01 March 2010

Where I didn't want to be

Last friday the Colorado Press Association had a job fair at the Brown Palace. I decided that I sort of had to go. (I am, after all, looking for a job). So I got all dressed up: gray pants, black shirt, black heels -- which are very slippery on the shiny tile floors of the hotel, by the way -- and I drove down to Denver. I stuck an hour and a half in a parking meter on the other side of 16th street and walked the block or so to the job fair.

I got inside the room and almost started laughing out loud. The room itself was relatively good-sized, but definitely not vast. There was a big octagonal pole in the middle, and the back half was full of small circular tables, just large enough for three people to sit and eat lunch. There were about 12 of them, and at each was seated an editor of a newspaper or a chain of papers. The rest of the room, the side closest to the door, was peppered with students, all standing, who were clutching their resumes in leather cases and eyeing the tables.

See, the idea was, if you were first, you went and sat with an editor, handed over your resume, and started being interviewed. When you were done, the next person to sit down did the same. There were no sign-ins or schedules; you just had to make it to the table. Because of this, the line of students was full of people pretending to talk to one another. In reality, they were absentmindedly speaking while keeping an eye on the next table they wanted to sprint for. Hunters, all of them.

Sometimes I think I should have been an sociologist, because I just love watching people. In the time I was there, the line of students went from being six feet away from the doors and seven feet from the tables, to being just a foot or so away from the tables. Every time someone walked forward, everyone else did the same thing, inadvertently, as though that one other person moving was going to make them lose their own place. I kept laughing about it, about the ridiculousness of it. Maybe I was nervous or something, I don’t know. I just know that I really didn’t care if I talked to someone or not. I only wanted to talk to a single editor, who the internship director had told me knew a bit about the copyediting business. I knew from talking to a few other students that none of the other papers I would consider working for were hiring copyeditors.

After a while, I went and talked to the editor, and he was nice enough. I mean, I’m sure he was a wonderful person to work for. But the instant I gave him my hand and my resume, I didn’t want to lie anymore. I wanted to say, “Hello, I’m here because I studied journalism and now have no other majorly marketable skills except for French. I hate newspapers and just want to be creative.” We talked for a little bit and he drilled me on grammatical things, which was normal; it was a little unnerving when I messed up on a whom/who question, but whatever, no one remembers that anyway. At least I correctly answered the semicolon question.

My favorite part was when he asked if I had school newspaper experience. I figured starting a paper in sixth grade didn’t count; besides, that was the last time I did anything with a school paper. He kind of laughed at me and I enjoyed his raised eyebrows when I said, “None. Transferring took up all my time and then I got sidetracked.” I knew from looking at him that he was thinking, “A real journalist would have jumped in right away.” It was true. We both suddenly were very sure that I was in the wrong place. It just took him a little bit longer to figure out.

I left after that, slightly dejected in spite of my firm knowledge that I didn’t belong in that room any more than a male prostitute belongs in mine, and walked back to my car. I remembered on the way how much I liked to hear the sound of heels on hard floors, and I concentrated on making the rhythm of my paces very constant. I walked in a straight line. And then I got to my car and found the yellow envelope and a thin white slip tucked under my windshield wiper. Dangit.

I couldn’t see at first why I had gotten the ticket. I still had 12 minutes on the meter. I wasn’t parked over any lines or colored things. I stood there, angry at the stupid anonymous officer, glaring at the ticket. I unlocked the door, got in, and locked up. As I started my car and adjusted everything, I glanced down again at the offensive piece of trash, and that’s when I saw the reason: “No front plates affixed/displayed”.

My car doesn’t HAVE a place to affix front plates. Where am I supposed to put it? On top of the dash? Yeah, that sounds safe. A thin piece of heavy metal at neck level. Mhmm. I'll just have to get over it all and pay it.

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