Tuesday, September 17, 2013

NO-maste, or The "Om Mani Padme WHUMP" Incident

Yoga is still a really, really cool thing to do in Los Angeles.

I thought it would have fallen by the wayside, with all the crazy hybrid pilates classes out here. Do you know what Piloxing is? Besides sounding like a weird sex move (totally got piloxed last night), it's a combination of pilates, boxing, and  DANCE. I still don't entirely understand, because I've been too afraid to try it out. The only people I know who pilox (is that a word?) are my super beautiful model friends. Maybe piloxing makes you more beautiful... but I'm more afraid I'll show up and everyone will be all "WHO IS THIS UGLY TROUT WITH NO RHYTHM?"

(Have you ever thrown a fish on a mat and watched it flop around gasping for air? That's me. Maybe that's a visual only my southerner friends will understand. Not sorry, y'all.)

Yoga is wildly more accessible because it's 1) easier to cheat on difficult poses and 2) at least half crunchy granola people, so classes are usually less expensive. However, this being Los Angeles, they gotta make it a hundred time more complicated. Because in LA, exclusivity = more fun.

And thus, Bikram Hot Yoga was born.

Bikram Hot Yoga takes all the things a person tries to avoid when exercising (being hot, being around people, being reminded that you are exercising) and exacerbates them. It's really, really hot. It's really, really crowded. You're soaked in sweat and smelling others' sweat and being cajoled to move in ways that produce more sweat for everyone, thus reminding you constantly that you're really, really working out, in case you're able to forget for a milisecond.


I've so far been able to avoid yoga in LA by being "busy" which is usually code for "napping" or "guiltily eating pizza alone so no one knows my shame."

But I have a secret.

It's not the sweating, or the people, or the Enya that's keeping me away. It's the yoga itself. Yoga tried to kill me once, and it scarred me for life.

I started college with a lot of lofty/ridiculous ideas of "cool college me." For example, I joined like five Christian campus organizations so life would be one big youth group. Then I realized they were either marriage mills (Ring by spring! lol jk BUT SERIOUSLY.) or just boring as toast. But another "cool college me"action was going to Vinyasa Yoga at the student rec center at 8am. Obviously, I was going to be like, so flexible and enlightened and at peace with my strong core and meditation skills.

Also, I liked a boy who talked about yoga sometimes. That might have been a small motivating factor.

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I would force myself awake at the cruel hour of 7:30am (which is funny now that I have to be at work by 6am most days. 7:30 is a laughable luxury). I would chomp on some cardboard/protein bar and chug a juice on my solitary trek to the studio, before forcing my body through rapid-succession motions for 45 minutes of dolphins squeaking in the background. Cool college me had a weird idea of "fun."

One morning I woke up at probably 7:55. Oh No(ga)! I contemplated skipping but knew discipline was key to physical and mental health. Also, what if I saw that cute boy at the cafeteria today and had nothing to talk about? THE HORROR. I dashed out the door, still in pajama pants, past the cardboard/protein bar sitting forlornly on my dresser.

By college, I had a pretty good grip on my hypoglycemia [For the record, that's low blood sugar,  NOT a type of cancer. I clarify this because my eye doctor's assistant saw it on my chart and said I "looked pretty good for someone going through chemo." What the hell sort of backhanded compliment is that?]. I knew the basics, like I probably shouldn't eat just Little Debbie Marshmallow Supremes as a meal. I skipped the breakfast bar partially out of lateness but moreso out of taste (cardboard is EFFING GROSS especially first thing in the morning). However, I reasoned that I'd had a huge, cheesy burrito at 1am (I miss you, Cosmic Cantina) that was still probably in my system, and I still had water.

Do you hear the ominous music booming below the dolphin squeaks?

I arrived to class a little shaky, but chugging water like a pro. Morning workout classes were why brunch was invented, probably. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I saw that cute setting up his mat in the corner. I of course did the logical thing of not actually speaking to him, or looking at him directly, but setting up front and center immediately facing the instructor. I mean, obviously I would impress him with my great yoga prowess and then he would talk to me and we'd go get brunch, and probably live happily ever after. That's how dating works, right?

We started with some floor stretches lead by our very calm, zen instructor. Ah, yes, sitting down, I can do this. Besides mildly dozing during child's pose, I felt extra fuzzy and warm and bendy. TOTALLY impressing this cute boy with my stretching abilities.

