The Road Taken: The Artful Dodger

Chapter 4:  “First time?” asked the girl in the navy suit. “You look lost.”

I had just arrived at the University of Washington’s HR office, and was feeling overwhelmed by the task of job hunting. There were a number of job openings posted on the bulletin board, but mostly for secretaries, a librarian, a short order cook for the student union, an associate faculty position for the History Department, and a job in shipping, in which I would need to be prepared to lift 200 pounds.

Lia, my guide through the streets of Seattle, was the Artful Dodger (right) to my Oliver Twist.

I glanced around the room, which was small and confining, and filled with at least a dozen other job seekers. After nearly a month of pounding Seattle’s job market pavement, I was feeling as though someone ought to pound me. Back to the east coast, that is. A refrain kept ricocheting through my head: What was I doing and how did I get here?  More importantly, what made me think I could find a job on this university campus?

I looked at the girl in the suit, who gazed at me expectantly. She had short, dark hair like mine, and a cheerful, warm smile. Which made me want to hug her.  At last, someone was making friendly overtures toward me. Take that, Marigold! To the moon, Stan!

Yes, I had now been living with my civilized housemates for three weeks, five days and 11 hours. And by civilized I mean, they conveyed their distaste for me, not by shouting insults or tripping me when I entered a room.  No, my insults came by way of silent glares, rolling of the eyes whenever they heard my still-strong New York accent, and by their cutting remarks, which had a knack for making me feel small. Real small.

Stan, a scientist with a PhD in chemistry, didn’t approve of anything I liked. “Too pop culture for my tastes,” he’d say, or, “So this is how the other half lives,” whenever I turned on the TV to watch an episode of “Dallas.” Stan had a way of looking at me as if I was an oddity or the subject of a study. You know, the one that gets the placebo, but doesn’t know it, and for whom there is no hope? Well, that’s me.

Marigold wasn’t much better. One evening, after having spent the entire day, downtown, dropping off my resume with several businesses, I came home to find Marigold and G lost in deep conversation on the living room couch.  Marigold’s cheeks were streaked with tears. I couldn’t see G’s face as his back was to me, but I did hear him sternly say, “It has to be this way—“, stopping suddenly when he noticed I’d entered the room.  Marigold bolted and G looked at me sheepishly.

“She’s just having a bad day,” was his response to my queries.  I tried to press him for more, but he said he couldn’t tell me, adding, “I need to respect her privacy.”

Which did little to console me, as it seemed no one was respecting me, let alone my privacy.

“Need some help?”

The girl in the navy suit looked to be about my age. For a moment I thought she worked here and was planning to guide me through the university employment system. I half expected she would next ask me to take a typing test. Instead, she introduced herself, Lia, and told me how she, too, was looking for a job. She explained how she’d stop by this office often, since new jobs were listed almost daily.  Lia then started asking me questions and when I told her I had a degree in journalism, she asked me if I’d visited the public television station on campus.  I shook my head.

Turns out, Lia, more than anything, wanted to be a photographer or a videographer, and had been visiting the station many times, inquiring about work in production. She was ready to take any position offered, she confided.  Then, her eyes widened.

“Hey, I’m going over there now.  If you want to come, I’ll introduce you to the receptionist.  Her name is Rose.”

I hadn’t even thought about looking for work at a TV station and was just letting the notion sink in, when she grabbed my arm and off we went.

As we walked across campus, Lia proved so genuinely kind that my intuition told me we were destined to be friends. Either that, or I was so used to being shunned by my housemates that any act of kindness felt like manna from heaven.  I was filled with a new optimism, that maybe life in Seattle had turned a corner. Lia was the Artful Dodger to my Oliver Twist, about to throw a lifeline to this friendless orphan. Perhaps a job? As long as it didn’t involve picking anyone’s pockets, I’d be happy with anything Lia was able to throw my way.

And suddenly, we were there. Before us was an old clapboard house.  Walking up the steps to the entrance together, I was grateful to have a seasoned job seeker by my side who, unlike me, was not shy around strangers.  Lia seemed a natural at this job-hunting business.  With great fanfare, she opened the door and took me right up to the receptionist desk. There, she enthusiastically greeted Rose, a young woman, with dark hair, freckles and green-speckled eyes, and I was impressed with how Rose recognized Lia, calling her by name.

“Rose,” said Lia.  I’d like you to meet Monica. She’s looking for work, too.”

36 thoughts on “The Road Taken: The Artful Dodger

  1. Pingback: Bosses: The Good, The Bad & Gleda Balls « Monica's Tangled Web

  2. It’s actually very rare to meet genuinely nice people in real life. I mean, now, in our day-to-day life, we’re all so busy we don’t have the time to help each other. We don’t live in the golden world. But every once in a while, when you meet someone who, being a total stranger to you, will still help you out, consider yourself lucky.

    Sometimes people are nice just for the sake of being nice and making a good impression. I guess that’s what I meant by GENUINE nice people. The ones that come and help you if you trip and fall down the street, or are lost, or don’t know what to do. I try to stay away from the fake ones, because they might just leave you at any time.


  3. Monica, I can already tell I will like Lia! When I saw you had posted another installment to your “memoirs,” I jumped for joy! I proceeded to get my cup of coffee, a scone, a blanket, placed Roxy at my feet, and sat back to read. What a perfect way to unwind after a busy day! I’m with Shary! I wish you could post every day, friend!

    • Oh, Bella, thank you so much! I’m glad that you’re liking my story, and especially delighted to know that Roxy is nearby, no doubt reading over your shoulder. 😉

      Wish you lived near Shary and me, as we’re getting together with about 10 others for a She Writes meetup next week. It’d be so fun to finally meet you!

      • Monica, you and Shary better be glad I don’t live close by because I’m afraid we’d get arrested for disorderly conduct! hee hee! Hey, sometimes loud partying and copious amounts of laughter is not well received by members of the “respectable” community! And how did you know little Roxy was reading your post alongside of me? 🙂 As for meeting up, I’m taking a rain check. I think Shary, you and I, should make a date to meet in Paris in the next year! How ’bout it? We can dress silly, and pretend we’re those dumb chicks from Sex and the City! hee hee!

  4. And I am sure that you paid that act of kindness forward many times in your life since meeting Lia. My “Lia” was called Joyce. She took me under her wing when I arrived in Montreal.
    Eagerly awaiting the next installment.

    • Without realizing it at the time, Lia put me on the path to where I am today. Without knowing, she shaped my career. Who would have thought, one act of kindness would put me where I am today. 🙂

  5. So is this how you got started in media?! Oh– and I couldn’t agree more with Kim and Holly! The cliff-hanger writing style about this time period in your life is the perfect “groove”!

  6. For some reason I haven’t been able to post on your blog for a bit. IPad issues? User issues? More likely! I have been jumping up and down wanting to tell you I LOVE reading your story. So well written, it is SO compelling in these little bites. I find myself so looking forward to the next installment. You are in your groove here, it is a great ride! Thanks Monica!

  7. Ah yes I have met a few “Stans” in my day. After he looked down his aviator glasses at you watching Dallas …….Remember he had to still be Stan the next day. Socially awkward, fashion challenged and couldn’t put a conversation together if his life depended on it . Love the character/real life descriptions.

  8. Hey Monica – I am loving following your story as it unfolds. I can’t wait for each instalment … it’s like, ah no, I’ve got to wait a whole week to see what happens next! (Like in the olden days, with Dallas!)
    Thanks for sharing your story
    Sunshine xx

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