Kamikaze Mission: No Time for Small Talk


I have never been overly interested in details; Iím a big picture person. I happily exist in a world of my own design a world of ideas, of poetry, of imagination. My life so far has been a continuous visit to lifeís ample buffet, selecting the most delicious morsels to feed myself. I donít give a second glance at the dishes I pass over because my appetite rules the day. Itís a simple yes or no. It is impossible for me to feign the slightest interest in certain people and topics. I am completely transparent, the thoughts running through my mind display clearly on my face. I glare at rude guests, I roll my eyes at their narrow minded comments, I raise an eyebrow at ill behaved children, and wrinkle my nose at yapping little dogs and their shit baggie carrying owners. I value good manners, charm, and wit. Maybe working as a hotel concierge was not the ideal job for me. The long hours and low pay depressed me. The trivial questions annoyed me. The cheapskate guests filled my heart with despair, yet I found myself working in such a position because the American banking system had begun to collapse upon itself, a sinkhole of greedy money lenders and their unwitting clients. Iíd recently moved to New York after finding an apartment through a friend of a friend Iíd cat sit for. The cat sitting job involved shooting an ancient mummy of a cat up with insulin and wrestling a pill down the poor creatureís dry throat. Because of this feline wrangling adventure I was able to sign a lease on a rent stabilized studio in the Upper East Side. This is precisely when the trouble began.

My first order of business in New York was to find a job. I registered with staffing agencies and met with twenty-something girl-bot recruiters who seemed to delight in discussing the gaps in my resume. I dodged the most troubling interview question,Ē Where do you see yourself in ten years?Ē I paused, as the potential answers to this pesky hr question flooded my mind. I considered each of these replies carefully:

  1. Straddling a teller brandishing a machine gun at Chase Manhattan yelling, ďEat it, you fucking rat bastards!!Ē
  2. In a hut on the beach, listening to the coconut short wave, working on a cross word puzzle.
  3. Discussing my third novel with Regis.
  4. In solitary confinement working on a frivolous Masters degree in Romantic Poetry.

* *Iíve been told both romance and poetry are irrelevant in the 21st Century. Yes, so much seems completely immaterial at this point Madame and Monsieur, but poetry still matters, my dears.

Well I couldnít say any of these answers aloud, could I? I could only keep them safely corked inside my head in little cartoon bubbles. (I found this to be the case quite often) I donít remember what horseshit answer I fed them. I am terrible at selling myself and taking tests. Needless to say they werenít very impressed with me, or my typing test results. I begin to grow desperate when the temp assignments didnít start pouring in immediately. I worked at a friends of the NYPD non-profit for a week in a windowless hermetically sealed basement office typing documents and sharpening pencils. The lack of sunlight and fresh air made me feel a bit like a mushroom. Needless to say it was an extremely poor fit because I enjoy natural light and I donít care for law enforcement, though I do appreciate snappy police uniforms. So I ended up walking the streets doing the free or cheap activities in New York City, which for the most part meant milling around eating a lot of pizza slices and people watching.

One afternoon in Rayís Pizza in Hellís Kitchen I was watching the news as George Jr. pushed for an economic stimulus plan to rescue the country from impending economic doom. The big shot money lenders were ringing their hands and threatening to throw themselves out windows, and I thought thatís a good start, you swine. I wanted to see some real remorse for ruining working peopleís futures. I am still waiting. I struck up a conversation with a woman watching the news, and we expressed our disgust over the current state of affairs. I said, ďHow do you think I feel, Iím unemployed.Ē She gave me a business card and suggested I call her supervisor about a job. I absently tossed the card on the coffee table.

A few weeks later I called the company and they asked me to come in for an interview. The interview went something like this- ďSo why did you come to New York? I see you lived in San Francisco, what a beautiful city, the weather is great there isnít it? Why did you come to New York? Why do you want this job? I see you have a degree and professional experience. Youíll be required to work holidays and weekends. Itís hard for young people such as yourself you to have a social life. Are you familiar with the city? Because weíre looking for people who know the city, and we only pay $34,000 to start. I see you were making much more- are you still interested?Ē Like a fool I persisted and was hired. In retrospect, my blind enthusiasm and cheerleader ďYesĒ (Go bankruptcy!!!) to the job offer was the second step toward financial ruin. The first step was getting myself into credit card jail.

I began working at a real armpit training desk near Penn Station with a sweet guy who was a disinterested trainer. In the beginning I mainly stood by and observed the guest transactions. The interactions went something like this:

Trainer: Ok, so youíd like to book the airport shuttle, right? What time is your flight?
Guests: We want to be at the airport at 5:00.
Trainer: What time is your flight?
Guest: Weíre going to John F Kennedy.
Trainer: What time is your flight?
Guest: Our flight number is 141.
Guest: How much is the shuttle? Oh thatís too much, we paid $17 each for the blue van.
Trainer: Why donít you book the blue van then? We donít work with that company, call the 800 number and make a reservation.

You get the idea. There was a lot of repetition involved. The majority of the guests were cheap, mistrustful, terrible listeners. For instance they would ask, ďHow do we get to Penn Station from here?"
Trainer: Go out the front door, take a left and go down Seventh until you reach 33rd street.
Guest: So you go out this door and take a left and then, go where? Go left out the front door until you get to 33rd street. Ok so go left to 33rd Street. The station is at 33rd and 7th, 33rd and 7th, 33 and 7th, 33 and 7th. Repetition, hand signals, or increasing your volume didnít seem to help guests with information retention.
Guest: Are you sure? Because the taxi driver took another street from Penn Station and I donít remember going that way. Would you circle it on the map for us?

It went on like this all day for twelve hours with only two twenty breaks to disrupt the tedious madness. The rule was absolutely no eye contact with the guests the last ten minutes of your shift- the hotel could be on fire but we would be looking wistfully toward the horizon ignoring the wail of the sirens. Every ounce of our energy was focused on a clean exit. No quick questions, no quotes for Mamma Mia tickets, no assistance mapping routes to Long Island, itís strictly lights out and good night.