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audience work

The Update

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Kendell sat in her cube looking at Facebook and talking to the customer. The customer was going on about the frozen broccoli she ordered having arrived unfrozen. Kendell gave a sympathetic ‘uh huh’ occasionally.

She was looking at his pictures again, she couldn’t help it. Every day she told herself that she would unfriend him or at least fix it so she couldn’t see his posts. She was looking for clues as to what had happened.

As the woman screamed and cried Kendell scrolled back to the month before, to Halloween. There was a picture of them in their Sid and Nancy costumes, they looked drunk and happy. At first she hadn’t even wanted to go, but he had said that they were both new to Chicago and they should check out the old town bars. She had ridden the train for an hour to get there. They had wandered from bar to bar talking like their characters and not gone back to his place til 3:00 am.

She scrolled up to the next week as the woman on the phone prattled on about how the company had completely ruined her chicken pot pie recipe.

She’d called him on Monday, they had a brief conversation and he said he’d said he’d call her back. He had posted some Eminem songs and a quote from Edgar Allen Poe. On Tuesday he’d posted nothing. He had finally called her back on Wednesday and they had, had what seemed like an awkward conversation in which they had made no plans for the weekend. On Thursday he hadn’t posted anything, she had heard nothing all weekend. He’d posted a few random songs and articles and then nothing for a week.

The woman on the phone demanded a refund. Kendell attempted to interrupt her to let her know that she could definitely get one, but she could not get a word in edgewise.

She continued to scroll down to the following week that was when Susan appeared. At first there was just a picture of them standing in front of a movie theater. Then there were picture of them At the Sears Tower. Two days later there was an ominous one of Susan standing in front of the bathroom mirror while he was taking a picture in the background shirtless.

She scrolled up some more, there it was the picture of him with her entire family at Thanksgiving. She had visited Susan’s page and looked at her pictures. The two women were similar looking, both were small thin rather ordinary looking blonds, they were both 30-years-old. She wondered what the deciding factor had been. She had tried making a few post of her own indicating happiness. One of her having lunch with a friend another looking cozy with a male coworker; she doubted he even saw them.

She rolled all the way up to that day’s date which was December 5th. He had posted, ‘going to Vegas with my honey for New Years. Kendall decided to post something indicating New Year’s plans. “Big date on New Year’s pickin a new dress….” She wrote.

The woman on the phone’s tragic story had come to a close. Kendall offered her a refund and ten free bags of broccoli. She put in her note.

“10 free brock and refund for freezer fail” she wrote.

She took the next call.

The day wore on. She was just about to leave when she was called into her boss’s office.

“I don’t know if you think it’s funny or what, but you’re not supposed to put notes about your personal life in the notes section of an order, and you’re also supposed to put an order there. This isn’t the first time you’ve done something like this, were going to have to let you go,” her boss had informed her coldly.

Kendall sat at the bus stop holding a box of her stuff and wondering what she was going to do next. She got on the bus and looked at her phone. She had ten updates.

She starred in horror as she saw that she had posted the note about the broccoli to his wall.

She deleted her account without reading the comments.

 

Incompetence, Arrogance and Michael Jackson’s Death

Demographic Chart

After three months of temping at Janitors Inc I was finally hired as a permanent employee. There were no benefits to this, other than having to wait two weeks for my first paycheck. About an hour after being hired on I got a call from the Long Beach Census Bureau, they were finally ready to begin. I was told that the training would be in Long Beach the first week in March, then I was told the training would be in San Pedro the third week of March. I was told that I would be able to choose whether or not I wanted to work full-time or part-time. I was told that the training hours would be from 8:00 to 5:00, then I was told the fours would be from 7:00 to 4:00. I put on hold for 15 minutes while the guy on the phone asked which one of the three supervisors he had listed would be mine. I was told that I would be an auditor then I was told I would be an interviewer then I was told I would be an auditor again.

