Call me Ishmael

By Jennifer Rose

Bachelor's degrees have not saved us. I feel adrift, clinging on to a secretarial desk like a life raft, thinking that a steady (but small) paycheck is enough to keep me afloat and breathing.

My life raft exists in a small private school in a Southern California beach city. Or, in short, a place where there are a million phone calls a day from homemaker mothers with nothing else to do but call me to see if Camden (yes, all of the children have names like that) wore her jacket on the playground, to make sure that I tell little Taft to not pick up trash even though it's Earth Day (he's allergic to too many things!), to remind me to distribute the party invitations to little Harrison's 4th birthday even though Harrison's nanny has already left me three square notes on monogrammed linen paper from Harrison's mom, instructing me to pass the invitations out . . . the list goes on and on. These are also the same moms who forget that they have to bring snack for their son's/daughter's class even though she is assigned this task only once a month – meaning that I have to take the time out to call them, to remind them, though I'm not sure why these moms forget because they only have one child (maybe the mom had a morning Botox appointment? A manicure/pedicure? A lobotomy?).

This happens every morning.

And, none of my co-workers -- the teachers -- are that much help.

Most of them are too busy being bitter single moms in their thirties who took their respective teaching jobs so their own child could attend this exclusive private school at half price. They all talk about how life is so hard for them, being a single mom, their voices full of entitlement. They're all pear-shaped and disappointed and unfucked.

The school phone rings every 2 minutes. I deal with irate parents who are on the waitlist. I deal with impatient parents who want to be on the waitlist. I deal with current parents who keep asking the same questions month after month (is it Free Dress Day on the first Friday of the month?). I make spreadsheets, I print out flyers, I make copies, I stuff the "Wednesday Folders" for 250 families every Wednesday morning. I correct spelling errors and grammar mistakes that are all over the teachers' classroom newsletters. I spend 40 hours a week doing this.

In college, I had studied the Lost Generation writers; I fell in love with Gertrude Stein and T.S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway. I wrote papers about Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the poems of John Keats, about Mersault in Camus' The Stranger. I discussed Edward Said's influence on Roland Barthes at an annual critical theory research conference.

And here I am, at this school, getting paid as much as the janitor who can barely speak English.

So, I ask for a raise. My boss tries to talk me out of it. She says she will schedule a meeting with the school's owner to discuss it. She goes home early because she says her office is too hot to work in.

She, too, is pear-shaped, disappointed, and unfucked.

The meeting never happens.

The next day, I sit at my desk. I look at all the little loose-leaf mountains of paper scattered around my desk. The phone is ringing nonstop. The teachers are talking about last night's episode of American Idol.

I place a note in my boss' inbox: "I am leaving with the same respect that was given to me yesterday."

I walk out of the building, abandoning my bullshit life raft.

And I do not feel like I am drowning.


Ryan said...



Jeffrey said...


i loved that story. did all these things you write about... did they happen in your life?

this is jeff lee by the way =)

derekrey90007 said...


Couldn't agree with you more.


Corkey said...

Me likey da teachuhs. Me likey da bumbum on da teachuhs. I likey make boinky boinky wid dem. Me likey da big blubbuh teachuhs.

Anonymous said...

LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT! Great perspective on work and more specifically in an environment that just drives you to pursue better things in avoid becoming lonely and unfucked...seriously!


Anonymous said...

good shit jiggity jennsta

Gemini Ludicrous said...