workzine

Ilana Long, 7/11/2010

Current Occupation: Eighth Grade Humanities Teacher
Former Occupation: Actress, Stand-Up Comic, Waitress, Fitted Sheet Inventory Counter
Contact Information: Ilana Long is the author of the humorous book on parenting: The Binky Conspiracy: True Tales of Mommydom (Paperback), available at Amazon.com.

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Odd Jobs

Being a failed actress has its pitfalls. The deepest of these valleys is that society dictates that one must eventually make a living, and if one is a failed actress, that means taking up a variety of chirpy yet demeaning odd jobs. You have seen me at the nightclub, with a holster full of “sex on the beach” overcharging you because you are a sloppy drunk and don’t even notice. I’m the one in the dorky Harcourt and Brace bear costume, nearly suffocating with heat as you peruse the sterile tables at the publisher’s convention. I’m putting moisturizer on my chapped fingertips after spending a day sponge-sealing envelopes at my temp job.

One day, I’ll be on Saturday Night Live, or write my own sit-com and star in it. Really. A gal can hope. But until then, I’ll regale my pals with the tales of the restless, clumsy days and nights of odd jobs.

For some time, I was lucky enough to pick up a string of mascot jobs. There was some pride in my costumed bearing, as I fooled myself into classifying these as “acting jobs”; a distinction that would help me to convince my parents of the value of having spent thousands on my privileged Ivy League education. It was with this confidence that I donned a Mail Boxes Etc. drop box costume, sweating in my tights and heels, and pranced around the convention hall floor. The mailbox covered me from head to rear, with my dainty legs peeking out the bottom. The mail receptor was located not at my eye level, but at my chest, so I wandered around bumping into tables and swerving around the Suits.

The end of my brilliant, mascot-portraying career happened that afternoon. A middle aged bumbler with a drawl tugged on my mail slot and shouted, “Hey, who’s in there?” He yanked open the mail slot and announced, “Whooohoo! It’s a girl!” I hastily covered my bared chest and stumbled out of the room, vowing to come back in another life as his vindictive postal services boss.

A slew of waitressing jobs followed. I did a stint at Bennigan’s, where I made myself an accessory button for my vest that read “Ask me about my two contrasting monologues,” and continued to try to convince myself that I was an employed actress. At the time, the restaurant had an insidious promotion: each meal was served in 15 minutes or less, or it was free. I considered the customers the enemy. Their job was to try to distract me with ice-free water requests and a third reminder of an allergy to cumin to ensure that I left their meals sitting for sixteen minutes, at which point, they would point to my nemesis, the stopwatch, (a cruel torture device forced upon us by our Bennigan’s masters), at which point I ended up paying for the meal. Finally defeated one day, I let a meal sit for eighteen minutes as I cried in the ladies room until I was unceremoniously fired.

Another waitressing job followed at “Two Dagos from Texas”, a downtown Seattle restaurant. The restaurant had a system of insistent bell ringing to let a waitress know the food was ready for pick-up. I was four bings. When I heard four bings, I was to rush to the kitchen to pick up the order. Lazy and distracted by my sense of injustice at the fact that I was meant for greater things, I would say to my disgruntled, impatient customers who complained that they’d ordered an hour ago, “You know, the root of the word waitress is wait.”

One evening, after ignoring the repetition of the incessant four bings, my rectangular-headed boss yelled at me, “What are you? Deaf?!”

Seizing the opportunity by the apron strings I quickly responded, “Yes, actually. I’m mostly deaf in my left ear, and only partially deaf in my right.” Convinced by the rapidity and detail of my duplicitous response, I immediately became the darling of the Dagos. I was treated with kid gloves; other waitresses were asked to pick up and deliver my orders for me if I hadn’t “heard” the bell, and on one occasion I even witnessed ol’ box head serving one of my tables. This time when I was finally fired (not because my ruse was exposed, but for missing several shifts in a row due to unrequited auditions) it was with a tenderness prompted only by a fear of a “people with disabilities” lawsuit.

In time, you’d run into me posing as a summer camp counselor, assistant to the publicity assistant, shot girl, bingo caller, salmon spawn counter, and art class model….all these for the sake my lofty thespian ambitions.

But I’m not giving up. One of these days, my genius will be recognized, and fame will throw down its gauntlet at my character shoes. Despite the odds, I still have my gown picked out for Oscar Night.

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  1. […] In New Issues on July 11, 2010 at 12:00 am This week’s Memoir Contest Runner-up, Ilana Long, dives into the depths of waiting for a gig while waitressing. « Before Issue 1:43 […]

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