I decided it would be best to stay at Janitors Inc and work the Census part-time. I had no confidence that it would work out. After a year in Los Angeles I just naturally expected everything to be a scam. After having been in the National Guard as a kid I just expected anything run by the government to be mismanaged. I thought about inventing an excuse for Ted; saying I had to go out-of-town for a week or something. I decided I would tell him the truth, he seemed reasonable, in fact he was one of the best bosses I’d had. I asked if my official permanent employment could start in a week and he grudgingly said yes. He asked me to call him if anything changed. I think he thought I was going to tell him that I was going to do the census full-time. He had lived in LA all his life and I think he was just used to people flaking out on him.

I told Chris the good news and although he was happy for me he seemed a bit jealous. The census bureau still hadn’t called him for his training. I got home to find a letter in the mail saying the Nielsen was being sue d by its employees for not adhering to the law and giving appropriate break periods in the call center. I was pleasantly surprized, someone in LA had decided not to lie down and take it. I filled out the form and joined the lawsuit. I figured I wouldn’t get much money, but it was the principal of the whole thing. I bought a scratch game ticket and won fifty bucks; things were looking up. I began to plan my escape from Los Angeles. I would work both jobs for three months and then run away to another city The census paid $17.00 an hour; I could save $1500 and go to New Mexico or something, anywhere but LA.

Census Bureau training was held in the community center of the San Pedro housing projects. There were 24 of us in the training class, we all sat around staring at each other for a half an hour before anyone arrived. After about twenty minutes one of the trainees got up and left. It turned out he was just a crazy homeless person who walked in and sat down.

Our Trainers arrived and passed out paperwork. They were Sarah a 21-year-old girl who was a student and Casual longshoremen and Artie a man who was new to San Pedro. They never explained how they were chosen as leaders other than that they had gotten perfect scores on the test.

Sarah told us that they had over hired and that half of us wouldn’t actually be working. She said that the lucky few would be chosen based on our performance in training class.
“Is there a test,” a trainee asked.

“”There’s a test, but your performance is based on our review of you, ” Sarah said coldly.
‘Great” I thought. ‘She seems like a real cunt.’
I was glad I didn’t quit Janitors INC. I decided I might as well just sit there and collect the training money . there WAS NO WAY I was never going to win a popularity contest, especially in Los Angeles. Especially in San Pedro. It turned out that everyone in the class was a longshoreman except for me and one other lady. Sarah was very proud of herself for being a longshoreman like her father before her. She was friendly and chatty with the other longshoremen and often joked around with them during breaks. When ever I asked a question she would glare at me coldly. Once I said good morning to her and she told me that I was to tease and needed to relax.
The other trainer kept going on and on a out how he had been in the military and how he had lived on a boat. He mentioned it no less than fifteen times in the first day. When we talked about how many people lived in a residence he told us he lived alone on his boat. When we talked about how many apartments were in a building he made a joke about apartments in his boat.

I had always thought it would be fun to live on a boat and I asked him how much live-aboard slips were going for in San Pedro Harbor.

“Oh, I don’t have a live aboard slip”. he told me. “it’s just a regular slip.

“How do you go to the bathroom?”” I asked.

“Have you ever heard of a chamber pot?” He asked.

“How do you have lights at night”.

“I have a lantern.”

So, he was homeless. This man who had been chosen by the Los Angeles office of the federal government to count dwellings and inhabitants of dwellings didn’t have a legitimate dwelling of his own. How rigorous was there screening process? What had the criteria been?
I finished the week and surprise, surprise I was not among the luck chosen people. I returned to Janitors inc the next week.

Chris started his training a month later. He got more arrogant with every day that he trained. His training was in Hollywood.

on Monday he said,” If your going to insist on living in San Pedro your just going to have to expect things like that to happen”, He said. “It’s so small that they probably didn’t need that many people.”

On Tuesday he put me down for only making $10.00 an hour while he was making $17.00.

On Wednesday he told me that he had gotten a hang of the calculators before any of his classmates and he was certain that they would promote him to supervisor.

I didn’t hear from him on Thursday and on Friday he called me in extreme distress.

“We finished taking our tests and then they said , “now remember, you guys are just replacements, we’ll call you if we need you.”

