I was regrouping at a Starbucks downtown when three girls sat down at the table next to me, girls who, by the substance and quality of their ceaseless complaining, betrayed themselves as waitresses. I was trying to tune them out and decide my next move when the leader of the group, a compact and unfriendly teenager, said, “Yeah, but we’re desperate for bartenders right now…”
I am a dog who just heard the soft jingle of car keys. I bounce out of my chair, sorry to interrupt, I don’t mean to eavesdrop, but where do you work?
“Fridays,” she says. “Around the corner.”
Four hours later I’m holding a glass of scotch, standing in a semicircle with friends and neighbors around a fire pit, watching my unmarked T.G.I. Friday’s application bend and catch in a brightening flame. I may be unemployed, but I see no reason to conspire actively for my own misery.
I’ve had what I thought were a number of good leads, but I haven’t heard from any of them.
I was once in a long-distance relationship. I’ve made promises to every God I can imagine never to do that again, mostly to avoid feeling the way I feel right now. I get excited when the phone rings and I perk up, only to be let down when it’s not a job. It’s pathetic.
I’ve sent out at least four dozen résumés in response to ads on craigslist. Here’s the routine: wake up, check craigslist, send résumés to whoever asks. But craigslist is a wasteland. I haven’t heard a thing back from any of them, not even a “no thank you.” When I close my eyes, I see craigslist as this enormous funnel, a funnel spanning 570 cities in 50 countries, into which people send their best selves, jobs, wares, things desired and desirable…and it all empties out of a rusty pipe behind the shed.
craigslist has helped me exactly as much as if I’d spent all that time reading, or sleeping, or doing whippets on a fucking playground. craigslist is the worst.
I’m starting to internalize this process, which is definitely not a good sign. I’m on the bus headed downtown, and I find myself staring at the guy across from me. He’s licking chicken grease off his fingers voraciously, with the manic passion of a zealot, and even though he only has one sleeve, I think, I’ll bet he has a job.
The one thing craigslist is good for is the open interviews. Employers need a new bartender, so they send out a call and specify a date and time. You show up ready to talk to someone and find yourself in a room: just you, the employers, and somewhere between 80 and 300 of the most attractive people you’ve ever run across in real life.
Today’s “open interview” was for a brand-new high-fashion bar called Quality Social. Instead of talking to applicants in their own building, the owners rented a small conference room in the US Grant, a gorgeous and blisteringly expensive hotel in the heart of downtown. The choice of venue is troubling. So brazen is this waste of money, so asinine their commitment to being seen as trendy and high-class, that I’m not sure I even want to work for these people. One step in the door, though, and I realize I won’t need to make that decision.
I put “open interview” in quotes up there because they’re actually not interviews. They have nothing to do with interviews. Instead, two guys dressed like GAP dancers watch us fill out applications. Aside from them, I am the only man in the room — blondes everywhere, a sea of sun-colored hair bouncing slightly as they scribble in their loopy handwriting. I’m way outmatched and having trouble fighting the bitterness — I imagine that when these women aren’t snorting coke off the toilet-paper racks in nightclub bathrooms, they’re competing with me for jobs.
I turn in my application and wait for instructions, still expecting the open interview to include an interview. The two guys tell me they’re collecting applications, and if I’m the right fit, I’ll hear from them within a week. Smile. Handshake. We seem to understand each other.
“Thanks for coming in.” You’re not going to get this job.
“It was my pleasure.” I know.
There are a lot of wonderful things about San Diego, but the public transportation in this city is unspeakably bad. Of everywhere I’ve lived — Chicago, Boston, even L.A. — this is both the most expensive and the least efficient. I’ve never paid so much for so little. It’s like an airport bar.
Ocean Beach is an hour from everywhere. I can hit Mission Beach with a fucking rock, but it still takes an hour to get there. I’ve spent well over $200 on the bus. It’s a pack-a-day habit. And not content to be merely bad, they’ve shot the moon for awful, having rolled back service on March 1. Of course.
I showed up 20 minutes early to today’s open interview, this time for some fratty beer-and-Rohypnol place in Pacific Beach called Bub’s Dive Bar, but am still beaten by two dozen people. The girl behind me is named Brittney, which fits. She looks 21 and is pretty in a molded-plastic kind of way, her voice a hollow bubble as she explains to her friend that she already has two jobs, but what can she say, she just loves applying to jobs!!!
“My boyfriend is, like, ’Don’t you already have a job?’ and I’m, like, ‘Yeah!’ and then I’m, like, ‘I apply to jobs all the time!’ and he’s, like, ’There’s something wrong with you!’ and I’m, like, ‘I know, I just love to apply for jobs!’ ”
I’m near the front of the line and trying to focus on what to say, but I have to stop what I’m doing for a moment so I can hate this woman with my whole body.