Archive | November, 2014

Working the Streets of Manhattan

26 Nov

Yesterday I had a “street team demo” for this job I now have, which means I stand on the street and give out protein bars to people. My gig was at 9am. Which my sleepy brain thought meant 10am. So I was looking at the clock going “Well it’s 8:45am. And I have to be there at 9. So I’ll leave 9:30 and it takes half an hour to get to Madison Ave. Cool.” Then I did a double take at the email and then at my clock. Then back to my email and then to my own brain like WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME?

I hadn’t done a “street team demo” yet and was a little apprehensive. I didn’t have a table or even a poster to stand next to. I was just handing out stuff to people and yelling facts at them. “Protein bars! 8 grams of fiber! 1 gram of sugar! Gluten free! Non-GMO! Kosher! Made in Canada!”

Sometimes I got all the facts mixed up and was yelling “15 grams of sugar! 1 gram of protein!” And when I realized my mistake it was like ‘whatever, those people are gone and new people are walking down the street! Hi new people!’

I’ve realized that if you ever have a fear of rejection, try handing something out in NYC. It’s just a steady stream of “No, no no, no thanks, hmm, what?, no, *shake head on phone*, nah, no thank you sweetie.” Even 10 min of that and you’re like “I can do aaannythinggg cuz no one is even looking at meeeee – let’s make up a song about protein bars!” And once in I’d say 15 people, someone will take a protein bar from your hand. Which you will drop. And cause a backup of walking traffic while you pick it up.

I had gone to two different places yesterday. I was finished up the second one (very early, since I vastly underestimated the amount of samples to bring). I got to the corner when an older man with a glass eye who I remembered from my first demo saw me. He was getting coffee at a cart at the corner.

Glass eye: You’re leaving already?

Me: Ah yup, all finished.

Glass eye: Come here, come here.

Me: What’s up? *walk over*

Glass eye: *Turns to the guy making him coffee* This is my wife.

Me: Umm…nope. Not his wife.

Glass eye: You want a donut? I’ll buy you a donut.

Me: Naaahhh…I’m okaayyy…I gotta goo…

Glass eye: You wanna hang out?

Me: Nnnooo…that’s okay. I’ll see ya laterrrr byyeee…. *awkwardly backs away*

Because really, that was weird. Like his commitments were in the opposite order of intensity. Also the leap between married and donut is a lot bigger than between hanging out and donut. Maybe he was just using a bargaining tactic. Like, okay you don’t wanna be my wife how innocuous does a donut sound then?! Didn’t work.

Either way. Mild sexual harassment in this job seems to be pretty requisite.

After work I had improv class. I was kind of in a blah mood which is a rough mood to be in when you’re expected to be all silly and into it. I did manage to do a pretty good alligator impression though for one game.

Luckily, we worked on monologues which I am pretty boss at. My suggestion was “bathroom.”

I told a story (stop me if you’ve heard this one) about how when I was in 2nd grade I was a really shitty student. Instead of studying or doing homework, I would go into the bathroom (!!!) before a quiz and punch myself in the nose REALLY hard and come back with a nosebleed and be like “I’m bleeding can I just go to the nurse?” Which worked for a long time. A few years at least. It was foolproof. And easier than doing math.

But then when I was in 3rd grade my nose muscles (capillaries?) got really weak from my stupid self-abuse so it would bleed whenever. We were supposed to go see Les Miserables as a class but my doctor (whose office was down the block from my school so I just walked over with my teacher which was normal) was like nah don’t go. So the class left (and now that I’ve seen Les Mis (the movie) 12 years later, I’m kind of glad I skipped it – also who takes 9 year olds to see that?!) and my principal, instead of sticking me in the library to color or whatever, was like “Well, Gloria the receptionist is out so why don’t you just fill in for her,” and brought me to his office.

I sat at the desk playing with a stapler when someone called. “Yeshiva of Central Queens!” I answered all chipper. “Hi this is Robert Cohen. Can you please tell Sarah Cohen to come downstairs with her coat? I’m taking her out to visit her grandmother.” I guess he didn’t realize the women on the other end sounded extremely young, one might say *too* young to be answering phones but whatever. I put the phone down and walked into the principal’s office.


“What? I’m busy!” He snapped at me. And if I had any idea of how messed up this situation was at the time I would have been like “I AM NINE. I DONT KNOW HOW TO BE A RECEPTIONIST. THIS IS INSANE. HELP ME.” But instead I was like “Uhh…nothing. Sorry.” And just kept the phone off the hook for the rest of the day. A little tactic that helped me when I was an actual receptionist 11 years later at UMD’s student union. Jobs!

