Borders, Bluestockings, And Box Offices I Have Known
by Claire Lovell
Ticket Seller at Caramoor, June 1999 — June 2003:
I started working when I was 14 at an outdoor classical music festival. I made $6.50/hour and everyone I worked with was in college so it took me most of the summer to make friends. I went to boarding school (scholarships!) and didn’t have any friends in my hometown, so I decided to work as much as possible so I could at least make money, which went to help support my family. Since the college kids were eager to leave work earlier to hang out with their friends, I ended up being the last worker to leave pretty much every night. This impressed my boss, who came to rely on me enough that he promoted me to assistant manager my third summer at this job. That promotion set the path for me to spend 14 years in the ticketing industry. I ended up working here all the way through sophomore year of college. My final pay was about $15/hour.
Ticket Seller at SUNY Purchase, September 2002 — November 2002:
I worked this job for a short time because I hated my boss. I didn’t make as much here as I made working summers at Caramoor, and I felt my experience should have merited higher pay. Of course I didn’t ask for a raise and instead just quit for something better paying.
Bookseller at Borders, November 2002 — January 2003
Although I continued to work summers at Caramoor, I needed a job during the school year. I ended up getting this job as a seasonal worker despite the fact that I wore a long black witchy skirt to the interview and probably failed the 100 question pop psychology quiz they made me take over the phone in the manager’s office. I think I was paid $8/hour.
Receptionist at Biotech Startup, January 2003 — May 2003:
I arranged my school schedule so I could be here a few full days a week. The co-founders were never here and I basically sat in the office alone all day and wrote melodramatic livejournal entries while I waited for the phone to ring. I had a problem with oversleeping and was often late to work. Since the phone never rang I assumed no one noticed, but eventually I was fired. This is the only time I’ve ever been fired and I completely deserved it.
Bookseller at Borders (Again), October 2003 — April 2004
After getting fired I ended up applying to Borders again. Since I had only been away a few months it wasn’t hard to get re-hired. At the time Borders cultivated ‘quirky’ employees and I enjoyed most of my co-workers who were mostly ‘alternative’ type folks. That meant a lot to me as newly out lesbian. After the assistant manager ended up getting fired for stealing cash from the safe and credit cards from customers, I lost enthusiasm for the job. In the end I quit ‘for personal reasons’ which was actually me taking a spring break trip with my friends. It didn’t hurt that I had another part time job at the same time, so there was little risk.
Ticket Seller at White Plains Performing Arts Center, November 2003 — March 2006
This was my one and only connection-attributable job, which I got through my Caramoor boss’s wife. She worked in another theater which created a small satellite theater in the town neighboring my college. Although I was still working at Caramoor at the time, they asked me to come on-board for a few shifts during opening weekend. They never bothered to hire anyone else, and I worked here on and off for 2 and a half years, eventually leaving Caramoor since this was much closer to school and I didn’t have a driver’s license. My pay was approximately $13/hour. In the off periods of this job, I worked the following four.
Swim Instructor Helper, IT, Art Model at SUNY Purchase, September 2004 — May 2006:
Did I mention I can’t swim well? The swim job did not play to my strengths. Basically I held babies and toddlers and taught them to blow bubbles while real instructors did the rest. The pay was minimum wage. Once the class ended I needed to find another job to cover expenses. I had a short lived job in the IT department helping students with computer issues. Most of the job was installing anti-virus software. The job was extremely tedious and I was not very qualified. Though I did learn some new things, I quit when I was offered more work at the White Plains Performing Arts Center. A few months later I attempted one last side gig — a model for drawing classes because the pay $12/hour. However, I felt super uncomfortable with one of the students and quit after two sessions.
Live-in Nanny in Colorado May 2005 — August 2005:
The summer after Junior year I decided that I wanted to get out of the town where I was going to school for a while, so applied to be a live-in nanny on a whim. The woman who hired me was taking care of her mom with cancer, so didn’t have a lot of room to vet nannies, and ended up hiring me based on a phone interview. I flew out the weekend after school ended and lived with the family all summer until school started again. I had weekends off, room and board and $140/week in payment. This was the hardest and loneliest job I’ve ever had and it was a long summer. I was happy to fly back to New York. The mom booked my flight for the wrong day though so when I got to the ticket counter I had to overdraft my debit card to get booked on that day’s flight. Thankfully she was nice enough to cover the difference and my overdraft fees.
Front Desk Clerk at Doral Arrowwood, May 2006 — February 2007:
I wasn’t able to finish my degree in the first four years, so I began my fifth year of college with significantly higher costs as most of my grants didn’t extend into year five. I was able to get a full time job at the beginning of the school year at a hotel. This pace of this job was insane and I dreamt almost every night that I was checking in guests. My schedule was 11–7 so I was basically completely exhausted at all times. I got a raise to $14/hour and a promotion to supervisor after about 6 months there. That only made things crazier and I was forced to quit around mid-terms in the second semester in order to pass my finals.