Then, we moved on to a lot of upside-down poses. Downward-facing dog. Warrior 3. Downward-facing-dog-peeing-on-a-fire-hydrant. The usual. Ahh, I was doing great. So calm, so focused, so much blood rushing to my head.

We were serenely encouraged to slowly transition to "mountain pose" (aka just standing up), stacking our vertebrae one at a time. I still don't know what that means. Like our spine is one of those child's ring toys? My vertebrae, at least, are all connected (poorly, crookedly, but still in one piece), so I just jumped straight up. I am mountainous, I am strong, I am... unable to see?


I am collapsed on the floor.

I am sooo uncool right now.

I opened my eyes to my totally calm, zen, yogi FREAKING OUT. Am I alright? Do I have a concussion? Should he get the nurse? An EMT? He was definitely harshing everyone else's mellow.

I tried to laugh it off and said I just needed some water, and to carry on. I think I also started to say I was overcome by enlightenment or something, but trailed off because I forgot where I was. I semi-consciously comforted my yoga instructor, who looked to be near tears, and picked up my stuff to go to the hallway water fountain. In the hallway, I leaned on the wall to steady myself. Then, I slid down the wall to get a little more stability. Then I kind of just laid on the floor next to my water bottle. Close enough.

Somewhere in the fog, I managed to call my lady mom, probably to say my goodbyes and reaffirm that Lil Watz couldn't take over my bedroom even if I passed on.

"R. Grace WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Get up. Go to the cafeteria. Get food. Now." Lady mom wisely realized that my fog-brain could only process short directives. I weakly tried to argue.

"My stomach hurts. I think I just need to sleep. On the floor. Right now."

I should have been on the debate team.

She forced me, entirely through three-word-or-less sentences, to get up and cross the courtyard to the cafeteria. I think I argued with her about wether or not ice cream was an acceptable breakfast food. I settled on an omelet and some fruit. With each bite, I slowly regained brainpower and also the ability to feel humiliation. What had I done? Who had seen me?!

I ran into that cute boy later in the day. He said hi and I immediately launched into some stammer-y explanation about the events earlier in the day. He looked at me, baffled.

"Oh, R. Grace, I don't do yoga in class. I do it outside in the park by myself."

I was briefly relieved that I hadn't embarrassed myself in front of him (and thusly, anyone who mattered) in class that morning. Following that realization, I had embarrassed myself just now, with my long story, retelling everything in graphic detail.

So obviously I never went back to yoga again.

Go on with your yoga, my dear Angelinos. While you're cultivating superpowered yeast infections (yoga pants and intense sweat? HELLO.) and climbing the rungs to self-awareness, I will find my own path to inner peace and bliss.

And it most likely involves pizza and air-conditioning.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The funemployment incident

Job hunting sucks.

Job hunting fresh out of college, in a new city with a high unemployment rate, without a soul-crushing internship to drag you into an office drone position, sucks you into a hazy endless despair devoid of self-worth and runneth over with expensive coffee.

I found myself jobless last year after abruptly quitting a job as a server-ish at a sketchy bar. And by "ish," I mean I was paid under the table for four weeks, seemingly random sums of money. I don't suggest quitting with no backup plan. However, I also don't suggest telling your employees they "really need to dress more bar-sexy-cute-club-girl" when their uniform already consists of booty shorts and shirts "artfully" shredded to just a few strips of fabric. I would say the shirt only covered the necessities, but I found mustard in places that I certainly hope wasn't visible to the public. Eek.

So I embarked on the adventure of finding a new job in Los Angeles. My first one was super easy to get, so obviously jobs would just rain out of the sky onto me. I had a college degree! I had marketable skills! I had an A+ resume and quirky, eye-catching cover letter! The applications began and I realized...

I had... nothing to offer. Sure, I had a degree and relevant work experience and an internship once, but who cares about that? I'm pretty sure everyone at my corner Starbucks has no less than a Master's degree and have been working in coffee for 5+ years. I can't compete with that. Furthermore, 99.9% of the office/reception/etc jobs I sought out required "1-2 years of industry experience," which you can only obtain by... already having an entertainment industry job. It is an endless loop of YOU'RE NOT GETTING HIRED.

