Wallachs is Downstairs, Tripler's is Upstairs.

Recently a friend of mine suffered from a terrible bout of diarrhea. I don't want to say who it is, in order to protect her privacy and dignity, but it was Beth. In her defense, she is pregnant, and so a whole manner of strange things are happening to her body whilst the parasite grows within. Well, this *bout* apparently got so bad that she was forced to provide a SAMPLE to the doctor. We got to talking about jobs we wouldn't want to have, and agreed that one of them would be the person at the lab who has to analyze fecal matter. Cocktail parties must be a blast for this person.

Anyway, that got me thinking about what I would say if someone asked me to choose The Worst Job I Have Ever Had. That's hard. I can think of three jobs off the top of my head that were completely hellish - but they were due more to the person I worked for in each one of them, rather than a result of the job itself. Does that make sense? It's not like I was forced to sift through a pregnant woman's runny shit, but man, did I have a run of three asshole bosses in a span of a year! You might say it was out of the frying pan, into the fire, and then poked repeatedly with a red hot poker that had been sitting in the fire all night.

One of those bosses, in fact, ranks up there as my choice for The Worst Person I Have Ever Met. Let's blog about her later!! Okay, yeah! That sounds awesome!

But back to The Worst Job, or at least One Of The Worst Jobs. I was just out of acting school and taking the odd job here and there. I wanted to stay flexible so I could afford to go on auditions, attend acting and singing classes, search for an agent AND continue to keep a roof over my head and, you know, eat. A friend of mine recommended me to her temp agency that specialized in hiring models for very specific job assignments. You know the girls that squirt you with perfume at department stores? Glamorous stuff like that. I was nervous about it because I wasn't a model (I didn't start modeling until about 3 years later) but my friend said not to worry about it -- they would like me.

So I met with them and lo and behold, they sent me on an assignment. There were two old school men's department stores in New York back then: Wallachs and F.R. Tripler - Tripler's had been on Madison Avenue since 1918 and was consolidating into Wallachs Fifth Avenue store. My job was to stand at the front doors, and as people walked in, I was to greet them with "Hello, Wallachs is upstairs and Tripler's is Downstairs."

"Hello, Wallachs is upstairs and Tripler's is Downstairs."
"Hello, Wallachs is upstairs and Tripler's is Downstairs."
"Hello, Wallachs is upstairs and Tripler's is Downstairs."
"Hello, Wallachs is upstairs and Tripler's is Downstairs."
"Hello, Wallachs is upstairs and Tripler's is Downstairs."
"Hello, Wallachs is upstairs and Tripler's is Downstairs."
"Hello, Wallachs is upstairs and Tripler's is Downstairs."
"Hello, Wallachs is upstairs and Tripler's is Downstairs."

for eight hours.

Eight hours standing in one place squawking that phrase like a demonic African Grey.

Have you ever met me? Yes? Then you are laughing or saying, "Oh nooooo no no no no no..." No? Okay, well, I am pretty spazzy and have the attention span of a gnat. I've worked on my feet for hours at a time, and I've worked retail before, but at least when you work jobs like that, you are moving around and doing things. This was just torture. In terms of showing up at the gates of hell and having them sort through their index cards to find a perfect match for your personality - this is the one for Kristen.

If I close my eyes, I can recreate my view outside of the front doors from where I stood. The store was on 5th avenue at 46th Street, and just across the street there was a travel agency that was decorated in the shape of a hut that you might find at a swanky hotel in Bora Bora or Fiji. Nobody ever came or went into that building. Believe me, I was an expert.

I stared out into that tiny slice of the world eight hours a day, pausing only to squawk, "Hello, Wallachs is upstairs and Tripler's is Downstairs." every time someone pushed through the doors. Many times, people would wander in, and I would just stand there saying nothing - my brain having switched to the hum of a test pattern, and as they walked past me I would call after them halfheartedly, "Hello, Wallachs is ... ah forget it..." and then kind of laugh at how sucky I was at such an *easy* job. Then, you know, test pattern again. The young single girl in the city angst at being trapped in the men's store hell hit its peak the day I saw the boy I had a major crush on zip by my little window of life on his roller blades. He was the one that I spent the lion's share of my non test pattern minutes dreaming about. I actually left my post to run outside and watch him sail down 5th avenue. I wanted to scream "Take me with you!"

My favorite was when people would ask me other things. "Do you have sport jackets?", "I don't know." "Do you carry umbrellas?". "Maybe." "Where are your men's furnishings?" Shrug. Dude. Wallachs is Downstairs, Tripler's is Upstairs. That is what I know. Often people would ask me "Where is your Men's Room?" and I would say "I don't know." I remember one guy chastised me, "Why don't you know where the men's room is?" and I answered with "Because I don't GO to the men's room!" I was much surlier and sassier then - I've mellowed out considerably. OH SHUT IT, IT'S TRUE.

Oh! Aside from the monotonous brain crushing tedium, did I mention that the women that worked in the store seemed to HATE MY GUTS? I didn't? Oh, see, because that added another gorgeous texture of awful to the gig. I would stand there at the front door, the wind whistling through my empty brain, and sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, catch a gaggle of them staring at me from behind the registers. Were they talking about me? No. Why would they talk about me? I've never met them, or done anything to them, so why would they care about me enough to talk about me?

But then I noticed that whenever I took a lunch break in the back room, they would RUN in there to see what I was eating. (Turkey Burgers with French Fries were my current favorite for those of you playing the home game). Then they would stand around me commenting on my lunch choice. "That's bad for you" "You're going to get fat if you keep eating like that" "Are you having the same thing again?" "You finished that WHOLE thing?"

Then they started approaching me as I stood at the doors. At first it was just to call out to me if I leaned against the escalator to stop doing so immediately. Then one of them started breaking away from the group to come over and talk to me. Wait, I don't mean talk. It was more like a drive by - "Is that a new dress?" I answered - I remember the dress - "No, but it's one of my favorites" and her response was "It doesn't really fit you well, does it?" and then she walked back to the other women and they all cackled. Another time she walked over and asked me what color lipstick I was wearing. When I told her she said "It doesn't suit you - it's the wrong color" - and - you guessed it - walked away. She started doing this every day for their amusement.

The funny thing was, despite how young and impressionable I was, it's not like my self esteem suffered, or I felt like it had any effect on me - I was in such a haze of boredom that it was just annoying - like there were flies in the room that I constantly had to bat away. "Go away" I thought, "Any moment now, roller blade hubba hubba boy is going to come in here and sweep me off my feet and I need to watch for him. Hello, Wallachs is upstairs and Tripler's is downstairs."

One day she came by as per usual, and asked me if I worked out. I answered that I tried to get to the gym when I could. She told me that working out was bad for my joints and that I would pay the price. I responded with "You know what's worse? Being fat. You know, like you?"

Once in a while, life allows you to say the thing you really want to say. The drive bys ended.

About a week later one of the other women wandered over to start a conversation with me. She said, "So, how long have you been a model?" and I squinched my face up and said "Whaaat?.. I'm not a model! My friend got me this job." and she looked completely surprised and sort of sputtered something - and that's when it hit me - why they were being so mean to me - and it especially explained why they were so OBSESSED with what I ate.

I don't know where I am going with this. I think the moral of the story is um.. try not to get tedious jobs if you can help it and don't be mean to people because you think they are models. They might not actually be a model. They might just be, you know, just another girl that decides not to show up to work ever again without even calling to say so. Something she'd never done before and never done again since.