A Portrait of Man in Search of a Mediocre Office Job in Los Angeles
I can’t remember exactly why I moved to Los Angeles but I’m pretty sure I mostly wanted to get an office job so I would have a place to work until I was old enough to die from being too old. This is maybe a little strange. I think most people move to Los Angeles because they want to get so famous they die from drugs after they stop being famous. That sort of sounds fun. I don’t want to judge anyone. Everyone should move wherever offers the most appealing form of death. I guess in my mid-twenties, dying from office work sounded like a better option than dying from drugs. I probably also moved because the girl I was dating had family buried in Los Angeles. I can’t remember if the original plan was to dig up all her dead relatives once we arrived in Los Angeles, but ultimately no dead relatives were removed from the ground. The one family member closest to death was her grandfather, but I’m pretty sure he never quite died ever because he was always too busy eating chocolate candies and watching tennis.
Anyway, the first week after my girlfriend and I arrived in Los Angeles we saw Judd Apatow carrying a bag made from recycled denim filled with popcorn. I thought this was a good omen and was optimistic my girlfriend and I would both soon realize our dreams. As I already stated, all I wanted was a mediocre office job. My girlfriend on the other hand was a little more ambitious. She hoped to someday become Bill Murray’s dream transcriber. Unfortunately, neither of us were very successful realizing our dreams in the first six months. At least my girlfriend was competent enough to find work as an assistant producer on a talk show. While she was dealing with talk show stress, I stayed home and sent out unsuccessful cover letters.
Sometimes in the afternoon after I got bored of looking at my computer I wandered around looking for abandoned offices. We were living in an upscale neighborhood called “Brentwood.” This was the same neighborhood where a guy named O.J. lost some gloves and later when he tried on these gloves they no longer fit. I’m not sure how we ended up living in this neighborhood. I think my girlfriend’s dad found the apartment in a catalog for people who want to pay too much for a false sense of security. Overall, despite it costing more than I could afford, it was okay. We occasionally spotted celebrities at the neighborhood grocery store. I once either saw Baron Davis or Minnie Driver (I forget who) trying to decide what almond milk to buy.
The one positive about living in Brentwood is most of the offices in the area were easy to sneak into after hours. While my girlfriend worked late telling interns where to be stand and be useless, I explored empty office buildings hoping to acclimate to a lifestyle that would most likely provide decent health insurance with very little career upside. At one office I found head shots of Fred Williamson in the trashcan. At another there were piles of DVDs for a movie called “Dinocroc.” One time I found the codes for the office copier which I later used to print zines I tried to sell on the street for a dollar. Tip: No one in Los Angeles wants your zine.
Eventually I got work in a law office through a temping agency. The day after I started one of my toes swelled up. I could barely walk. Because it was only a temp position I didn’t have health insurance. The toe got worse. I tried wrapping it with eight bandages, but it only got more swollen. Eventually, my girlfriend’s father, who was a doctor, cut off the toenail. The swelling stopped. I began rubbing grapefruit seed extract on the toe. It healed. The toenail grew back twice as thick. On my lunch breaks at the law office I wrote stories about a guy named Paul. Some of them ended up in my novella “Holiday Meat.” One day, a secretary caught me using the fax machine to fax a grad school application. A week later I was let go.
For a long time I struggled to find anything else so I ran out of money and had to borrow money from my girlfriend who didn’t have much money herself because talk shows aren’t very good at providing their employees anything beyond enough money to barely get by. I probably would have died from not having enough money if my girlfriend hadn’t saved me with her money.
Whenever someone did contact me about an office job I usually messed it up in the interview by either sweating too much or not talking the right way with my mouth. The too-much-sweat was the result of not owning a car and often walking to the job interviews. The not-talking-good was because I often said things like, “I have low ambitions,” or, “this office job would probably be the pinnacle of my adult life.”
One afternoon after I got tired of writing bad cover letters to fake craigslist job postings, I decided to walk to Michael Jackson’s house. I knew he lived somewhere kind of near me. I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going, but I thought it would be fun to see if I could find his house by wandering aimlessly. I didn’t end up finding his house, but I did find two hundred dollars on the ground as I was walking through a neighborhood in Bel Air. I used the money to buy groceries. That night I made enchiladas for my girlfriend.
Somehow eight months after I moved to Los Angeles, I managed to get hired by a website that produced content for pets. The office was located in Beverly Hills. I often walked five miles to work, but told my coworkers I drove an SUV so I wouldn’t alienate them. Two other people were hired at the same time as me, but both quit within a week because they felt a profound desire to pursue their dream of becoming famous. Their self dismissal from the office made me feel very blessed I had managed to stumble into the lifestyle I had come to Los Angeles to attain.
Like any job, it wasn’t without it’s difficulties. Despite making up lies about how I commuted to work every day, it soon became obvious I wasn’t driving when I would show up sweaty every morning. One of the biggest things I learned in Los Angeles is that no one likes sweat. I probably had one last opportunity to redeem myself in the eyes of my coworkers when they invited me to join them for lunch, but instead of doing the normal thing at the salad bar we went to I decided to get a plate of nothing except croutons.
It didn’t end up mattering very much in the end. A month after I began working in the office I got accepted to grad school on the east coast. Three months later I left Los Angeles. The plan when I left had been to return to Los Angeles when grad school ended to resume my career, but it turns out you can be a mediocre office employee anywhere. I now do an office job in Providence Rhode Island.