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I am living at home with my parents. Since I’m not about to move to a commune, I need to figure out how to get some cash without turning into a complete square who hates her job.

I spend days driving around looking for work, thinking about all the evil gas I am guzzling and how San Francisco is far superior in that regard. But I am in suburbia now, a tedious place to walk. Freeways, roads, neighborhood associations, these are the things responsible for my new habit of driving anywhere and everywhere. I’ve put on a couple of pounds, too, since lately I’ve been so well fed. Another reason to hate paradise.

“San Diego has high rates of car theft because there are too many roads,” I might hypothesize. “If you want to fight crime, plant trees. Turn highways into blooming oxen trails. Down with cars, down with crime, down with loneliness!”

One hot afternoon, while no one is home, I let myself weep during a particularly moving segment of a NOVA television special. There is a shot of the Earth from the perspective of the moon. A scientist says he hasn’t stopped thinking about the human genome for the past five years. It is followed by a clip of him saying, “After that photo was taken of our delicate little planet sailing through the universe, humanity began to see itself differently.” The scientist used succinct terms like “recombination” and “linkage.”

One of the special things about sea turtles in San Diego is that they are residents, not wanderers. I visit Victoria Touchstone, conservation planner for the San Diego National Wildlife Complex. The complex is a series of nature refuges scattered between Orange County and Tijuana. Their offices are in Carlsbad.

Despite being located in a sleek business park, the interior of administrative headquarters gives the feel of a park ranger station, from the decor in shades of brown down to the government-rationed bulletin board. Victoria greets me wearing full ranger garb. She is also wearing gold earrings depicting marshland birds. Under her arm is the refuge plan, a thick binder with a small section about the resident sea turtles.

“The issue you have is that you save these small pockets of habitat that are as natural as you can get them,” she says while flipping through the binder. “All the species are competing against...amongst themselves to try to survive.”

That sounds like my job search. Victoria is aware of the different stories explaining about the sea turtles living in San Diego Bay.

“I like to think — but I am a big turtle fan anyway — that even if the power plant goes away, the turtles are gonna stick around.”

Victoria is not a biologist. She is a writer. She knows all the tiny details about the conservation plan, from the sea turtles to the nesting habits of the California least terns. What is the point of habitat conservation? Why does she care about the green sea turtles or the California least tern? She pauses for a minute.

“You tug on this piece of the web and it all moves, so you have to look at that too. I don’t know if the California least tern has some effect on us all, but I think it does.”

Later that week, things improve when I am hired at a breezy café situated along Highway 101. The inside is decorated with surfboards, giant pink conch shells, and palm fronds to accent the happily tanned employees. I might as well do San Diego all the way, I think, and put on some corduroy shorts.

On my first day, I notice the manager’s habit of saying “No worries.” I wonder about the sorts of worries I could be having while spreading peanut butter on bagels and fastening plastic monkeys onto smoothie straws. After receiving winks from old surfer dudes, I make a brash decision.

I quit that first day, with hopes of finding something better. Emboldened by my quitter’s high, I come home with the ambition to make a statement. I am sick of being a customer-service whore. I am going to shave my head.

I call my younger sister Nedda, who lives in San Francisco. I tell her I am bald.

She scoffs through the phone, “So, you’re one of those feminists?”

This is not the reaction I want. I tell her I am not actually bald.

“What do you mean you aren’t bald? Why did you tell me you’re bald?”

“I’ve just been thinking about it,” I say, fishing for some sort of encouragement. “I’m not bald yet.”

“Well, good, because you already dress pretty ugly. People will think you’re a dyke.”

“But I want people to think I’m a dyke, if that is the only way to be taken seriously. I’m thinking forward.”

“What?”

My sister’s doubts are annoying, but I don’t want to shave my head anyway. I hang up and go online to look for a job.

I am contacted on Facebook by the prospective groom in Alberta. He would like to chat. My aunt has already told me everything I need to know, namely his family legacy and that he is studying to get his Ph.D. By my family’s standards, he is a real catch. She also informs me that he is looking for someone who is Westernized.

I block him from my profile and continue scouring the web for office jobs on craigslist.

Hundreds of ads solicit self-motivated data clerks and undervalued team players. Since I’m neither, I conclude that I am not ready to wear business drab yet. I continue scrounging around at the bottom of the service industry, not quite sure where I fit. I take a break and dream of turtles.

They once were so abundant in the Pacific that flotillas of migrating turtles in Baja waters would slow navigators. Surrounded by the swarms, it wouldn’t have required more than an afterthought for 17th- and 18th-century pirates and explorers to eat this unassuming prey. By 1920, up to 1000 sea turtles were being shipped to San Diego restaurants on a weekly basis.

