I met a wild woman years ago, an amazing, eccentric goddess named Joan who fancied herself a “job collector”. “I’ve had 47 jobs in my life,” she declared one night over dinner, “it would KILL me to remember them all. I’d rather not. Let’s not, how dull. Though there have been a few worth remembering, oh boy…” It was one of many things I adored about the women.
We were like-minded on many levels, but with perspectives which varied due to our twenty year age difference. I met her through one of my older sisters, though, like me, she couldn’t be more different from my sister if she were a different species. She loved to sip whiskey, visit gourmet restaurants, wear attention-grabbing clothing, she loved the world of art and artists. She also really loved cocaine, so there was one thing she had in common with my sister.
And sometimes, for instance, she’d wake up in her house in Austin or Miami or wherever she hung her hat at the time and say to herself, “I think I’d like to live in New York now”. And she’d make that happen within a week or so. She was a goddamn inspiration.
While I didn’t have the child-free, forever single freedom that Joan had, but I did have a similar professional skill-set and personality, and I never had much difficulty securing employment. Mostly because I was an adept bullshit artist. That and my skill-set is pretty industry non-specific so I can move around a little easier than someone who has any real specialty.
At the time I met Joan, I wouldn’t have called myself a “job collector”, but fifteen years later? I can absolutely claim that title. I woke up one day in my thirties and decided life was too short to stay at a job (or a marriage, for that matter) that made you want to eat a gun every morning you woke up for work, so I made a decision to be more like Joan. If the job (or man) didn’t serve me, I would no longer serve it and move on.
And sometimes the job moved on from me, often because I was fantastic at accepting job offers from companies that were destined to fail (and yes, it has occurred to me that I may be that “common denominator, I don’t need you to point it out), and I learned that this wasn’t always the end of the world. I would collect unemployment and I’d make moves towards my next opportunity. Unemployment was a nice place to land, but it wasn’t a good idea for me to stay off of a schedule for too long. Idle hands, blah blah blah…
One day, I was sitting on my unemployed ass, sending resumes off to employment agencies and head hunters so they’d do the legwork (seriously, if you live in any sort of a metropolitan area, I recommend this) while I stayed home and played video games and day drank. I took a break from killing orcs in Norrath and decided to pop into an online chat room for Portland to see what was up with my fellow nerds who wasted their time in the same manner I did. Once I logged in, I saw some dude with the name PDXJACK503 posting in the chat scroll:
“MAKE $75 FOR EASY WORK. NO SEX. SEND MESSAGE FOR MORE INFO. LEGIT WORK, NOT PORN.”.
Well, that’s probably something I should ignore, I thought to myself. Much like I ignored obvious PornCam girls and that one dude with the screen names “bbqmyfleshandeatmepleasenow” and “killmeandeatmeforreal”. Fuck that dude.
But I was bored, one beer into my afternoon, and curious. Also, momma’s broke. So of course I sent him a message.
“Ok, no sex, no porn…what gives?”
PDXJACK503 responds to tell me that, no, it’s not sex or porn, but it is for an escort company that he runs called PDX Escorts.
I laughed and said, “Yeah, that’s what I thought, good luck! :)”
PDXJACK503 quickly replies that he’s not asking me to fuck people for money, but that he needs a professional but sexy female voice for his customers to hear when they call, and that he’ll pay me $75 cash, in person to do so, and that he’ll come to me.
When I kindly explain that I don’t think I’ll be having him over for this, he tells me that, nope, we don’t need to do it like that at all.
The deal is: He meets me at a public place, he gives me $75 cash and a script, I go back to my home or wherever, go over the script a few times, and when I’m ready, I call and he connects me to his voicemail, giving me access to admin options so I can record the greeting. Easy peasy.
I decide that this is perfectly acceptable, there’s little chance I’ll be raped and killed in a public place (I hope), so why the fuck not. Also, I had been craving the fuck out of sushi for about a week, so I would have him meet me at the conveyor belt sushi joint that was just down the road at Mall 205. Two birds, one stone. I’m nothing if not efficient.
