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The Real Résumé

I was so relieved the first time I had enough relevant experience in the career of my choice that I was able to strike from my résumé all the menial retail jobs I’d slaved at over the years. At this point, I’m even able to gloss over the less glamorous professional work I’ve done. Such, I suppose, is one of the benefits of age.

But what would the whole record look like at this point? See for yourself:

  1. Babysitter (1985–1988): I picked up the overflow of my friend Lynn's lucrative babysitting career. When I watched Lynn's brother and sister I would get a handsome bonus if I did basic household chores for her mother.

  2. Receptionist (1987–1988): On Saturday afternoons I would answer phones and occasionally run the gift shop at a Catholic retreat house in Staten Island. I mostly did it for some pocket money and a certain feeling of obligation to my mother, who was involved in a lot of stuff there. Boring as hell I hated it.

  3. Camp Counselor (1987): Lynn and I scored cushy jobs one summer runnning the day camp at a private compound of beach bungalows on Staten Island. The kids were fine, we got a two-hour lunch during which we watched The Young and the Restless obsessively, and it was less gross to swim off the shore of Staten Island than you might think.

  4. Prospector (1987): Worst job I ever had. For three weeks I worked for a huge financial company three nights a week after school. I would get a stack of index cards with telephone numbers on them, and I would have to call those people at home (at around dinner time) and try to get them to stay on the line long enough for me to transfer them to someone who'd try to sell them stock. I’d get yelled at by some 25-year-old dickhead broker if the person on the line realized he was getting a cold call and hung up while I transferred the call. I developed a loathing for the stock business that I’ve never shaken.

  5. Salesperson (1988): I worked in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's satellite gift shop down in the Mid-Manhattan Library during the summer after graduation, and the Christmas break of my freshman year of college. Totally fun job that came with great perks: free, 24-hour access to the Museum itself (I would only visit it with friends at night all summer long) and all the free damaged merchandise not claimed by co-workers with more seniority. I scored at least a thousand dollars worth of posters, and about 500 bucks worth of art books. Plus, it's where I met Björk and her infant son, shortly after the first Sugarcubes album was released.

  6. Saleperson (1989): Tower Records in the Village during the summer after my freshman year of college, and then up in Boston my first semester of sophomore year. Boston was part-time and dull, but working in the Village that summer was great. Great people watching, and lots of celebrity run-ins. The security overview we got during training effectively taught every employee the best ways to shoplift from the store.

  7. Usher/Concessionist (1989–1990, 1991–1992): Worked in a movie theater in Boston for two of my four years of college. A totally zany cast of characters working in the days before a big company-wide crackdown on quirkiness. Enough fun stories to fill a book.

  8. Salesperson (1990): Pearl Paint, summer after sophomore year. Totally fun, but physically arduous. I once explained to John Linnel how to make casts of his own face. I also had what I would later realize to be a HUGE crush on the assistant manager of my department.

  9. Designer (1991): Summer after junior year I got a job as a paste-up assistant at a magazine, and as the sole designer for B.U.'s yearbook. A completely great experience in doing things the old-fashioned way before that way became old-fashioned. Last-minute type corrections for both the magazine and the book were made with surplus type galleys, rubber cement, and an X-acto knife. The yearbook contained 280 pages, all of which I laid out by hand on paste-up boards with typeset galleys, rubber cement, a proportion wheel, and a mechanical ruling pen.

  10. Designer (1992): A part-time freelance gig at the studio where a professor worked turned into a full-time freelance gig as soon I graduated. The designer I assisted became my first boyfriend. I was let go, unfortunately, for a mishap involving a poor paper choice for a brochure. I never made a fuss about the fact that it was the paper my boyfriend/supervisor told me to use before he left for vacation.

  11. Typesetter (1992–1995): This is where I really developed the pedantry my peers have come to know and love. For almost three years I learned the ins and outs of setting type properly, paying attention to detail, copyediting, and printing. Sadly, this also set the stage for the conflict between design work and technical work that has dogged me ever since.

