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Bitter is the new black, p.25
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       Bitter is the New Black, p.25

           Jen Lancaster
 

  Then I see that Maisy is not chewing one of her Brontosaurus bones. Rather, she’s enjoying $600 worth of custom-made, Italian-framed tortoiseshell glasses, which I loved because they made me look exactly like Ashley Banfield on MSNBC.

  And then the floodgates really open.

  * * *

  To: Sandy Case

  From: [email protected]

  Date: March 26, 2003

  Subject: Senior Account Manager

  Hi, Sandy,

  I just saw that the position I’d interviewed for was re-posted on Monster.com, along with a different Birchton & Co. job. This leads me to wonder if Birchton is expanding the search to find the best candidate, which would make sense given all the talent currently available. If that’s the case, could you please let me know if I’m still being considered? Another opportunity has come up for me, 154 but I don’t want to pursue it until I know whether or not your organization is interested, as Birchton is absolutely my first choice.

  Many thanks,

  Jen Lancaster

  * * *

  * * *

  To: Chris Birchton

  From: [email protected]

  Date: April 5, 2003

  Subject: Senior Account Manager

  Chris,

  I haven’t heard from anyone at Birchton for almost two weeks. After having six interviews, I’m more than a little curious about my status. I saw that the job listing was re-posted after my final round of interview, so I’m not sure what to think, especially as no one has taken me up on my offer to provide references.

  Although I really liked the people I met and the job sounds like an interesting challenge at which I know I’d excel, it’s not going to hurt my feelings if a more appropriate candidate is selected. I would, however, appreciate a head’s up one way or another.

  Thanks,

  Jen Lancaster

  * * *

  “Birchton and Company, how may I direct your call?”

  “Sandy Case, please.” I am getting an answer TODAY about this job.

  “May I ask who’s calling?” If this receptionist were any more chipper, I’d find a way to worm through the phone cord so I could strangle her with it.

  “Tell her it’s Jen Lancaster.”

  “Sure thing. Hold, please.” I listen to the Muzak version of “Summer of ’69” while I wait. Yuck. I hate Bryan Adams almost as much as Dave Matthews.

  “Um, Jen? Sandy’s on another line. Can she call you back?”

  “No. I’ll hold.”

  “It could be a while.”

  “I said I’d wait.” Sandy’s dodged my calls all week.

  I hear muffled conversation in the background and seconds later, Sandy answers. “Sandy Case speaking.”

  “Sandy, it’s Jen Lancaster. I’m calling to check on the status of my application.”

  I can hear Sandy exhale on the other end of the line. “Jen, I’m sorry. I’ve been meaning to get back to you but it’s just been so hectic around here that I haven’t had a chance.”

  “Well, now’s your chance. Can you please let me know what’s happening? I ask because I have another opportunity,155 and I’m hesitant to move forward with them until I know my status with Birchton.”

  “Jen, I’m going to be honest. We’re not hiring you. We all met you and thought you’d be a great fit. We were ready to extend an offer. Then we saw your Web site, and we found its content to be inappropriate. You know, some of your ‘Companies That Suck’ are our clients, and we simply cannot have an employee denigrating them.”

  “Whoa, wait, stop. First of all, I’d planned to take the site down once I started working because it was a joke, and second of all, how did you even find out about it? My picture is obscured and at no point do I ever mention my name or that of my former employer.”

  “How we found out is irrelevant. I’m sorry, but we’re going to keep looking.”

  “I understand you have to do what you think is best for your business. However, the polite and professional thing to do would have been to tell me two weeks ago so I could stop wasting my time.”

  “For your own sake, I suggest you take down that awful Web site.”

  “You know what? My site is funny. And if you can’t appreciate my sense of humor, then your not hiring me is for the best. Thanks, anyway.” I hang up before she can say anything else.

  We are in so much trouble.

  Weblog Entry 4/10/03

  A FAIRY TALE

  One upon a time there was a beautiful Executive Princess named Jennifer. She worked for a wonderful company who treated her nicely and paid her even better! She was very, very happy.

  Her product line was doing great, so her company decided they would buy one of their competitors so they’d be even stronger in the marketplace. Princess Jen was a little concerned, because she’d been through mergers with other companies. She went to each of her eleven bosses (yeah, you read that right) and said, “I am concerned. I’ve never been through a merger where there weren’t job losses.” Her eleven very nice bosses promised her that her position was secure because she did such a terrific job! Hooray!

  Two days later she went to work and they gave her a box and showed her the door. She said, “What happened? You promised me that every thing was going well. And that my job was secure.” They were real nice and super apologetic, and said she was let go as “a business decision.” She never got a better explanation.

  Jen was really happy because every potential employer simply accepts the explanation of her layoff as being a “business decision.” Boy, they never question that! It certainly doesn’t sound like she was selling confidential information or stealing office supplies! And these potential employers always believe that a person who was crushing her goals would be cut loose for no apparent reason. So her search to find a new job with a livable salary has been so easy!

  Now she has to sell her Cadillac in order to keep paying for her apartment in the ghetto.

