When your Crust is Stuffed (Part 1)
The trolls at the library sent me a letter of rejection. Not an email. Not a phone call. Sitting on my parent’s granite counter top addressed to me from the City of Faribault was a letter. For a moment, I thought I applied to an Ivy League university, I felt regal, but then I remembered that rejections come in small packages. These women were serious, or the letter just emphasized the inevitable old-fashioned qualities of my hometown. In our time warp of 1998, the video store still has porn and people still believe in paper.
I threw the envelop in the trash while my mother continued to suggest other forms of employment. She’s like most mothers where she keeps going and going. I don’t actually listen to her, but respond with key phrases that show I’m listening such as: okay, mhmm, yeah, and all right.
At some point you just have to be an asshole, which is the number one no-no in Southern Minnesota. I went with the instinct of low-key telling her to shut her goddamn mouth.
I felt like I was sixteen all over again and surely sounded like I was (and do now), arguing about things I “wouldn’t understand until I was older.” I was 24. Jobless. Living in my mother’s basement. My rent was paid in emptying the dehumidifiers every day so the carpet wouldn’t get moldy. I spent my days waking up at one in the afternoon and then debated whether to drive to the local coffee shop so I could sit for 2 to 4 hours sipping on my Chai while pretending to send very important emails to literary magazines or organizations that needed intellectual desperate interns.
I applied to different centers that needed someone to get coffee and answer phones for nine months, and hopefully in the end I would write their name on my CV to impress other literary organizations. I had the audacity to compare my overseas teaching experience to “making art.” I'm sure they chuckled to themselves as they tossed my cover letter onto the rejection pile. I collected failures with pride. I polished off a bottle of wine each night waiting for more to arrive.
At least I was considered out of 30 people, I thought, I must have made it to the final ten applicants. In a fit of delusion, I googled how to be a Buzzfeed intern while I downed yet another glass of my mother’s mixed red nonsense, because we all know I couldn't afford my own bottle.
I was denied by penny-less internships because I was under-qualified, over-qualified, and straight-up qualified. My writing wasn’t funny or political enough for any improv show. I wasn’t emerging as hard as the other emerging artists. The local library was my last attempt in a short series of unrealistic attempts. I wasn’t going to get these jobs, but I convinced myself I was and that I, in some way, deserved them.
The night I got the letter, I drove from my parent’s Amish farmhouse to the local McDonald’s by the highway. I'm a food soother meaning I comfort my erratic emotions with copious amounts of food. I ordered three cookies, a McDouble, and ate my frustration. The consumption of that McDouble could go on record as the fastest in history. I think there were three bites in total.
I imagined myself joking with moms at the check out counter and teaching the elderly how to use an iPad at the library. At an edgy hipster internship, I imagined wearing ironic high-waisted jeans and bright-colored patterned tops while answering important phone calls, and taking notes of conversations between producers and artists. I giggled to myself as I imagined them uttering words like "juxtaposition," or "pedestrian." I imagined them saying, “Wow, you pay very close attention to detail, would you like a paid position at our organization?” My expectation did not meet my reality. When people think of me, they don’t associate Lindsey and detail-oriented.
The disgusting reality of early adulthood is your frontal lobe fully forms and you lose sense of the “do anything," complex. The thoughts you had when you were a sweet little undergrad about how you were going to be successful at whatever you put your mind to becomes some Barney-Sesame-Street-mumbo-jumbo. You start to regret your interest in Emily Dickinson and begin thinking of going back to school to exchange your liberal arts degree for a trade like plumbing. For the last three months I’ve considered becoming a midwife, a chef, a yoga instructor, a massage therapist, and a boss bitch pharmaceutical rep. To me, there was something oddly sexual about being a corporate drone, and that sex appeal is called health insurance and a 401K. The plan was to apply for some large corporation in an office park, but then I remembered I'm a lazy bitch. I was brought down to reality when I thought about substitute teaching, and then I banged my head against the wall wishing I’d gone into marketing.
When you experience this level of rejection and accept in your heart and soul that you will live with your parents forever, you look for surprising distractions. Instead of being a productive member of society, I practiced my comedic timing on my dentist.
“All right Lindsey, we’re gonna have to drill into that incisor.”
“Please Doc! At least buy me a drink first.”
“Oh Lindsey, you kill me!” Dr. Pete said. He didn’t know we were in a relationship, but we were. He was paid handsomely to laugh at any weird comment I made about his physical appearance.
I filled my schedule with optometrist appointments, dermatologist appointments, and gynecologist appointments.
