Thursday, April 24, 2008

That One Job I Had Selling Miniature Donkeys

Not only do I have a rich and colorful Dating History (ahem), I also have a rather rich and colorful past when it comes to Previous Employment.

Thinking back to the various places I've worked is very nearly as embarrassing as thinking back to the various dates I've been on, like with that guy who was very into The Lion King soundtrack or that whole, "My roommate is my mother" thing. What can you do but shake you head and think, "Wow. So that's ANOTHER story I won't be telling my grandkids."

Job-wise, I've been so all over the place it's kind of hard to know where to begin.

I worked one day at a bagel shop.

I mean, literally. One day. Not only that, but in one of my least-proud-moments-ever, my boyfriend actually did my quitting for me. Sheesh.

I also worked one day at a big huge corporation where my job was to be "marketing trafficker." I had illusions that it would be a great first-job-out-of-college, the kind that would teach me a lot about how "marketing" works. And um, is "trafficked." In actuality, my job was to make a LOT of copies and distribute them to lots of people in different departments, and then later? I got to go pick UP the copies I'd distributed. And somewhere about 45 minutes into my orientation I realized that the copy/distribute/pick-up routine was the whole entire job.

That first day I spent at least two hours making copies on the machine my colleague told me was "the one we always use." While I was standing there in front of the copy machine, absorbing fumes and cancer rays and wondering why I'd bothered going to college, a brusque woman came rushing up to me and started yelling at me for using her department's machine. Because marketing is not supposed to use legal's machines and boy, did I have a lot of nerve. I wished I had told her off right back. Instead, I held back tears and simply didn't go back for Day Two.

I spent a semester of college temping at a company that owned, among other things, The Danbury Mint. (Remember them? The folks that sold things like the Civil War collection statues and gold-leafed books?) I worked in the customer service department doing odd jobs and being bored and learning first-hand how suck-tastic being a temp is. Seriously, wow.

As I was writing that paragraph, I remembered that I was actually sent home from that temp job one day for wearing inappropriate clothes. I had decided to wear jean shorts (folded at the bottom, hot) with black tights. Seventeen magazine would have approved. The Danbury Mint did not.

When I was very young, I used to collect apples that fell from our apple tree and try to sell them door-to-door on our street for $0.10 a piece. I don't think I ever earned even a dollar, but I enjoyed meeting the neighbors.

I also spent a few months after I graduated college working for the Carol Wright Catalog company. And oh, it was every bit as glamorous as you might think. I swear, if when I write a book someday, I will definitely draw from that experience. Every moment I spent there I wanted to turn to my colleagues and say, "You know what we DO here, right? You DO realize we are discussing the finer points of a vrooooming NASCAR clock, right? And house coats? And magnetic bracelets? WHY IS NO ONE ELSE LAUGHING?"

I spent four weeks at a job with a marketing agency putting together a book on (horse) racetracks. It was cool but weird and ultimately not the right fit for me either. The experience stands out in particular because the microwave was so disgusting there that one morning, when I was using it to re-heat my beloved Dunkin' Donuts coffee, the inside of the microwave caught on fire and started spitting flames. That is one nasty microwave.

I spent nearly a year working part-time for an Italian bakery. The authentic kind that had been in the family for generations -- from its roots Italy to its American beginnings in Brooklyn, to its expansion to Norwalk, CT. The kind with a lot of cash changing hands under the table, and occasional visits from men with slick hair in nicer-than-average suits with wandering hands. I mostly enjoyed my time there, especially when Dino from the Italian deli two doors down would come in and flirt with me. Sure, I was repeatedly sexually accosted by the oldest Italian baker there, anytime he happened to notice I had stepped alone into the freezer to fetch a cake or more cannoli cream. But Roberto was a caricature of himself -- he had white curly hair jutting out from the sides of his head in two tufts like Krusty the Clown. And really, what are you going to do? My stint finally ended, however, when I had to man the tent at the Italian Fest downtown on the hottest day of the summer. You have not know humiliating labor until you have spent six hours in wet heat serving sticky, melting gelato to people you hated in high school.

