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.” She sipped from her wine glass, “Oh 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 woman.
We were like-minded on many levels, but with unique perspectives on life due to our twenty year age difference. I met her through one of my older sisters. Though, much like me, Joan truly couldn’t be more different from my sister if she were a different species. She loved to sip Scotch, visit high-end restaurants, and wear attention-gleaning clothing. She loved the world of artists and artistry of all kinds. She also really loved cocaine, so I guess there was one thing she had in common with my sister other than living in the same military housing as young children.
Sometimes, to hear Joan tell it, she would awaken one morning 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.
I didn’t have the child-free, forever single freedom that Joan enjoyed, 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 resume is purposely tailored to be 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 think I woke up one day in my thirties with the realization that life was much too short to stay at a job (or a marriage, for that matter, but that’s another story) that made you want to eat a gun every morning you woke to face your day, so I made a decision to be more like Joan. If the job (or partner) didn’t serve me, I would no longer serve it and move the fuck on as swiftly, cleanly and painlessly as possible.
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 structured 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 a Portland-based online chat room to see what was up with my fellow nerds who wasted their time in a similar manner as 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 (and, again…that’s a story for another time).
But I was bored, and officially one bottle of Fat Tire 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 right away 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 replies that hey, he’s not asking me to fuck people for money. He’s got people who already do that. What he needs is a professional but sexy feminine 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, which ok, cool…I continue to listen to his proposition.
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 violated 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.” Again, momma’s broke.
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 guy in the leather jacket. Be there in twenty minutes.”
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, which is honestly saying a lot. Ah, 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. Oh and a small carafe of warm sake. Ahhh. 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 trap-house. And I’m 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 purr, “It’s nice to meet you. What do have for me, Jack?”
He tilts his head and stares at me curiously. I notice that his nose is so full of hair that I’m amazed he can breathe. He nods and says, “Yeah, you’ll do. Here.” He hands me a piece of paper he pulled out from his damp looking leather jacket. Wait, why is he moist?
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 of ham, mold, and Original Old Spice. Jesus.
“Ok, here’s the deal,” he begins. “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 for 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 wondered how many people he fucked over like this, and how naïve anyone would have to be to let that happen. He reached into his pocket and pulled out three soggy 20s and three 5s. WHY IS EVERYTHING WET? IT’S NOT RAINING.
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 two red plates, one orange, and a small 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-colored hair and even lonnnger dancer’s legs. Press 1 for Caterina.
Brenda is a very naughty librarian with raven hair, emerald 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.
Hit the star key to repeat these options.
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 raw 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 voice-work. 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-n-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, during a family Thanksgiving gathering, I gave the number to my sister, the cocaine-loving sibling I met Joan through. I handed her the phone.
“Hey, call this. Tell me if anything sounds familiar.” I sat there while she dialed the phone and listened as the greeting started.
The look on her face was priceless. So was her reaction: “HOLY SHIT. ARE YOU A HOOKER NOW? DOES MOM KNOW?”
* * *
A few years after the end of that particular era, I was holding down a chair with my ass in a dive bar in Southeast Portland. I was parked in front of my laptop, writing and enjoying a few fingers of Glenfiddich, when a familiar silver-haired senior came stumbling in with a two ladies, one on each arm, both of whom I thought I might have recognized from one of the nearby exotic dancing establishments I frequented regularly.
PDX Jack, in that same damp (WHY) coat, made his way past the jukebox that at just inside the main entrance, and parked his companions at a table by the window. Using the backs of bar chairs for support on his way to grab some refreshments at the bar, he passed directly in front of my table without showing any sign that he recognized me. He somehow still managed to reek of ham and mold, but it seemed that he had switched up colognes to something else equally off-putting as what he had worn at our first meeting. Perhaps I just remembered it differently. Stinky Jack.
The ladies he arrived with were as intoxicated as he appeared to be and were loudly involved in an enthusiastic discussion about how, after they left the bar, they’d be making a little extra cash at the public hot tub joint located across the street.
The blonde in the impossibly tight blue sweater exclaimed, “I can’t belieeeve 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 arrived with shot an unfocused look in my general direction and, with an unlit clove cigarette dangling precariously from her berry-tinged lips, she slurred, “Whatthefuckareyouuuuulooking at?” as she reached into her purse for her lighter, promptly spilling the contents of said purse onto the sticky bar carpet.
“FUCK!” She made a pouty noise, puffed up her cheeks, and leaked air out in frustration.
I turned my head towards her, smiling sweetly. “Nothing. But my job was a lot easier.”
The blonde, who I finally recognized as a dancer who went by Sasha Lee, scrunched her face and blinked at me a few times, finally muttering, “That’s right you will…that’s fuckin right. Sssslut.”
Cool. I didn’t know what that meant, and I decided that it probably didn’t matter. So turned back to my laptop, tossing out one piece of friendly advice.
“Make sure Jack buys you guys lunch.”