I applied to roughly 5-6 places a day, at least five days a week. That means by the beginning of October, I'd applied for over a hundred jobs. Besides one or two "thank you for your application" emails, I had nothing. Now this was the calm before the holiday storm, so retail and food/bev places were dead, but still. Over one hundred not-even-worth-responding rejections can do a number on one's self-esteem.

I am not a special snowflake.

At least in all this struggle and doubting of self-worth, I had the uncommon luck of amassing a really tight-knit group of friends. To keep our spirits up, we started an elaborate prank war on social media. I came back from running an errand to find no less than eight facebook statuses about feces and my bowel movements one day. Really high-brow humor. The worst/best at this prank war was a certain friend whom I will call the Buffalo, because he's actually a centaur-like creature - half-man, half-buffalo. That may seem hard to believe, but my life in Los Angeles is pretty much a magical realism fantasy, so just go with it.

Finally, finally, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I got a phone call! Not an email, not an automated response, but an honest-to-goodness HUMAN BEING who wanted me to come in for an interview the next day. I would be interviewing for a receptionist position at a talent agency less than a mile from my apartment. Seriously, the best possible job I could find and it was within my fingertips!

In my excitement I told everyone - my soon-to-be gentleman caller, my redheaded twin, my roommate, the Buffalo. I would finally be a productive member of society! I would finally be able to order drinks when we went out!

I wore my best professional chic black dress - pepulm and peter pan collar and HIRE ME heels. ("Hire me" heels are like "F-k me" heels, except slightly more subtle). I carried my designer bag that my aunt got for me after graduation, specifically so I would look fab for interviews. I reviewed potential interview questions with my friends beforehand. I splurged on a *grande* latte as I got ready that morning. I walked in to my meeting with the two main agents with my head held high. That job was mine.

They proceeded to tear apart everything on my resume, as if they hadn't seen it before calling me.

"So two years in a performing arts box office... you haven't *really* been a receptionist before?"

"So you don't have industry experience?"

"So you don't have advanced Excel knowledge / mutli-line phone / weird specific human resources software experience?"

"So... you have archery listed as a 'Special Skill'?"

The first three I managed to stammer through justifications and explanations of how my other traits transferred over, but the last question got me excited. We were always encouraged in college to throw in a hobby or outside skill on your resume to show well-rounded and drawing connections. TIME TO SHINE.

"Oh yeah, I'm pretty handy with a bow and arrow! It'll cut down on your security costs, ha ha. It requires attention to detail and focus, which are traits I will definitely bring to this position. And also I'm really good at 'hitting my target' goals, ha ha ha..."

They didn't laugh.

They proceeded to explain that they didn't like to hire anyone who had any interest in acting whatsoever, because they'd had trouble with girls stealing breakdowns and submitting themselves for projects. However, they really liked me (maybe the archery jokes won them over), but they were skeptical and did I have anything to say?

Did I have anything to say?

You can reject me. You can not laugh at my jokes. You can think I'm unfit, and a loser, and not right for the job. But don't question my integrity.

I stood up in the office and eloquently argued that my journalism training forbid me from compromising secrecy of information, that journalists had been imprisoned for protecting the anonymity of their sources. I stated that I was a Christian, and maybe that didn't mean much in LA, but that I strove to adhere to a strong moral code of honesty and truth. Never has a receptionist position been held with such a sense of duty and responsibility.

When this was my only job prospect for weeks, I really did treat it as if my life was on the line.

They loved it. Their whole demeanor changed and they continued talking with me for a couple more minutes in a much more relaxed, pleasant manner. They told me that I would definitely hear from them soon about scheduling a follow-up interview. SUCCESS. Kinda.

I scooted out of the tight parking lot on cloud nine. A few hours later, my phone lit up with a call to them. I shrieked to my roommate that "THIS IS IT / it's happening / a real job / a grown up job / time to start shopping at J Crew / I'll have my own desk and everything / la la la."

I answered to a very strange, very angry voice.

"You hit my car in the parking lot today / I saw you / White car / my car is ruuuuuined"

Oh. No.

I was almost a gazillion percent certain I hasn't sideswept anyone, but then doubt crept in. It was a tight parking lot, after all, and they had the description of my car. If it was something like a BMW or a Porsche (stupid Porsche drivers), then even the slightest mark could be cataclysmic. Especially since this person had a really weird accent and sounded very hoity-toity important Hollywood type. My entire career could be over.