“Oh no,” I said; not completely sorry to hear of his misfortune.

I began selling my body to since in order to make ends meet. In April I started a cognitive intelligence experiment at UCLA in which I did a series of math and spelling games while lying in an MRI machine. In May I was in a sleep experiment in Burbank I was supposed to do two consecutive nights. When I came back for the second night I was told I wasn’t supposed to be there for three days in spite of the fact that I had an appointment stating otherwise. It was 11;00 PM when they told me this and I didn’t have a way of getting back to San Pedro. I threw a fit and they paid for a cab. I came back for the second part of the study and they tried to send me hone with no pay when the equipment didn’t work. I threatened to sue and they paid me.

At the beginning of June Chris got a job fixing up a van for a pet food company. He got angrier and more arrogant which each passing day. In late June I went to Chicago for my mothers 87th birthday. Michael Jackson died while I was out of town and I missed all the excitement; not to mention the opportunities to stockpile LA Weekly’s that would undoubtedly be collectors items someday.

On The Forth Of July, our unacknowledged one year anniversary, he drove to San Pedro and we went to Long Beach to watch the fireworks. I didn’t know it, but I would never see him again.

Porn Stars, Pot Smoke and the Million Dollar Hotel Rosslyn

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As time wore on, the hours at Nielsen began to dwindle. We were sent home early often. A lot of times we would just skip taking a break and work straight through so they could get the most work out of us for the least amount of money. Pam got meaner and meaner, she found some sort of flaw in my work every day. Mark began to date a co-worker who was apparently the niece of one Miss Annette Funicello. I began to write a play in my spare time about a mousey woman working in a phone room where they sell toner, who gets revenge on the people in her life who berate her. It was great therapy.
Chris was beginning to have problems with his landlord. He has moved into a converted garage. He had agreed to do all the carpentry work on the apartment for free for a reduced rate in rent. Right after he finished the carpentry there was no more hot water in the house. It turned out his landlord had not paid the water bill. A bit of further investigation reveled that he had not paid the mortgage in several months and was about to be foreclosed upon.
Meanwhile, the housing inspector came to our building and Macbeth and I had to get lost for six hours while Vito shoved a dumpster in front of my door in an effort to pretended there was not an apartment there. Macbeth and I went for a long, long walk. We sat and watched the boats leaving the harbor. I longed to be on the water. I thought how nice it would be to sail away somewhere, just the two of us. I’d always wanted to work on a cruise ship, but I never could, because I’d always had dogs. There was a lot of traveling I never got to do for this reason. That’s the trouble with love; it ruins everything – all your plans for the future. If it hadn’t been for Macbeth there were a lot of other places I could live and I could have worked more as I wouldn’t have had to go running home to him so often. I wouldn’t have given him up for anything, of course, but sometimes I wish he could cook and use the toilet. We returned home to find Vito still there, he said the housing inspector had only been there for a few minutes and didn’t even bother to look in the back of the building.
Several people had told me that I could turn Vito into the housing authority and get up to $7000 because he was renting an illegal apartment. I found out later that I would have to call the inspectors office. They would let him know I called . They would come over there and inspect it with Vito present and then they would have to give him a certain amount of time to fix it. I figured he would kill me if that happened so I decided not to turn him in.
