I was cleaning out the contacts in my gmail account yesterday (hoping to avoid another mass email debacle) when I did a face plant onto a horrible memory. I hit on the email address of a woman whom I’ll call Jane Emerson. She was listed as jane@lasthespot. That’s close to the real URL, because that’s where I worked when I worked for Jane Emerson. I worked for Jane for four whole days.
In the Spring of 2007 (one of the shittier years of my life, it would seem—at least, the first half certainly was), I answered yet another job ad on Craiglist. You’d have thought I’d have learned my lesson mere months before when meeting Ty, the “producer” who had adult acne and braces and wanted to pay me to be his girlfriend. But no, I had to go out and apply for more jobs on Craigslist. Because I’m a goddamn idiot.
But this one seemed genuinely awesome because it was a writing job and it involved social media and online publications and all the stuff I wanted to learn how to do. So I applied and had a phone interview with Jane. She seemed kind of great. We talked for a full hour on the phone and it was a good chat, though she did seem really concerned with whether or not she could trust me. She kept saying that her fabulous, up-and-coming, online magazine, LA’s The Spot, was going to be really cutting edge and giving people a glimpse into shit that hadn’t even happened in the city yet. As a result, she really needed an employee she could trust to keep her mouth shut and write content. I said I could totally do that. And she hired me.
I met her at a huge apartment/condo complex in Marina del Rey, a really fun one-and-a-half hour drive from my apartment. Sigh. Just thinking about that drive makes me mad to this day.
|I will add a better map of how far this actually is when I have more time.|
She was a chunky, middle-aged woman with a long, black ponytail and even longer fake nails that did nothing to hide the fact that she was…chunky and middle-aged. She was nice enough, though, and offered me a soda or a cup of tea. I opted for water, since I usually feel weird taking refreshments from people I don’t know very well. I always feel like I’m imposing, even when they offer.
She said, “You should really have a Diet Coke. I’m going to have a Diet Coke.”
I accepted the Diet Coke. She directed me to the couch next to her desk.
The apartment was a pretty nice, one-bedroom place with a big, airy glass door that led onto a balcony.
“I rented this to use as office space, because if I stayed at home I’d never get anything done what with my husband and my son always bugging me,” she said.
“Oh sure, that makes sense.”
She set about explaining what my job was going to entail: essentially, I would take articles published by the AP and rewrite them in my own words so she could copy them onto her website without any fear of people being mad about that pesky little copyright infringement/plagiarism thing. I didn’t really understand it as such at the time because a) I’m an idiot and b) I really didn’t know any better because c) I was an even bigger idiot in 2007.
I was excited because it was going to be my very first writing job and I was going to be paid: $8 an hour! Which was $8 more an hour than I’d ever made as a writer.
She was excited. I was excited.
Jane spent an hour showing me how to use the website and setting up my email account. She gave me my first assignment right away: she wanted me to “write some copy” about a hotel that was reopening in Hollywood. I felt great. It was the quickest first day at the office I’d ever had and I was going home to write for money! I took the AP article and stood up with my laptop.
“Okay, Jane. I’ll get on this as soon as I get home and post the copy this afternoon.”
She gave me a weird look.
“No, you need to write the article here.”
I sat back down with my mostly empty Diet Coke.
“Oh. Okay. So, this will be my office, too?” I asked.
“Yes. Until I know you better, I can’t really trust you to be honest about how many hours you’re working. But don’t worry. It’ll be fun! We get to sample all kinds of fun products. People are always sending me samples so I’ll write about their products online.”
“Fun,” I said.
“Yeah. For instance, I just got these today.”
She pulled out a green box with the words “DietLife Chews” printed on the side.
“They’re weight loss chews with ephedrine and caffeine. So they stimulate weight loss and they keep you alert. You should try one.” She offered me the box.
“Oh, that’s okay. I’m good with the Diet Coke.”
“Come on, try one! You look like you could use them. Plus, if you try it, I’ll let you write about it on the site!”
I tried really hard to wrap my head around what she’d just said to me. Had I been called a fatty on my first day of work? By a fatty even fatter than I?
And you know what I did? I took a chew and opened it and put it in my mouth. She was watching me try to eat it and probably would’ve watched until I swallowed it, but her Skype phone rang (she had to have been one of the first-ever people to use Skype on a regular basis).
“Hi,” she said by way of greeting to whoever was calling her. Pause. “I don’t know.” Pause. “Well, it’s your turn to pick him up so I don’t know why you’re calling me.”
As she talked, I ate my fat girl candy and looked around at our office. It was dawning on me that even though she said she’d only rented the apartment for “office space,” an awful lot of personal things were in there: artwork and clothes and framed photos and skis. It kind of looked like somebody actually lived there.
“I’m working right now!” she shrieked into the phone.
I looked out the big, glass door to the balcony, so it would seem like I wasn’t listening, even though the apartment was really small and I was sitting two feet away from her.
Then she started crying, “I don’t know why you’re doing this to me!” Pause. Tears. “Wait…no wait! I—well then fuck you!”
She slammed the headphones down on her desk. Then she swept everything off her desk onto the floor. I'm talking keyboard, headphones, cell phone, papers, REAL PHONE...etc...
I sat there and tried not to move. Like when spiders or rabbits think you can't see them when they're immobile.
“You know what, Lacey?” she asked me, looking up through her tears.
“Um…what?” I swallowed my chew.
“My husband is a fucking asshole.”
“Oh yeah?” I sipped the very last drop of my warm Diet Coke.
“I’m going to take a Vicodin and go lay down in my room for a while. You can get started on the article.”
She went into the kitchen and poured herself a very large vodka. Then she went into her bedroom and closed the door.
I worked for about an hour, waiting to see if she died and then I turned in the article and went home.
That was the first day. I worked for three more days and then on Friday, she fired me over the phone. I WORKED FOR THREE MORE DAYS. When she fired me, she said she didn’t feel like my heart was in it.
*The quote is from Louie, my new favorite television obsession, written and directed by the incredible Louis C.K. I don't really wish I were 25 again. Clearly, that was a bad year for me.