Then I decided I would sent him one more message.
“Ok, also, you need to buy my lunch. That’s the deal,”
There was a pause, but I saw he was still online.
“Excuse me? I don’t have time for lunch today.”
“No no no, I don’t want to have lunch with you, I just want you to pay for my sushi. Up to you, dude, I don’t have to do this.”
“Fine. Deal. You better not sound like a truckdriver. I’ll be the man in the leather jacket.” PDXJACK503 has logged off.
Well, that’s helpful. But, I think to myself, cool. This is probably one of the weirder things I’ve agreed to in a while, life is fun. I throw on shoes and head out to get free lunch.
I get to Sushi King or whatever the fuck it was called back then, and I grab two plates of salmon nigiri off the conveyor and order a Spider Roll. God I hope this dude shows up, I only have $20 til Friday.
I’m shoving my mouth full of raw fish when this skeevy fucker in a black leather jacket walks in. He looks like George Lucas’s older alcoholic brother crawled out from under a crack-house. And I mostly sure I can tell he’s eyeballing me, too, and going, “Nope, this one won’t be a moneymaker.” That’s cool, dude. I don’t think you’re cute either.
“Are you…Vortex Betty?”
I maneuver the partially chewed hunk of salmon and rice to my cheek with my tongue and say, with the left side of my face bulging like a hungry chipmunk, “Sure, something like that, you….PDXJack? Or just…Jack? Or if that’s not your name….that guy?” I finish chewing the food I had stashed in my cheek and swallow, grabbing my sake so I can swish the fish out of my teeth before continuing. I clear my throat and, in my best “sexy professional” voice, I say, “It’s nice to meet you. What do have for me, Jack?”
He tilts his head and stares at me a bit, while I notice that his nose is so full of hair that I’m amazed he can breathe. He pauses, and says, “Yeah, you’ll do. Here.” He hands me a piece of paper he pulled out from his damp looking leather jacket. I grab it with my left hand so I can feel good about continuing to eat with my right.
He eyeballs me some more. He smelled like ham, mold, and Original Old Spice. “Ok, here’s the deal. I’m headed back to my office, take some time to review what I have written there, read it over a few times to yourself, and then call me at the number on the top there and we’ll record, that work you?”
Sounded easy enough. I was pretty sure that it was legal since I was only recording a voice greeting and not fellating someone for money. And if this was really “the deal”, this would be the easiest fucking money I had ever made.
“You have yourself a deal, PDX Jack,” I smiled, and I held my hand out, palm to the sky. He stared at my hand like it was an alien for a second and then he realized. “Oh, you want the money now? I was hoping to hear how you sounded…”
I laughed and interrupted him, “You hear me right now, fucker, give me the cash, that’s what you said, and I’ll call you in a half hour or so.”
He didn’t look pleased, which I found amusing…I wonder how many people he fucked over like this, and how dumb those people would have to be to let that happen. He reached into his pocket and pulled out three damp 20s and three damp 5s. I nodded towards the table and he sat it down, and I sat an empty sushi plate upon it He got up and, as he started to walk away, I said, “Hey…hey hey…don’t forget my lunch,” as I shoved another piece of fish in my mouth. I called out to the regular waitress who worked the afternoons, “He’s got this, Kai. I’ve had 2 red plates, 1 orange, and a sake. Thanks, Kai. And thanks, PDX Jack!”
He looked even less pleased, paid for my lunch, and split. Cranky Jack.
Once I arrived back home, I read the script out loud a few times, laughed at the very thought of this new “employment”, and made the call to Cranky Jack.
Jack answered, patched me through to the admin options, I read the instructions on the page – Hit 3, then 1, then 1 again to record, 4 to erase and re-record, then # when I’m finished. Jack will be on the line when I’m done to let me know if he wants to make any changes. Got it.
I took a swig of my freshly opened beer, hoped this wasn’t going to make me have to belch while trying to sound sultry, put on my best sex kitten voice, and began:
“Hello. You’ve reached PDX Escorts. The premier escort service for Portland and allllllll of Portland’s surrounding areas.