I continued to do audience work. I swallowed my pride and cheered for Dr. Phil, The Doctors, Family Feud and a host of other crap. I saw Stephanie at almost every one of them. She told me that she told her boyfriend she was going back to school. She said she didn’t know what she was going to do when he came home and found out everything she told him was a lie. I ran into Jessica as well. I told her how broke I was.
“I can get you $300 for a blow job tomorrow.” She said.
I stared at her. I giggled a bit uncomfortably.
“My boyfriend produces porn movies. Were always looking for people.”
I tried to hide my shock. As a pasty-faced, slightly chubby forty two-year-old, I didn’t get offered a lot of porn. Furthermore, if she was doing this herself why did she have to do audience work? For a brief fleeting moment I considered this. I realized they probably wouldn’t take me anyway and she was probably just telling me about it because she needed someone to talk to, but desperation can make you think some crazy things.
“Do you use a stage name?” I asked, horrified and fascinated.
“Yeah,” she said without telling me what it was.
“Have any of the movies come out yet?
“No”, she said without telling me the names of them.”
“Do your parents know?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said , without telling me what they though.
After this we went in to watch a for a game show called Catch 21, she fell asleep again – I think she was on drugs.
Stephanie later told me that Jessica had tried to recruit her as well. She said she had gone so far as to go over to Jessica’s apartment to talked to her. She said she decided not to do it because the guys she would have to have sex with were black. (Really, that’s why you don’t want to do the most private thing ever in front of a camera, your parents and anyone who happens across the video?)
In my career as a clapper I would meet a German woman resembling Janis Joplin, who told me she had inherited two million dollars and frittered it all away on fancy hotels. I met a woman who said the Jews were trying to control us by tainting our pap smears. I saw a fist fight break out between a male audience member and a female audience member when she accused him of taking her picture, charging her for it and then never giving it to her.
I did most of my audience work for a man named Dominick. A short chubby man who’d been in the audience business for many years. He was a good guy compared to most audience coordinators. He always answered his phone, booked you even if you were plain-looking and paid quickly, in the right amount and in cash. He didn’t bother with tax records either. I understand why most audience members wouldn’t want to pay taxes, I can even understand why coordinators wouldn’t want to pay them, but these audience companies were working for some major corporations. They must have been getting paid by all of the major networks and none of them ever seemed to make sure the audience companies were legit.
I had better bladder control than a Catholic school boy as we often went five hours in an audience without a toilet break. To this day I can’t get over the fact that they were perfectly willing to sacrifice a room full of people’s kidneys for some junkie game or talk show. I lied about my age a million times, so did a lot of people.. Most of the calls were for people between 18 and 35. I was grateful to have a baby face. Why it would mater how old you were to sit in the dark and clap is beyond me, but Hollywood loves to discriminate, even when she stands to gain nothing.
The anxiety experiment ended and Dr. M send me off with a months worth of free drugs and  several Ambien. I managed to accidentally throw the Ambien away in to a dumpster. Somewhere, in San Pedro there was a very happy bum. Eventually I abandon the anxiety drugs as they had a most unappealing and unladylike side effect. I began smoking pot regularly along with Chris. Did I mention he was also the school stoner? I needed something to deal with the fact that I was working every single day, spending as much time on the bus as I did working and often coming home having earned less than forty dollars.

