Don’t Hang Up!
What do a high-powered career woman, a down-and-out gringa in Tijuana, and a lowly phone room worker in San Diego have in common?
“Don’t Hang Up!” to be published in the fall of 2010, reveals how I survived loss of career and upper-class life, struggled in Tijuana, and commuted across the border to a job as a phone research interviewer. This work led to a rewarding new start – from the bottom up.
Why you might be interested.
- To gain insights into becoming one of the working poor of America after being a highly paid professional.
- To learn what it’s like to live on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border
- To show how my encounter with the America of the underdog transformed my views about life and society
Read an excerpt:
TOP DOG OUSTED FROM THE PACK
San Diego, January, 2000
Never, in my life, did I expect to be trudging the streets looking for work.
As I walk out of yet another interview, my shoe’s curved toe catches in a crack in the sidewalk, thrusting my body back. I spin, impelling myself forward so that my hands and knees bear the brunt of my fall.
Another tumble for this former high-flying advertising VP.
The jolt knocks my breath away. Here am I, bruised limbs and ego splattered on the pavement for all to see. I can’t lift myself. It’s as if I’m pasted to the ground. My recent hip replacement limits my flexibility.
“Can I help?” A young man holds out his hand. Dark green eyes. Suede jacket. Yuppie and yummy handsome. If I were twenty years younger…
I take the proffered hand, and he hauls me up. I’m unsteady, grazed knees hurting and bloodied palms smarting.
“Need to sit down?” he asks, gesturing to the bus stop. I don’t want to be treated like some old lady who must be assisted to the nearest bench.
“No, I’m fine,” I tell him. “What I need is walking shoes.”
He glances down at the designer pumps my son brought me from Milan that, because of their low heels, are the only smart shoes I can wear.
“Well then, good luck,” he says and with a wave, walks away into downtown San Diego.
“Thanks,” I call after him, wishing he’d turn and say, “Hey, want to have a cup of coffee?”
There’s a Payless Shoe store on the next block. I hobble off to buy the twelve-dollar walking shoes I will wear from then on. In them, I trek all over San Diego, using trolley train, bus, and hoofing it, from interview to interview.
When I started my job search here, I believed that someone with my qualifications would have no problem finding a good position, even though I’d have to settle for less than my former six-figure salary. Yet over and over, I’ve come up against barriers I never foresaw.
At first, I interviewed in ad agencies. There, I came face-to-face with today’s reality. Younger people. Better dressed. Newly acquired MBAs, bristling with Internet know how. Everyone crackled with energy, conveying forcefulness, creativity, and stress. Lots of stress.
I no longer belonged there.
After months of failed job attempts or better said, interview ordeals, after climbing down the ladder of job prospects, I’m reduced to surveying the want ads: Can’t do this. Don’t know that. Need to be more computer savvy. Not qualified in that area.
No good for anything anymore.
I’m stomping down the street on my way back from yet another interview when there, in front of me, a banner outside an office building proclaims, “We’re Hiring.”
I do a bit of mental juggling. What kind of job advertises to all and sundry who go by? On the other hand, I can’t be choosy. I need to get work fast, any work, as a stopgap measure until I find something better. The banner’s message signals an immediate solution.
A Bulgarian proverb in my meditation book springs to mind: Seize the
opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind.