What if the Ship Never Comes In?


Last week I went in to Bookstore to turn in an application. I went kicking and screaming, against my own will, because--spoiler alert!--I don't want to go back to work. (Work away from home, whatever, you get my drift). I happened to get the manager. I mentioned that I had worked at Other Bookstore before and we had a chat. We had common acquaintances and co-workers, all good omens and signs. He gave me a sort of impromptu interview. Hours later, I was summoned for a real interview. Everything was swimming along just swimmingly. They needed someone to shelve books--my favorite thing, no joke--during the exact hours I wanted to work. Let me say: I present well in interviews, or at least, I think I do. I've never gone to an interview and not been offered a job. At first, I didn't entirely want the job, but by the interview's end, I did. I started to want it very badly. I want Noah to not have to work weekends anymore. He often works twelve or fourteen days in a row with no day off, did you know? He's getting tired.

Then a week passed and I was not offered a job. Instead I got a postcard informing me thatunfortunately Bookstore does not have a position to meet my qualifications at this time. I would like to blame the fact that I asked for an hourly pay rate that was above minimum wage.We pay our employees seven bucks an hour, they informed me. If I'd had coffee in my mouth, I wouldn't have spit it at them. I'd have taken my mug, walked across the room, and poured it over their heads. Seven dollars an hour. I'm not in prison. I am not sixteen. Neither is anyone who works there, how the hell do they do it? Full disclosure: I told them I could not work for less than $8.50 (I shame myself. It's a low stress job, ok? I'd asked for $9.50 on my app and they'd offered me bird seed, I had to capitulate some). I like to think this is why they didn't hire me. That or they had some friend apply. I hope you enjoy your seven bucks an hour, supervisor's bestie. I am unemployed but if we meet for coffee, it'll be my treat.

This is Bookstore we're talking about, and I did describe a time when I provided excellent customer service, so that might be what did me in.

Anyway, we had, in our minds, counted tiny chickens before they were worth more per hour than a 30-year-old freelance writer with a Bachelor's Degree and a passion for the job. I was bummed, and Noah was disappointed though valiant about it, all Mr. Fitzwilliams or whatever, saying "now now" and "there there" and "hail-fellow-well-met" and all that.

But we were discussing it after dinner, putting away the dishes and drinking free company beer and wondering what we are going to do now. And I realized that I still have this stupid idea that one day everything is going to work out. I thought I had moved beyond this fantasy after my financially disastrous 20's, but no. Despite all insurmountable evidence to the contrary, some stupid bird in my heart keeps chirping that one day, it will all come together. One day good fortune will smile and everything will be illuminated and my life will shine like sunny spots and copper pennies.

And I wonder when I'm going to wise up.

I'm not speaking out of depression or bitterness here, I'm just starting to wonder when brainless optimism runs its course. The ship does not always come in. Most people work very hard all their lives and I don't know why I think so highly of myself. Why I think I'll be the one to sell the book, strike the gold, win the millions, so to speak. Why should my ship come in when so very many ships don't? I'm not talking about Bookstore job, that is not a ship, but these dreams I have of making money off my writing. Of the two of us somehow making enough money to maybe keep some chickens and travel to Europe without me having to sell my soul to an office job. There are so very many writers who don't make money, and I don't know but these days I feel silly and stupid and gauche, pressing on with these ridiculous delusions about myself, the dreams of Paris and Spain, of book deals and raises, this idea that if I keep following my dreams one day I will catch them.

Don't worry. This is just a place I land sometimes. I probably won't be here tomorrow, but here I am today.

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