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Annabelle, R.I.P.

At last count, I've had over forty different jobs. Some were incredibly short lived (cocktail waitress - six hours), others were long term (private detective - ten years), and all of them served their purpose in keeping me fed and clothed.

I've not changed jobs so frequently because I'm incompetent, but because

  • A. I grow bored quickly.

  • B. I'm still searching for that elusive gig that doesn't get in the way of my creative work, work that's rewarding emotionally but not, to date, financially.

  • C. I have an uncanny knack for joining forces with companies riiiight before they go under.

One of my shorter stints was at the Learning Annex in New York. The classified ad asked for a “Customer Fulfillment Agent” (i.e. phones.) When I walked into the apartment turned office that served as headquarters, I noticed every Fulfillment Agent was a cute, white, twenty something chick. Turns out, these were the only requirements for the job. The boss looked a little bit like David Lee Roth and carried himself in that same lazy, louche manner. He was rarely there, so day to day operations were managed by a sweet, library lady type who, when she handed me my first pay check, whispered “You probably should cash this right away. Like now. On your lunch break. " It seemed my streak remained unbroken as the Learning Annex was having financial difficulties and about to be sold (though the owner apparently bought it back years later and is doing quite well.)

There are downsides to working for a company that’s going under, bouncing paychecks being one of them. The upside, however, is that the suits are so busy trying to right a sinking ship, the underlings have free reign.

To liven up what was a deadly boring day, we phone cuties had a competition to see who could get the most customer complaints. The daily winner drank for free that eve and the only rules were that you couldn't curse and you had to speak English.

The Learning Annex was purportedly an adult education/extension school but to its customers, it was an academic singles bar. This was in the early '90s, before online dating took hold, so upon answering the phone, the first question I'd get was inevitably a variation of "Whattya got wit da most single men? ”

I’d explain that I wasn’t privy to the class’s gender demographics and, even if I were, I had no way of determining a student's marital status, however, if the caller had an inkling as to what subject interested her, perhaps A Course in Miracles or Exploring Incan Pottery, then I could be of assistance.

“The HELL you don't know - look, my cousin met her husband in Caliente Salsa! and she's nowhere near as good lookin' as me, I just gotta find the right friggen' class!!”

So I’d skim the catalog, randomly pick a class that was undersold, and guarantee my caller it was simply awash in single, virile testosterone. I didn't worry about this coming back to haunt me because I used a fake name. I was Annabelle.

We were all Annabelle.

Sometimes a customer would call back to complain and we'd ask who took the original call. When they barked "Annabelle!" we’d gasp slightly and whisper “Annabelle? Oh. She died.” (We had another competition to determine who could spin the most gruesome How Annabelle Died tale. I recall one winning story somehow involving Alaska, sharks, and a dildo.)

Not everyone bought the Death of Annabelle and sometimes they'd demand "Lemme speak tah ya manager!” We'd tell them to hold for the manager, mute the phone, then instantly un-mute it:

“Hello. This is the manager.”

“What? You're not da manager. You're the same person.”

“No. This is the manager.” (No name, just ‘the manager.’)

“What the – lemme speak tah ya supervisor!”

“Certainly. Please hold.” (Mute/Un-Mute) “Hello, this is the supervisor.”


“This is the supervisor. How may I help you?”

“What the fu – you are NOT the supervisor! THIS IS NOT THE SUPERVISOR! THIS IS THE SAME PERSON!!”

And then, whoops!, we’d be disconnected. Ha Ha! Answering phones was fun!

Honestly, I can't remember exactly why I quit, only that I did, indeed, quit with no threat of being fired, which is a testament to how hands off the management was. I do recall my last paycheck bouncing and my having to call more than once to request a new check. Each time, I spoke to the new girl. Her name was Annabelle.

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