Friday, March 31, 2006

Maybe I Won't Have To Kill Myself After All

AS BAD AS LAST WEEK WAS, that’s how good this one began and ended. I don’t remember what I did on Monday, but I know I didn’t go to the market research gig. But Tuesday I picked up my check from the one-day temp gig I did at Cornell Medical last Wednesday, cashed it and paid off my 55 dollar Con Ed bill and the 25 bucks I have to send to the IRS every month -- ad infinitum & time immemorial, so it shall ever be. Then as I was walking uptown to catch the Steinway bus and thus save the 2 beans on the Metrocard, I get a call from one of the freelance agencies, and K. says she’s got a proofing gig for me the very next day, paying 24 bucks an hour. So I show up the next day to S. Communications downtown on Varick Street, fortified by a toasted corn muffin and tea just before I report. I’m nervous of course and really feel like grubbing a cigarette before I go up but I fight the temptation, and it’s up to the 11th floor. Finally something in my field! It turns out to be a fashion catalog with very little text, but I catch some errors and I go over it again and again, then report back to the guy who gave me the assignment, and I meet some other people who worked on the thing and we go over it a few more times after corrections have been made. I’m cool with everything, everybody’s really nice, I’m just glad to help. In fact, the office is kind of like a huge loft where everyone is really attractive and generally between 20 and 25 years old – kind of like the cast of Friends writ large. Then someone finds another catalog for me to go over, not really a catalog as much as an in-house style guide for one of their clients, but there’s a lot to chew on and that’s great, I take my time with it, about two hours, then go over it with Philip, and he’s genuinely glad that I caught the stuff I did. And that’s it. I’m a freelancer! It really felt good to get something in my field, and 24 bucks an hour makes it sweeter.

That was Wednesday. Thursday I get a call from someone else at the same agency, and she has another gig for me on Friday, might even be 3 days, at C. B., editing and proofing... She didn’t mention the rate but of course I immediately said yes, she sent them my resume, and an hour later she called back and said it’s all set up, show up tomorrow at their office on 61st & Broadway. You can imagine how pumped I am now!

I got up extra early today so I’d have plenty of time to catch a cup of tea and not have to rush, and that’s exactly how it worked. In fact, my bathtub drain, which for the last, oh, three months has been stopped up no matter what I did, miraculously picked today to work normally; what a relief it was to see the water go down the drain as I showered, what a pain in the ass it was to have to dump all the fucking water out with a plastic pitcher every time I took a shower. It’s the little things, people, the little things that drive us slowly crazy. I didn’t wanna bother the landlord, for numerous reasons. One, if he has to get a plumber for a couple of hundred dollars, don’t you think his mind is gonna start wrapping itself around the idea of a rent increase, which is the last thing I need at this point.

So I got to 57th Street at 8:30 and so I had an hour to sit and meditate and watch all the good looking office girls go by as I sip my Earl Grey. Wasn’t at all nervous today, though, because after all this is something I am qualified for. I’m nervous with catering gigs because I really still don’t know what to expect for the most part, I just try to anticipate what’s needed or emulate what the others are doing. But I know I’m a good proofreader and copy editor, and there’s a certain quiet nobility in what I do that I take pride in.

Anyway, I got up to the 9th floor and reported to C., who was just my type, unashamedly cerebral but confidently attractive, the sexy librarian type, if you know what I mean, nudge-nudge wink-wink. But I am wholly professional, flashing my killer smile whenever I get a chance to ingratiate myself. My job, should I choose to accept it, is to go over an SAT desk calendar where each date has a question of the day, either math or verbal, and I’m looking for discrepancies of course but also matching the print version against the online version. That’s really the gist of it. But as I’m working I see this also is really a one-day job, no matter how deliberate a pace I set. I methodically work my through June by lunchtime, catching a few choice errors, so I take a break and circulate among my fellow co-workers on Broadway on this fine spring day, choosing a thoroughly mediocre chicken noodle soup as my lunchtime sustenance. I finish up in the afternoon. I had to call the agency for something and (let's call her Kelly) told me this job also pays 24 an hour. Unfortunately, by 5:00 I seem to be all finished. I go over the stuff with C. and ask about Monday. She checks her calendar and says Monday probably not but it looks like Wednesday or Thursday she could use me to proof something else. Excellent, I say, call the agency and I’ll be here with bells on, or something like that.

Just before lunch I get a call from Tony, who asks me if I can work a catering gig on Tuesday. Claro, I answer, and he says there are parties also on Friday and Sunday of next week. So that really sets me up nice for the future.

I could really take to the life of a freelance itinerant, get business cards printed up with the words Master Proofer At Large, At Your Service, At Your Disposal Even. I could build up a portfolio or a resume or a reputation; some proofing/copy editing, some catering, mixed in with some wacky odd one-day temp gigs. But I think I am done with the night job. Done as in finito. You know what kind of place it is? The last time I was there the men’s room key was tied to a large pot. That’s right, the fucking men’s room key was fucking attached to a rather large fucking cooking pot – I guess so no one will steal it or leave it in the men’s room or put it in their pocket and take it home. I will keep that surreal image burned in my mind so that I can return to it whenever I forget how degrading a job can sometimes be. The last few weeks I saw the flip side of that equation: how work can uplift the spirit and reward one’s sense of self.

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