Welcome to New York: You Need A Job

November 30, 2014, In: Life, New York

From the first morning I woke up in New York, one phrase had been stuck on repeat: You need a job. You need a job.

After Roommate Kim’s event (which had not led to a job offer) she suggested that a small group of us go to her favorite “It Girl” bar on Fifth Avenue to celebrate the success of the night. It was pouring, but one of the gifts in our swag bags were giant umbrellas, so we opened them up, took off our shoes, and ran down the streets of New York, barefoot through a midsummer’s night rain. We were dripping by the time we made it to the elevator. We slid wet feet back into wet shoes and tried to pull ourselves together, but when the elevator doors opened it was immediately apparent that we were the only people who had dripped across the grand-piano polished floors.

We sat at the bar. The girls ordered champagne cocktails, the guys stuck to scotch, and I (highly aware of my unemployed state) ordered the cheapest drink on the menu: a $9 beer.

We chatted professions: four doctors, a real estate agent, an attorney, an ad exec and me. “Yeah… I need a job,” I announced to the group and then turned to the bartender and, only half joking, asked, “So, are you guys hiring?”

He looked me up and down, taking in my wet hair and soaking dress. “It’s possible,” he said. “Come back tomorrow at 2:00. I will introduce you to our manager. Oh, and wear black.”

I went home that night to re-work my resume. I decided to highlight the jobs of my youth. My first job as a hostess (when I was 15), my second job as a receptionist (I was 16), etc. The five years I spent working seasonally at Disney World.

The next day, it was still raining. I’d religiously been taking the subway to save money on cab fare, but I decided this was the day for an exception. The problem is that on your fifth day in New York, you don’t know that the only thing more impossible than getting a cab in New York when it’s raining is… well, nothing. There is almost nothing more impossible than getting a cab in New York when it’s raining.

I got off the restaurant elevator at exactly 2:06pm, 6 minutes late. I remember this because the bartender rushed over to me and said, “You’re late!” I looked back at him with despair, “Only six minutes! It’s raining!” He shook his head and told me the manager had only had a few minutes at 2:00 and was now in a staff meeting. I apologized and told him that I could wait, if he didn’t mind.

He said it could be an hour.

I said I would still wait. I needed a job. So I waited. For one hour, then two, then three. At 5:30 one of the hostesses finally came up and asked who I was waiting for. I explained the situation, and a few minutes later she came back with the manager. He couldn’t mask the surprise on his face to see me sitting there. Waiting. Three and a half hours after we had been meant to meet.

I apologized profusely as we shook hands. But he just smiled and said, “I can’t believe you waited all this time.” And then in a charming Italian accent he added, “No one told me you were still here.” Curse that bartender! I thought, but just smiled and shrugged, as if to say “These things happen.” He led me to a huge round leather booth, where he began studying my resume. “Hostess in 2001,” he observed aloud. I couldn’t tell if he was amused by the date. “Marketing more recently, I see,” he continued nodding and then looked up and asked me the question I hadn’t been able to come up with a good answer for, even after 3+ hours of waiting.

“Why do you want to work as a hostess?”

I’d already waited all day to meet this guy. I figured there was no reason to play it coy or hard to get at this point.

“I just really need a job,” I told him.

He nodded because, as much as he knew I was unlikely to be celebrating any anniversaries here, he got it. Because it’s New York. Because everyone who moves here has to find work somewhere (well almost everyone, but more on how I almost attacked a beggar later).

“Can you start training on Sunday?”

It had stopped raining by the time I left and the whole city felt fresh and alive to me. (More realistically it probably felt sticky and steamed the way it always does after a summer rain) But I was employed and nothing could get me down. I put my walking shoes on and decided to skip the subway home. I walked down Fifth Avenue, from 56th to 34th and then turned West and walked the rest of the way home.

So that’s the story of how, at 27 years old, I became a hostess again. The game had changed a little bit in the twelve years I’d been out of the field, but would you believe it? I caught right on. Except for that one time I spelled Patrick Swayze’s son’s name wrong- and he called me on it.

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