  And she’s really fucking bitter.

  The end.

  I can deal with the fact that I have to sell the car, even though I wasn’t thrilled with the idea at first, to put it mildly. I kind of launched into Fletch when he brought it up,156 until I realized that all we really have right now is each other. If we start attacking each other over what could have been, we’ll fall apart. Plus, I’d rather have a couple of bucks in the bank. If a little extra money returns the smile to Fletch’s face, then I’m all for it. As it is now, the car’s just sitting on the street depreciating like mad, and the insurance on it in this ’hood is insane.157

  What I can’t deal with is what happened with Birchton. Granted, if they didn’t think my site was funny, I probably wouldn’t have meshed with their corporate culture. Maybe if I worked there, I’d feel constrained all the time and couldn’t really be myself. Regardless, I’d have liked the chance to try.

  I don’t understand how they found out about my Web site. Yeah, it’s been getting more and more hits lately, but it’s almost totally anonymous. Even the domain registry is under Fletch’s name, so there’s no way to trace it back to me. I’ve tried to call Courtney to see if she has any scoop because Birchton’s still her client and she talks to them all the time, but I haven’t heard back from her. Come to think of it, neither has Brett. I hate bugging people at work, but this is making me crazy, so I’m going to call her.

  I dial Courtney’s direct line. “Good afternoon, thank you for calling Corp. Com.,” answers a male voice.

  “Mo? Is that you?” It sounds like my buddy Maurice, who’s an administrative assistant at Corp. Com.

  “Yes, it is. May I ask with whom I’m speaking?”

  “Mo, you big nerd, it’s Jen!”

  “Jen girl! I miss you! Things aren’t the same without you. When are we getting together for daiquiris?”

  “Let’s wait till it gets a little warmer so we can go somewhere outside. I’d say a couple of weeks.”

  “I’m going to hold you to it.”


  “Good. It’s been way too long.” I’m just about to launch into gossip mode when I remember why I called in the first place. “Sweetie, why are you answering Courtney’s phone? Is she out?”

  “Girl, Courtney’s gone.”

  “You know what? I can’t say I’m surprised. Last time we got together, she was on a tear about how moody Kathleen’s been and how much business has dropped off. I’m glad to hear she finally got out—that place was totally stressing her.”

  He drops his voice. “It’s no fun anymore. Everyone here is boring and ugly. Remember Friday Fiestas and margaritas at lunch? Completely over now.”

  “Aw, sweetie, I’m sorry to hear it.”

  “The good news is that it’s got me thinking of opening my own Birkenstock shop up in Boystown. If I do, will you help me with the marketing?”

  “Anything for you, Mo.”

  “Uh-oh, I’m getting the fish eye from Kathleen. I’d better scoot.”

  “It was so nice to talk to you. Oh, wait, I almost forgot. I want to get ahold of Court. Do you know where I can find her?”

  “She went to work for one of her clients. Um, it’s um…gosh, what’s their name again?”

  No.

  NO.

  She wouldn’t.

  I squeeze my eyes shut and clench my fists. Please don’t let this be true. “Birchton & Co., perhaps?” “Yes! That’s it! Birchton! I think I’ve got the number—do you want it?”

  “No, no, I’ve got it. Thanks anyway, Mo. I’ll talk to you later.”

  “Bye for now, Miss Thang.”

  So now I know how Birchton got my URL. Et tu, Courtney?

  How could she do this to me? I would never screw someone like this, not even my worst enemy. I mean, how could she listen to me cry about being jobless and broke for all these months and then knowingly and deliberately swoop down and steal the one good opportunity from me?

  Granted, I didn’t necessarily handle her feelings with kid gloves, but I always tried to act in her best interests. I got bossy and officious with the Brad/Chad stuff not because I’m a bitch but because I wanted to protect her. I set her up with Brett because I thought he could make her happy. And this is how I’m rewarded for being a decent, honest, albeit somewhat pushy friend?

  Shoot, I tried to talk her into applying at Birchton long before I ever did. With her P.R. background, I thought she’d be a great asset to their organization. And even while I was interviewing there, I kept asking, “Are you sure you don’t want the job? It would get you away from Kathleen and you’d be great at it.” I gave her every chance to claim this job honestly, and instead she tacitly denied any interest while sticking a knife in my back.

  I will never forgive or forget this.

  You are dead to me, Courtney. Dead.

  Randolph Street Starbucks

  Weblog Entry 4/13/03

  WHEN I GROW UP

  Oddly enough, I’m flattered my website had the power to keep me from getting hired. Any company who doesn’t get what this site is about probably isn’t the place for me. Unfortunately, I still need to do something to pay bills, so the job search continues.

  As my current efforts to procure work in my field have been wholly unsuccessful, I feel I may be best off starting a different career.

  But doing what? I have no idea.

  Kids seem to have the inside track on good adult jobs, so I decided to seek advice from my six year-old nephew Cam. He proved to be an excellent sounding board and told me that he’s considering careers as, “A banker like Uncle Joe, a painter like Jackson Pollock, or the guy who helps you find stuff at the grocery store.” Well, these ideas sound good in theory, but I’m bad with money, lack artistic skill, and recently spent 25 minutes searching for canned olives at the local Jewel, so these careers are out.

