Saturday – and I’m working. As usual. Somehow, I spent most of my life dodging a 9 to 5 job, after my first, disastrous job, and now I’m in an office, the front desk no less, on the front line.
My first disastrous job was right out of high school. I got my diploma and left the next day for NYC. I didn’t stay for my graduation, it was my last jab at the school system I’d hated since kindergarden. The only reason I studied was so I didn’t fail a grade and have to stay one more year in school than I had to. So, anyhow, I graduate, and a friend finds me a job in a wholesale jewelry shop on 5th avenue, and I’m staying in a hotel run by the Salvation Army where we share a room like in college and eat in a cafeteria. I’m chuffed that I’m getting my first salary, so I invite my sister to come stay with me – the hotel rents a cot for 15$, what I didn’t know was that it’s 15$ a night. After a month, when my sister has to leave, I get a bill that wipes out my fledgeling bank account and dooms me to starvation until my next check. Because I also have to pay my cafeteria bill – doubled because my sister was there. Welcome to the real world. I try to argue with the hotel, but they show me the contract I signed – 1 cot, 15$ per night. I have to start reading these things. Not that it does any good, I’m so embarrassed that the text is jumping all over the page. I try to work out how much I earn, versus how much I owe, and come to the conclusion that there is no way the hotel is going to recoup their 300$ unless I do something drastic like ask my parents for money, which I long ago decided I’d never do. The American “sink or swim, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, suck it up, not a borrower or lender be…” All that was so ingrained into me that instead of asking for help, I lowered my bags out the window that night using sheets tied together and a ton of dental floss (who knew that stuff was so strong?) and left. I’d send a check when I was able – I didn’t doubt they’d find me – I was just next door staying with a friend who was a doorman at his parents’ condo and he let me sleep in his room – on the floor – but that was fine. Note: there are people in this world who are incredible decent, and I always seemed to find them. I also stayed in the tiny studio apartment of a journalist who worked for Newsweek. He was often away and gave me his key. His apartment was behind a church, the stairs in the alley behind the dumpster. But when he was away, it was all mine. Then I found a boyfriend, fell head over heels in love, moved in with him, and gave the key back to my journalist friend.
Meanwhile, back at my 9 -5 job, things were not going well. The boss had started massaging my neck when he passed behind me. I was nervous. He was making me jumpy. I started arriving late to make sure everyone was there when I arrived, and leaving early. And one day he sent me on an errand just before we closed. I hurried, but I returned to find everyone gone but him. He locked the door behind me, then he chased me around the office. I dodged, and he plunged over a table, scattering all the work I’d done that day with the jewelry – all my clips and chains and earrings and rings went flying everywhere – and I laughed, because I was too stupid to scream at that time, and the jerk fired me. The next day I showed up anyhow and asked for my week’s pay. I could have asked for more, but it took all my courage just to show up. I was mortified – I’d gotten fired. It didn’t occur to me that he was in the wrong. I just wanted to get out of there.
That week, because I was at wits end, I let one of my friends who wanted to be a hair dresser cut off all my hair and dye it pink (it was supposed to be strawberry blond but ended up fuchsia). I was horrified. He decided the best thing would be to cut it all off. He gave me a buzz cut. He also gave me 20$ for letting him practice, which is why I said yes. I was hungry. This was just before the Sex Pistols and the punk groups took off, and I was the first punk in New York City.