I spent a summer as a copyeditor, working on manuscripts of books that the authors were self-publishing (because they were too horrendous to even be considered by real publishing houses). One such book involved vines taking over the world, and only the hero and his lady friend could save it, as they drove across the country in their Winnebago (written by a retiree who was driving across the country with his wife in their Winnebago). That would have been the worst book ever on record, were it not for the book I edited after that. The one that chronicled the fictional trials and tribulations of a Mexican farm girl. In the first chapter, her father's best friend rapes her and then shoots her dog. (The story gets progressively worse for its remaining 378 pages.)

But. From my first stint babysitting through all the many odd-jobs -- barista, retailer, temp, intern, party planner, piano teacher, clarinet teacher (yeah), math tutor -- to my maaaaaany false starts at corporate experiences out of college, I still never quite foresaw the miniature donkeys coming.

I don't think you ever expect miniature donkeys.

* * * * *

Lots of companies trade media, as in ad space for ad space. The finer details are unnecessary here, but let's just say that this is something that's gone on for ages and I interviewed at a company that helped broker these trade deals.

My interviewer, the Marketing Director, was clearly whip-smart and from New York. I loved her immediately. She explained a bit about the company.

And then she explained about the company's...uh...to use a phrase from my consulting days (a job not featured above) the company's red-headed step-child.

It, too, was a company that brokered trade deals. Except not normal, media trade. Funky, old-school, mom-and-pop barter deals. Any company could join. Any company could trade their goods or services for other goods and services.

As my whip-smart, New York interviewer continued to explain about this sub-company, I noticed that her eyes sorta lost their lustre.

Did she say "barter?" Like with the Sumerians? Didn't I learn about this in sixth grade? What on earth...?

She was almost apologetic. She explained that they needed someone with actual marketing skills to help manage the day-to-day marketing operations of this barter company. For which they were paying almost nothing.

And I, liking her and having no other prospects on the table and thinking, trust me lady, I have been in weirder places than this (though maybe I should check out your microwave first...?), accepted the job offer.

It did not disappoint.

While almost everyone around me at work was busy doing like, normal things, I was overseeing the monthly newsletter of items being bartered in our network.

Now, keep in mind that many of the people in that network had joined about 45 years prior, and weren't so much into all those new-fangled business concepts. Like "conference calls." And "email."

Can't you just send me a fax?

Yeah. There, in 2005, I was overseeing the -- printed -- newsletter that included such hot-to-barter items as:

AND I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP, NOT EVEN ONE LITTLE BIT I SWEAR

* Portraits of your pets. You send your photo to them, they paint the portrait. "On canvas or velvet."

* BAG OF SOCKS! Every month this item was featured. I do not know if it was a wholesaler or an eBayer or what on earth.

* Miniature donkeys. Somewhere in the world, miniature donkeys are being bred. According to their ad, they also make great housepets. They are cute and learn their names and come when called. And you can get them BY BARTER.

* * * * * *

My stint in that role lasted several months, and I was with the larger organization for a good year and a half. It was the single most quirky, wonderful, and weird place I have ever worked. The cast of characters I met will never be equaled.

And that is saying something.

[I started She Walks while there, in fact. Stacy was my interviewer and boss, and it's also where I met PinkJaime (and Liz and ShoeHo, among others) AND where I first started knitting.]

The point is, I guess, assuming I have one, you never know where your career path may lead. I did not expect to go from college graduate to "marketing trafficker" to Facilitator of Miniature Donkey Trading.

But I did. And if I did it, so can you.

25 comments:

  1. Nobody expects miniature donkeys... or the Spanish Inquisition. You are hysterical.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you. I am currently looking for new employment due to having had my groove disrupted by a real life Esma.

    This gives me a much needed boost to morale!

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I see you've been around the cul de sac a time or two.

    You know,...just today I was just looking at some miniature horses for sale.

    of course you don't. how could you possibly know that?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oooh, oooh, I wish I could know which barter system. I work with two every day, fairly succesfully. I've gotten everything from groceries to maid service on trade. But never a miniature donkey.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh, I totally want a miniature donkey now!!! How cool is that?

    I'll name him Juan.