  I then queried Max, Cam’s four year-old brother, what his future plans might entail. Max would like to paint houses, drive a truck, or “punch you in the stupid head.”158 Sarah, their two year-old sister, had the least enlightening suggestions, because all she could tell me was, “I like ’nakes! I like ’nakes! I like ’nakes!” I really hate snakes, so a job in the Reptile House is not realistic.

  Since these are the only kids I know, I decided to re-examine my various college majors in order to come up with a new career. I graduated with a degree in Political Science…but I’ve already been a waitress and I wasn’t very good at it. Apparently I am “not friendly.”159

  I’d previously majored in Archeology until my father strongly advised me to switch. He believed I’d quit the minute I got to a desert and decided it was too hot to be digging around outside.160 Interior Designer is also out because I only like one style. I suspect clients would quickly tire of pink walls and cabbage rose prints.

  My only other major was Journalism and even though I love to write, I transferred out of that school because I wanted to make more than $17K/year once I graduated. Plus, I think newspapers frown on you writing feature articles about yourself, and, unfortunately, I’m my favorite topic.

  I’ve determined the ideal job for me is one where I can write clever essays about my life and my employer will give me enough money not only to live a comfortable existence, but also to buy many, many new pairs of shoes.

  Please let me know where to send my application.

  * * *

  To: [email protected]

  From: Adam

  Date: April 15, 2003

  Subject: Loser

  Jen,

  My name is Adam and I am currently working for [MONOLITHIC AMERICAN AUTO MANUFACTURER] in Michigan. I chose engineering because I liked it and there are a lot of jobs in this area for engineers. There are women engineers here, too. They are a minority in this field and they get paid more for doing the same job I do, yet they move up the corporate ladder at an alarming pace.

  Why the hell would you get a political science degree and live in Chicago? You need to relocate to the Baltimore/D.C. area to put that degree to use. A Master’s Degree in that field is definitely required to make a decent living. You claim to be an intelligent person so go out and get any job, move back in with your parents, go back to school and get a real degree. Or, do like most women do; find a man and have him support you while you go back to school.

  Adam

  * * *

  * * *

  To: Adam

  From: [email protected]

  Date: April 15, 2003

  Subject: RE: Loser

  Hi, Adam,

  I’ve not had any hate mail for a while and I’d forgotten how invigorating it can be, so thank you for writing! Fortunately, you caught me on a good day, so you won’t be subject to my usual evisceration with the speculation to the root cause of your issues with women. Nope, the words “latent homosexual” will not pass my lips.

  I’ll even begin by agreeing with you. I don’t think anyone at MAAM should be promoted or paid better strictly based on gender. Or race, age, handicap, or sexual preference for that matter. (So you’re totally safe.) Personally, I believe an employee should be compensated solely on his performance. But I don’t work for MAAM and I can’t say that this isn’t the case. Perhaps it’s your perceptions that are faulty and not the ass-kicking chicks who work around you.

  What I find interesting is that according to my website tracking software, you only spent six minutes reading my website. Yet in these six minutes, you feel you’ve figured out a better way for me to live my life. Presumptuous, don’t you think? But if you’d dug in my site just a bit further and had spent more than an average of eight seconds per page 161 you’d have all the answers to your questions and the reasons behind my decisions.

  Bottom line, I’m alarmed that a person with no eye for detail or passion for investigation is designing cars. So I not only hold you personally responsible for designing the shitty cup holder in my old Cadillac, but also for engineering a car that lost $35,000 in value in the five years since it was manufactured. Perhaps if you’d made a better car, I’d h
ave had more than $2500 to live off of when I was forced to sell it. (And in cherry condition no less!)

  Seriously, even the Koreans are kicking MAAM’s ass, so here’s a suggestion…get the hell off the Internet and start designing a better cup holder RIGHT NOW.

  Supersize me,

  Jen

  * * *

  We were ten minutes into our Easter road trip to my parents’ house when something important detached itself from something else important in Fletch’s SUV, stranding us on the Kennedy Expressway. Later, the mechanic described the problem using words like manifold, gasket, and cracked block, but all I heard was la, la, la, really expensive, la, la, la. The repairs took a big chunk of the money we received from selling my precious Cadillac. Now instead of having enough rent money to last all summer, we have A HUGE PROBLEM.

  Normally I look to Fletch to resolve our crises, but it’s hard for him to address this one when he can’t even get out of bed. No, scratch that. He can get up long enough to head to the local package store to pick up a twelve-pack. I should get on him for drinking too much, but right now, a Miller High Life temporary escape is the only thing that makes him happy. Otherwise, he mopes around the house, full of regret.

  He’s not the only one who’s miserable right now. Seems like everywhere I look, I’m haunted by bad choices. I feel sick to my stomach each time I open the hall closet and see row after row of designer purchases. Why did I need an $800 bag to make myself feel important? How was my life enriched by a mink-lined raincoat?

 
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