We are honored to welcome our very first GUEST BLOGGER! While we have promised to preserve her anonymity, I’m afraid her radiant prose, razor-sharp wit and rock-star resilience may just give her away…
In my morning sift through the rocky stream of Craigslist posts, I suddenly feel a rush. The gold nugget of gigs: a job with a built-in gym membership. Eureka! Iknew I moved to California for a reason.
Let me back up. I’m a “filmmaker.” Recently earned my MFA in directing. 36. Poor, with insurmountable debt. Unemployed, in any traditional sense. Moved from New York City to L.A. a month ago. And I don’t have a car.
Yes, you read that right.
Most days I feel far from filmmaking. Scrambling for gigs is a full-time job, leaving little time for creative work. My standards for what I’ll do to make money have sunk under the limbo pole of my bank account balance.
“front desk position at busy fitness center.” Not enough corporate branding for capital letters. That’s cool, a little homey. I ignore the hourly rate, barely above minimum wage. If I dwell on it, I’ll recall earning more as a babysitter when I was twelve. “must have reliable transportation.” What could be more reliable than my used bike?, I scoff, as I prepare to lie about having a car. FREE GYM MEMBERSHIP blinks on and off in my head. And it’s near where I live in the East side, unlike so many posts at the city limits.
I mark my calendar and plan my schedule around the open house later in the week.
Thursday comes. I print my service-oriented resume, do some pushups, tickle my marathon medals like a wind chime. I was born for this job. Just a formality really, going to the open house. I’ll be the first one to arrive; their eyes will gloss over during subsequent interviews. My only worry is being so overqualified.
Now let me clarify something: I’m not some rich kid with a sense of entitlement and effortless social mobility atop a safety net. I’ve worked hard my whole life at a series of challenging jobs, and I also recognize the privilege of my education and experiences. This particular transition from graduate school and across the country, however, has lit a fire under concerns I’ve struggled with for years (in good company): what it means to live as an artist in our capitalist society, the disparities between professional training and opportunity, our country’s distribution of wealth, the state of the job market, the detriments of un- and underemployment…
But back to my impending free gym membership and side career as a receptionist.
I pack my wardrobe change in my hand-me-down backpack and set out, over the L.A. River and through the palm trees. It’s never clear from Google Maps just how hilly a street can be. I stand, climbing steadily, willing myself not to sweat too much.
Finally, the neon GYM sign. I do my standard recon for the nearest potential bathroom where I can spin around faster than the speed of light into my Wonder Woman interview clothes. A Starbucks! Best case scenario.
Yes, I know I’ve been in here for too long, I tacitly respond to the impatient jostle of the door handle. As I exit, the snarl of the next-in-line man softens into an unapologetic stare at my miniskirt. Transformation confirmed. I hide my helmet
in my backpack and stroll past my own bike like we’ve never met. I enter the gym’s parking lot, and step out of my imaginary car.
The gym facility is average. Not disgusting, but it’s no Equinox. A few interviewees mill about. They’re younger than me. Fit. Polished. They hold car keys. I see a headshot through a translucent folder. The non-stop casting session of this town.
I’m told I look angry when I’m not actively smiling, so I force a friendly expression as I encounter my future colleagues.
Brian emerges in all his 5’5” salt-and-pepper splendor. “I’m Brian, co-owner. I’ll be doing the interviews.” I re-think the 4-inch heels that predispose short men to hate me.
“Hi Brian, nice to meet you,” I muster everything I know about interviews and first impressions. Eye contact, name, firm handshake. I try not to tower over him as he gazes up my nostrils, but it’s impossible. I can’t slouch if we’re gonna talk yoga. It’ll be better when we sit. He warns me he only has a few minutes per interview then proceeds to tell me his life story. It’s fascinating to him.
“So why do you want to work in a gym?”
An obvious question. So obvious I should have prepared a response. “Well, I love gyms. I’m a member at Equinox.” No. Not a good answer. “Why do you want to scrub my toilet?” “Well, I love porcelain. I own stock in Lladro–”
Brian was waiting to pounce: “I always tell people: I looooved Great Adventures when I was a kid, so fun, so exciting. But you know what? Not so fun when you get a job there and you’re spending ten hours a day on your feet, cleaning the rides.”
It’s a little too convenient, the analogy. If I wasn’t begging him to be my new boss, I’d call his theme park bluff. But instead I nod. Yep. Got it. Smile. Keep smiling. Your jaw is trembling. Can we get to my Ivy League degrees?
“What about multi-tasking? No offense, but when I look at your resume it doesn’t say multi-tasking.” Right. Teaching middle school, directing movies, running a film camp, waiting tables, serving cherry-dipped Dairy Queen cones… But multi-tasking?
That would be new for me. Perhaps checking people into your frumpy no-name gym could teach me a thing or two.
“Yes, sure I can multi-task. Definitely.” I’m nodding like a bobble-head. The lady doth protest too much. “I multi-task all the time.” Brian jots something down in the handwriting of an adolescent girl, presumably “not a match.”
I listen to the spiel: first round open house, second round interviews with the other owners for just the top people, training days, probationary period. He has a lot more people to see, so he’ll walk me out.
En route, he starts up with another candidate mid-sentence. I turn and attempt a “Thank you, Brian.” Nothing. Like I’ve held up my hand for a high-five. I walk away. Back to my car I mean bike. It hits me that there’s no way I’m getting this
job. I will need to earn an extra fortune this month if I want to keep my actual gym membership, the only optional expense I allow, the only thing keeping me sane and in shape for the obstacle course of this city.
I return to Starbucks, but why bother with all those doors when I can just slip my shorts on underneath my skirt and shimmy out of my power outfit right there at an outdoor table. Am I homeless? No, I remind myself that I do pay rent somewhere,
and in fact, it’s due soon. And this gig clearly isn’t happening. So it’s back to mining. I’ll settle for copper. Mica even.
I fasten my helmet and if nothing else, take small pleasure in peddling past the stagnant, rush hour traffic.