07282017Headline:

Working Girl: Pick a Career that Doesn’t Require You to Trust No One

Just a Regular Working Girl: Moralistic Values Gleaned from My Time in Chicago’s Seedy Underworld

Moral 41: Pick a Career that Doesn’t Require You to Trust No One

 

Hands off my coupon!Image by mendolus shank at Flickr Commons.

Hands off my coupon!
Image by mendolus shank at Flickr Commons.

If you work as an escort, there are probably precious few people in your life who you can trust. I know that was the case for my boss Caroline. She didn’t have any friends who weren’t escorts. Her family didn’t know about her work—except, oddly enough, for her mom, who she talked to about once a week, and who had managed to come to some kind of peace regarding her daughter’s career and life choices.

Caroline didn’t trust the other residents of her apartment building. She worried they’d see her clients coming and going and report her. She didn’t trust her banker, who had managed to figure out where she was getting all those wads of heavy cash she deposited.

And of course, Caroline couldn’t trust her clients.

 

Moral 41: Pick a career that doesn’t require you to trust no one.

 

She claimed to trust me, though. “I hit the jackpot when I found you as an assistant,” she said one day, when I was cleaning the hardwood floors of her upscale loft apartment. “You know what my favorite thing about you is?”

“Umm, my awesome hair?” I said. “Or my skill with a Swiffer?”

She was sitting on the floor surrounded by scraps of paper and receipts, organizing a shopping trip. She liked to be uber-organized about all the little aspects of life she could control. She stored everything she owned in identical red shopping bags set up side by side in her cabinets. So whenever I opened a cabinet I was greeted with the sides of the red bags, slotted in tightly. She bought the bags from the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa.

“No,” she said. “It’s that you’re so honest. Even if I didn’t know you, I could tell by just looking at you.”

“Wow,” I said. “Thanks.” It was uncharacteristic of Caroline to pick up on this. I was honest, to a fault. This story happened ten years ago, but I think I’m probably still honest to a fault. At least, I suck at lying, so it kind of comes to the same thing, right?

 

Moral 42: Some things change, like whether you work for a prostitute or whether you’re a writer, but others never do.

 

“And when I introduced you to Helen,” she said, referring to one of the many girls who worked under her, “she said to me that you seemed really trustworthy.”

“Glad I leave a good impression,” I said. I guessed it was a good thing that I was developing a high reputation among a clique of escorts? Actually, I was a little worried about what inspired her to comment on my honesty.

I continued Swiffering the floor, and Caroline continued sorting receipts and shuffling through her bags.

Then she stopped. She checked a stack of papers to her right, shuffling through them. Then another stack. Her movements were a little frantic, as though she had lost something.

She looked up at me, her eyes narrowed. “Have you been going through my coupons?” she said.

“Your coupons?” I said. “Why would I do that?”

“Come on. I know how much you make; I’m the one who pays you. I’m missing a Filene’s Basement coupon.”

“Oh,” I said, thinking it wasn’t a big deal. Coupons and receipts went missing all the time. “I’m sure it’ll turn up.”

“Yeah, I’m not.” She tapped her nail on the hardwood floor. “Did you take it?”

“Your Filene’s Basement coupon?” Of all the things I had access to—her clothes, her shoes, her cell phones and her clients’ phone numbers, her appointment book, the key to the cabinet where she kept wads of cash and a safe with even more cash—why would I take the time to dig through the red bags, find her coupons, shuffle through them, and steal one for Filene’s Basement?

Who in the world would do something so utterly stupid and ridiculous? I thought she couldn’t be serious.

But she was.

“Caroline, I don’t even shop at Filene’s Basement.” I wasn’t even sure what that store was. It sounded like T. J. Maxx’s socially awkward sister—the one the family kept shut in the basement when company came.

“Turn out your pockets,” Caroline said.

I sighed and propped the Swiffer against the wall, and pulled out the pockets of my black skirt. Caroline narrowed her eyes again. “Get your bag,” she said.

I carried a red briefcase. It didn’t even occur to me to refuse to let her look through it. I sat beside her on her microfiber couch while she fished everything out of the back flap of my briefcase, then opened it and stuck her hand in every compartment. She took out every scrap of paper, held it up to the light, and scrutinized it. She went through my wallet.

And I let her.

What can I say? I was raised a good little Catholic girl who obeyed authority—even when that authority was a paranoid prostitute violating my privacy—and I had a very small notion of what it meant to be treated with respect.

 

Moral 43: If someone claims to trust you, then demands to search your bag . . . they don’t really trust you. And you don’t have to put up with it.

 

Also, as I watched Caroline examine and reexamine everything in my briefcase, and poke around in the torn lining, I just felt sorry for her. I almost felt like I was there for moral support. I’d never met anyone so pathetic as to throw a fit over a coupon.

When Caroline had the entire contents of my briefcase spread out on her coffee table, and still hadn’t found what she was sure I’d stolen, she picked up a maxi-pad in an orange wrapper. “Should we open this?” she said. As though the coupon might be folded up and cleverly concealed with a maxi-pad.

I’m sure I stared at her like a car wreck. “If you need to,” I said.

She seriously considered it. But ultimately decided not to open the maxi-pad. I was more relieved for her than for myself. That would have crossed some kind of line. It would have been like the car wreck erupting in flames.

She tapped her fingernail against her teeth, looking at me. I waited. If she told me to take off my clothes, that would have been my tipping point. I would leave and not come back. I wasn’t sure how I’d get out of there though, with all my stuff spread out on her table.

Eventually she said, “I guess you’re right. It’ll show up eventually. Or maybe I accidentally threw it away.”

 

Moral 44: Sometimes trust is more about you, and what your heart’s capable of, than the people around you.

***

L. Marrick is a historical fantasy writer and freelance copywriter. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. She eats too much chocolate and still doesn’t believe downward dog is supposed to be a restful yoga pose. You can connect with her at either of her websites, and follow her on Twitter @LMarrick.


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