“You have a very healthy beautiful vagina,” Dr. Wilson would say at my fifth gynecologist visit where I continued to tip toe around the idea of getting some sort of implant that keeps you from having babies.
Switching from glasses to contacts was a frontier that required much vigor and attention. It took at least three appointments to solidify the correct and most comfortable prescription. I could handle a week of waking up and watching Jeopardy in my underwear, if that meant I could reset my energy with Dr. Michaels and his quirky assistant Gina. Gina was the only person to ask me about myself during that week while she taught me how to maneuver contacts in and out.
Your hair can only be cut and dyed so many times, but when I could, I found pleasure in listening to the eccentric stylist blab on about some Tinder relationship that ended in disaster.
“No he didn’t!” I gasped. “And he met your family!”
This pleasure soon depleted when she asked the question:
“So what was Taiwan like?”
My social anxiety thrives when having to correct people.
“So beautiful, Karen." I wouldn’t know as I lived in Thailand. "The culture is what really blew my mind though.”
I finally took care of that psoriasis problem, and while I was at it, a check for skin cancer would suffice. After all, I was only on my mother’s insurance for another two years I thought I might as well monopolize it.
Despite all the quality time spent with health professionals, and they are good company, my apathy was eating me up. When there were no appointments, the only conversation I’d have all day was with my mother or I’d speak out loud to the characters on Shameless. I contemplated what to do with my day. Was it too early to lie in my bed and watch more episodes of a bingeable series? What is the appropriate amount of hours to spend wandering around the local superstore?
During this “dark night of the soul” moment of my life, I found solace. It was a Wednesday and I was visiting my sister. There was a flicker of big black words as I drove by it.
Believe me, I’d seen plenty of these signs and thought nothing of them. There was no drive inside me. Nothing that said, DO IT. However with this one, I could feel my slumbering soul wake up for a span of 30 seconds.
I could work there. Yeah, I could do it. I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. What a treat. I could drive around and listen to music. I've never tried something like this.
The job was delivering pizza for Pizza Palace. It paid minimum wage, $9.50. I say Pizza Palace for anonymity and copyright infringement reasons. This is a well-known pizza joint and you’ve probably been there. For now, I will just call it my own imaginary name with excellent alliteration, because that’s what we look for in a restaurant.
The next day I parked next to this fine dining establishment. I wasn’t dressed in any professional manner. I didn’t have a resume on file. I didn’t have a cover letter, and none of that mattered because I knew I would get this job. I gave myself the ultimate pep talk in the mirror, which was normal given most conversations were with myself anyway.
I stormed in through those doors like a force of nature. Without any fear or doubt, I said to them, “I want to deliver pizzas for YOU!”
I gave them my best Obama handshake, the kind where the other hand grabs their forearm.
There was no way they could say no to me. Here I was! An excellent candidate who had reliable transportation, and a meth free piss cup. I had enough brain cells to answer the phone and push buttons on a POS screen.
They handed me a single-sided piece of paper. It took me two minutes to fill it out. Instead of begging people to see my value, I only had to write three past work experiences and the occasional professional reference.
I got a call the next day asking for an interview. At the interview I was hired after a thirty-minute conversation. The offer was subtle and ultimately made me feel like it was my decision.
“So what do you think?” they said. “What do you think about working here?”
I’ve experienced little to no social interaction the last week so I was unsure if they were offering me a position or if I was supposed to give them my opinion about Pizza Palace. What do I think? I think anything would be better than spending a whole day scrolling through my ex-boyfriend's Facebook page and seeing if he got fat.
Instead of voguing in my living room to Jamiroquai, I could cure my loneliness with irate customers who are tired of me repeating their orders for accuracy.
I told them I would love to work at Pizza Palace.
Now, by the end of a six-hour shift I’m exhausted just slightly, I allow myself to only watch Netflix for the rest of the night. It’s a thrill when a customer screams at me on the phone. It’s an even bigger thrill when I deliver fifty dollars worth of pizza to a man with a BMW in his driveway, who doesn’t tip me. Game Changer: I forgot his two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew and need to make a second trip.
“It’s no big deal. I’ll be right back!” I say with a radiating smile.
I return to my car as I curse him under my breath.
“Thanks Todd,” I mumble, “Why not just shit in my hand, Todd.”
I put the car in reverse, “Why not just make me eat your own shit, Todd?”
Yet, I return with a positive attitude and a bottle of government approved battery acid because this job is a thousand times better than my fake business meetings at Starbucks or getting cavities filled for some human attention. At least this way, my days where I do nothing are somewhat validated. As Americans isn’t that all we need? A job that gives us an excuse to watch six episodes of The Crown in one day? I think yes.