I had a job interview on Tuesday. Well, not a job interview, but more of a pre-interview exam, to make sure I was worth the expense of interviewing. The position was voice-writer, which is like a closed-captioner, except that instead of typing all of the words you hear on the screen, you speak them into a microphone with clearer enunciation and less ambient noise, so that a computer can decide what’s been said. It is, for me, an painfully transparent symbol of personal regression. A year and a half ago I was working as a real captioner, typing what I heard in episodes of TJ Hooker and Everybody Loves Raymond and setting the dialogue boxes to appear at the appropriate frame, and not too quickly, and paring down extraneous words, which is why I can’t do that in my own writing anymore. That job paid $15 per hour, and required me to do actual typing. This job would only require me to speak, and would pay $14.40 per hour. It’s not rock-bottom, but it’s certainly not a step up.
When I got to the office in downtown Burbank where the captioning place had their office, I saw that there was one-hour parking available for free on the street and pay-parking in a garage next door. The letter describing the exam had told me to expect that the test would take a full hour, so I decided to park in the garage. Once I’d pulled in I saw that the fee was $1.20 per 15 minutes and that they didn’t accept credit cards. I had no cash but someone pulled in behind me immediately, so I just said fuck you at the parking lot attendant’s booth as I drove by it, and continued to cuss like a schizy hobo all the way to the office, except for the elevator trip to the 2nd floor, because I’m not some kind of maniac asshole who talks to himself in the elevator when there are other people in it with me. I was buzzed in along with another girl who’d been on the same elevator, applying for the same job. The woman who was to proctor the exam took us to a table in the back of the office, past the movie-posters from the mid to late 90’s, when the office was first occupied I assumed, as I had trouble imagining a person who felt a unique and notable connection to the films Austin Powers, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and Woo. The table was next to a window and around it some of the other aspiring voice-writers were already waiting. Among the chairs surrounding the table, one stood out; a puffy, leather one, its arms a little too worn but otherwise looking tremendously comfortable.
“Is that chair open?” I asked to the four people already sitting in what appeared to be far less comfortable chairs. They shook their heads no, passively.
“Well I’m taking it,” I said, feeling gutsy. No one seemed to care. I sat and immediately realized I’d made a mistake; everyone else had the option of staring out the window. The window was directly behind me; I had to stare directly at their sad, miserable faces and they couldn’t help but stare at mine. There is nothing sadder than a group of people realizing that they’ve come to a point where they have to hope for an opportunity to get a job that pays less than $15 an hour. This was no dream factory. No one was standing on the precipice of greatness at that table. It was sad, depressed people, upset that these other sad, depressed people were now their competition. No one said anything. I struggled to look directly behind me to avoid looking at them.
The woman administering the test came back. “What a quiet bunch,” she said, keenly oblivious of the weight of the silence. “Why don’t you come on back and we’ll get you started.”
The test, correcting some grammar and spelling mistakes, took me 19 minutes of an allotted 60. (In case that sounds braggy, I’ll point out that I spelled allotted with 1 L when I wrote it just now.)
On the way out, I asked the receptionist whether they validated parking.
“No,” she said, looking up at me briefly before returning her gaze to her computer.
“Do you uh, happen to know where there’s a Bank of America near here?”
“No I don’t,” she said, curtly.
“Jesus, what a shitty secretary,” I thought.
I walked down to the car continuing my cuss-rampage from earlier and made sure to flip off the attendant’s booth in the garage while I walked past it. I walked the 3 blocks to the Burbank Mall, rode the escalators to the food court, withdrew $20 of the money I owe the IRS, and walked back to the car, at an additional expense of $1.20 to myself. I pulled out of the spot too aggressively, so I had to go forward and back up again to get the car at an angle where it could turn to get to the exit driveway. I pulled up to the booth and handed the attendant my ticket.
“Let’s see…” he said. He was an older white guy, and talked sort of slow. “That’s…$4.80.”
I handed him the twenty-dollar bill I’d taken out of the ATM.
“Everybody’s rich in twenties today, but I’m not rich in fives,” he said. I was deflated. The entirety of my displeasure at the tiny injustices that conspire to make my life miserable could be represented in that $20 bill I didn’t want, and this guy was giving me lighthearted banter shit about it.
“Say, aren’t you the one with the car?” he asked me.
“What?” I asked.
“Didn’t you come in earlier, and you had a car…no, I’m sorry, that was someone else. Never mind, don’t worry about it”
He stooped back over his drawer to count money, taking an exaggeratedly long time, as though I were supposed to use the time to reflect upon how I probably had a five-dollar bill lying around that I just didn’t want him to have. Instead, I chose to be an ass.
“What are the odds of you getting two guys in here with cars on the same day?” So smarmy and smug. And what wit! I felt vindicated.
“Oh no, this fella came in earlier, and said he’d forgot his card, so I was just gonna let him use the same ticket all day…”
Oh, so he was being nice to some guy, and I misheard the word he said. Feeling fully emasculated, I accepted the change he offered and drove home. I hope they don’t call me back, I don’t want to have to deal with the parking shit again just to not get the job.