  12. Party Clown (1995?): At some point during the Boston years, I dressed as the genie from Aladdin one afternoon for a kid's party thrown by one of Zubby's bosses. It was summer, I had a fever, and kids like to punch cartoon mascots in the nuts. It was still better than the financial job I had in high school.

  13. Bookseller (1995? 1996?): I worked part-time for a couple of years at a huge, swanky bookstore in Boston. Zubby and I got the job at the same time through a friend who was assistant manager, and it was even better than working at the movie theater together. The staff was a great big (mostly) happy family, and we were even treated with respect and allowed to curate our own sections of the store. After a few years of having professional duties, it was also nice to have someplace to go at night where I had no actual responsibilities. The friend who hired me was the one who started calling me Sparky, and so that’s how he introduced me to everyone there. As you might have guessed, it stuck. The store burned down at one point, and it never really got back on its feet afterward because the owners got nervous about this aggressive expansion that Barnes & Noble was starting to make, which prompted them to stamp out all the individual character that made out store so lovely in the first place.

  14. Studio Technician (1995): After the typesetting gig, I set out in search of fortune and glamour at this job working for a publisher of respectable children's books. I got to design a few book covers, ran the computers, and politely fought with the evil-grandmotherly office manager. I even got a chance to go to the head office in England for a week, where I made one of my dearest friends and discovered that I like being abroad almost as much as I like being in New York. Homesickness for New York caught up with me soon afterward, and I quit the job and left Boston for good.

  15. Freelance Designer (1995 onward): I financed my move back to New York by doing some freelance work at the place where I used to set type. When they asked how much it would cost for me to do one last project after I got to New York, I jokingly suggested they double what they were paying me. When they agreed, I realized exactly how much I had been underpaid all those years. I’ve been doing freelance work of some kind or another ever since, even though I have almost no ability to deal with the financial complexities of doing so.

  16. Designer (1996 onward): On my first interview with a temp agency in New York, I was placed at Channel Thirteen, New York's PBS station. A six-week gig turned into a year-and-a-half gig, and after a rest period I worked for them directly as a quasi-freelancer. By far the best place I’ve worked, where I made some of my dearest friends, had a lot of fun, and got paid squat.

  17. Publishing Technologies Analyst (1997 onward): I got a call from a woman who heard there was someone in New York who was already trained on this little-used, totally robust typesetting system that I had used in Boston. I went to do some typesetting for some engineering books while Thirteen waited for my contract with the temp agency to expire. Working for the engineers was lucrative, intellectually challenging, frustrating, and often dull. I’ve been straining against the golden handcuffs of my work for them ever since I’ve been part-time, full-time, freelance, part-time, full-time, and I’m stil trying to decide what to do.

  18. Designer/Principal (1999?): At some point, I got really sick of trying to deal with freelancing all by myself, so two friends in DC and I started putting together our own company. Our only real client decided halfway through her project that she was dissolving her company and getting a steady job again. The three of us had to scramble for other work to pay our bills, and the comany never really came back together again. Which is a shame, because we worked well together, and I'v always wanted to run a small business with some other people who compliment my skills properly. (Hint, hint.)

  19. College Instructor (1999–2000): I taught a bunch of evening classes at Pratt, before and while I was a grad student there. Most of the time I taught a class that showed people who had barely touched a computer before how to do basic graphics stuff on a Mac. It was a startling way to learn how much general computer knowledge I take for granted.

  20. Support Specialist (1999–2000): During one of those breaks from the engineers, I spent six months working for the company that made the typesetting system that I’m so good with. They were going to need me to go out to client sites eventually, which is why I started learning how to drive once and for all. After two failed road tests and six months of commuting from Brooklyn to Darien, CT, every day, I gave up on the whole thing and went back to splitting time between Thirteen and the engineers.

(All dates are approximate, because I’ve been trying to suppress them for so long now. I should alos mention that I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but someone else beat me to the punch, and I figured it was time to get crackin'.)

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