The Miss Jobless Chronicles: Breast Milk, Fly Girls and Concussions

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

There comes a time when you’re un/underemployed when you start thinking about how the hell you’re going to get benefits. Benefits are golden. Not necessarily for everyday matters like going to the doctor, but for the unlikely catastrophic incident, like getting hit by a crosstown bus. I’ve ridden the COBRA system for a few years, thank god. For a while, I was receiving benefits from an ex-domestic partner — I was on her plan and then, when she “divorced” me, got COBRA. When The Enquirer (aka “Snapshot,” as my embarrassed mother called it) moved to Boca Raton, I got a decent severance package and the obligatory 18 months of COBRA. By the time that ran out, I had landed another staff job, got laid off with a few colleagues, and, again, picked up a severance package including another 18 months of COBRA. Now, that’s run out and I’m at a loss. I figure I’d better get married fast or get another staff job quickly. For the most part, though, I go through my days hoping to god I don’t get sick or get hit by a bus.

Staff jobs are nearly impossible to come by, as we all know. (Come to think of it, so are paying jobs.) But there are a few companies that everyone knows offer benefits for even part-time employees, like the Container Store, the Gap and Starbucks.

I applied for a job at the fucking Container Store, and you’d think I had applied to be CEO of fucking IBM. I had five interviews, four of which I wore a suit to, and had to make a presentation using my favorite Container Store product. I chose the Elfa storage system; some smartass picked another product and presented his findings via an obnoxious PowerPoint presentation.

The manager asked us all sorts of questions about our chosen products, like their exact dimensions, and how their color schemes fit into our decor.

“Well, the Elfa storage system,” I said, clearly talking out my ass, “is conveniently customizable in terms of size. Plus, it comes in an array of neutral colors that blend in with any decor.”

“OK, what else?” she pressed.

“Um, well, the system comes in streamlined square and rectangular shapes, which conveniently stack and fit in corners.”

“OK. Who’s next?”

They called me a week later and said, “Your credentials are impressive, but we’re sorry, you’re just not Container Store material.”

I bet the PowerPoint show-off got the job.

So, I applied at The Crap (aka The Gap). You have to work your way up to work in the dressing room or at the cash register, so they put you in the basement at first, lifting boxes and arranging khakis by color and size to ready them to put on a special “wall” of khakis upstairs.

I decided to take initiative one day — initiative is good, right? — and brought my carefully-categorized, neatly folded khakis upstairs myself, and started painstakingly arranging them by size and color in neat little piles along the khaki wall. Light beige, beige, darker beige, poo-brown, military green, blue, bla —

“Hey!” I hear a voice behind me. “DO NOT touch the khaki wall. DO NOT go there,” the assistant manager barked. I didn’t realize it was such a special section.

I skulked back down to the basement and proceeded to unpack crusty old boxes that had been shipped from China, Vietnam and Pakistan. There was a conveyer belt that went down from the street to the basement, about 100 feet down. Crap workers would stand at the top, throw the boxes of clothes down, another worker would be on the receiving end, catch them, and put them in stacks in the stock room. Again, I thought — fuck, I’m going to take some initiative. Fuck that khaki wall; I’m going to be the STAR of the stock room. So I stand at the bottom of the conveyer belt and start catching 40- and 50-pound boxes that rolled down the belt. They kept coming faster and faster, and I was having trouble keeping up. But I went as fast as I could.

Publish date: April 11, 2010 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT