No time for blogging

This whole working thing is reallllly cutting into the time I’d otherwise be spending blogging about not having a job. *Gosh.* Saturday and Sunday I didn’t have to work, meaning I have an actual weekend. I’m pretty sure this is the only time this will happen between now and January, so I tried to make the most of it.

I forgot to write about this, but I had my first visitor earlier this month; Randy of Alaska stopped by one night on his way back to Caldwell and crashed. We went out to breakfast before he headed home the next day. Yaaaay Ohio visitors!

That said, there are even more in my future. My dad is tentatively scheduled to bring me a minivan full of my stuff, including my bed, Dec. 6. A couple friends are coming to stay with another friend (someone I don’t know) the first weekend of December for their annual tour of the 12 Bars of Christmas and I’ll see them some time while they’re here. And finally, a boy will be visiting me Dec. 11.

A lot of people have been asking me if I’ve met anyone in Chicago; No. Moving out of Ohio partially to forget someone is one thing, but moving here specifically to meet someone is insane. Of course, so is “meeting” someone you’ve known your whole life days before you move two states away.

I’ve been avoiding blogging about said boy because I had no idea what was going on with him/me/this. To be honest, I still don’t know, but he’s been in the picture for like a month now so I think it’s worth mentioning. The week before I left, when I was staying in Caldwell, I got back in touch with an old friend I graduated from high school with. We had a really great time that week catching up, and somehow we just kept right on talking after I moved nearly 500 miles away. He is a great guy, and even though the timing is a little off, I am really happy right now.

This isn’t changing my plans about Chicago; I am still really in awe of my being here, and it’s what I have wanted for a really long time. We pretty much have an understanding that we don’t want to influence each other’s plans, life goals, etc. But, as John Lennon once said, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. He doesn’t know what he’s doing after he graduates from his graduate program, and I don’t know what my life in Chicago is going to look like yet. The uncertainty is not as terrifying as you might think.

I had a great Thanksgiving with my family. My aunt and uncle from Columbus came here with two of their three boys and invited me along to their family’s dinner. It felt great to see them again, and I miss them already. My brother sent me some photos from his Thanksgiving at my dad’s, as well as a video. It felt very familiar and warm and I’m sorry I missed it. But what I got was much, much better than not having Turkey Day plans in a new city alone. Christmas is still a big question mark, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

My uncle and cousins visited me at the department store on Black Friday. Photo evidence of my employment:

Photo courtesy of Brian Williams' facebook

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The department store

I started work at the department store Sunday and worked four days in a row. By the end of the fourth day, my feet were blistered and felt like they’d been beaten to a bloody pulp. Standing for eight hours straight with a lunch break somewhere in the middle is no easy task. I am wondering if this will be like the hotel, and I’ll be absolute cookie dough for the first week but adapt after that. For my toes’ sake, I hope this is the case.

Retail isn’t so bad. It’s silly, but I kind of like helping people, even if it is simply pointing them in the direction of our toaster ovens or the nearest restroom. I smile all day, but that’s not the tiring part. I like being friendly and warm and helpful. It doesn’t feel as disingenuous as I thought it would. People seem to find it easy to make conversation with me and they thank me for my assistance. I smile broadly and maintain eye contact, which I notice not all of my co-workers do. When the topic comes up, I lie and say I just finished school and am looking for a job in public relations. “Just finished,” if used liberally, could very well mean within the last three years, but I leave out the part where I quit my job making much more than I will at the department store.

At work, I lift boxes and sort blenders by brand and model number. I ring up purchases. I despise and detest coupons and believe they are the bane of my existence. I apologize profusely when coupons don’t work yet I can offer no explanation as to why they fail. I remain polite to even the most inconsolable of customers. Sometimes I win them over; sometimes I don’t. I speak to international customers whose English is far better than any other language will ever be spoken by me. I listen carefully as we work together to break a language barrier and finally determine they wish to buy a hair straightener.

In my interview, I brought up my most relevant experience. Coincidentally, they were the two jobs I hated most out of all my jobs: Arby’s, where I worked a register, and telemarketing, where I sold unwanted products to strangers on the phone. My worst fear was that the department store would be a combination of these two hateful experiences, but I was wrong. The only thing I can say is that with all three of these jobs, I’ve had nightmares about them. There’s nothing worse than spending all night dreaming about work and then waking up to go to work. I’m hoping the department store stops haunting me once I get a little more adjusted to it.

