Saturday, May 19, 2012

I am turned away from a strip club, banned from working at K-Mart, and can't yet apply to truck driving school.

My job search just keeps getting better and better, grasshoppers.

That's sarcasm, there. 

Let's start with Thursday.  For some weeks I had been toying with the idea of working in a strip club again to cover the cost of this dental work, because really, I have no other ideas on how or where I am going to scrounge up an extra $5,000 on such short notice.  I guess normal people have savings squirreled away for big unexpected expenses like this, but do they have those savings right out of college, after they've been a student for the past 4-5 years?  I don't know.  Pretty much everyone I know is up to their eyeballs in debt, so maybe having a savings isn't that normal after all. 

Anyway, there are some 39 (!) strip clubs in the Phoenix metro area.  On Tuesday I called one of the nicer clubs and set up a time to come audition, and on Thursday I went.  This place is supposed to be the bee's knees, and it did look palatial from the outside, but to me the inside looked like any other club.  Too dark, music too loud, torn and stained carpet, average-looking tattooed girls wearing standard stripper outfits.  I met with the house mom, then got changed and while I was waiting for my turn, I noticed that the regular girls on stage weren't really dancing or doing any pole tricks.  It was the middle of the day so the club only had about 10 patrons in it, but still.  The girls were just meandering around the stage, looking kind of bored, not really doing anything, just waiting for their turn to be over.  Of course I've seen that before in smaller clubs, but it just didn't match with all the previous praise I'd heard about this being a top-notch club.  When it was my turn, I danced like I always have, and then went back to the dressing room, where the house mom informed me that summer in Phoenix is the slow season and they aren't taking any new girls right now.


I couldn't tell if she was being honest or being polite.  I have heard from other Phoenicians that summer is indeed hibernation time; it's so hot that the snowbirds go away and lots of establishments either reduce their hours or close up shop altogether until fall.  On the other hand, every time I've auditioned at a club in the past, I've been told that I look great/beautiful/wonderful and was then hired immediately.  This house mom said nothing about whether she and the manager liked me or not, so maybe she thought I was too old?  Too fat?  The worst dancer they've ever seen?  I couldn't read her at all, and figured that asking her outright wouldn't provide any further insight.  Kind of like asking someone if they're lying.  Of course they're not going to respond with, "Yeah, I was just being polite.  You suck."  On my way out I asked the bouncer when things would get busy again, and he said September.   

It was just...weird.  Why would they waste their own time like that if they're not even hiring?  I've worked at 5 clubs before and have never had a problem with just waltzing on in and getting hired right away, and going home with several hundred dollars that same night.  Is now possibly the absolute WORST time to be job hunting in Phoenix, or is my stripping career really over?  I should call the other 38 clubs and see what they have to say.  But I hate that I have to keep choosing between being a stripper and therefore being able to afford normal-person things like health care and education, or busting my ass for minimum wage at a "respectable" job and counting pennies and nickels to be able to afford a case of ramen.  Maybe I would like dancing more if I could get into one of those super fancy clubs where all the girls are required to wear stripper gowns instead of bikinis, and the DJ plays old school jazz instead of gangsta rap about bitches and 'hos.   

I think those gown clubs are only in Vegas or NYC, though, and I'm not sure I have a good enough face to get into one of them.  You know what would be fun, is getting into a real burlesque show.  There are two burlesque troupes in Phoenix, one of which offers classes under the name of "Miss Lucy Morals' School for Wayward Grrrls."  Ha!  I'm a wayward girl if there ever was one.  Those classes begin in July and that would require me staying in Phoenix, and I've just been thinking, you know, if I hate this city so much, why don't I just throw my stuff in storage and get a job somewhere else and get the hell out of here?  I don't know if I could survive staying here through July.  Not only is it way too conservative and the public transportation awful, but it's too hot already and only going to get hotter and more miserable.

Yes, I knew Phoenix was hot before I moved here, but I used to think I was one of those people who could tolerate heat better than cold.  Plus everyone (who doesn't live here) is constantly chirping, "Yeah, but it's a dry heat, so it's not that bad."

