Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.
As much as people claim to understand what it’s like to be un- or underemployed, you can always tell who really gets it and who doesn’t. Next to my family, no one has been as supportive throughout this trying time than June.
June is a divorced, 82-year old intellectual technophile who lives down the hall. I’ve never been ageist — I was raised by a mother who received her master’s in gerontology and a dad who used to work for AARP. So I’m happy and proud to call June a friend.
“Caitlin O’Toole,” she says, every single time I see her, even seven years after meeting me. “Love the name. Isn’t that a great name?” she’ll say to whomever she’s with, throwing in a literary reference about it being Dylan Thomas’s wife’s name. “Such a great name.”
Not that she’s forgetful or spacey — June remembers everything. Probably more than the average person. “Didn’t your parents just come back from their 45th anniversary trip to Rome?” she said to me recently. “The furthest my husband ever took me for mine was the Bronx.” I hug her slight frame and she pats me on the back and walks away, turning around only to say, “Keep writing!” She always says that to me.
June finds more job postings for me than I do — and I’m pretty thorough. She’s like my personal assistant. I’ll find notes under my door, written in perfect cursive handwriting, detailing the hottest writing jobs from the New York Times. She follows up with emails.
“Did you apply? Have you heard anything?”
“Not yet, June. But I will. I’ll let you know.”
I try to thank her for being my “personal assistant” by leaving presents at her door — like gourmet jams, biscuits, tarts and chocolates. Once, I left her a “Great Gatsby” t-shirt because that’s her very favorite book. And I always bring her flowers on her birthday. Usually tulips or daffodils.
Whenever I need advice about anything hi-tech, I go to June. The other day, I questioned her about my stereo. I’ve been getting a lot of annoying feedback and can’t pinpoint the problem.
“I’m wondering if it’s the subwoofer,” she pondered. “I’d check that first.”
She was right. I upgraded to a new subwoofer. And my music has never sounded sweeter.
And her technological savvy doesn’t stop at stereos.
Recently, my computer was being sluggish and a website I needed to access for work was not loading properly. I knocked on June’s door. Everyone in the building knows that she has the fiercest, biggest, most cutting-edge 27″ iMac this side of Chelsea.
“I honestly don’t know how to use it,” she said. But as she navigated her way effortlessly around the web, faster than I’ve seen anyone do it, I knew she was being modest. “I’m taking classes at the Apple store. I’m trying to figure out my iPhone.”
“By the way,” she adds, as I get up to leave. “Your status updates on facebook are WONDERFUL.”
On my way out of her apartment, I jiggle the doorknob, unable to figure out which way to turn it to get out. “Just remember — it’s to the left,” she laughs. “Like me.”
June is a staunch democrat and makes no secret of it. She recently attended a pro-choice rally and complained to me about the disappointing turnout. She goes to church and makes it a point to tell me that her church openly accepts people of all persuasions. She goes gallery-hopping in Chelsea. She goes to the latest independent films. She has elaborate Thanksgiving dinners every year, which she always invites me to. “There will be plenty of lesbians there,” she smiles.