Girl For Hire: Experiences in the Absurd and Regrettable

A chronicle of jobs I’ve worked since I was 15.

Photo: Amelia Cook/Flickr


Four nights a week, around 10, my mom picked me up from my summer job working at an ice cream store in a strip mall called “Magill’s World of Ice Cream.” I’d get into the passenger side of the Toyota Camry smelling like a combination of Lysol and Windex — having mopped the floors and cleaned the glass of the ice cream cases. I was 15.

On a slow evening at the end of the summer, I sat outside on the bench in front of the store with my two co-workers. One of them was a woman whose name I can’t remember. Jill? Jennifer? Something with a “J.” She had curly brown hair that came down to her shoulders. She’d gone to college and wanted to be a teacher, but couldn’t find a job. We watched the sun dip below the Wendy’s and the Rite-Aid across the street. I remember a feeling of pity rising up in me as she talked about looking for teaching work—how she couldn’t seem to find any. How humiliating, I thought, to be 25 and educated and scooping ice cream for a living.

My boss left me alone in the store one day, because some sort of minor emergency had come up — her kid got sick at daycare or her husband had locked his keys in the car, or something. The bell on the door jangled as she left me behind, braces on my teeth, to man the store alone. It was nerve-wracking, but the prospect of sampling every flavor of ice cream in the shop with no one to see was exhilarating. I wondered if anyone would check the security camera footage later and see me working my way down the line with the tiny plastic sampling spoons. My gluttony was far more powerful than this minor fear and I went through butter brickle, peppermint, chocolate peanut butter…

Mid-sampling, a family of three came in. I handed them their cones and rang them up, but must have pushed a wrong button on the cash register. It wouldn’t open. My face turned red. I felt hot panic rising in me. They stood there in their shorts and flip-flops. I pushed a series of buttons, but nothing. My eyes welled up as they watched me struggle. It didn’t occur to me to tell them to just go ahead and enjoy some free ice cream. It would have been a seven-dollar loss no one would ever have known about. But I made them stand there for fifteen minutes until I finally got the cash register open, tears streaming down my face, and by then, they’d already finished their cones.


The summer before my senior year of college, I hostessed at a restaurant called Brasserie Rouge in downtown Denver. Brasserie Rouge was a French restaurant with a fancy chef and a lot of buzz. The job was a leap in sophistication from the mediocre fish ‘n chips cafés I’d worked in the previous two summers. I sincerely believed that my getting hired there was indicative of my own newly-minted sophistication. After all, I’d just returned from my first trip to Europe and I was newly 21. I felt like I was on the cusp. On the cusp of what, I’m not quite sure, but I walked around that restaurant with the brazenness unique to a 21-year old girl with an abundance of misplaced confidence.

I was the youngest one working at Brasserie Rouge and I exploited all the Lolita-esque standing I could harness. Once, I made out with a server named Jason in the wine room. Later that week, I made out with my manager Jesse in the office. And we made out again. And again. Jesse had a live-in girlfriend. I was shameless.

I only came to regret that some time later when I fell in love for real. The thought of my boyfriend making out with some thoughtless college girl stabbed me in the heart. Ugh. 21.

I went back to school in the fall and a couple months later, Brasserie Rouge closed for good. Jesse sent me my last check in the mail. He’d gone to work as a manager in a strip club in East Denver called Shotgun Willie’s.


I spent hour after time-crawling hour sitting at the receptionist desk at the Judicial Arbiter Group, where my dad worked, and where I now worked. I was 28 and my life had hit a rough patch, so I moved back in with my parents for a while.

I hadn’t planned on working there. The office had already had a full-time receptionist, Rhonda, who’d been there for the last 14 years.

But about two months after I moved in with my parents, Rhonda was diagnosed with cancer. A month later, she died. And suddenly, there I was, sitting at a dead woman’s desk.

I sat in her chair. I used her pens. Often, my hands would dry out from handling so much paper during the day and I’d use her lotion — an economy size bottle of Jergens which sat on the desk next to a few framed photos of her kids.

