I pride myself in never getting fired from a job. I always quit when I sense anything foul a brewing. If I can’t be perfect, I’ll be gone. But I have to admit that there were times when I might have gotten fired and never knew it. As my mother always said
“You’re a liar.”
I might have gotten fired for opening a door in Minnesota but I refuse to believe it because my worst fear at the time was that I was too ugly to live. Since this happened in Minnesota, it couldn’t have been that I weighted 180 pounds. That is average for a Minnesotan of five feet one. It had to be my appearance.
It was lunchtime and I was eating a huge sandwich at my desk. Along comes a contingent of suits for a meeting with the boss. I’m the lowly and only temp in the office. The door is locked as it is every noon and they can’t get in. So, smiling my widest smile not checking if there was any spinach in my teeth, I opened the door and said “good afternoon” The next day I was fired. I questioned my temp counselor on why my long term assignment was terminated when just the prior week the boss had complimented my work.
She stuttered and said, “Well, in this business, nothing is for sure.”
You can say that again.
I also got fired from Burger King, but that doesn’t count. I got confused with the different kinds of buns. Who knew there were different sizes for whaler, whopper and burger buns? My visual perception was never that accurate. That was probably the reason I had so many boyfriends. I don’t count the Burger King incident because I already had a fulltime job when I took on fast food. I should have gotten the hint when the manager abruptly took me off the line and told me to clean the tables and sweep the floor but I was too stressed about bun size. When my shift was over, he told me to eat the free lunch and never come back. He never used the word “fired.” I’m ashamed to say I ate the burger and fries. Working makes me hungry.
In New York there is no “Minnesota nice” especially back in the 60’s. There was no pretense that time of why I wasn’t hired. I’m interviewing for a school cafeteria lady job, (the one with the hairnet). Excited and happy I sit down across from a man with a dour expression. It is hard not to stare at his bulging stomach over his belt but I have been groomed in good interviewing techniques and politeness.
“What’s wrong with your face?”
My smile freezes at his shaking head.
“I can’t have you working with food. You look contagious.”
“It’s acne, I whisper, it’s not catching”, but he is standing up.
“You’ll scare the kids.”
He dismisses me with a wave of his hand and I back away to the door, my face now bright red, acne being the least of my troubles.
I leave and go to my favorite book store in Manhattan, where I am invisible to the owner. I stay until the store closes, deep in a universe where looks don’t matter. I give the owner a ten dollar bill for a book I had been lusting over for weeks called “Mankoff’s Guide to Lusty Europe” It is more than I could afford or carry and this gives me hope. I then go to my favorite Chinese restaurant in a few blocks away, where I’m known to be a good tipper and where the waiter pulls out the table for me and with a flourish and a napkin tucks me in. It is a bit tight against my stomach but somehow physical pain comforts me when I’m in mental distress
I pretend I am royalty as I get lost in spare ribs and fried rice while reading how rich people are traveling to Europe to get lusty sex. It’s all very secret and comforting. I almost forget the cruel words of the cafeteria man, but vow to learn how to become pretty if it kills me. It almost would.