I started to apologize and they hung up abruptly. The Agency. My job. Car insurance. Oh no oh no oh no.

I called them back immediately and began apologizing as soon as the current receptionist answered.

"Um... whaaaat." She stopped me with the Southern California vocal-fry that makes my ears bleed.

"Someone from the agency just called me on this number and said I hit their car when I was leaving. I interviewed this morning for the reception position, I'm R.Grace. I was just their a couple hours ago. Um, um, please connect me to whoever called / I am so sorry / I didn't think I hit anybody / but if I did I want to apologize / and I'll fix it / I'm so sorry / I've never hit anybody before / omg omg"

She put me on hold to check with everyone in the office. Werk that multi-line phone, girl.

"Uhhh like no one here called you?"

"I... but... I got a call from this number. They knew my car from this morning."

"R. Grace? From this morning? Like... let me check again."

After an agonizing two more minutes, she confirmed that like, no one there had called me. Unless someone had left early. But she didn't have a record of a call to me anywhere in her system. I hung up, shaking and on the verge of a complete meltdown, and saw a missed call from the Buffalo. I immediately called him back to relay my tale of misery and woe.

The Buffalo:  "Hey R. Grace, how's your car? Heh heh." Wait, what?

Me: "Oh my gosh were you near the agency / did you see something happen / I just called them back / I don't know what happened / omg omg omg / life ruined / how could I have hit someone's car / omg"

The Buffalo: "What do you mean, you called them back?" I detected a slight note of concern in his voice.

Me: "I got a really weird call from their number so I called them back / I hit someone's car / but they were gone from the office / oh no oh no / I have ruined my chances / I am a failure / might as well move back to North Carolina"

The Buffalo: "R. Grace, didn't the voice sound super weird and fake? Wasn't it strange that someone would freak out on you on the phone without giving any personal information? And then I called you immediately after?"

Me: "I mean yes but this is Hollywood. People are weird. Some agent wants to sue the pants off of me."
The Buffalo: "R. Grace... the agency didn't call you. It was me."


Apparently, there is a nifty little app (I had a dumb phone at the time) that will disguise your number as another number for less than a minute of call time. Our friends had discussed this about a week before but I hadn't paid any attention, because it wasn't something I could use. He chose a number I would recognize so I would pick up, and then adapted a terrible accent and an outlandish story just to rattle me for thirty seconds or so before he called to laugh at me. However, he didn't take into account two things:

1) I take everything literally.

2) Crazy situations like that ACTUALLY HAPPEN to me all the time (see: any previous story on my blog.)

Had I taken a minute to think about the situation before calling, I would have realized how fishy the situation was. I was deeply embroiled in a prank war. I *knew* I hadn't hit anyone. The voice was laughably weird. There was no actual information exchange or way I could have contacted the angry car owner. I just so happened to get a phone call from the Buffalo immediately after. And yet. I fell for it. And I fell hard. In the midst of processing this, I realized:

The agency had no idea about any of this. they just had a nearly-hysterical interviewee call them about a call that they CLEARLY didn't make, that the entire office now knew about. I could see them marking my name off of the list.

Cue: complete sobbing breakdown


Yelling, sobbing, yelling, sobbing. This was very dramatic.

He offered to call the agency and explain that it was a joke gone awry, and that he never imagined I would call them, and it was all a silly, silly, misunderstanding.
I wonder which is more undesirable, a crazy girl who thinks someone called her in a rage, or a crazy girl with crazy friends who play elaborate games? My guess is both get a big red line through the name.

 I told him it wasn't worth the effort, and stormed out of the house, absolutely convulsing with tears. My life was an abyss. I was never going to get hired and would have to move home with my parents. My mean ex-boyfriend would be proven right, and I would live out the rest of my pitiful life in obscurity.

The next day, I heard from the super cool bakery that I'd contacted back in MARCH, that they wanted me in for an interview. And shortly after that, two retail stores called me to say they were starting their seasonal hires early. My funemployment was drawing to a close.

I decided to look up the agency online to wallow a bit longer, and found terrible reviews of shadiness, additional fees, and dishonesty.