I got some good news yesterday. I got hired over the phone for a part time freelance reporting gig, covering a Chicago suburb. It sounds like it will be a lot like what I did for SNP, except more over the phone since the suburb is hellafar from where I live. However, if I make the trip there, I’ll get paid more for any photos or video I get to accommodate my stories. Too bad my computer can’t handle video editing. I’m trying to think of a way around that fact. Anyway, my editor already gave me my first assignment and I’m excited about the idea of reporting again.

My Early Chicago

Buildings downtown

Winter comes early to Chicago, and I’m told this has been a very forgiving November. It’s not even Thanksgiving and already my hands are drying up to the point of almost cracking. My eyes water involuntarily when I walk to work.

“Stick around,” Christina insists. “There’s nothing like Chicago in the summer.” If I can make it until my birthday in March than maybe I will make it alright here and really enjoy being outdoors in my new surroundings.

In some ways, I already feel like I live here; I impatiently press past the tourists on my way to Water Tower Place, rushing to work. I sidestep mysterious puddles of unknown liquids on the sidewalks. I take the good food smells with the bad fumes that come out of nowhere in the streets. In some ways, I feel like I am just on a really long, unpaid vacation.

Christina is shaping my earliest perceptions of the city. She has penciled out areas on a map of Chicago, indicating the neighborhoods I would do best to steer clear of. “You will never have a reason to go to these places,” she says. I laugh at the hipsters waiting in line outside Kuma’s because Christina laughs. “Suckers!” I say to myself as I pass them standing in the rain, waiting for the privilege of paying for an overpriced burger. And yet I can’t help but notice how good it smells whenever I walk by on my way home.

Home is now an abstract concept; I have a Chicago address now, and that still amazes me when I stop to think about it. Originally, the department store put me down for 15 hours for this week. Days later, those hours doubled. During the brief window of time during which I had it in my head that I would have four days off in a row, I decided to go to Caldwell to get some of my stuff. I was crushed when I saw the schedule change, leaving me with only today and tomorrow off.

At first I decided to go anyway, since I’d had my heart set on it and couldn’t face the disappointment of not being able to go. In the end, my dad half-heartedly talked me out of it. He wanted me to come home, but he knew it was a terrible, terrible idea for such a short period of time. So, here I am, not in Caldwell. The prospect of going home, even if only momentarily, being taken away from me made me even more homesick than I already was.

I took myself to a movie today; I hadn’t seen anything since before I moved, and when I got to the AMC downtown, I realized I felt so much better. It was like I was doing something familiar, something routine. Something calming. This must be what those more spiritual than I am feel like when they go to church. The movie-going experience is my ritual. At least it is for this part of my life.

I also picked up my check from that show taping while I was downtown; they paid me $38.01 for my six hours of work. I’d be really pissed if it hadn’t been such an interesting experience.

Going to see the judge

On Friday I got to sit in on the taping of a Judge Judy-type show. I found it via Craigslist when I was looking for jobs and got a call about it several days later. I was told women were needed for an episode of something that would be dealing with women’s issues, but I’m pretty sure they were just trying to make sure they hit a quota for female audience members. Just speculation.

I was supposed to go to a taping on Wednesday but it got cancelled; they moved me to the Friday show instead. I showed up at a TV station downtown at 1:30 and we were seated about an hour later. We got to meet the judge ahead of time. She was a small, pretty woman who smiled and thanked us for coming. She told us she’d once been a “background” actor on Oprah and shook our hands politely.

We sat through nine or ten cases, I lost count toward the end. They ranged in dealing with a woman suing a former tenant (and possibly former fling?) for an unpaid loan, to a wife suing her philandering estranged husband for their daughter’s orthodontist bill, to two young women suing and counter suing each other for medical bills resultant of a cat fight. The most emotional one involved a mother suing her daughter for bail money; the daughter admitted to being addicted to painkillers but was off them for court. She looked like someone who was suffering from withdrawal. The judge made a whole point of lecturing the daughter for not having any reason to be such a wreck when she had loving parents who cared about her, etc. She ordered the daughter pay her mom back the $500 bail and the mom and kid hugged after the case.

