Bitch Work

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On my night job with Uber I got pinged by two college-aged women outside the Lucky Strike in Hollywood.  When I arrived, they weren’t standing anywhere they could be picked up. Meaning, they were still inside.

“We’ll be right out. Just a few minutes.”

There’s no place to park and wait on Highland, not at night, not even in the daytime. Not even illegally.  Six lanes of angry, angry drivers nosing each other’s bumpers like cattle shoving their way up the chute to the knocker, only with Bluetooth and spilled coffee and riptides of tourists clogging the intersections. I drove around the block, which proved a ten minute ordeal in Hollywood Blvd’s new incarnation as Times Square West.

Ping. “Where are you?”

“I’m just now pulling back around in front of the entrance again.”

“Oh, we’re not there anymore.  We’re across the street. My friend needed some smokes. Can’t you just do a u-turn?”

“I could if I wanted a $500 ticket.”

For the second time I circumnavigated the madness of Hollywood and Highland.  We negotiated a pick up at the mini-mart up the block.  They were from Philadelphia and both were interning at a public relations firm for the summer. As part of their duties they attended a celebrity bowling function at Lucky Strike and were headed back to their apartment in Westwood.   I asked them how they liked PR. They liked it well enough.  They were a little bored though.

“I sat on my ass staring at the walls for five hours yesterday before I fell asleep at my desk.  I think they hired too many of us. There isn’t enough to do.”

The both of them managed to sit very erect, chests forward,  davening over their iPhones, fingertips floating across the screen like 1950’s secretaries taking shorthand.

I asked if they been asked to do anything objectionable. By objectionable I meant …. putting their fingerprints on a press release defending a Cosby-like guilty client, issuing opposition research, things of that nature.

“We haven’t been asked to do any bitch work, if that’s what you mean.”

Bitch work=demeaning errands.   Like picking up dry cleaning. Fetching coffee.  Any incarnation of unskilled labor in a professional setting.   Our conversation had stumbled, inadvertently, across the great dividing line of privilege.  These young women, and they were nicer than I’m making them sound here,  were living in West LA on their parents dime, simulating resume-building fake work for no pay,  but couldn’t bear the thought of dirtying their hands with actual entry-level labor.  And here I was shuttling them across town for the reasonable price of $12, which sort of made me their bitch.

Meanwhile all over the city, college students graduates are doing actual work, useful things like making coffee and stocking shelves, or wearing a name tag behind the counter at T-Mobile because….well, no one is paying their rent for them.  This labor is a source of secret shame as it just doesn’t resume well.  It also tracks one semi-permanently into the service economy, and no one wants that,  at least not a certain type of white college-educated person. The iPhone and the App may have connected us all very quickly, but also allowed for us to hide from ourselves a little bit.  We can pretend to be busier than we are.  We can pretend to be more important than we are. We can postpone Self-Recognition for as long as possible.