That Time People Thought I Did Amateur Porn.

13 Oct

Sometimes when you move to a new city, in a new state, it can be incredibly difficult to get employment.  I suppose this is because most people win jobs through someone they know.  When you’re new to town, this can be especially challenging.  I picked up everything and moved from Fresno, California to Portland confident I would find a job relatively easily.  I thought it was a larger market, I have 14 years solid experience in retail management, and I have friends and acquaintances who live there-how easy can it be?  It was hard.  I went on something like, 30+ interviews… one month later, still nothing.  I was getting scared.  If I didn’t find something soon I’d have to do the unthinkable and move back to Fresno with my tail between my legs.  Not that there were any jobs there either.  On one of my eight-hour stints on the computer, applying for anything and everything I rolled the dice on a humble Craigslist ad for a part-time barrista.  I was a manager of a Starbucks for 2 years, so I knew I was more than qualified.  The only catch-the details of the ad were murky.  It mentioned something about “classy but sexy attire”.  I was so desperate, I chose to ignore that line and sent my resume anyway.  I got a call the next day.

The man on the phone was nice.  He had a wife and a newborn daughter.  He was willing to hire me over the phone, based on my experience.  He was laid-back and friendly, told me about his business history and his vision for the future.  I trusted him, and could quickly tell that this was a guy I could have no problem working with.  He then explained to me the dress code.  I realize that I am interviewing for a Pacific Northwest oddity-“the bikini coffee shop”.  This one was a cart.  It still exists to this day on the corner of 7th and Madison.  This phenomenon  began in Seattle, as far as I can tell.  Coffee shops and stands sprouted up all over in which the people serving your coffee wear only a bikini, rain or shine.  He said I could start tomorrow.  With absolutely nothing else on the horizon, I agreed.

We don’t need to go into the specifics of what it was like to work at a place like this.  For me, I could sum it up in one word: humiliating.  I was in my 30’s, with years upon years of business management experience.  On top of my pride being hurt, I was shy.  I didn’t even wear a two-piece bathing suit in my backyard, much less in any sort of public forum.  I was pasty white, 15 pounds heavier than I was comfortable being, and poor.  REAL poor, meaning I was wearing ill-fitting and mismatched bikinis to work.  Oh ladies and gentlemen these were dark days indeed.  To cope I would try and pretend I was wearing my Starbucks uniform as 30 degree weather poured through my drive-thru window and whipped at my bikini-clad, chunky body.

Yeah. It was bad.
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I tried to maintain dignity as our gentlemanly regulars would ask me where I strip so they could buy a lap-dance later.  One regular would come every Friday and throw quarters in my window and watch me pick them up.  This went on for 6 dreary months.

Me, on a “theme” day.
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The worst part of the job?  The fear.  I would work all day alone.  I arrived when it was still dark, with no safety lights on the stand.   Just me in a bikini, inside a box, in a vacant parking lot.  Like a lamb tied to a steak to lure predators and sex offenders.  The second worst part of the job?  Having to fill the water tank.  Twice a week I would have to leave the comfort of my little box to unroll a 40 foot hose, stretch it to a car-repair shop, hook it up to their shop faucet, fill the tank, then roll in back up again all in my bikini.  Cars would honk, people would pull over, homeless dudes would charge me and there I was-all alone and defenseless.  In retrospect, being a stripper would have been way better.  I would have had bouncers to protect me and I wouldn’t have had to fill water tanks, shop for bags of ice at the cash & carry in awkward outfits and would have made WAY better money dealing with the same people.  Don’t get me wrong, the tips were good sometimes.

Rap video shot.
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Not all the regulars were creepy, either.  Some were funny and nice.  One regular, Ed would tip me with interesting books and nice bottles of booze on occasion.  There was a lot of down-time in which I read, wrote, listened to music, and watched movies.  There was also bonding.  The other girl who worked the stand on my days off would come and sit with me on Fridays.  We would get drunk together and talk about life.