Speaking of jobs. My job was cancelled today because it’s snowing and if you think it’s hard to get people’s attention on a nice day, try to get theirs when they’re hustling through with umbrellas, bags and grumpy toddlers.

So I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, my little acorns! I am thankful for all of you!



November 20th. An Update.

21 Nov

Like what even is my life anymore? I was supposed to work this week with more cookie sales (“Hi, my name’s Aviva Woolf-Manas and I’m an overgrown girl scout”) but due to some wacky mix-up, they were cancelled. And now it’s Thursday and I’m listening to Michael Buble’s Christmas album and reading a HuffPo article about dogs who don’t understand how to carry sticks through doorways in a manner that doesn’t get them stuck (well *reading* might be a little generous since it’s like 4 words and a GIF).

I did however get my legs waxed today (I *know* in the WINTER – but I’m going to Florida for Thanksgiving next week so I’ll allow it.) This woman is a bit of an over-sharer to begin with, once spending a whole session telling me about how her jealous husband is probably going to kill himself because he found some incriminating pictures on her Instagram (“Like, could he just kill himself already and stop calling me, I swear, he’s so annoying. It was a kiss who cares. And I took a pic of it and put it on Instagram what a drama queen.”) Keep in mind that I asked her how she was doing not “So has your husband overreacting to any infidelities you’ve committed recently..?”

Today I came in and she said, “The weirdest thing is happening. I will think of someone and then like within 24 hours they will call or text me. Randomly! And it hasn’t happened like one or two times. It’s happened TWENTY TIMES.”

Me: Wow, 20 times. That’s like an X-Man level super power.

Her: I know. And I heard that if it happens, that means they’re going to come into some money or something. Sorry I didn’t think of you. And I can’t even control it! If someone pops into my head, they’re going to call me. I should tell them to buy a lottery ticket right? I don’t know what’s happening to me! (stares at me in wide-eyed wonder)

Me: Well, obviously..magic?

Her: Maybe.

In other news.  I joined an improv practice team that will meet on Sundays, I signed up for a stand-up class that starts in a couple of weeks. Improv 201 is going swimmingly, thanks for asking.

I went to a show at UCB Monday night for credit and at the end they had something called an “Improv Jam” where you sign up and anyone can do it. I hadn’t planned on it since it was already 10:30 and I hadn’t watched last week’s The Blacklist yet but my improv class friend Edith said, “Go sign up!” and not being one to argue, I did. Last time I went to a jam I had never been on stage before so I was like eeeehhhI’ll just sit this one out. But I had experience now. I had been on stage that one time. So when they called my name (Well, not *my* name but “Anna Wolf” which was like, whatever close enough – they’re improvisors not literary publishers) I was like yup, I’m coming up there.

Somehow I initiated a scene where this dude was my boyfriend but also obsessed with Jennifer Lopez (the suggestion was “maid”) and I said something about how last week he was her in Maid in Manhattan and today he was Jenny from the Block. Thirty seconds into the game I realized I could not name a single other movie Jennifer Lopez was in in order to move the scene along to anything else. It was not the best. But a lesson learned: Don’t commit to a J-Lo centric scene if you don’t know shit about Jennifer Lopez. That is my free advice to you all today.

Another scene was a lot better. It was about me being a 5th grade teacher inappropriately assigning an essay about murder. My humor is getting so sophisticated I can’t even handle it.

That’s all. That is all my updates for today my little candy-coated balloon animals. Later!

America – Land of the Free Candy, Home of the Brave

14 Nov

Shalom kiddies! Friday, Friday, getting down on Friday. Oh man, remember 2011? I just rewatched Rebecca Black’s video and I have to say, it’s not a good song, but like, I can’t remember why it was *such* a big deal and all over the news for some reason? Or why people send death-threats to children they find annoying. Like, why is death-threats something the internet is now becoming known for? We have this amazing machine that can be used to learn literally anything in the whole world, learn Farsi or how to give your cat a bath or how to make a friendship bracelet  –  or you can spend your time screaming death-threats at anyone who is even vaguely different than you I guess, that’s fun too.

Aaaaaaanyways. Yesterday was my first day in my part-time gig I have to subsidize my little projects and it. was. interesting.

I got to the Kosher supermarket in Brooklyn at about 12:30, met the dude who supposed to tell me what was going on. He took me to a little table at the front of the store, covered in candy jars and containers of the same candy for sale. He asked me what I did as a day job, and I panicked. I didn’t want to be like “Uh…this…?” but I also didn’t want to explain how I was exploring different avenues of creative writing at the moment. So I just said I worked at Fox and he seemed sufficiently satisfied with that answer.

Basically my job was to offer people samples of the candy, advertise the product, persuade them to buy. Not too hard. I was there until 6 pm. I got to be on my feet (work those calf muscles), talk to people, and not be yelled at or called a “retard” so it was already a step up from F-O-X.

