Channel Your Ambition

One of the most interesting things I have discovered since losing my job is that TBS shows four back-to-back reruns of the television show Dawson’s Creek every morning from 8am to noon. Today, unfortunately, there was a conflicting event: a “Women For Hire” job fair was held in downtown Boston. Being a woman for hire myself, I went. The going wasn’t easy, however.

8am: First episode of Dawson’s Creek begins. Jen and Joey are fighting over Dawson. Jack and Dawson are fighting over Joey. Pacey gets in a fight with his dad.

8:30am: I turn off the television. My boyfriend is right. I should go to the stupid job fair.

9am: Showered, blow-dried, ironed, and ready. The cat throws herself between me and the front door. Somewhere, the second episode of Dawson’s Creek starts.

9:40am: Leave Kinko’s in Harvard Square with 30 beautifully printed copies of my resume, blissfully unaware that I will still have 29 copies by the end of the day.

10am: Exit downtown subway station. Battle high winds in search of Suisse Hotel. Episode #3 begins. On someone’s TV, Joey and Jen are making up.

10:10am: I walk into the hotel only 10 minutes after the start, looking for a lonely conference room filled with hopeful employers. Instead, I am immediately confronted with hundreds of women lined up in their interview best. Settle into line, reading Raymond Chandler’s “The Man Who Liked Dogs.” Behind me, women my age are chatting earnestly about their intensive job search. Feel bored by their conversation.

10:55 am: After enduring what feels like years of chatter, am finally allowed inside small conference room. Promptly approached by women at the Wal-Mart booth. Why would Wal-Mart come to a professional women’s job fair? For that matter, why would Starbucks? Or Crate & Barrel? Women are wearing neon yellow happy-face buttons and blue Wal-Mart vests. They make ambiguous hand gestures. I scurry away.

10:58am: Get involved in long conversation with man at Dept. of Homeland Security table. He gives me a Border Patrol application.

11:00am: Someone out there is watching the final Creek episode of the morning. Joey probably misses Dawson, but can’t bring herself to tell him so.

11:05am: Get involved in long conversation with woman my age at the U.S. Department of State table. What is wrong with me? Why am I only interested in being a special agent? Girl tells me about her week in Beijing. Promises me travel. Tells me I have a good chance of getting hired. I want to tell her that I’m not sure I even believe in law enforcement, that mostly I am so tired of meaningless office work. I want to ask her: what is the opposite of meaningless office work? Should I join the Secret Service like she did? Can I still have a home and a family? I want to grab her and say, tangible results! Give me tangible results! I tell her I have a master’s degree in education. She smiles.

11:08am: Swipe brochures off of the DEA table. I could drug-bust. This is how I am at every job fair. Meanwhile, the other applicants flood the Morgan-Stanley table.

11:10am: Back out on the street. Veer into Macy’s. I see the woman who sold me both the black coat and black blazer I am wearing at this very moment. She is a wild-eyed Russian with decades of service for Macy’s. She has talked me into spending hundreds of dollars over the last four years and wants to know if she can help me buy the cute denim jacket I am eyeing.

12:00pm: On someone’s TV set, A Wedding Story begins on TLC.

12:05pm: 70 dollars worth of blouses later, I stop for some sushi before heading home. Vow to either become a cop or stop going to job fairs, or both.

Total take:
1 mini Luna Bar
2 Dept. of Homeland Security pens
1 Suisse Hotel pencil
1 Drug Enforcement Administration pen/highlighter
1 U.S. Customs Service pen
1 lint remover from General Dynamics
1 tin of mints from General Dynamics
1 U.S. Dept. of State laminated bookmark
1 U.S. Border Patrol chip clip (“Your Career. Your Country.”)
1 U.S. Dept. of State Computer Security Calendar (“Once information is shared on the Web, it belongs to everyone” -January 2003 “Be aware of social engineering. Verify the person to whom you are speaking prior to releasing information over the phone” -February 2003)
1 canvas tote bag from Diplomatic Security Systems that has a silouhette of a cool-looking girl aiming a gun, emblazoned with the words “Become a Special Agent.”

Not bad. After the fair, I compare notes with a woman with a heavy Puerto Rican accent. She asks me what I think of the job fair, and I honestly tell her I am deeply bored. She concurs.

Still, we agree, we did get lots of free stuff. As I leave, women of all ages and races are streaming into the hotel. I want to tell them, “Turn back! There’s nothing there but pens!”

But I keep my thoughts to myself.

by Cedar Pruitt