It was about 5 o’clock on a Tuesday evening when a tourist came into the bar for happy hour and ordered a gin and tonic. I poured him the drink, squeezed in some lime and set it down in front of him.
“You’re from New Jersey?” he asked, noticing the nametag I was wearing with my home town written on it.
“Unfortunately,” I replied.
“Me too,” he said.
He then asked with a curious yet slightly assuming tone, “So is this your only job, or do you have a real job?”
My jaw dropped a little, shocked that I somehow had missed the memo that only certain jobs are “real.” It was news to me. Service industry jobs have been by far the hardest that I’ve had, with the exception of social work, which in retrospect was essentially the same thing. Believe me, I’ve had desk jobs where the hardest part was learning how to stretch two hours worth of work into an eight-hour workday.
But then I remembered where he’s from. Which is also where I’m from. A place where people live to work, not the other way around. The New Yorker in me came back for a moment and searched for a script that I no longer had ready for such an inquiry. I haven’t been asked, “What do you do?” in what feels like forever. People just don’t ask it down here.
I wanted to start justifying to him that this was only a temporary thing. That I actually had a five-year plan and was saving up to go to grad school so that I could become a professor or a lawyer or something else equally prestigious that would allow me to put letters after my name that don’t include J and R.
But then I realized that I’m not in New York any more.
So I told him that this is actually my fake job so that people don’t find out what I really do.
“Between you and me,” I whispered, “I’m really a private entertainer for Hillary Clinton when she comes into town so that she can let her hair down every now and then. She usually comes to my place first, where we paint each other’s toenails and drink dirty martinis on my porch while talking about who would you rather do in the political scene.
“Tonight,” I added,” I’m taking her to Kajun’s Pub. She and Bill have been having problems, so we’re meeting Brad and Angelina to do karaoke. Hill wants to sing Ice Ice Baby with the new wig I bought her at Fifi Mahony’s. I gotta go though. My private jet is waiting for me outside.”
I then turned around and continued the conversation I was having with a local on the other side of the bar, who was more interested in my awesome idea for a Mardi Gras costume next year than my career plan.
That’s my “real” job, I thought to myself.
Joey Albanese writes about the twentysomething generation in New Orleans for NolaVie. Send him any questions or tell him the answers at firstname.lastname@example.org.