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Clips from the many jobs of Tiffany Carter...

In my mind, Brian does a two finger salute to the Establishment, and it makes me happy. A friend of mine is working at a yoga studio, and it’s corporate. A corporate yoga studio. That’s like corporate religion. That’s like all the vintage shops in Silver Lake and Los Feliz that sell second hand clothes for upwards of $60. Twelve bucks is too much to spend on someone’s used T-shirt.


When I start hating on corporate America, I see that little figure of Brian in my head and it helps. Brian was my friend in Cleveland with shaggy red hair, black framed Weezer glasses, and the only man I’ve ever known with a pierced belly button. He was a production assistant and props master at the Play House. He wore CBGB T-Shirts and listened to Flogging Molly and Less Than Jake. We would go to the Grogg Shop and dance to Ska and drink Black Label beer for $1.25. He bought this house and painted the archways of the doors with silver stars.


And I’ll never forget the day he came over and I gave him a cup of coffee in my cobalt blue Starbucks mug. Utter disdain spread across his face. And I can’t recall what he said but I remember the sentiment: I was guilty of supporting big business and buying into a trend.


It hadn’t dawned on me up until that point. I’m a small town girl, and when I say “small town” I mean there is still not a traffic light in my town, I mean I had an Amish babysitter. We didn’t have delivery, let alone a Starbucks. The nearest McDonald’s was twenty minutes away. So going to Starbucks was a treat. It meant I was in a city. That I could have what everyone else had.


And who doesn’t want to be part of the “in” crowd, to see themselves reflected in the people on TV? I’ll have what she’s having, and I’ll have it in the to-go cup with the logo.


Corporate America Likes Conformity


When I was working at Elephant and Castle, kind of like the British TGI Friday’s, we were required to wear black uniforms, could have no tattoos showing, and only women were allowed to wear only one earring in each ear. We were such a plain collective that when I came back a couple months after I quit, I kept getting servers confused with other servers, and at least twice someone called me “Nancy.”


Like the now not-cool-to-visit Starbucks, which still dresses their employees the same, but then insists they put their name on a little board “Your Barista is Natalie. And I recommend: a Soy Chai Latte with a Maple Scone.” They try to create a “local coffee shop” feel and have the big black board hanging behind the counter with the chalked pictures and specials--which are sent by corporate in a mock-up so that every Starbuck’s can have it. Each has their little “Community Board” with fliers for local happenings, and sometimes forced Polaroid’s of the Baristas. And of course, the whole “ordering in another language” thing--most defiantly not a local coffee shop standard, unless you are in a Starbucks in, say, Florence. I disagree with the absurd fakeness of it all. The pretend local, community flavor which is part of a chain.


And to contribute to that faux sense of a friendly neighborhood place, closing time is technically stated as ten minutes after the time posted on the door. So if a costumer who doesn’t possess a sense of common decency decides to come in at closing, the Baristas will still be ready and waiting to fill his or her order. Because of this rule, several Starbuck’s employees were shot and killed when a man came in to rob the unlocked store, after “closing time.”


The individual does not have a voice in Corporate America. It’s essentially a dictatorship with a suggestion box that never gets opened.


A year ago today: Corporate America Has a Ladder. You Can Climb It.


Big Headhunting Firm in Chicago: I don't hate working in an office this week. I did not hate it last week. Like so many people I know right now, I too am not talking to The Muse, and am disillusioned with art. So I find my office time a little refreshing.


Cuz if you work hard enough in an office, you see results. And you get acknowledged. And you can accomplish things. And you can witness the system actually work. And that is refreshing.


People here say things like "Thanks a mil" and "Love ya." And "I hate that bitch" and then they pick up the phone with the sweetest voice and purr, "Terri, how are you? Did you get that spec?" They are exactly like the executives portrayed in movies. Living, breathing stereotypes, probably much the way my actor friends and I are. It's delicious. There is that sense of the world being as it should be. The women are in their late forties or mid fifties and anorexic. Every call they make, they have to make two sales: the client to the candidate, the candidate to the client. They make six figures and wear ice cubes set in platinum bands on their ring fingers. They have names like Bobbie and Betsy.