One day I called Dominick for audience work and he didn’t answer. No one could get in touch with him. It turned out he had disappeared abandoning his apartment and all of his clients. Rumor had it he owed money to the mob.
I began selling plasma in a horrible place located in a filthy basement in Van Nuys. Plasma is used as an ingredient in various medicines and people can sell their plasma as much as twice a week. I had sold plasma once before in Denver and although it wasn’t fun, the facility was clean, it took about two hours and paid $35.00 a pop. In LA it took three hours to get to the nearest plasma center, once you were there it normally took five hours to donate and it paid $30. The fee would later go down as the economy worsened. The place was disgusting. There was piss on the seat of toilet in the tolietpaperless bathroom., There were used tissues scattered all over the waiting room and there was often gum in the drinking fountain. The staff was cold and rude and would get mad if you asked a question. They knew we were all desperate for money and they used the opportunity to take all of their hostilities out on us. There was nothing we could do about it; we needed the money.
The whole thing made me think about the grim reality of human nature. The staff could have chosen to be nasty or nice, but they chose nasty because it was more fun. Plasma centers make around $1500 for a case of plasma; $30 a bag is just a small percentage of that. The operators of these centers say that they care about people, but when the economy got bad and more donors started coming in they used the opportunity to pay less. Giving the miserable experience that it was and given the demand for plasma one can only imagine what the consequences would be if the economy every got so good that no one had to sell their plasma. No one in their right mind would ever donate plasma without any pay on a regular basis. If it weren’t for people being poor and desperate enough to sell plasma the pharmaceutical companies would not be able to make anywhere near as much medicine as they do and some people would die. If it weren’t for sickness and the need for medicine we donors would have one less means of income. So the pharmaceutical companies and sick people relied on us to be poor and we relied on them to be sick. I got to thinking about how many people who work in hospitals, collection agencies and rehab center would be unemployed if it weren’t for desperation and disease, metal illness and debt. I wondered how dependent our economy was human suffering. And I though to myself what a wonderful world.
In September I got more and more depressed and smoked more and more pot. Eventually I quit Nielsen as the hours had dwindled so much, I could make more money doing audience work. I got a part-time job fund-raising for the Obama campaign and was fired after one month.
Chris had an occasional security guard job at the Shrine Auditorium. One night he work at a Scientology convention. He texted me saying there was a n enormous spread of food that he was invited to eat on his break. I talked to him when he got home.
“How was the food? Did you see any celebrities?” I asked.
“Those people are crazy” He replied sounding a bit scared. “You know that girl who was in Natural Born Killers?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Well, she was there and she started talking to me and at first I was really excited that this famous person was talking to me, but she’s nuts. Her eyes were as big as saucers. She looked and seemed like she was on drugs, but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t”
“How was the food?”
“I couldn’t get anywhere near it. They were all trying to recruit me.”
Chris was a fairly tough character. He’d lived in some of New York’s roughest SRO’s and he’d worked in a porn bookstore in NYC for a year. He’d live in Jersey City for seven years and had spent his time in LA residing in Watts. I had never seen or heard of him being afraid of anything until he met the Scientologists.
Chris was beginning to revel himself as not only a pot head, but a pretty hardcore alcoholic. Whenever any minor little thing would upset him he got drunk. I was over at his house one night after he’d gotten an especially bad haircut, He was freaking out about it. I fell asleep while watching the movie Jaws 3 (it was the only thing we could get on his TV). I woke up at the end of the movie and was surrounded by six empty 40’s of cheap beer. Chris had moved to Los Angeles from New York to work as a set carpenter. I wondered if the pressure of being away from the town he grew up in and his family wasn’t to much for him.
A few days later all the lights went out in Chris’s apartment. His landlord had failed to pay the bill. He asked if he could come over and stay with me until he found a new place to live. I said sure . He came over with a copy of Cool Hand Luke and a bad attitude. He told me he was going to sue his landlord. I advised him not to sue the poor. I woke up the next morning to find him gone. A few minutes later there was a knock at my door. He said he slept in his car because all of Macbeth’s scratching had kept him awake. He was tired and crabby. He grabbed all of his stuff and stormed out. The next day he called me up, drunk off his ass and yelled at me for an hour about how I should control my dog (apparently in my sleep). He complained about what an awful apartment I had. He said he would hang up before he said something he would regret.
