When my second job ended I was still financially at zero and needed to get a job quick. This time I didn't look for entry level and instead looked for anything that hinted at creative. Four days into my search I saw an ad for a scanner operator at Time Inc. Fuck, man. Time Inc. Imagine working there. Maybe I could work there. Why couldn't I work there. I was going to work there.
The scanner operator at my old job talked a lot about what he did and I started thinking about the language he used. I realized I knew enough to bullshit my way in to an interview. I tweaked my resume, sent it over to Rockefeller Center and two weeks later got a call. I put my one suit on with shoes and purse that matched and I went to the interview.
The person I was meeting with was in the Ad Center, a branch of Time Inc. that was in the basement. When I got there he put his hand out and I shook it and started talking. "I don't know much about scanning," I said, then my eyes started rolling around crazy. "I really want to work here. My last job was at an imaging house and I know how to do everything else it says on my resume. I read 'What Color Is My Parachute' and I'm willing to work hard and do whatever it takes and the two companies I've worked for so far have gone out of business -- Oh! Scitex backed the second one and even though the owner took off with their money they liked him!" He wrote something down, then smiled. We stared at each other and I saw he wasn't annoyed that I lied. I asked, "Do my skills fit anywhere?" He nodded and made a phone call. What I heard sounded like the parents from Peanuts: "Whah wah, wah wah wah." A minute later he led me down a hall to a cubicle. "Good luck," he said. "I hope you get the job."
It took five interviews: Peggy thought I'd be great but Alan didn't think I was the 'right stuff.' Everyone at Time Inc. was Ivy or had something stellar going for them, and my family's only claim to notoriety was when my uncle stood in the middle of Chinatown in Boston, shit his pants and yelled "I am NOT a homosexual!" Peggy prevailed and I got a job as a production assistant working at People Magazine.
The job was pure grunt: I was to check in advertising materials, log them into a computer and send the 4-color film to production to make sure it matched the color chrome the advertiser sent along. Each weekly magazine - People, Sports Illustrated and Time - had a team of four that worked side by side in an open plan office, across from cubicles filled with Team Leaders.
All of us, leaders and peons, were the misfit toy section of Time Inc. We were a posse relegated to the basement, made up of a compulsive masturbator (Brown); an he's-not-out-of-the-closet compulsive shopper (Yale); a 6' 5" female college basketball star (U of Texas) who wore skirts and tube socks; a Harvard grad who got lost every time he left the building; the son of a very famous Talmud scholar (Brown); a relative of Jimi Hendrix (Middlebury); a U of Penn PHD who's left breast was bigger than her right and asked me every day if I could tell (I couldn't); a pothead who loved heavy metal (his dad ran a printing plant Time Inc. used); and my boss, Mario, a 90-pound impeccably dressed weakling who was a virtuoso pianist.
A retarded monkey could do our jobs and we pissed the day away telling stories. "In college I worked in a custom shirt shop," Mario would begin. He grew up in blue collar CT and had put himself through Juilliard. "One day a Sheik came in with an entourage of 20. I closed the store for him and then presented our dress shirts as well as cuff and collar options. The Sheik chose 30 of every style I suggested." Mario chuckled. "Which were all our styles. I then went high into drawers, low into drawers pulling out all of our very best ties. He bought 7 of every tie." Mario wrung his hands, excited. "My boss watched from the doorway and I could tell he was pleased. When I rang up the sale, the total was over $35,000. It was the biggest sale we had ever had." Mario pulled a glucose monitor out of his shirt pocket and stuck his finger in it. He was a severe diabetic and had to test his blood frequently. "I carefully wrapped a tie for the Sheik - everything else would be shipped. I helped him and his entourage into a line of Rolls Royces outside, and when I went back into the store my boss came over and put his hand on my shoulder. I was ready for the accolades." Mario looked at his glucose number. "My boss looked into my eyes and said 'Mario.' I look at him, feeling nothing but love. I said, 'Was that spectacular?' My boss put his other hand on my shoulder. 'Mario,' he said. 'You didn't sell him the pin dot tie.' " Mario nodded his head to drive home the point then jerked up his shirt. He pulled a syringe out of his other pocket and stabbed himself in the stomach. "Who wants to go smoke," he said.
(Years later, long after I left, Time Warner purchased the above drawing on the left in 2004.)