Friday, June 17, 2005

Odd Jobs

Circa, February ‘92, I went on an interview for a personal assistant as advertised in the Sunday New York Times Help Wanted section. I phoned the person who’d placed the ad, an M. Kline who asked if I were available for an interview that very evening. With no pressing engagements, I agreed to meet Mr. Kline at his 5th Avenue apartment at 6 o’clock.

He asked my age, race, background, and the little voice questioned the urgency in scheduling the interview, but I had been out of work for over a month and thought this couldn’t be half-bad. It was Fifth Avenue, and maybe my head was in the clouds.

I phoned my grandmother and mother and told them about the interview with the mysterious and impatient Mr. Kline. As usual, Granny said, “Do your best!”

Mommie chimed in, “Be careful!”

Off to the interview.

When I arrived at the swanky (my by accounts) 5th Avenue address, an arrogant doorman gave me a hard time. What on earth would I be there at this hour? Five minutes later, after verifying information, I was on my way to the apartment.

Exiting the elevator, I noticed a young Latino about my age leaving the apartment. I thought he had been awarded the job, and why in the heck hadn’t I been told in the hours since the phone call!

I rang the doorbell, a faint voice called out to enter, “Back here,” the voice beckoned from the bedroom where his massive, freckled frame lie stretched out like a beached whale in his brass bed covered to his chest. Was this the big bad woof waiting to feast?

The apartment was dimly lit, and by this point, the Latino had returned from emptying the wastebasket. As he left the apartment, Kline told him he’d be in touch. Was emptying the trash and returning the receptacle a pre-job task?

Mr. Kline asked if I’d seen the apartment, and granted me a tour. Paintings, sculptures, Tiffany lamps and accessories filled his home, with splatterings of Lalique and Tibetan vases.

The sight of Mr. Kline reminded me of Jabba the Hut of the Star Wars saga. I returned to the bedroom, and as I spoke to him, I pulled a chair backward from his bed with my foot, hoping he hadn’t noticed.

Checking to make sure my mace was in my pocket, I sat and the interview began (Looking back on this, I should’ve departed then). I talked about my qualifications of being a caretaker (raising two brothers, cooking, being a take-charge person) and how I could benefit him, hours, fees, and perks.

He attempted flattery by telling me of his alleged friendship with playwright/actor Harvey Fierstein. He placed and received calls, two in particular, a “model” phoned and offered his penis-size, hair and eye color, and other measurements. Kline wanted to be offended, but was intrigued all the same. The little voice again spoke out! He then called a previous employee to scold him about his boyfriend calling to check up on him while working (during the phone call, they seemed to patch things up).

“Do you know how to massage? I tend to get stiff in and around my lower back.”


He needed assistance getting his large frame out of bed to go to the toilet; I struggled to help lift this man, all of three-hundred pounds to sit up in bed.

He wheeled himself around to the side of the bed, and oops! He was nude, ughh-ughh!

Returning to his bed, wrapped in a king-size beach towel, he asked for soda/juice to take medication.

I attempt to change the subject back to clerical duties that were supposedly in the job description.

He started to nod, and would be out for a few seconds at a time, it was really funny seeing his massive cranium fall into his chest, and then his struggle to lift it again. The shocker came when he asked pointedly if I’d mind bathing him.

“Oh, my gosh!”

“You don’t have to be nude unless you want to, there are swimsuits in the bathroom to use.”

“Excuse me?”

“I have trouble getting myself fully clean.” (Well, if you wouldn’t stuff your face all day, you could fit into the tub!) “I can’t quite reach my balls; I have a brush you could use!” (Like hosing down Shamu or Jumbo?)

Okay, I’m ready to go, and show my discomfort. I ask to make a phone call to alert friends of being late for a nonexistent dinner date; (actually to give the address should I go missing in action) he was completely pissed off that I wanted to leave!

“I wanted to try you out,” have you cook for me, and give you a chance to bathe me.”

Apparently, he didn’t hear me say, “When there’s ice-skating in Haedes!”

“I thought you were an actor? Aren’t all actors gay?” (Look, Shamu, not everyone is, and I’m not!)

“No, a few of us aren’t!” “Is it the way I look?”

“No! You could be a matinee idol, I’m still not showering with you.”

The attempt to leave was again stalled by his asking me to fix the ailing VCR, (when will it end?) the machine was Greek to me.

“I should have told you from the onset . . .”

“What you need is a nurse, not me . . . ”

After all had been said, and all attempts to sway had failed, the man was searching for a boy-toy, preferably young and agile. After thanking God on High for leaving unscathed, I phoned Sarah from a corner payphone to explain the frantic call earlier. We laughed, and I returned home. About two weeks later, I noticed that Mr. Kline had placed the identical ad in the NY Times.

Round Two.

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