By Gary Janetti
am 24 years old. I have signed up to do odd jobs with an agency
named Lend-A-Hand. It is a service that provides people with someone
to do anything from dog walking to party planning. I am in love
with the idea of having a different job every day. It is glamorous
and exciting and a sure way of putting me into some of the best
apartments in the city. It will not be long before someone realizes
that I am special and should not be bartending a cocktail party,
but rather hosting one.
my specialness is discovered I have decided that I will not let
on right away that I am even aware that I'm special. I will be humbly
taken aback when some new client demands to know why I am not starring
on a soap opera or the face of a large ad campaign. But as my adventurous
spirit dictates I will take to the idea quickly. Why not? I'll say.
I had not ever thought about starring on One Life to Live,
but if you say this part is perfect for me, who am I to disagree?
in all my previous jobs my specialness had gone undetected. I couldn't
be sure if the wait staff at Bennigan's was pretending not to see
it or were simply jealous of it. Either way, it was time to move
on. I needed to surround myself with those that would be most likely
to see what should by now be glaringly apparent. My specialness.
not actually know what it was that made me special or what it was
my specialness would translate into career-wise, but I felt that
that was something I need not concern myself with as the person
who discovered me would no doubt have many ideas of their own.
Yes, Lend-A-Hand is just what I need to showcase my specialness
to its full advantage. How fun it will be when I am pouring wine
at a holiday party and those in attendance confuse me with somebody
famous. When I explain that I am just a waiter they will eye me
quizzically, wondering if perhaps they are the butt of a practical
joke. A waiter? Ridiculous.
the groundswell of attention builds, some guests will most likely
place bets about what I studied, who my favorite authors are, where
I have traveled to. While others will simply wonder what I
really think of them.
no fault of my own, I will become the centerpiece of the evening.
This unwanted attention will initially make me uncomfortable, but
I will rise to the occasion by commanding every topic that is tossed
my way. Finally, the host will pour me a drink and demand
"for god's sake, put down that tray." People who have
been dying to talk to me all night will now come forward freely.
I will make important friends whose primary interest will be my
the end of the evening there will be an announcement by one of the
more influential guests. He will tell those assembled that they
have all witnessed my last night as a cater waiter. There will be
applause, appropriate blushing and downcast eyes on my part, followed
by an incredible job offer. One that might involve traveling, wearing
expensive clothes, or starring on One Life to Live.
the realist that I am, I have prepared myself for the possibility
that this might not happen on my first day. But I am fairly certain
that the wait will not be a long one, as I have a feeling that the
time is now exactly right for my particular brand of specialness.
And Lend-A-Hand seems to be the perfect springboard to catapult
me into unimagined success.
the call that offers me my first job. It is to assist an elderly,
disabled man with household tasks. This does not seem to afford
the best possible opportunity for highlighting my talents, so I
politely decline. The woman on the other end of the phone tells
me that if I don't accept it, in the future she will withhold from
me the better assignments.
mention that I hate the woman who calls to match lend a handers
with prospective employers. She behaves as if there is nothing special
at all about me. As if I am like every other aspiring loser that
she deals with on a daily basis. But then I remind myself how stupid
she'll feel when my specialness is revealed and my hatred for her
is temporarily squashed.
I later think to myself, this older gentleman could be my benefactor.
Now I would be a fool to think a complete stranger would re-write
a will to leave their untold wealth to someone who tidies their
apartment for one afternoon. But the truth is, it could happen.
actually moved when I think of how much joy I can bring into the
life of this well-to-do, wheelchair-bound shut-in. Sipping tea as
we leaf through family photo albums. Listening to old 45's as he
tells stories of his foreign travels. My youthful enthusiasm making
him feel alive again for the first time in decades. How could someone
not want to reward that? I could be securing my entire future
this very day.
I enter his apartment the first sign that I might have misjudged
the situation is the smell. It is not the whiff of coziness and
abundance, but rather that of urine and rotting fruit. The client
has wheeled himself uncomfortably close to me, his footless leg
dressed in a brightly colored argyle sock.
orders me into the kitchen so that I can begin reorganizing his
cabinets, arranging all the food items according to size and color.
While on the surface, color coding canned goods appears fairly harmless,
it is to be the first of many labor intensive, anally compulsive
chores. The chances of my specialness being appreciated while folding
a closetful of linens into the size of chocolates are now appearing
the situation and forego my previous goal of becoming an indispensable
companion, preferring instead to look on this as character study
or a form of performance art that will later help inform a multi-media
piece, one-man show, or really great essay that will appear in a
literary journal and win prizes.
polishing his Hummel figurines with a toothbrush, I decide to show
an interest in one of the books on his nightstand. My final hope
is that this act of kindness will be just the gesture to help loosen
the pursestrings of an eccentric millionaire. When I tell him that
Dickens is my favorite author, he asks me if I will wash his stump.
request only further underlines the unlikelihood of any inheritance,
much less a tip.
The Lend-A-Hand jobs that follow in the months to come range from
shirtless bartender to restroom attendant in a private home. The
majority of them feature drunken groping and human waste.
paying a small fee for you to provide any service that they require
had at first seemed like a thrilling opportunity to dabble in a
variety of occupations, but upon further reflection revealed itself
to be something much more simple. Slavery.
to say, not one of these assignments provided a suitable platform
for my specialness, and I now can not help but be forced to consider
the question that had secretly been gnawing at me for years.
if I'm not special?
certainly been told it often enough by my parents. Some of my teachers.
Even a neighbor.
I quickly silence that voice, reminding myself that most of those
people are either alcoholics or dead, and take an action that will
most definitely steer me in the right direction.
a bellman at the Paramount Hotel. With so many people from all over
the world coming and going, one of them is bound to see what's really
then, finally, my life will begin.
version for easy reading
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