Some people really seemed to ham it up for the camera, but they swear the cases are all real. Some people looked really ticked at the verdicts in their cases and some people seemed to blow it off and smiled on their way out the court room door.

Some audience members got moved around the studio, including me. I suspect it may be because I was the only woman around my age who was also blond, and they wanted to mix things up a little. The audience was mostly made up of a class of young students who were there with school, and they were all African American. I got to sit next to a few different people, my favorite of whom was a girl around my age. She’d gone to school in NYC and saw SNL be taped on multiple occasions, as well as Conan. “I just love NBC,” she said. I could relate and couldn’t seem to convey this to her enough.

The only thing I had to compare this experience to was the time my junior high class went to see the Maury Povich show be taped in New York. I was talking about this with a school friend yesterday, and in retrospect, I said, it seemed wildly inappropriate that we, at ages 12-13, should see Maury, of all shows. He reminded me it was pretty tame subject matter the day we saw it, something about making kids’ wishes come true. The only thing I could remember about that show was this little kid being given a wagon full of pennies. The thing is, they did several takes of everything, so we saw this kid be given the same wagon full of pennies over and over, looking less enthused each time. Luckily, the judge show wasn’t like that, and we didn’t just see the same case play out over and over for seven hours.

At the end, we were all given a pen and keychain with the show’s logo and a supposedly signed photo of the judge. It was an interesting experience and a good way to spend a Friday afternoon.

The third year

The ceiling at Not-Marshall-Fields

As it so often is these days, Nov. 11 was the anniversary of the day my mom died. She’s been gone for three years now, and that number is only going to get bigger despite my best efforts. I’m getting further and further away from her, and sometimes I’m afraid of the things I might forget. I’d planned on spending the day by myself in a strange city, letting myself be melancholy and fantastically over dramatic with my musical choices, not telling anyone here what Thursday was. Fortunately, I changed my mind and mentioned the anniversary to Christina on Tuesday night, during one of our long, gut spilling conversations. She offered to keep me busy and distracted that day, and I took her up on it.

She asked me if my family had visited Chicago; we had. What about Chicago reminded me of my mom? I knew right away it was Marshall Fields. Even though it’s not there anymore, and it’s been replaced by the department store company I work at now, I have thought about my mom a lot with this new venture. I associate department stores in general with her, but I definitely have a memory of being at Marshall Fields with her, and her buying some of those famous Frango mint chocolates. Those at least are still around, so we decided to go to Not-Marshall-Fields (as Christina so affectionately calls it, like a true Chicagoan) and buy a box. She offered to take me on a tour of the city on her day off, and gave me a book to start in preparation. I spent the next day making a major dent in “The Devil in the White City,” a fascinating book about two important men living and working in Chicago in the late 1890s.

We went on our tour Thursday morning and hit Not-Marshall-Fields. Christina kept her biting indictment of the State Street store’s current tenant (and now, the folks giving me a paycheck) to a lull, and we went on a wild hunt for this ornate ceiling Christina remembered seeing a long time ago. We couldn’t find it right away, and for a while we were afraid Not-Marshall-Fields had unnecessarily removed a beautiful Tiffany-style ceiling. At last, we found it: an interior ceiling on the fourth floor in the women’s department. It was stunning. Christina breathed a sigh of relief.

We picked up a box of chocolates on the way out the door and headed to Miller’s Pub, an Irish pub on the same block as the famous Palmer House. We had lunch and headed north on Clark to a Christina-described hipster area with a ton of vintage clothing stores. We stayed out all day and headed home just before dark.

I was too busy to really take time to reflect, but I am okay with that. It wasn’t like I was intentionally pushing down my feelings, like I’d done for two years after she died; I was just living my life on a day mostly like any other day. I can think about her when I choose. I don’t have to disrupt my life and take a whole day to be sad.

I miss her, but I really do think she’d be pretty excited about my life right now. I think she’d think it’s pretty awesome I’ll be working at a department store and getting a sweet employee discount. She’d be proud of me for doing what I want with my life.