    (I'm only half kidding...)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Is it wrong that I think it would be kind of cool to have a miniature donkey? Especially if it comes when called! Come on, that's cool.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I worked for an "italian-family" owned salon once. I had my assslapped once, but I was the only woman who stood up to Guido (not his real name) in his 65 years, so he never did it again!

    ReplyDelete
  8. God, this post is HILARIOUS. That paragraph about the microwave made me giggle.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I would love a miniature donkey.

    Okay, I'm 36. I've been in the same job for the last 8 years. But in the time since I started working, I have been:
    babysitter, popcorn girl, telephone salesperson for a rugcleaning company, waitress, coder of surveys about computers for a computer-magazine, data entry clerk, temporary admin (for, among other things, a wholesaler of cheap silverplated housewares, the International Emmy Awards, Seagrams, Nabisco, several architectural firms, several hospitals, a couple engineering companies, a slew of law offices, a really snooty interior design company, and every financial or insurance company you have ever heard of), fourth (4th!) personal assistant to a billionaire, baker, pastry cook, mutual fund trader, and finally, an academic pollster, which I remain today. Of course, I'm going back to school to get a degree in Food, Agriculture and Environment, so I can be a sort of farm-promoter. Which is a natural development from trader, receptionist, waitress, pastry cook, personal assistant. Don't you think?

    ReplyDelete
  10. And you left the job with the miniature donkey trading why?

    ReplyDelete
  11. LMAO. Great piece. You got anything I ever did beat by a mile. My first job was mowing the grass outside the used book store. I could get paid in money or books. Never made a dime, but I still have some of the books...

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've had some crazy jobs, too, but I don't think I could ever top miniature donkeys. (Although selling vinyl siding to only the elderly over the phone was quite an experience.)
    That's hilarious.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I wonder if a miniature donkey would shed less than my dogs...

    ReplyDelete
  14. my ex's mom paints dog portraits. seriously, i'm not kidding. we actually had one hanging in my house in portland for a time. it was actually quite good.

    to my knowledge, she has never painted a miniature donkey, but i'm sure she would if someone requested it.

    and really, wouldn't a miniature donkey barter better if it was billed as a "little ass?" i'm pretty sure people would swap various items for a little ass.

    i'll be here all week. try the veal.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Someone already too my "spanish inquisition" comment, so I'll just smirk and complement an entry well done.

    ReplyDelete
  16. So how do you pitch your illustrious job history on a resume?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Dude, I totally want a miniature donkey.

    I haven't had nearly as exciting of a past. I worked at a store run by crazy Asians who paid me under the table. I worked at a customer service desk at a mall (oh, the stories I have from THAT one!). I worked filing medical records. I was a secretary and a temp, and now I work in data (sounds thrilling, doesn't it?) while I pretend to be an actor.

    ReplyDelete
  18. i bet that if i had a miniature donkey i wouldn't have to pay some guy to mow my grass every week. actually, i've always wanted pygmy goats so that i didn't have to mow, but i think i am liking the miniature donkey idea better. who do i have to barter with?? (i wonder what laws pittsburgh has on such things...)

    p.s. since when did blogger go all crazy with the word verification? i swear i am human, yet i can't even read the screwed up letters they are tossing out there these days. bastards.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Miniature Donkeys.

    Now that is quixotic!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I can't believe I'm going to tell you this, but my neighbor actually has two miniature cows and six miniature donkeys. To me, they're one of those "they're so ugly they're cute" kind of things.
    Ooh, and one time we had a lawnmower for sale and a guy offered to trade us a really old horse and a saddle for it!

    ReplyDelete
  21. somewhere once a few years ago my brother ran across the fact that there are miniature goats out there for the buying - perhaps the bartering too. For some reason we thought it would be hilarious to get one of these mini-goats for my sister and put it in one of those fashionable dog carriers for her to tote around (no, she is not that type at all which made it all the funnier to us). I am sure he will be quite happy to hear there are not only mini-goats but mini-donkeys out in the world just waiting to be toted in Louis Vuitton.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hey, I paint portraits of pets and they really are a hot item! :P

    ReplyDelete
  23. I once worked as Chrissy The Talking Christmas Tree at a garden center. That was a real low point.

    ReplyDelete