I will bitch-slap the next person who says that.  Dryness only matters up to a certain point, and that point is about 85 degrees.  Any hotter than that, and shit is just HOT, people.  Plain and simple.  Don't believe me?  Why don't you go set your oven to 100, and when it gets to that temperature, open the oven door and stick your face in and take several deep breaths, one after the other.  Better yet, why don't you just crawl right on in there?  It's not that bad, you know, 'cause it's a dry heat.  That is what it's like to live and breathe in Phoenix.  In the middle of MAY.  We haven't even gotten to the hottest months (July and August) yet, when it's 115 for days on end.

Here are some other day-to-day observations about living here in the Sonoran Desert in summer:
  • You can guzzle water by the quart all day long and your throat still feels like sandpaper.
  • Even if you stay out of the sun, the air is so dry that your skin starts to flake and your hair and clothes are jumping with static electricity.   
  • You (and everyone else around you) still sweats like a racehorse and stinks like fermented onion stench because of it.
  • When you sit on a metal or stone bench in the shade, it's still burns your ass cheeks because the air and ground have warmed it so much. 
  • When you go to get some water from a bubbler drinking fountain bubbler, the water coming out of it is hot enough to make coffee.
  • When you wash your delicate clothes and hang them up, they are dry in an hour or less.  If you spill some water around your sink while doing dishes, the puddles will completely evaporate in a few minutes.
Phoenix is obviously one of the worst cities for skin cancer, but it's also one of the worst cities for allergies and air pollution.  And let's go over that public transportation thing again.  On Friday I ran 3 errands: I stopped at the grocery store for a few things, picked up a book I had reserved at the library, and returned a pair of shoes I'd bought.  All three establishments were within 5 miles of my house, and do you know how long it took me to accomplish those three tasks by bus?

Almost 7 HOURS!

I left my house at 8:20am and didn't get home until almost 2:45pm, even though I knew exactly where I was going, which buses to take, and didn't stop anywhere else in between.  It's freaking ridiculous.  Every day that I need or want to go somewhere, it's like that, even though I live smack in the middle of Phoenix.  No matter where one goes by bus, it takes at least 1.5 hours, usually 2 to get from Point A to Point B.  It's enormously difficult to get involved with any clubs or community events because of this issue, and there have been so many times where I've gotten done with school at 5pm and wanted to attend an event at 7, but 2 hours was not enough time to get there by bus, much less get home by 10pm when the buses stop running.  Cabs are $30 or more each way, and the city is so sprawled out that most things are well out of biking distance, and even if something is nearby, the locals are, as I observed within weeks of living here, extremely hostile towards pedestrians.  Sad to say, but it really doesn't make sense to go anywhere or do anything here because it takes all day--even if you're not leaving the neighborhood!

"Man, it sounds like Phoenix is just one big vortex of suck," Jennifo said.

Oh friend, it is.  That's why I need to leave ASAP.  But the question is, where to go next?  

Back to Minneapolis?  I liked that city pretty well.  It has a huge arts scene, I already have some friends there, it's sort of close to my family, and I kind of know my way around.  Or maybe I should go back to Honolulu?  The weather is amazing all year round so there's no "hibernation" season, and because there are 4 major military bases on Oahu, I could probably find myself another husband.  But my mom is getting old, and if anything happened to her, I'd be over 4,000 miles away.  What about back to Portland?  Eh...I found the men there to be kind of weenies, plus it's very gloomy.  How about Boston?  I've always wanted to go there.  I really want to go to Vermont, where last year they passed a single-payer health care bill for their state.  It won't take effect for a few years yet, but it sounds amazing.  Plus their economy is supposed to be really strong too, it's a progressive area and one of the least religious states in the union.  Sounds like the perfect place, says this unemployed liberal atheist.

So on Thursday, after I was rejected by Fancy Strip Club, I came home and looked at online job ads in Burlington, Vermont.  Why Burlington?  Because it keeps showing up on my FindYourSpot list.  I saw an ad for a cashier at the Burlington Kmart and clicked the "Apply Now" button.  As soon as I typed in my name, social, and birth date, I got a message saying, "Our records indicate that you previously worked for Kmart or one of its subsidiary companies. Based on the reason your previous employment was terminated, you are not eligible to be considered for re-employment with Kmart. If you feel this decision was made in error, please contact Kmart Associate Services at 1-888-88Sears. Thank you."

