This is the opening line from an Associated Press article in the Business section of today’s New York Times:
If you don’t mind going door to door and asking strangers some personal questions, you may have a future as a Census worker.
I used to mind very much going table to table, ragged out in a dopey apron and tie, asking strangers some personal questions about their dinner preferences, yet minding it didn’t prevent me from having a rather extensive past doing precisely that. So why should the fact that I would certainly mind shuffling door to door and interviewing strangers about the number of cohabitants they keep stashed in their closets prevent me from having a future as a census worker?
AP’s reality-impaired syllogism rests on the grotesquely flawed premise that if a person minds doing something, he or she won’t consider doing it for a living. If this were the case, most people would never apply for the very jobs they’re applying for. I certainly wouldn’t still (or again, depending on whether one divides time into units of months or decades) be e-mailing my restaurant résumé through cyberspace or dropping into any of these horrible places like an idiot in order to fill out an application form for a stupid server positon. Yet according to the AP scribe, my doing so indicates that I wouldn’t mind waiting tables again. By this peculiar definition of “not minding” I wouldn’t mind nailing myself to a utility pole or pouring molten lead into my eye sockets, either.
Last week I saw my dentist for a checkup and cleaning. As I settled into the chair and he was lining up his utensils, he asked me if I still worked at whatever restaurant I’d worked at the time of my previous visit. I told him no, I hadn’t been working in a restaurant since my most recent firing, because (a) I hated it, and (b) nobody was willing to hire me anymore, for which there were several reasons: the economy is on the ropes; my youthful good looks may have declined relative to 15 years ago when I first picked up a tray, thus lowering my odds of getting hired because I’m “cute”; plus I’m having more and more trouble feigning enthusiasm for this dreary profession as my main objective during interviews these days is simply to keep myself from throwing up. (In fact, I may file a law suit for job discrimination based on skin color. Managers seem reluctant to hire candidates who look green in the face.)
My dentist seemed puzzled and told me he always thought it would be “fun” to work in a restaurant. Well, a chacun son goût, as they say in Austria. Personally, I’m having a lot more fun in a dentist’s chair. I prefer a drill in my mouth over a wine opener in my hand any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
My attitude towards restaurant work has waxed more bizarre over the years. In late 2008, for instance, I completed a training shift at a place in Midtown, at the end of which I was asked to come back for my second and final trailing the following day, whereupon I was to be put on the schedule full-time. The uniform was a black button-down shirt, of which kind at the time I possessed exactly one presentable unit. This I wore for my training shift. Upon leaving the restaurant that night I convinced myself that my financial straits were so dire that I couldn’t possibly afford to buy another black shirt, so I did the only logical thing: on my way to the subway I tore the shirt I had on into shreds, because then I’d be off the hook as far as returning for my second training on account of not owing the requisite attire. Indeed, I stepped into the N-train with tatters hanging off my shoulders, hoping my fellow straphangers would think some estrous female had tried to rip my clothes off; a much more flattering story than that of having performed the sartorial massacre myself so as to guard against yet another wearisome waitering gig.
Back in my apartment I noticed, alas, that a spare black shirt was hanging in my closet, albeit a less pretty one that had turned dark gray over the years due to having been subjected to hundreds of cycles in various washing machines. Gripped by terror upon considering my bank balance, I resolved that accepting the job would be the “smart” thing to do after all, so I briefly managed to vanquish my demons, donned the grayish upper garment, and dutifully reported for my second training shift at the appointed hour. Yet within less than 30 seconds of entering the place I found myself back on the sidewalk again. Guided by an invisible hand and without input from the left (rational) side of my brain, I had walked up to the manager, without giving reasons informed him that I wouldn’t or couldn’t (don’t remember which) take the job, and turned tail like the proverbial bat out of hell (a mixed metaphor, I know, as bats do not have tails).
Standing on 44th Street with no concrete restaurant proscpects lined up and hence without immediate motive for shredding yet another piece of apparel, I once again chose the most logical course of action:
I ambled up to Broadway at 43rd and waltzed into the Times Square recruiting station. After all, the prospect of crawling through the mud in Afghanistan with a rocket launcher strapped to my back seemed delightful compared to waiting on any more tables. So over the next few weeks I underwent all the tests at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, was adjudged mentally and physically fit, and was cordially invited to enlist any time.
Ultimately, I hesitated, because (a) I’m more of a girly-boy, and hence wouldn’t be too happy a camper in a testosterone-laden environment (admittedly, not the happiest camper in restaurants, either, so that’s a wash), (b) I’m scared of guns, but more importantly (c) in order to qualify for any of the army positions that struck me as potentially interesting I would have been required to apply for Top Security Clearance (or whatever exactly this thing is called) which, in turn, would have required me to renounce my Austrian citizenship (which made me wonder why the current governor of California was allowed to keep it; apparently, being commander-in-chief of the California National Guard isn’t a top-security-clearance kind of gig).
In the end, I hesitated for so long that I crossed the upper age limit for enlisting, so now the army issue is moot, and I’m back looking for a stupid waitering job and tearing up my wardrobe in self-defense.
Seeing no other way out, the headline of this blog entry may soon grace the front-page of the New York Post.
On second thought, chances are I’ll chicken out of cutting off my head just as I chickened out of joining the army. More realistically, a few years hence the headline will read thus:
Dead at 98: World’s Oldest Active Waiter Collapses During Busy Brunch Shift in Midtown
Of course, I may have OD’ed on anti-depressants long before that.