I hung up, I felt like I should be upset or shocked or something, but the truth is I wasn’t. I don’t expect much from men and this seemed about right. He called the next night and apologized all over the place. He said he’d found a new apartment at the Hotel Rosslyn in downtown LA, it was only $300 a month. I wanted to break up with him, but I didn’t. He was my only friend in town and I didn’t have enough money to pay the rent that month. I thought I might have to go stay with him and put MacBeth in a kennel. One week later Chris got fired from Nielsen and went on unemployment.
The Hotel Rosslyn was once a very fancy place occupied by movie stars and other glamorous types in the 20’s. In the seventy’s and 80’s it was occupied by drug addicts, gangs and other transient types I have heard rumors of people being thrown off the roof in gang related killings. In 2006 the hotel got a renovation as part of a government program. It housed everything from former homeless folks to a multitude of aspiring artist. Chris’s room was tiny and the bathroom was down the hall. In spite of being the son of a successful New York television producer , having a college degree and growing up in a mini mansion, Chris thought this was a great apartment.
I continued to try to get background extra work, but I was rejected for my looks more of the than not. When I did work it was on shows that had enormous cattle calls with huge crowd scenes. May of these shoots were indoors in small arenas they were breeding grounds for horrible diseases and I got sick most times I worked. I thought things were picking up a bit when I heard about another petitioning job starting in Beverlywood. We were to go door to door asking for registered voters to sign to get a candidate on the ballot. Our petition boss Ron was a nervous elderly man who lived in Westwood and drove a nice Mercedes. We arrived for work early on a Saturday morning to find that Beverlywood was an orthodox Jewish neighborhood where they cannot answer the door, or sign anything on the Saturday Sabbath. I’m pretty sure our petition boss was Jewish and had lived in LA all his life and should have known about the neighborhood. We got all of twenty signatures. We did a little bit better the rest of the week. On Thursday we gathered at our usual meeting place expecting to get our checks and Ron acting as though he didn’t know what we were talking about. He said we weren’t supposed to get paid till the following Thursday. I told him I knew that wasn’t what he said and that I wouldn’t be doing anymore work until I was paid. I expected the other petition circulator to go along with me. Instead they all told me that they were sure we would be paid eventually and that I shouldn’t complain. One older lady told me that you just have to roll with the punches. I went home again shocked at the ridiculous complacency of the poor in Los Angeles.
I called Central Casting and heard a call for “funky looking people to be on The Mentalist in a scene set in a bar in the desert. I called and was booked right away. I was told to bring a bunch of different character costumes to the set which was located in Temecula. I was excited . I was finally getting an opportunity because of the way I looked. I wondered how I was going to get to Temecula. I called Chris, but he couldn’t drive me as he had a temp job for the day. I checked into taking the Greyhound, but the schedule was all wrong. The metro would have gotten me there, but I couldn’t afford it. I ended up having to call them and tell them I couldn’t make it . I entertained a common Hollywood fantasy; if I had shown up – where might it have led? What if someone had thought I was entertainingly goofy enough to give me a line in the show. It’s silly I know, but they were looking for my type. A line can pay up to $1000. I was beginning to understand where the fantasy came from.
On the first of November Chris and I bought a gigantic cheap bottle of Vodka and got drunk every night. During the day I stayed in my apartment while my neighbors birth control accidents screamed outside the door. On Thursday we drove to West Hollywood to meet up with Ron The petition guy. I began crying as we drove I had no money and rent wasn’t paid was sure he wasn’t gonna pay me. Chris said he would make him pay me. The Roxy, The Viper room and Whiskey a- Go Go flew past us in a nightmarish blur. I had a vodka induced vision of myself begging on the street. When we got there we found that Ron didn’t have the checks. He said he would give them to us on Saturday. Chris stood over him with a menacing look while he said this. Ron looked terrified and his hands shook. I just glared at him with giant angry pot eyes . I didn’t say anything , the booze was making the room spin around at this point.
On Saturday I went to his office and he finally paid me. he tried paying me half of what he owed me at first, but I refused to leave his office until I got the whole thing. It took three trips to Beverly Hills and six hours to get a check for $300. Vito called on the 20th of November and asked where rent was. I told him I would have it in two weeks. MacBeth managed to get a horrible case of fleas. It coast $100 to get rid of them. I ran into one of the petition circulators who worked for Ron. Ron had never paid him and he was living in a tent in the park.
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A week later I got a part time temp job as an appointment setter in a janitorial office I wondered what the net year would bring. I didn’t know it, but I was about to meet the Queen Of Hearts.