My very favorite part were parents who came in with little children whose eyes grew wide when I offered them a free sample. “For free? Can I have one?” they said and looked at their moms/dads. “Oh candy! Look Sarah, aren’t you happy you came food shopping with me?,” they all said back – and gave them a candy because I’m sure taking your baby grocery shopping is not that easy so they were glad they could get the bribe out of the way early (and for free at the same time).

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried this guys, but giving out free candy is a great way to get people to like you – you should give it a whirl sometime.

Also, this is the first supermarket I have ever been in that wasn’t playing music. Not even Jewish music. No Miami Boys Choir or nothing. It was very unsettling.

Early into the shift an old man (maybe like 70 or so) came up to me. I offered him a sample and he said, “How bout I leave the sample and take you home with me?” I laughed because I didn’t feel like explaining to this man about how that’s kind of a creepy thing to say to a woman you don’t know. I said I wasn’t for sale and he shrugged and said something I couldn’t hear. “What?” I asked. “Haha…nothing nothing, I’ll try to behave myself.” Awesome, I’m sure it was very appropriate as well.

Then he said his grandchildren would probably like the candy and I asked him how old his grandchildren were.

“They range from about your age until 2 years old”

“Wow, that’s really great.”

“How old are you?”

“Me? I’m 24”

“Ohhh…no, no. The oldest is 20, I thought you were young. Much much younger.”


He left reluctantly when I turned to help other customers.

I would say the most interesting thing about yesterday were the reasons people gave to not take a sample. Like, you don’t owe me any excuse as to why you’re not taking candy, that’s not my business. But so many people would say something like, “Oh no thanks – I just went to the dentist.” or “No, sorry, I’m gluten free.”

So so so many women looked sadly at the candy and said “No thank you, I’m on a diet.” One man joked, “Nah I’m watching my girlish figure.” One woman was on the phone when I asked and she gestured to her curvy body and mouthed “Do I LOOK like I need candy?” I’m not sure what I was supposed to say to that, I wasn’t comfortable making judgements about who should be getting candy or not. I didn’t want to be some sort of stingy candy gate-keeper, I was an equal opportunity sample-giver.

A few people looked at me angrily and said something like “I am diabetic” or “I am allergic to corn syrup.” Well, OK then, I’m not your doctor I don’t know your medical history.  One cute older gentleman said with a Polish accent “No no it iz for zeh children! it is for for behbiez.” Like sorry bro you’re in AMERICA now, land of the free candy, home of the brave – get on board.

Two dudes wearing Hatzalah jackets came in and I offered them a sample, or a container for $2.49 for their families. Dude said “I don’t let me kids have candy…or my wife.” I didn’t know if he was joking or not. Oh, those Jews and their dry senses of humor (or Oh, those Jews and their weird micro-managed home lives.)

By 6:00 pm I was wiped, I sold about 50 containers. My tongue was blue from candy and my feet were sore from my poor choice of footwear for the day. However, I was in Flatbush and I wasn’t letting an opportunity to go to to Pizza Time on Avenue J go to waste. I went to high school on Avenue J and am hardly ever in that area. It’s entirely too weird walking around down there – I feel like i’m back in 11th grade, getting food before a debate team tournament (full disclosure, I was too shy to debate, I was always a time-keeper and would give less time to those obnoxious MTA boys – I think it’s safe to finally admit that now).

I got pizza and the guy behind the counter was being all flirty/friendly like “Oh, it’s to-go? You don’t want to eat near me?” and “Of course I have a bag for you Kapara! Do you speak Hebrew?” I wanted to be like “Ugh can I just have my pizza so I can go home and take off these dumb fry boots?” but I smiled weakly instead. I’m working 4 out of 5 days next week and I need to keep my smiling game up.

Talking to Strangers in NYC is Always a Good Idea

6 Nov
A Fancy Business Dog I Saw At Starbucks Yesterday

A Fancy Business Dog I Saw At Starbucks Yesterday

Today is Thursday. National Nacho Day ya’all! So, do what you will with that information.

Yesterday, I got my work schedule for this new part-time gig I’ll be doing so I don’t feel completely useless when it comes to contributing to household finances. It’s only fair since I spend the most money on cute knit hats and grande macchiatos. But to be fair, Ari spends an unreasonable amount of money on Magic cards and ridiculous cat toys (such as catnip flavored bubbles and a packet of 40 ping-pong balls for Whiskey to chase. Now they litter the floor and it feels like I live in the aftermath of a frat party). Cest La Vie.