What the wha...?  Hell yeah, that's an error.  I have worked for Kmart before, at a Super-K in southern Ohio in 2003, in the deli.  When I was hired then, it was understood that it was a temp position and I'd be employed only during the Thanksgiving-Christmas rush.  And everything was fine.  I mean, slicing and bagging head cheese was pretty gross, but I went to work every day, did my job, got along fine with my boss and coworkers, and when they said, "Christmas is over, we don't need you anymore, go home," I said okay and went home.  There was no issue at all.  

Now they're making it sound like I was fired for embezzlement or something, when the truth is that I left on good terms.  Do they mean to tell me that I've been walking around for over 8 years having no idea that I was banned from working at K-Mart ever again?  So I called that number to ask what the problem is.  Both the voice on the automated menu and the person who answered my call had a thick foreign accent, and the rep also asked for my SSN.

"Could you look it up by my name and birth date instead?" I asked.

"We requiah de employmin identeefeecation numbah oh de employee sosha secutee numbah," the woman said.

"How is that information protected?" I asked.

"Iss confeedencho" the woman said.

"But how is it protected, exactly?  Through what mechanisms or procedures?" I said.

"Iss confeedencho," was all she could say.

Well, faced with the options of handing over my social security number to a strange person in a faraway land, or never finding out why I'm not allowed to work at K-Mart or its affiliates for the rest of my life, I chose the latter.  I will just have to take my moneymaker elsewhere, since apparently K-Mart can't keep its employee records straight.  Jeez.  Maybe record-keeping issues are partly why the company as a whole is in financial trouble and has been for some time.  But it makes me wonder where else I've been banned from working and don't even know it.          

Since I have no idea where to go or what to do for employment these days, the book that I rented from the library is called...

I was able to blast through 4 chapters on my 7-hour bus ride yesterday, and I have to say, this book started out strong, but got pretty muddy by Chapter 3.  It could have used a bit more editing, too, but what can you expect?  It's pop psych self-help, not fucking John Steinbeck. 

My earth-shattering revelation is that my passion in life is to feed, clothe, and shelter myself and pay my bills on time.  Definitely something I aspire to and fantasize about daily.  I've been looking more seriously into this truck driving thing--checking out PTDI-certified schools in Arizona, Wisconsin, and in the Northeast.  There's one here in Phoenix, another about a half hour from my hometown in Wisconsin, and one near Syracuse, New York.  The one near my hometown is supposed to be one of the best schools in the country, go figure.  It's 10 weeks long and is $1400 cheaper than the school in Phoenix, and it has an affiliate program with Schneider, which hires new CDL graduates and offers a tuition reimbursement program.  To me that sounds like a pretty good deal, especially since CDL drivers are in demand all over the US.

I went to their website to look at program costs and start dates, but in order to get that information, one must actually apply first.  I started to fill out the application, but got an error message saying that I can't apply because I already have a student account with that school, probably from when I got my liquor license there in 2005.  In order to proceed, I had to sign into my student account with my name, social, and birth date, but when I entered those I got another error message saying I can't sign in because I don't have a student account in the system.  I tried to sign up for a new student account, but it wouldn't let me, saying I'm already in the system.  

Oh, for crying out loud.  Now I'll have to call the help desk on Monday, and they aren't going to know what I'm talking about, and they'll transfer my call to tech support, who'll insist that it's my fault and my computer is broken and they can't do anything about it, and they'll transfer me to computer services, who'll tell me to call tech support, and I'll say, "I just talked to tech support and they transferred me to you," and they'll hang up on me, and I'll call again, and get the same reps who insist they have no idea what I'm talking about, that they can't help me and it's not their job anyway.  Because that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a bureaucracy works.  

Which reminds me, I also picked up another book:

Just in case, you know, I'm ever hired anywhere ever again.  This book is VERY good and I highly recommend it.  I mention it because one of the advice points is "Don't Sweat the Bureaucracy."  The author explains that it's best to "find a way to maximize your efficiency when you must deal with the bureaucracy, do the very best that you can with it, make suggestions on ways to improve the system, and then detach yourself from the craziness."  And I know that.  It's just hard to remember sometimes.  Anyway, this really is a gem of a book and I urge you to check it out if any part of your job is annoying at all. 

So that's my update for now.  Bouncing from cashier to stripper to truck driver.  Really, I'm as classy as they come.