You know, all the things I so ostentatiously orated against.

Well nevermind then.

The Buffalo (after much apologizing), points out that he inadvertently saved me from possibly getting tangled in scams and who knows what else. What seemed awful in the moment was actually a saving grace.

Meanwhile, I'm looking into pursuing a Master's in British Literature so I can move up in the world and start serving coffee.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Real Cinderella Story Incident

I finally understand the phrase "so broke it's not even funny."

Maybe it was working an eight hour shift followed by six hours of babysitting. Maybe it was picking up last-minute babysitting on my first (supposed) day off in eight days. But as I sat in the gas station serious contemplating just sleeping there instead of spending half of the evening's babysitting money on gasoline to get home, I was not laughing. Not even an ironic chuckle.

Everyone makes the whole starving artist thing sound glamourous until you actually calculate cost-per-bite of your frozen pizza.

I sat morosely in the light of the Beverly Hills gas station, surrounded by BMWs and Porsches and people who could afford appetizers with their meals. I glumly flicked through my work schedule on my phone, trying to calculate how many days I could cut out my beloved Starbucks and/or food overall. Somewhere in the distance, a tiny violin played a sad, sad song.

I finally filled my car up (okay, a quarter of a tank) and gathered myself to leave... when someone pulled up right next to me - uncomfortably close for late at night and a gas station in general.

I thought maybe it was a Porsche, because all Porsche drivers are dicks. I'm not sure if the car begets the sense of entitlement, or the sense of entitlement begets you buying the car. I just wanted to begettin' out of there - but when I looked back, the car kept going. What's more pretentious than a Porsche? A glossy, black limo.

The tiny violin played a little louder.

But then, out of the limo stepped... a man (what where you expecting? A velociraptor?). This man totally had the whole old-world seen-it-all Eastern-European-wise-mystical-grandpa thing going for him. He was decked out in a full classic chauffeur outfit complete with DRIVING CAP. But all of that was far less interesting than what he held in his hands. He walked right toward me, extending a huge, white envelope.

The tiny violin switched its tune from pity to a lively 18th century waltz.

He knocked on my window and I rolled it down, subtly wiping caked-on baby drool off of my shirt. His wize, godfatherly face looked genuinely excited -

"I am so glad to have found you!" He exclaimed. Um, me too, dude.

He then extracted from the envelope an invitation so ornate the paper alone probably cost more than my frozen dinner awaiting me at home. Gorgeous pink marbled paper, embossing around the edges,  gold script trailing the edges... I scanned the top to discover...


And suddenly it hits me.

I am Cinderella.

Like, forreal.

I've seen all the Disney movies and 90s Rom-Coms. Ever After taught me that the fairy godmother could be a clever old man. A Cinderella Story taught me that it could totally happen to just a girl like me. The Little Mermaid taught me that I didn't even have to speak the same language as my prince. I was ready for my big, magical reveal. Bippity-boppity-boo me up, captain.

"Map on phone? Can you find this address?" He pointed halfway down, to an address barely legible in all the swoopy script.

"Uh yeah... sure?" I fumbled with my phone. Maybe this was the modern-day equivalent of the glass slipper? I hope my future prince didn't expect me to be technologically adept. Wouldn't we have servant to update our twitter statuses and instagram our breakfasts? I anxiously typed the address in... and it was so close I could practically walk there! Obviously, I could quick change in the gas station bathroom, they could just drop me off at front, and then pick me up and take me back to the gas station by midnight...

"Oh thank you. Good." And then he abruptly shoved the invitation back in the envelope, marched back to the limo, and sped off into the night.

Wait! What about me?

I briefly considered following him and just turning up anyway, but then I surveyed my sorry estate. A half-eaten turkey sandwich and worn flats with a hole in the bottom sat shotgun. Weird yellow streaks wrapped around the front of my car from a run-in with some poles. I smelled like Desitin and my hair was matted in one place with milk.

I sat there a couple minutes just in case. The roaches skittering about didn't suddenly become anthropomorphic and commiserate. None of the sliced mangos at the fruit stand turned into a magical carriage. And my fairy godfather did not come back.

I drove off, trying to drown out the tiny violin with some awful sex-you-up-real-good song on the radio. Some day, my priiiince will come...

And then a Porsche honked at me.