’s just watched me write down. I read back to him what he’s just told me, and he seems satisfied. I ask him again about the position I’m supposedly interviewing for, and what the pay is like. He replies coldly that if I make it to lunchtime he will tell me.
“Now, write down twenty things you like about yourself and twenty things you don’t like about yourself,” Moses commands.
I look at my little green notebook. I write down the word “humor.” Then I look up at Moses, and as the 2 train pulls into a stop deep, deep in the Bronx, I say, “I’m gonna go.”
“What—um, why?” Moses responds, his steely demeanor momentarily shaken.
“You seem nice, but I’m not interested,” I say with a small smile, and I whisk my tote bag onto my bony shoulder and stride off the train into the sticky September sunlight.
A few closing thoughts: One, as far as I could tell from the vibes, this supposed “marketing company” was some sort of pyramid scheme designed to get people to sell office supplies for free to businesses that don’t want them.
Two, I’m proud of myself for going and giving it a chance anyway. I’m also proud of myself for leaving.
Three, I interviewed this morning for a job in politics. Lol!
Finally, it’s officially fall, and rest assured in my next newsletter I will be returning to talking about movies and, if all goes according to plan, some thoughts about horror. For now, I’ll say I recently watched Malignant with one of my girlies (hi Drew). It’s absolutely insane. I did not like it, but I am not into the gross, gorey Saw vibe of scary movies at all.
A movie that is much more my speed, and that I rewatched a few nights ago, is Rosemary’s Baby. An absolute masterpiece, 10/10, Mia Farrow hive we eating good tonight.
All for now luvs, xoxo leaving you with this: