Cereal, Milk, and a Bank Loan (Part 1)

Bag of MoneyI own a copy of The Satanic Bible because of my time working at a bank.

Let me begin by pointing out that this was not a normal bank. For some reason, the higher-ups in the banking world (who I always like to imagine as fat pigs in suits with cigars) thought it would be a good idea to have a bank in a grocery store. Really? Okay, sure. This grocery store was also in the heart of a more struggling community, so the idea of a bank being in that store in that area made the entire experience that much odder.  Sometimes it would leave me feeling like we were taunting the more struggling citizens (those shopping with food stamps). Not for you…

No one that knows me would have argued that banking is the best career choice for me. Yes, I enjoy interacting with people and customer service to a certain extent, but numbers are not my thing. The one time I had ever (ever!) needed a tutor was for a beginning college course in Accounting. I remember the tutor having a hard time explaining something to me and so she would talk slower and slower as if it was the speed of her explanation that was the problem. For all I know that tutor is still sitting someplace trying to finish that sentence.

I was in grad school at the time (working towards a master’s in English Literature), and the job worked around my busy classroom schedule, so I couldn’t say no, no matter how off this position was for me.  It almost made me feel like I had a secret identity. At school I was in cool t-shirts and hoodies, talking about Virginia Woolf and William Shakespeare; at work, I was a business professional talking about mortgages. I was the English major’s version of Clark Kent.

Being in a grocery store, the bank looked more like a pharmacy, with one back office and a long counter. But instead of pills we were pushing financial obligations and long-term debt.  We were there to open accounts, sell the services of the bank. We were the front line of a financial war, and the shoppers walking around were the targets. Our weapons were free rulers and pens and other minor office supplies with our logo on them. It was also my job every thirty minutes or so to wander around those grocery aisles, interrupting strangers who were in the middle of shopping.  Honestly, it all felt so very rude and I hated it.

“Hi, I noticed you are buying groceries. Would you like a free notepad for your grocery list? No… Okay… Well, I’m with the bank over there and we are offering a new special on an equity loan… And… I’m sorry for bothering you.”

I said sorry a lot when I was on that job. Continue reading

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The Mad Man I Stole From (Part 1)

CarI needed money.

I had just moved out to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California. I was going to get my Master’s in writing and I had dreams of screenplays and television pilots, actresses calling me and pleading for a role in my latest projects. I also imagined myself wearing sunglasses a lot. The LA dream!

Now, I did have some savings before making the move. I had even set it up so my student loans would cover my student housing, but as the weeks turned into months I saw that savings stockpile dripping away thanks to food and a car loan, and maybe one too many trips to Disneyland.

My initial hope was to find work at a studio, but anything I would have gotten would have been so entry-level I’d be surprised if they even paid me a dime. I would be working for the experience and the contacts, probably a good decision for my career, just not for my livelihood. Plus, I had no idea how to make coffee. I assumed such a job would involve coffee.

When I first arrived in LA I did my best to get to know each of the professors (thinking that each was a possible contact to someone in the industry who might want a young, ambitious writer like me). One professor was quite fond of me since I recognized her from an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. I even owned a copy of that episode and she was thrilled to see she was listed on the back of it as a guest star. After that she gave me a series of odd little jobs, including once transporting some of her sculptures (she was an artist as well) in the back seat of my car. One of the statues was of an angel fallen to the earth surrounded by little rocks. I still occasionally find some of those little rocks in my car.

After eating dinner at her house with some of my fellow students (she was always having us over), she told me about this man she knew. Eccentric, she called him, a real character (“You would like him.”) and he owned a car company.

“A car company?” That idea floored me. How does someone just own a car company? Was he Henry freaking Ford?

“Well, the brand,” she explained noticing the expression on my face. “He is an entrepreneur and he is trying to start it up. He needs a writer. Are you interested?” Continue reading