For a brief time, back in the summer of 1991, when I was a struggling actress in Los Angeles, I had the worst job in the world. Okay, maybe not THE worst job in the world. It didn't involve road kill, or cleaning sewers or anything. But it was everything I could hate in a job all rolled into one. I will explain...
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I started working pretty steadily as an actress. When I had lived in Dallas, I had worked in a book store and as a nanny, but since moving to LA, I was lucky enough that I'd never had to have a "day job".
But for a while there, things dried up. I was broke. I could probably have asked Mama for the cash to tide me over until I booked another tv gig, but I just couldn't do it. I was 30, for God's sakes, I should have been able to take care of myself.
So I started to hunt for a part-time job. This is a problem for the actor. You have to find a job that is flexible enough to allow you to go to auditions whenever they need you during the day, often at the last minute, and on the other side of town.
But the biggest problem was that I had...no marketable skills. None.
I could sort of type, and thought I could maybe do temp work. But temp jobs weren't flexible enough, and I was auditioning quite a bit. I drove around the neighborhood filling out job applications at stores and restaurants.
One restaurant manager actually called me in for a meeting, not to hire me, but just because he'd never met anybody honest enough to to write "No waitressing experience" on a job application.
Finally, a woman I knew from a comedy improv class told me about a job which sounded doable. No experience necessary. Worked only weekend nights, and you could make a couple of hundred dollars a week.
And so I became...a rose lady.
You've seen them. My job was to fill my car with cheap roses, then drive around the city to restaurants and clubs and stroll around the places, hawking my wares to unsuspecting patrons at outrageous prices.
The woman who owned the company (who happened to be a Scientologist, and I was one of her only non-Scientologist employees), had made deals with certain restaurants to allow us in - I guess they got some kind of a kick-back. I had to dress up in a frilly white blouse with a ridiculous amount of cleavage, and tight black pants, then carry a massive, rose-laden basket around with me. I offered three rose options - the single rose, the small bouquet of 3 roses, and the large bouquet of 6, which cost a whopping $20.
The idea was to walk slowly around the restaurant, and while we were not allowed to actually flat-out ask anyone if they'd like to make a purchase, we were allowed to stare intimidatingly. Then once some poor sap, in an attempt to impress his date, asked to make a purchase, I could pounce. The idea was to insinuate that only a pathetic cheapskate would purchase his ladylove the single rose. And that certainly she would be more willing to put-out later if he went for the big bouquet.
Apparently, there was much bickering and jockeying for the good restaurants amongst my fellow rose ladies, who I only saw when picking up roses at the beginning of the night, and dropping off the leftovers at the end. But they all liked me, because I had no interest at all in the good restaurants. I wanted to be working the most obscure, far-off-the-beaten-path restaurants possible, in hopes that I would NEVER run into anyone I knew.
So I took the route deep in the valley. I drove from Sherman Oaks all the way out to places like La Puente, El Monte and West Covina. These are places where you expect to happen upon a body dump.I started the evening at family restaurants, and ended it at discos and country-western bars.
I hated it. I hated it deeply and painfully. First of all, I am a POOR salesperson. And the thought of pushing some poor dude on a date into spending all his money on some cheap roses just made me weak. I felt so guilty.
I did make a few bucks. But I felt like a whore.
Finally, after about two months, I booked a recurring role on the tv show Wings, and quit the rose ladying so fast it would have made your head spin. In one day, I went from pimping roses to kissing Tim Daly. Such is the business.
I tell this story as a cautionary tale to any young actors heading to Los Angeles without any marketable skills. DON'T DO WHAT I DID! Have a backup job just in case!
And sadly, the smell of roses always takes me right back there. Damn. The smell of humiliation.
This post was inspired by...
Prompt #4 - Tell us about a job you quit...why did you do it?