Customer Service at TicketFusion, February 2007 — May 2007:
Although I had quit the hotel, I still needed to make rent so I turned back to the ever faithful ticketing industry. I only had this job for a few months, but it was pretty glorious. It was a salaried (28k/year) office job within walking distance to my house. I would have kept this job for a while except I decided to move to San Francisco after college.
Entry-level IT Work/ Box Office Assistant, SF Jazz, May 2007 — July 2007:
I moved to San Francisco without a job, and took the first thing I could find. The pay was $12/hour. I was supremely unqualified for this kind of high level IT work and I hated the work to boot. Essentially I had to wake up at 5AM to monitor servers for errors or downtime. I lasted two months before I found a new box office job. This job was part time with no opportunity for advancement, so I never stopped looking for another job even when I took this one. The pay here was also $12/hour.
Assistant Box Office Manager at DaVinci exhibit, July 2007 — November 2007:
This was an amazing opportunity although it was a contract job. I applied for the manager position and was instead given the Assistant Manager role. I had a lot of fun working here and finally felt like I was getting to know some new people. The salary was the best I had ever made at $39k/year and I learned a lot about managing a box office more efficiently. Although this job brought me more stability, I was lonely and missed my girlfriend who lived in New York. My sister has her first baby as well around this time and I was excited to be an aunt, so I moved back at the end of the job.
Temping/Sales Assistant at Lighting Store, November 2007 — June 2008:
Moving back to New York City was probably a mistake that set me a few years back in potential income and advancement opportunities. When I moved back I couldn’t find a job anywhere, so I signed up with a temp firm. After a few receptionist gigs they placed me at a high-end lighting store. I helped our sales manager who was gearing up to go on maternity leave. She opted not to come back after she had her baby, so once again I was looking for work. I honestly can’t remember what I was paid, but I do remember it was hourly and percentage of it went to the temp firm.
Box Office Manager at BMCC, June 2008 — September 2008:
Eager to get back to a full-time, salaried position, I ended up getting a job as a Box Office Manager at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. The job paid 30k/year which was fairly untenable in New York City. As part of a college, there was a lot of red tape to deal with. When I got offer to work 4 days a week for 39k/year, I didn’t hesitate to make the jump.
Assistant Box Office Manager at Bodies Exhibit, September 2008 — November 2009:
This exhibit was owned by the same people as the DaVinci exhibit, so the job was very similar. I had applied at the same time I had applied to BMCC, but they had already filled the position by the time they got my resume. That person didn’t work out, and since they had kept my resume ‘on file’ they called me a few months later with an Assistant Manager position. After a time my boss left to pursue another career and I was promoted to Box Office Manager. I am ashamed to say I was so excited about the offered salary (59k/year) I did not negotiate at all. I unfortunately lost this job a few months later due to a contract dispute between the owners which resulted in all management being laid off. Without any work to keep me in New York, I began planning my move back to San Francisco.
Shift Lead, Bluestockings June 2008 — July 2010
After volunteering for Bluestockings once a week for a year, I was offered a paid position to run shifts on my own. Although the pay was small, it helped fill out my unemployment earnings ($320/week) enough that I could get by.
Account Manager at Ticketing Software Startup, July 2010 — January 2013:
After eight months of unemployment, I saw a listing on Craigslist that I knew was for me. The job was for an Account Manager at a ticketing software startup. After eight months of job searching, I could see box office work was no longer a viable employment option. I wrote an impassioned cover letter on the future of the ticketing industry being online, and was offered an interview via Skype just a few hours later. Apparently the hiring manager hadn’t noticed I lived in Brooklyn when he first agreed to the interview but went along with it anyway after it was pointed out to him. I did well on the interview and was offered the position in two weeks with no moving costs. I sold everything and took a flight exactly 14 days later. I learned a ton at this job and finally transitioned into something besides the box office. I received a raise to 60K/year at 11 months, and a promotion to supervisor of my department after 1 and a half years. About 6 months after that, my wife (then girlfriend) and I moved to Santa Cruz for her to get her PhD. I was allowed to work remotely but that killed any chance of a raise or promotion, so I began the search anew. After two and half years here I found my current job.
Customer Service Manager at Law Enforcement Startup, January 2013 — present:
Having proved myself as in customer service at a similar kind of startup, I miraculously found one of the few jobs in tech in Santa Cruz. They matched my salary and allowed frequent working from home. After the first year, we hired a new CEO who instituted a more strict policy about being in the office. Armed with a list of my successes I was able to turn this policy change into a raise with a performance based bonus. Part of my agreement to get such a big raise was that I would stay with the company for two more years while we are building up our startup. I also receive equity in my compensation, so I’m invested literally and figuratively in helping the company succeed. Assuming everything goes well, I won’t be looking for a job again until at least 2016.
Claire Lovell is a native New Yorker currently residing in Santa Cruz, California. Recently she was excited to learn she is in the top 1% of readers on Pocket, and probably needs to spend more time outside. Sometimes she thinks of New York City and doesn’t miss it at all. You can tell her why she should @halfwrittensong.