Around the last month I worked at the stand, it happened.  The Portland Mercury released its weekly issue with shots from “the Hump Festival”.  For those that don’t know, “Hump” is the annual Amateur porn festival.  People send in their handmade creations in hopes of winning cash prizes and to be ultimately screened for the masses at a giant film festival people line up to attend.  The Mercury comes out every Thursday.  At 10 a.m. on Thursday morning, I received a picture text of this from my co-worker:

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Not sure what I was really looking at, I thought it was a random picture of me.  I put it out of my mind.  After work, I headed to the nearest bar for a cocktail (as one would typically need after working 9 hours a bikini coffee shop), grabbed the paper to read,  and saw it:

Bummed I was the least attractive in the photo.
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It looked SO much like me, it was shocking.  The very last thing I wanted in the entire world, working where I was working was press like this.  The men were already out of control, and that cover looked exactly like me.  The fucked up thing is any Portlander would kill to be featured on the cover of The Mercury-but not in this context!  Not at this time!   I kept looking at it over and over in complete disbelief.  Some shit like this would and could ONLY happen to me.  This is the kind of luck I have.  I thought I would test the waters.  I sent a picture-text of the cover with a funny explanation to Ross’ parents to see if maybe it doesn’t really look so much like me after all.  The reaction was bad.  To this day I’m convinced they really think that the photo was me.  I began to panic.  I had to work the next day.  “Maybe I’m being paranoid”, I thought.  “I mean, who’s going to really look at that cover that close?”  This was a fool’s comfort.  I  went in the next day at 6am.   My first two customers gave me smiles that should have accompanied twirling of moustaches, but nothing too terrible.  My third customer, however ordered a small coffee and slipped me this:

Awesome penmanship, bro.
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I calmly handed the gentleman back his change, shoved his coffee at him and slammed my window shut.  Yeah, dude.  I’m a fucking prostitute.  I mean, really??  Even if you thought, somehow in some way you could persuade me to sell my body for money…I mean, $20?  Don’t crack whores on the street get better that $20 shitty bucks for a BJ?  I thought I would be worth more than that, even if I was chunky and aging.  Everything to my core was offended.  Even if I were a hooker you’d better BELIEVE it would take me far more that $20 fuckin’ bucks to blow a stranger at 6:30 AM.  It didn’t end there.  That week that Mercury was on the stands was the most awkward week of my life.  The regulars at the coffee-box began to push the boundaries as far as what they could get away with:  asking me how much it would cost to see my boobs, will I take my bottoms off, etc.  It didn’t stop at the stand, either.  It didn’t matter where I went, people “recognized” me.  No matter how much I would protest that I wasn’t the girl on the cover, they would give me ‘knowing’ smiles. I felt like everyone’s eyes were on me, real or imagined.  Whenever I saw someone reading The Mercury, I felt like they were going to bring it over to me and ask me to sign the cover.

At the end of this very long, torturous week I met some friends at Langano Lounge.  I brought up the subject with the folks I was hanging out with and we grabbed a copy off a table so they could see what I was talking about.  One guy said he actually knew the girl on the cover.  It was like someone had told me they knew Bigfoot and drank mimosas with him on sunday.  I was in awe.  This guy had the missing piece to my hell-puzzle.  He told me that the girl was a hired model for the cover and he knew her well.  He admitted the photo looked just like me, but he told me the girl on the cover looks nothing like that picture in real life.  It was as if the powers at be wielded some cruel twist of fate against me by having a woman pose on the cover of a popular periodical  and turn her head just right to look exactly like me, nothing like her and seriously FUCK with me for 7 long days.  

Looking back at it, the situation was and remains to be funny.  At the time, however it was terrifying and uncomfortable.  The most ironic part about all this is at the time that issue was published, I was applying for a freelance food-blogging position at The Mercury-which I obviously didn’t get.  Maybe they looked at my Facebook and thought,  “we can’t hire that porn bitch!”  Who knows?  All I know is I’m glad to put that issue AND that job in the past where it cant fuck with me any more.

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One Response to “That Time People Thought I Did Amateur Porn.”

  1. DeAnne September 28, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    Way to make a terribly unfortunate situation a funny and engaging read.
    Keep writing. Perhaps you can make a new job of it. 🙂

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