Something Better


It's 8:35 am and I have already uttered the word "Fucker." It's too early to be pushing through the throngs of cranky urbanites on the way to work, walking behind the tall broad shouldered black coated man and involuntarily inhaling a steady stream of his second hand smoke. I am either going to manage to work from home in the next year or move out of the city. And if I move out of the city I will set my stereo to the window and play "In a Big Country" loudly so that everyone walking up will hear it.


Yes, that's a good idea. And I'll drink my coffee and wear my robe and give a perplexed look of "What?" at passerby, as if this is the most normal thing in the world.


Corporate America is Too Good to Dial

Phone call comes in and I answer it, since his assistant is out. The man is a Big Important Business Man and sometimes, These People, they insist on doing these silly things that don't make sense. For example, forwarding you an email with information on it and saying "Can you put this in my calendar?" So you copy and paste. 2 seconds. Or writing an email and sending it to you and then asking you to copy what they wrote and email it to a client, on their behalf. So it's like it's actually from them. Which it is. Via you.

So I will tell you why I didn't just look it up and write it in myself. It's the principle, you dolt.

Because it's easier for your client to give me his phone number than insist twice that you have it and that you've called him before and that he is in his office. "And what is your number?" "He has it." "What is the best one for him to reach you at?" "He has it. He's called it before. I'm in my office." You COULDA just said: "645-3857." You coulda said that.

And knowing I COULD HAVE looked it up on my own and didn't, knowing Brad would ask me to do so, that was principal too. Because I am busy, writing a job spec for my boss, because I'm not his assistant, because ONE OF US has to look it up since Tom won't just give it to me, why not you? Too good? That's what it is. "Tiffany next time, could you just look it up and write it in for me?" "Yep." "Tiffany--????? Could you write it in???" "Sure!"

Only there's no next time, Brad. Cuz today is my last day. What're you gonna do? You're gonna have to look up your own phone numbers. Get some muscle in those weak little fingers.


The trains thunder by, they shake dirt and rust from the tracks, the pigeons scatter. in their offices, executives spout clichés into their busy phones, droning on, bees in the walls; they must be so bored of listening to themselves prattle. My lips are so chapped from the cold, they are glossy with carmex now, taste like menthol. I like to sit at my desk and pick my teeth, all unprofessional like. Lacking decorum.


I’m remembering the forearm of a waiter at Uncommon Ground. We were sitting outside on Grace St. at twilight, he reached to place our coffees down, and in black courier type ink it read "hey kid, remember."


How many hours of how many days of how much potential do I waste while I sit and wait? I can't think about it, it'll drive me mad.


It’s a Living


There's so many homeless. You either give them some money or you get really resentful, because, damn it, you are working for your money and you don't have a lot to share. Or you try to ignore them, do that "I can't see you," pathetic sort of route that makes you feel less than human. Like you're going to hell for sure. That man right now who's been camping on the corner, wrapped in a sheet of white tarp, with a bucket labeled "Bucket of Hope" and a sign propped up that says, "I'm just hungry." You don't get used to that. You don't get numb.


Today I went to Michigan Avenue to take pictures of the Christmas lights and decorations for my mom. Huge, huge thick fat snowflakes were falling like madness, catching in my eyelashes, twinkling all the millions of gold glitter lights in the trees. A man played a saxophone so that I wanted to cry, wanted to dance. I took his picture and the liquid jazz followed me down the wet street.  


In front of the Tiffany & Co. window, a man dressed in a creepy raggedy bear costume--matted beige fur, looking like someone’s old used teddy bear--was smoking a cigarette and asking for change. He sported bells and had a sign that said "Tingle Bell Bear." Like a bad Disney World reject. Like the kind of bear Mickey Mouse would buy crack from. 