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Comments

SallyOBarr May 8, 2009 @ 9:20 a.m.

I enjoyed your story, Nasreen. I hope you keep writing and continue to get published. All the best to you!

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SDaniels May 5, 2009 @ 12:37 p.m.

Ok, then, so maybe the title should be:

"Made a Couple of Hasty Inquiries about Sea Turtles so I Could Attempt to Cast Mystery Over my Lackluster Dating and Working Lives."

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magicsfive May 5, 2009 @ 2:34 p.m.

LOL SD you never cease to make me smile....

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David Dodd May 5, 2009 @ 3:10 p.m.

Hey, guys, get off of Nasreen. All serious writers make hasty inquiries about sea turtles, it's right here in my Community College Creative Writing textbook, Chapter Seven: Weaving Together Ambiguous Life Experiences Using Marine Biology As A Vehicle.

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JeffreySeminoff May 4, 2009 @ 9:58 a.m.

Hi All,

This is Jeffrey Seminoff, the ecologist that was quoted in the sea turtle article. Unfortunately, the author of this story botched the information that I provided. Yes the sea turtles key in on the eelgrass in San Diego Bay, but they also ABSOLUTELY key in on the warm water effluent of the South Bay Power Plant. This is particularly true during winter months, when the surrounding waters are much colder than the effluent.

JS

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SDaniels May 6, 2009 @ 12:16 a.m.

I guess I thought this story would serve as Cliff's Notes. Now I am FORCED to read Chapter 7.

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David Dodd May 6, 2009 @ 12:30 a.m.

It will serve you well, SD. You should see the short story I'm working on right now involving squid. Sure, it's a bit slimy, but man is it fluid...

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SDaniels May 6, 2009 @ 12:54 a.m.

It certainly sounds inky. I'm working on a story about clams, but I can't talk about it.

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David Dodd May 6, 2009 @ 1:08 a.m.

Sounds challenging, SD. However will you get your characters to open up? At the very least, they'll be happy.

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SDaniels May 6, 2009 @ 1:13 a.m.

Well, they say love cuts like a knife. I promise, it'll be a juicy one!

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thestoryteller May 14, 2009 @ 8:24 p.m.

Hey Nasreen! Isn't it amazing how the people like jmc (on my blog)among others haven't done squat in the Reader and yet they are authorities on what makes a good story? How embarrassing for them! They really should have enough class not to let their jealousy show. They are making themselves look small.

I can't wait to read your next one!

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David Dodd May 28, 2009 @ 10:53 a.m.

To Nasreen (and to "Name Withheld" in La Jolla):

Presuming that mine were the "nasty comments" referred to in the "Letters" section of the Reader concerning your story, I invite you to scan the entire thread of comments starting with ecologist Jeffery Seminoff. There were no derogatory comments made other than to use Mr. Seminoff's comment to have a little fun at your expense. The story was fine.

If I were to criticize a story in the Reader, and I have done so on several occasions, it would be direct and specific. As a writer, you are accountable for your content, and as a reader who responds to what you write, I am also accountable for my response; and therefore, I do not withhold my name. While you continue to write, I will presume that you recognize the difference between "nasty comments" and a couple of people who were inspired to have a little fun commenting on your story; and I will hope that "name withheld" in La Jolla learns the difference between the two.

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zodzelig May 28, 2009 @ 11:26 p.m.

refriedgringo: Nameless in La Jolla in this week's hard copy and NotQuiteADiva above are both referring to my May 6 letter (http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2009/may/06/letters/)on Nasreen's article, which I did not like at all. Not because of her writing, but over the snide attitude toward working that displayed itself with the guy who took her resume, in her repeated quitting, and in her random comments about people who stay at a job they don't like. I just found it all a bit much coming from a post-grad who was living at home.

Re Name Withheld in La Jolla: I agree that a writer who deems herself accountable for her writing backs it up with her name, and don't understand why the Reader granted anonymity in a case where no danger even remotely exists.
-Neil Allen (Normal Heights, not Talmadge)

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David Dodd May 28, 2009 @ 11:36 p.m.

Mr. Allen:

Apologies. I don't get the opportunity to receive a hard copy of the Reader here in Baja unless I cross the border. And I commend you greatly for including your name.

Best regards,

David Alton Dodd

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NotQuiteADiva May 19, 2009 @ 6:44 p.m.

Nasreen, you are doing swimmingly! Do not fret those who can’t tell the difference between first person narrative and narcissism. I’m sure the dweebs who used the term didn’t even know what it meant other that it made them feel so-much-smarter to say it! Whatever!!! You must forge forward and we the appreciative readers of The Reader look forward to your contributions to come…

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