A couple times a week someone would call: “Hi, is Rhonda there?” and I’d have to tell them that she had died. There was always a brief, shocked silence, usually followed by an, “Oh…”

There was an elevator that opened directly into that lobby, by the reception desk. The doors would open. Ding. Ding. Ding.

At night I would lie in bed, unable to sleep, and I’d hear it again. Ding. Ding. Ding.

I’d sleep for a few hours. Then I’d get up and sit at her desk again and I’d use her lotion and I’d look at her pictures, and I’d try not to think too deeply about sitting at a dead woman’s desk.


“Christmas With Ashanti”: that’s what my producer boss and I nicknamed the made-for-TV Lifetime movie we were shooting in a mostly-abandoned mall in the San Fernando Valley in June of 2013. The real name of the movie was, “Christmas in the City” and its premise was as mundane as its title. A small-town girl moves to the big city. She works at a department store during the holidays. There, she is confronted by a villainous store manager (played by late ‘90s R&B songstress Ashanti) — who is intent on sexing up Christmas. Cue shirtless beefcake male “elves” that Ashanti hires to work in the store alongside Santa. With the help of our small-town heroine, the true spirit of Christmas is eventually restored and the movie closes with the entire department store spontaneously breaking into a rendition of “Silent Night”.

Some interesting facts about Ashanti: She prefers citrus scented candles from Pier 1 Imports in her dressing room. She is fearful of being mobbed by fans in mostly empty malls. She puts ketchup on her Thai food.

One day, Santa got heat stroke on set. He was sweating in his heavy Santa suit. He hadn’t been drinking water. The air conditioner had been turned off so that the sound wouldn’t be picked up. His beard began to slip off his face. He lost it.

“You fucking fucks! Is the camera rolling or not?! Fuck!”

The kids were traumatized.

But not as traumatized as our production assistant, Matt, was a few days later. Matt was in charge of wrangling the child extras and their parents. He was there when one of the mothers got a call on her cell: Her other son, a two-year-old, had been found at the bottom of their pool. She collapsed to the ground and then Matt helped her to her car. Matt spent the rest of the day in the office in silence, white as a sheet. It felt sort of wrong to go on with production that day, but disgustingly, almost nothing halts production.

Somehow, the child survived. We know this because the mother returned the next day with the first son, ready to work again. I was bewildered. After a trauma like that, why would she leave her two-year-old at home again to go spend the day on the set of a shitty made-for-TV movie?

Hollywood is weird.

I pretty much stopped working in production after that, mostly because I was tired of working 14- to 18-hour stress-heavy days in the name of subpar entertainment. Also I’m just not that great with logistics. A director I know once pointed out that 90% of filmmaking is figuring out where the crew is going to park.

I had lunch with a screenwriting friend of mine a few months after I threw in the towel.

“I get so stressed just thinking about production,” she said, “I immediately want to take a shower just thinking about it.”

But some things you can’t shower off. If you look up my name on IMDB, my profile will always be accompanied by a picture of Ashanti flanked by two sexy shirtless Christmas elves.


We were sitting at Fro Yo Life on Hillhurst Avenue and Vanessa asked to see the last commercial I acted in. It was an ad for Bank Midwest.

I brought it up on my phone and we watched it on the tiny screen.

The other actor, “Jeff” is busy filling out some deposit slips when I waltz into frame.

“Hi, Jeff!” I say and immediately waltz out again.

Vanessa looked at me, confused.

“They flew you out to Kansas City for that?


“Hi, Jeff?!”


“They couldn’t find someone in Kansas City to do that?”


Actually, “Jeff” was a local hire from Kansas City. And you know what? He wasn’t very good. I know it probably seems difficult to screw up filling out a deposit slip and replying, “Hello,” to someone, but, simple things can become very intimidating when there’s a $70,000 camera focused on you, with a crew of 30 people standing behind it.

Say you’re supposed to walk across a room. And you hear the 1st AD: “Rolling.” You might find yourself suddenly posing the question: “Wait, do I know how to walk??” Which is what I assume happened to “Jeff.” The camera was hanging over him and he asked himself, “Wait, do I know how to fill out a deposit slip?”

He did. It just took him twenty-some takes to remember that.

Anna Anderson is a writer in Northeast Los Angeles. You can also find her at

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