There is a man on the corner of Washington and Dearborn who plays the accordion. Why? I wonder. Is it because he loves it? Is it because he isn’t good at anything else, but “This,” he thinks, “this one thing--this I can do.”


Five Years Ago


Cleveland, Ohio. I am slowly going insane. Or maybe that's just the alcohol talking. I've spent 47 hrs and 45 minutes since roughly Tuesday in the Play House, pushing on a door flat or tumbling down a spiral staircase to shove a desk onto--or pull the desk off of--an elevator, all to the beat of Scott Joplin/Irving Berlin’s rag time melodies. I’ve averaged about 12 to 14 hour days lately, in a cavernous space among equity actors and their completely bizarre rules all while wearing black pajamas and a flashlight around my neck.


I am hidden in the wings, out of the pools of the fresnels, clothed in black, kept quiet; it is my job to be a shadow and help create the magic on stage. It's not quite the job I want, which is to be in color, the focus of all attention, my voice loud and clear, wrapped in the spotlight. The theatre is home and it has started to seep into my bones and become part of my essence. Yet when I'm locked in its vaults, when I'm skirted off stage and shunned by Actors who don’t understand, who think I’m just a Techie, then I'm crackling with fury inside like electricity instead of blood is in my veins.  But I just move out of the way and do my job. Because you have to start somewhere. It's cold backstage, I get a runny nose sitting on a metal folding chair by a brightly colored table with fake pineapple cocktail glasses. Around me are cheap Goodwill lamps with frosty blue bulbs in them to create an icy bluish light for us to see by in the dark. The bassist in the orchestra keeps hitting on me. I keep avoiding him. It seems like I never have time anymore. Ah well. It's back I go. "How chic, darling, you match the curtains. Black is very in." If I get out early enough tonight I’ll walk to the lake. If I get out early enough I’ll paint my nails red glitter wanted. If I get out early enough I’ll read Ibsen. I’ll do my laundry. I’ll kill the cat. I’ll paint.


Part Time


Upstairs in Dave’s apartment, the radio is turned way up, and it pounds a muffled rhythm against my ceiling. ( I like this song.) In my skin, this fever is trying to burn, but I won't let it, I’ll will myself well, I won't be sick. Tomorrow I start at the Play House again. Anything is better than working in a clothing store (not true: factories, food service, janitor). so it's back to the black, to the flashlights and fresnels, slipping round the stage shaded to the shadows. I’ll see some friends, and most likely berate myself for my own acting hiatus. Started riding the city bus, and it's a liberating feeling, controlling your own destination with a deposit of $1.50.


I wore my grungy Converse sneakers to work today. And my best attempt at a reasonable pulled together and comfy ensemble. “I think Eric’s unhappy with me,” I said to James. “Well,” he said snidely, “it looks like you’re in your pajamas.” What can I say? I can’t wear JCrew correctly. There are worse things. Outside the rain blew off the awning to a different beat than the rain out on the street, and it was laden with the reflections of gold light--I stood still, mesmerized at its simple prettiness, and I'm sure they all think I'm crazy. But life is all about knowing where to look and when to stop, drinking it in, what's under the skin, behind your eyes, the taste of a moment; of not blindly going by.


Clocking Out


Wayne tells me that Wal-Mart is going green. Apparently someone showed “An Inconvenient Truth” to the ties at the top, and Wally World is going to go green. Meanwhile, this week at the yoga studio, the emphasis has been on selling. The numbers were down from last month. Packages need to be the focus point.


As I drive home from an audition, the sky is deceivingly gray, clouds swirled like vanilla mousse, and I have a clear shot of the Hollywood sign, perched on the mountains, and I think “What am I doing here?”


I blur with the scenery out here. I’m in a big city. I look like the people on TV. We want to be actors to reflect life, to tell stories, to take what is normal and display it, question it, discuss it, consider it. When everyone’s an actor, who are you teaching? What is there to reflect?


In my head, little Brian flips two fingers to the sign.

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