You can’t blog about that

Cluttered already!

I spent the weekend getting to know my roommates a little better and setting up my new room. Christina took me to a couple stores to get some things for my room as well as bedding and towels to use until I can get my stuff from back home. She loaned me some shelves to use in the bathroom, and just something as simple as setting up my every day hair products (yes, plural — what?) and shower stuff in there made me feel more at home. Christina and John helped me put together these cool cube shelves I have always wanted and finally now own. Bonus: they match the small assortment of furniture I have stored in Caldwell.

There was a moment Sunday evening when I had a mini freak out. One second I was feeling really proud of myself for getting so much accomplished and then a moment later I was in tears, wondering what the hell I’m doing in this city with no income, familiar faces, family or a plan. It was a little overwhelming. But it passed; talking to family and friends helps these spurts of loneliness and uncertainty immensely.

Temporary bed

I haven’t really taken the time to define success or failure in this venture, and I think it’s really doing a number on me. Who knew I liked stability this much?

I’ve been saying that the best case scenario for me being out here would be landing a job editing a sitcom, TV show or film, or else doing public relations for a nonprofit I really care about. Failure, I kept joking, would be running out of cash and having to hitchhike to Ohio in the dead of winter. But really, there’s a lot of middle ground in there that I am not accounting for. Working in retail isn’t failure, it’s what’s going to keep me afloat for an undetermined amount of time. I’m doing okay, even if I don’t always feel like I am. I’m working hard toward my goal, which for now, is just staying here. Being in Chicago. I’ve gotten a lot done in two weeks, and it’s been a lot of fun.

Home of the five dollar Uggs!

For example, today I found a pair of new Uggs for $5. I was walking back from the Red Line on Belmont toward a bus stop and saw a store I thought might have some clothes I could wear to work at the department store. They didn’t, but they did have furry boots! I used to think Uggs were hideous, and as you can imagine there was a witty pun somewhere in my insults of them. But I’ve since changed my mind. I’d never pay full price, but you really can’t walk away from a pair of designer boots for a price less than Walmart’s crappy version of them.

The department store has a strict dress code of black tops, bottoms and shoes. You can wear a different colored blouse or other shirt under something else black, but that’s about it. Christina was nice enough to lend me some clothes and today I found some cheap but nice looking stuff.

Today I filled out paperwork at a temp agency for a one-day gig I mentioned before. It turns out I’m not allowed to blog about that, either. We’ll see how much they pay me for the day and then we’ll talk. At least I found out which show I’ll be seeing taped. It’s not that exciting, trust me.

Sooooo comfy

I would like some health insurance, please

My health insurance through work ran out on Halloween. Before and since then, I have found myself plagued by phantom symptoms, sympathy pains, feigned medical maladies and a cavity that apparently “went away” after a day. Or at least after I forgot about it.

Being legitimately ill this past week has not helped this paranoia. The other night I dreamed my appendix burst. It can happen at any time you guys! Last night, I dreamed I gashed my leg open from thigh to ankle in a freak ice skating accident. Slightly less likely, maybe, but as far as I can tell these health related fears are only getting worse.

I am NOT going ice skating for anyone until I have a job. Goodness.

The other very realistic medical issue I am facing is one of my hearing aids crapping out. But lucky for me, those have never been covered by insurance anyway.

Moving to Avondale

Tomorrow I move out of my aunt’s mom’s house and into my new roommate’s home/my new home. I’m really excited, even though “moving” is going to consist of putting my clothes and shoes BACK in my car and taking a drive down to Roscoe Village/Avondale. The rest of my stuff remains in Caldwell and my bed is still at my brother and sister-in-law’s. Think a full-size bed would fit into a mini van? Because renting a U-Haul in December is going to suckkkk. My dad can’t help me caravan my stuff here until after Thanksgiving, when his school break is. It’d be nice to come home for a few days, but we’ll see what I can take off from work.

Speaking of work, I did my training today. On that note, there was a small thing in their employee handbook about blogging, and so, from now on I’ll be referring to them as the department store. It’s never a brilliant idea to blog about where you work, even if I’ve been guilty of it in the past.