Caterina is a sexy young ballerina with long honey hair and even longer dancer’s legs. Press 1 for Caterina.
Brenda is a very naughty librarian with brown hair, green eyes, and she will give you a stern talking to if break the rules. Press 2 for Brenda.
Gwendolyn is a leggy transvestite who knows your sexiest secrets. A fiery redhead, don’t let her fool you, she is as gentle as a kitten…unless you don’t want her to be. Press 3 for Gwendolyn.
Thank you for calling PDX Escorts. We cannot WAIT to hear from you again soon.
I hit the pound sign and wait for revisions from Jack.
“Wow. WOW. You NAILED it. You didn’t really sound like that at the fish joint, but wow. That was great! VERY hot. That was just…thank you!”
PDXJack sounded like a whole different Jack than I had met while wearing shitty jeans and a Siouxie and the Banshees shirt and stuffing my mouth full of cheap sushi. This was Happy Jack. I like this Jack, better. Plus, I couldn’t smell him. Bonus!
I told him I was flattered and “thanks for the job, it’s been real”.
“Hey, you got real nice tits, you ever consid…”
I interrupted that with a laugh and said, “No Jack, nope. Just voicework. Thanks again.” and I hung up.
I thought that this would be a one shot deal, but Jack contacted me now and again to update the voicemail due to personnel turnover. Brenda had been arrested for prostitution, which pissed Jack off (stop it) because he found out she was working a little “freelance” outside of PDX Escorts and he wasn’t getting his cut.
She was replaced by a girl who went by Jessica Rabbit, the busty girl next door. Eventually Gwendolyn moved on, and Liz took her place. I made about $450 overall in future personnel updates and several more free sushi lunches in this venture. I probably would have continued to make more for this quick and dirty job, but I think Jack got shut down in a sting operation or some shit, because, he just stopped contacting me online one day and, when I went to check the website to see if there were any new updates, I got the generic splash screen for the Geocities web builder.
Ah, Jack, it was a good run. So long…and thanks for all the fish.
I was mostly disappointed because, besides easy money for easy work, it was fun to call the number for this call girl service and hear my voice as the official greeter. I found it wildly hysterical that someone calling an escort company was going to be hearing my voice on the other end…and I had never stepped foot in the place. Hell, I didn’t even know if there WAS a “place” or if it was all just hook-ups at random by-the-hour motels.
One time, on Thanksgiving, I had given the number for my sister, the cocaine loving sibling I met Joan through, and said, hey…call this. Tell me if anything sounds familiar. The look on her face was priceless. So was the question, “ARE YOU A HOOKER NOW? DOES MOM KNOW?”
A few years after that end of an era, I was in a dive bar in SE Portland with my laptop, writing and enjoying a few fingers of Pendleton, when a familiar silver-haired senior came stumbling in with a two ladies, one on each arm, both of whom I recognized from one of the nearby exotic dancing establishments. He parked them at a table by the window and stumbled past me, using the backs of bar chairs as support on his way to grab some refreshments at the bar, doing so without showing any sign that he recognized me. He somehow still managed to smell like ham and mold, but it seemed that he had switched up colognes to something else. Aqua Velva maybe.
His companions were as hammered as he appeared to be and were having an enthusiastic discussion about making a little money at the public hot tub place across the street after they left the bar. The platinum blonde in the baby blue trench coat excitedly slurred, “I can’t believe all we have to do is make out with each other and maybe blow Jerry if he shows up, this will be the easiest $75 bucks ever.”
I must have audibly reacted to that last part, because the brunette she was with shot an unfocused look my way and, with an unlit clove cigarette dangling precariously from her fuschia-hued lips, she slurred, “Whatthefuckareyouuuuulooking at?”, though I wasn’t looking her way at all.
I turned my head towards her, smiling sweetly, and asked the question that seemed to quell her confused hostility right away, prompting a mumbled, “That’s right you will…” as she reached into her purse for her lighter.
“Nothing, Chantilly…you working at The Beaver tomorrow? I’ll catch you then, girl. Say hi to Jack for me.”