All I know about this job is that I’ll be giving out candy in supermarkets in Manhattan on Mondays and Wednesdays and cookies in Brooklyn on Thursdays. My new boss seemed very excited to give me the sugary stuff. I think she assigns food based on people’s personalities or how much she likes them. “Oh, you want to take off Friday? Here’s some onion work out bars to shill. Good luck getting people to eat that, spaghettihead.”

Either way, I’m bizarrely excited for my “supermarket theater” I am planning on developing. I have also been working on my stranger A-game.

I used to be a very shy child. As my parents like to point out frequently, I would scream and scream as a baby if anyone except my mother held me – a fact that my father has not yet forgiven me for. I have come to realize that my parents met me as a baby, gathered impressions of me, and have not changed their mind since. Which leads to comments like when I was 18, “Traveling? You hate to travel!” “What, no I don’t.” “Oh really? I guess it was someone else who screamed all the way to Pittsburgh when we went for a bar-mitzvah” “You mean, when I was two?” But I digress.

So I have been trying to speak to more people, strangers, for no reason or to learn something new. Yesterday (sorry if you already this story on Facebook), I was at a Starbucks in the city. The one at 39th and 8th – where I met Ari. I like to sit at the table we met at because we have a dumb meet story (internet dating – which is fine and good at very 21st century. But mostly when people ask us how we met we become a poster couple for online matchmaking.) and this is the only thing I have about it. So I go upstairs and I see the seat is free with some cutesy biker guy sitting there so I’m like can I sit here? And he’s like well I’m waiting for a friend but you can sit here til she comes so I’m like yeah cool, I like sitting here cuz this is where I met my husband and he’s like wow that’s a lucky booth then! And then eventually his “friend” comes and I’m like okay I’ll leave and he’s like nah nah sit we’ll find somewhere else and I wanted to be like fine, don’t get married see what I care! I gave you a magic chair and you gave it away! But I wisely did not say those things. Nevertheless, I felt very HONY. (Later, I was near their table and overheard her explain why she loves kale – I was like, yeah man I get it now)

I reviewed a show last night for the theater website I freelance for. I invited my friend Mel, who is my theater buddy (as well as my try-to-win-Newsies-lottory-NINE-times-before-we-win buddy). This show was called “Awesome People” and it took place at this teeny tiny black box theater called “Under St. Marks” in the Village. I think the Village is my favorite part of Manhattan. Each neighborhood in NYC feels like it’s own little city and the Village, especially when I’m down there late at night, has a campy, college town feel to it. People sit on benches outside tattoo parlors and smoke, teenagers skateboard, young adults spill out of bars and smoke, there is a couple on every corner making out. The girl is always wearing some sort of black fedora and knee high socks, the guy in boots. It’s wonderful (the area, not having to push romantically intertwined people out of the way because seriously guys, it’s rude, move to the side).

This show was four people, telling stories about other people who have inspired them to be “more awesome.”

The performers were seemingly very random, an author and former reporter for the NY Times, a UCB dude, a lady who wrote a book on Joss Whedon. I have never been to a story-telling event. Apparently it happens all the time. It’s not quite stand-up comedy and it’s not pure acting. It looked fun. And I learned a lot. Like the fact that Napoleon became BFF with a little girl named Betsy when he was exiled on St. Helena and that the child actor Sean Astin might be a psychopath.

After the show ended, I did something I never do after shows I review – I went up to talk to the actors. Jeff, this big guy in a leather jacket who told a story about his dad, was super friendly and we talked about UCB and ‘All About that Bass,’ I jokingly said he couldn’t say he liked Megan Trainor and look like a scary bouncer. He said “I’ve built up enough music cred throughout the years that I can say whatever I want.”

The former reporter for NY Times asked me if I ever heard of the child actor Sean Astin. I said I didn’t, and he said “Really? You never saw Goonies? Rudy? Lord of the Rings?” “Oh, yes, I vaguely recall being forced to watch LOTR by my husband.” “Well, he’s Sam.” “Oh, I remember. I’m very proud of myself for remembering any other character besides Elijah Wood and Orlando Bloom.” He laughed. I told him I had never heard of “storytelling” as a thing people did and he said it was”getting really huge right now” and that I should “look into MOTH – a competition and event they hold all the time.” I nodded and added that to the long list of things I wanted to try very soon.

I grabbed my notes and Mel and I walked back to the subway – passing more couples making out, a guy selling belts and eating Indian food from the Yoga/Indian food/book store he was standing in front of. I sat on the A train uptown. Across from me was a couple in big sweatshirts leaning on each other. They were eating popcorn and staring – straight ahead – at me, like they had paid to see my sit on the subway. I felt like I should be at least a little interesting if they were going to spend the ride watching me. Instead I closed my eyes, continued to listen to Amy Poehler’s “Yes, Please” on audiobook and thought about what kind of story I would tell on stage one day.

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