I’ve been sick as a dog since Wednesday night but I’m finally starting to feel better. That made today’s training pretty horrible, and for some reason we weren’t told to take a lunch break between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Maybe we were supposed to ask, but I didn’t want to look like a slacker my first day and whine about taking a break.

Next week, I get to be an audience member for a taping of some talk show (NOT Oprah) as the result of my answering some Craigslist ad. I don’t know anything about it other than it’s about women’s issues and they needed a studio full of ladies. It tapes Wednesday from 8 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., but I get paid minimum wage to chill out there for the day. I fill out paper work Monday morning.

I had an interview at Old Navy, but I think they were a little discouraged when I told them I’d just gotten on part time at another store. In any case, they said they’d call yesterday but they never did.

I miss home, but I’m glad I’m here. I am trying not to rely too much on Christina and Liz, the only people I know here, but lucky for me, they both seem very willing to show me around and help out when they can. Christina’s already got me straight on how to buy a CTA pass, where my nearest bank and Target are, where to get my dry cleaning — should I ever be able to afford a luxery like dry cleaning. Someday, you guys. Someday.

Getting better all the time

This time last week, I was driving away from Ohio in my Cavalier with two duffle bags and a winter coat. It was a surreal day, although nothing compared to the week that would follow. So ended the weirdest week of my life, just yesterday. And today, I feel a lot better than I did, because I found a placeholder job and an apartment, much to my own surprise.

This morning Macy’s offered me a part time gig in housewares. It’s only 12-17 hours a week, but I also have an interview Wednesday at Old Navy that might be able to offer a similar schedule. Between the two of them, I might be able to pull off full time, minus the benefits and security. But anyway. Now I actually have time to work toward getting a full time job in my field. With this newfound time, I am of course blogging.

I met a huge group of Christina’s (my future roommate, a lawyer and full-time awesome human being) friends Friday night, including a woman who does PR for an environmental non-profit. She is excited to help me get some possible project work or a full time stint, and I am excited to let her do so. She moved to Chicago from New Jersey years ago under similar circumstances, without a job or friends or a home. What is it with us crazies?

Christina introduced me to Chicago’s own Old Style, a beer my dad had mentioned the week before I left. “It’s swill, but it’s our swill,” she said as she pushed a can toward me from across the table. She and I are watching the election returns tomorrow with the third roommate (or I guess I’M the third roommate now).

I went to check out the second place Saturday morning with my aunt’s sister. It was a beautiful home, but I decided against it. Christina is great, and I think I will have a little more freedom and less awkwardness staying with her. She seemed to have a lot of rules and she’s used to hosting exchange students who don’t have people over often. And that’s fine, it’s her house, but I think I am ready to finally have a place where I can come in at 3 a.m. and not feel like I have to answer to anyone about it. I can’t think of anywhere I’d realistically be until 3 a.m., but I like having the option.

The argyle fairy

On Saturday night, Liz took me to Lincoln Park and we hung out in a couple different bars. First was Mickey’s, the OSU one I was all excited about. It was fun, although as Liz pointed out, it wasn’t so much like going to a Columbus bar on game day as it was like going to any bar anywhere on Halloween. There were definitely more people in costume than in scarlet and grey, but that was just fine. We decided at the last minute to dress up; Liz got out all the costumy accessories she already had and we went from there. She had a tiara and a pair of wings, so I added a wand and a tutu from an Evanston costume shop. She bought a cowboy hat and threw on her most western style jeans, boots and shirt. Presto chango.

On Sunday I spent the day with my aunt’s mom and did some more job hunting. She and I went to Border’s for a little while, and she bought me a David Sedaris book. The first essay in it is about his stint as an elf at Macy’s, so it seemed like appropriate reading. She also took me out to dinner at a place called Grandpa’s by the train station and I got best burger I’ve had in a long time. I’ve really enjoyed staying with her and I think we have really gotten to know each other in a week.

I have something to do every day this week now, which is weird, especially compared to last week’s vast nothingness. Tomorrow I’m hanging out with Christina all day; Wednesday is my Old Navy interview; Thursday I am meeting one of my uncle’s friends for lunch in Evanston; and Friday is my training for Macy’s. Pretty crazy.