The Nightmare

So I’m trying to save up enough money for one month’s rent and a security deposit so I can move out of my current apartment (which only costs $125/mo but which I share with three boys and in which my three cats are constantly stuck in my room, which drives them mad). I reckon this’ll be about $800, possibly less, possibly $200 more. Not all Buffalo apartments require security deposits. I want to find something under $500 including utilities. This is very possible in Buffalo.

Anyway, my job at the Buffalo Philharmonic continues to be lucrative, but some weeks are better than others and even then, the money doesn’t really cover all my bills– I have so much debt and such high minimum payments that almost all my income goes straight to my creditors. I finally got the ball rolling on debt consolidation so my monthly payments will go down (I hope). I’ll be teaching in the fall, but the first paycheck doesn’t come till late September, and I need to move by late August. So I need a job for about 3 wks.

In an effort to not deceive any “real job,” I applied for a job that some of my friends have held for a few weeks at a time. It pays $8.75/hr and the turnover rate is drastic– people either get fired or quit within a month, generally. Of course there are a few people who’ve been working there a year or more, to whom one is introduced when one interviews there. Anyway, I knew it would be easy to get this job and that I’d either quit or be fired within a month, which is about how much time I have to work before school starts anyway. I didn’t bother looking for any other jobs, but just walked into what this place calls its “ENTERANCE” and applied for a job and was hired.

Today I went in at 7 for training, and for about an hour listened patiently to a slow, patient explanation of how to list things on Ebay. The company gets broken/returned goods from larger companies, mostly sporting goods, and lists them on Ebay for ridiculous amounts of money. People then buy those broken things for ridiculous amounts of money and the lingo on the company’s listings prevents the people from returning things. In other words, it’s a scam. But it’s a scam that pays well.

So I sat there listening to the “training,” trying not to be mad at the poor guy who was responsible for training my snobby self-righteous self, wondering whether I should just take the LSAT and have done with it, etc., and I finally asked the guy:

ME: How long have you been working here?

HIM: About a year.

ME: Why? Why don’t you have some other job?

HIM: Well, I started here because I really really needed the money, and I adjunct during the semester and they’re flexible about hours, so it’s nice.

I had thought the guy seemed too smart to be stuck in this sort of job, but this admission of being an adjunct instructor sent waves of panic through me. Am I to be stuck in $9/hr warehouse jobs now? Since this time last year, I’ve worked at Barnes and Noble, The Strand, Internet Archive, Aldan Troy, and the Buffalo Philharmonic. The highest-paying of these hourly wage jobs is probably my current job, because I make commission, but after that the $14 temp job. $9 is perhaps the average. I have a master’s degree, incredible typing and other computer skills, organizational and leadership qualities, etc. But these aren’t being put to use. Why not? What can I do about it? I’ve applied to probably 300 salaried positions in the past year and had perhaps a dozen interviews (at least, I think I’ve become better at interviewing!) but have not gotten a job. Because I’ll be teaching in the fall I haven’t continued to look for a salaried job, especially since SUNY budget cuts have killed all the salaried jobs I applied for at the University.


About Jessica Smith
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6 Responses to The Nightmare

  1. kristine says:

    I don’t suppose I’m doing anything more than stating the obvious but… what’s going on–what you’re experiencing– is The Economy. If you haven’t yet you might want to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s _Nickel & Dimed. It won’t make you feel better–probably worse, but for *everyone*. All I can say is–I feel your pain.

    In solidarity,

  2. Sigh. So I hear. And so Chris attests as well.

    I’ve always dreaded reading N&D.

  3. Michelle says:

    B.E.’s new book, Bait and Switch, sounds pretty close to what you are talking about. Here’s what the book jacket says:

    Bait and Switch highlights the people who’ve done everything right — gotten college degrees, developed marketable skills, and built up impressive résumés — yet have become repeatedly vulnerable to financial disaster, and not simply due to the vagaries of the business cycle.

    Anyway, good luck, Jessica. I’m sending you positive vibes.

  4. Pingback: Pages tagged "people of the book"

  5. Argh…. Ehrenreich is awesome (we used to wish we’d see her in Charlottesville) but do I really want to read a book that confirms my worst fears about the collapse of a (real or assumed) meritocracy? Wouldn’t I prefer to plug along, continue racking up skills and degrees, and hope that one day my talents are recognized, respected and rewarded– with at the very least, enough money to do more than scrape by?

  6. Oh wow… started reading B&S online on Google Books (where much of it is available)… I take it back… this is fascinating (gosh she’s such a good writer!).

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