Lauren Conrad and Scam City

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I sent my resume out to as many companies as possible. I took a brief freak out break to talk to my friend La Shawn. She told me that if Shameco wanted to accept my resignation early they would have to pay me for two weeks anyway. I had heard of this law before, but I wondered how valid it would be if they knew I moved to LA without their permission. I called Corporate HR and they said they were sending me my paycheck along with one for an extra two weeks.

I came across one company that did paid petition circulating, they were having an orientation the next day; I felt relieved.  I had done paid petition circulating many times before; it was easy you just stood on a street corner and asked people to sign a form to get a political initiative on the ballot. People are rude to you, but you can make some good money. People had pretty much been rude to me all my life. Plus you got to learn about all the different issues, both liberal and conservative. I liked to pretend to be a real expert on whatever issue I was hawking. I liked to see if I could get people to believe I was really  passionate about  the issues. People in Denver got a little frustrated with circulators as there were always so many issues on the Colorado ballot. It was my understanding that California was the same way.  I got a few phone calls back about jobs and I set up a couple of interviews.

I tried to take my mind off my troubles. I attempted to do laundry. I went down to the laundry  room several times only to find someone’s cloths just sitting there in the machine.  After several hours I took them out and put my cloths in. When I came back to put them in the drier they had taken my wet cloths out of the machine mid wash and thrown them on the floor.

The next day I attended the orientation. A man named Charles trained us.  He had just gotten there from Florida. I couldn’t help but notice that Charles didn’t seem to know what he was talking about. He wasn’t sure how much we would get paid per signature, he thought we would get paid in about a week, but that remained to be confirmed . He handed us all several petitions one was for  parental notification on abortion, another was to end Gerrymandering a third was to reduce property taxes.  He read a brief description of each. I questioned him about who was sponsoring the petitions and he didn’t know. He didn’t’ t seem to know or understand anything about politics.  We arranged to meet in one week and we all went our separate ways.

I also called a woman in who had  a petition to control  growth in Santa Monica .  This meant that I had to do all my circulating there as the signers had to be registered to vote in Santa Monica proper. It paid $3.00 a signature so I couldn’t say no.  I headed out to Santa Monica The  next morning . It took three hours and three busses from San Pedro to get there. I met three different Jesus freaks on the way all of whom felt compelled to share their beliefs with me. Once I was there  I situated myself on the Promenade. I discovered that everyone there was a tourist. I moved over to a more residential area . Very few of the people I encountered were actually Santa Monica residents those who were told me that they didn’t sign petitions as that was the job of the legislature. (The legislature in California took three years to pass a budget and  drags it’s feet on every single proposal that makes it out of committee.) IF they would listen to what I had to say they would riddle me with questions  and then not sign the petition. I left Santa Monica that day with twenty signatures on the growth petition and about fifty or so signatures on all my other issues combined . Between traveling and circulating the day took twelve hours. I went back the next day and got similar results.

I went to the library and a man took the petition out of my hands and questioned me about every thing from the sponsors to the entire history of the issue.  The key to successful petition circulating is of course to get as many valid signatures as you can in the shortest amount of time. Standing around discussing the issues is the kiss of death. The people of Santa Monica are very educated . They are also very wealthy.  They like to think of themselves as very liberal, but they have no real compassion for working people. I felt like telling them that if they really were so liberal  you’d think they would understand that if I didn’t get signatures I wouldn’t get paid and if I didn’t get paid I wouldn’t have a house to live in or food to eat.  Some of them told me I should be ashamed of my self for taking money for circulating petitions. I wanted to ask them what they did for a living that was so magnanimous. How many of them produced crappie TV or porn  or both?

I was standing in front of Whole Foods when a familiar looking woman came walking out of the store. I asked her to sign, but she just glared at me. A photographer  jumped out from an SUV and took her picture; she was Lauren Conrad. Now there’s a woman with a respectable job.

For the next few days I opted to skip Santa Monica and go to Redondo Beach. I really did love being near the ocean. For all my troubles there was something very calming about the sea air. I went on several job interviews, but I never heard back from anyone. I got my final check from Shameco and they had failed to pay me  the two extra weeks that they said they would.

On Sunday, I went to turn in my petitions  at the restaurant we had all agreed to meet in.  Charles was there at the arranged time but told us he had to leave and go to the main office to get more petitions. He let us sit there for over an hour before coming back with the petitions and  gathering the ones we had.  He told us we would be paid in one week . One week later we met in the same restaurant. He kept calling to say he would be there in 15 minutes . We sat there for three hours and he never showed up the restaurant closed down. I began to cry.

“ Don’t cry, pray” one of the other circulators said to me.

“Are you fucking being serious right now! !I ‘ve had it up to here with this city, it’s nothing but scams and bullshit”, I screamed.

