Yesterday, my Creative Nonfiction professor gave our class ten minutes to write about a job we’ve had that we didn’t like:
Lids drooping, 2:09AM, four hours, fifty-one minutes to go. Visions of clean sheets, a soft pillow, and a dark room swim in my head. The red light flashes and my earphones beep.
“United Airlines Lost Luggage Department. May I help you?” I chirp while I shake my legs awake, stare at the computer screen, and place my icy fingers on the keys.
“This is Jeremy Montrell, and I have a job interview tomorrow with one of the biggest law firms in the nation. You lost my luggage, and I don’t have my suit. What are you going to do about it?” He spits venom as he angrily accuses me of being a good-for-nothing conspirator in a quest to keep him unemployed. I sooth him with a promise of reimbursement for new clothes when secretly I want to tell him he would make a shitty attorney given his recent accusation. This is the eighth professional attire call tonight along with missing fishing poles, golf clubs, guitars, gowns, sheet music, wigs, baby shower gifts, and presentation materials.
Stale mouth, dry eyes, chilled body, and achy back, I stand, stretch, and survey the Star Trek-like arena of stations. My friend Renee smiles at me as she sooths an angry passenger from the other side of my cubicle wall.
I return to my George Jetson and Jane-his-wife-chair, scoot up to the desk edge, and jam my palms into my sleepy eyes. 3:16AM. Three hours, forty-four minutes to go. My head bobs, the red light flashes, the audio tone buzzes to indicate an incoming call. I long to yank out my headphone leash that keeps me from floating in this astronaut atmosphere.
“United Airlines Lost Luggage Department. May I help you?” I force a smile as I speak because I heard that happiness might sneak through my voice if I try this trick.
“I am so pissed! I don’t have any of my dresses, sandals, or make-up! I shopped and packed so carefully for this once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii. What am I supposed to wear to tomorrow’s luau?”
Before I can give my automatic, rehearsed reimbursement response, a man laughs with glee and says into the phone, “Don’t worry about it. We don’t need any clothes. This is our honeymoon.”
Yesterday, I read my short free-write aloud in class, and the Valparaiso University undergraduates looked at me in dismay. I simply said, “Let that story encourage you to get to the Career Center today.”