I was in no mood to be preached at. Where was I Alabama?  I caught the last bus back to San Pedro with my last dollar. Charles eventualy came by my apartment with a check for $182.00  I couldn’t believe how much time it had taken to make so little money .  A week later he would make me wait for another two hours in the same restaurant and a week after that he would make me wait an hour again . Eventually, he told me that I could just go to the main office in Los Angeles to turn in my work and be paid, by that time there was only a month left of circulating for the year.

The Company in Santa Monica miraculously paid me without hassle and I was able to pay rent for the month of April.

I  found an ad on Craigslist for a a drug trial. It said they were looking for people who suffered  from insomnia. As I had barely slept  since I moved there I thought I might make a good candidate.  It said it paid $3000. I called and was  told that the advertised insomnia study was filled for  now,  but they had and anxiety study that a lot of the same people qualified for. The study paid $50.00 a week for 4 months and I would be testing out a new drug.

She asked me a series of questions to determine if I had general anxiety.

On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest,  how  nervous do you feel on an average day?

“Um, a six.”

“Are you sure its just a six, did I hear you correctly?”

“ I mean a seven”.

And so it went. I had no choice, but to go along with it.

I went to the office in Beverly Hills for my appointment. When I got off the bus  the first thing I saw was a woman walking  a dog who was wearing high heals and a dress. The woman was a beauty. It occurred to me that if she weren’t a beauty she would be in a mental institution instead of walking a pure bread poodle down Rodeo Drive.

The psychiatrist running the study told me that I would be taking an Ambian that was divided into ten small doses over the course of a day. He was hoping to prove it had the same effect as Prozac.

On my way home on the bus  I chatted with several people including a man who worked a Dolce and Gabana in Beverly Hills. He told me that he’d waited on some music producer for over an hour. He said she tried on ten suits and didn’t buy a single one. He said she told him she’d call him and she wouldn’t. He asked me how long I lived there and I told him one month.

“Now let me guess you hate it here, right?”

“You said it”.

“I’m from Alabama. I’ve lived here a year and a half. He said. “I hated it for the first year. Things are a little better now. “

“I’m having problems finding a job” , I said.

“It takes about six months to get a job, about a year before you’ll have any friends.” He said.

Six months ? I would be dead by then. I went home and went on Craigslist yet again. I answered and ad for a telemarketer job in Long Beach. I was interviewed and hired by a man there who would only say his name was Tony . He said that I would be getting leads for sales of toner for copiers. I would simply call businesses and collect the make and model of the copier.

People always assume the worst about telemarketing.  Because the calls are annoying people have a tendency to assume that anything you sell over the phone is a scam. I have worked several telemarketing jobs and I can tell you that most of the companies  I worked for were not trying to scam people any more then any other type of advertising or marketing. I sold newspapers and they were actually sold at a better price than you would get if you called to order them. I have sold coupon books that I know worked because I used them myself They were the exact same price as if you bought them at the store; they were nether a great bargain or a rip off.

The telemarketing office in Los Angeles was the first actual telemarketing “scam” I’d ever been involved in.  We would call businesses and ask for the make and the model of the copier. Our boss would call the companies back the next day and say he was with the copier company and was selling toner for the copier at a reduced price if they ordered that day. It was a scam because almost all copiers are contracted and come with free toner as part of the agreement.  We relied on naïve secretaries  who didn’t know toner was free to give us the company credit card.

Our boss was a right wing conservative cokehead. He listed to a combination of Led Zeppelin and conservative talk radio. He was all for the death penalty and harsher punishment for criminals.  He fired me after two weeks.

I was on my way home on the bus when  I noticed a short, creepy man who wouldn’t stop staring at me. He asked my name and asked me if I was  Swedish. He asked me if I was married and I said yes.  We got to talking and I told him I had just been fired. He asked me If I had ever considered doing audience work. I told him I didn’t know what that was. He told me it was where you sat in the audience of shows like Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown and pretended to be interested in the cases. They pad in cash for this.  He gave me the number of a woman called Adrianne as well as his own phone number.

I didn’t realize it, but he had handed me an invitation to the worst unbirthday party I was ever to attend.

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