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September 20, 2005
My last job in LA
The first entry on my blog
is to share a curious and fun and quite disastrous experience about a summer job I got in Los Angeles.
It s very easy now to see how stupid I have been to accept a such labeled job offer : Non paid internship at Malibu Windows & Doors in Los Angeles. You don't need any work permit we provide you the accomodation. Ok, I admit it was my mistake and that I should have listened to the people who told me it was suspicious. But on the other hand I had no time to look further and to search for other opportunities, and I wanted to spare the $700 J-1 visa (what a fool!).
I said "I don't care, we'll see, how bad can it get anyway, it s fun to work in a window factory, and I will use my negotiation skills when it comes to get compensations, plus the fact that I ve got many friends in LA and in California".. Yeah, sure…
Well, obviously I couldn t expect what really happened. To cut the story short I soon found myself carrying large panes of glass through a giant washing machine near which you couldn t hear you think. You couldn t hear the instructions, neither, but this mattered only relatively since all the factory managers were Chinese and NONE of them could speak English! So I had to understand what to do via body language and some "hauw!" , "se se" , etc.
But working all day long in the factory was not at all unpleasant, actually it was the best part of this summer job. After a week, 12 interns had joined me (all Germans) and we lived / were parked in an unfinished house in San Gabriel. There were no furniture in the house, 4 rooms, 8 beds, 2 chairs, 1 phone, a fridge and a hoven. The town in which we lived was 100% chinese, and very very few people could speak English. I soon realized that without a car in LA, you re dead. We only had the company car exclusively driven by Siau Chen (little chen) to drive us to work in the morning and back home in the evening.
Not everything was bad, though. First, I have absolutely no fear of cucroches, which crippled the house. Second, I really improved my German, since my German mates did speak English as their 7th Fremdsprache. And I made a great friend, Yang Liu. He taught me all the Chinese I know, he is a coworker at the factory and can t speak a word of English. Yang Liu is a famous painter he showed me many reproductions of his paintings and press clippings of his exhibitions in Europe, and drew skeches in my notebook.
Of course, I tried to negotiate a pay and some compensations or a car, or anything to improve the conditions, so I asked the boss Tom Chen (who could speak English). Since I became too insistant, he fired me. I then asked for a proper termination letter and he was reluctant. So I began yelling that if I didn t get what I wanted I would not move from his office and would stop feed myself untill I get what I asked. And then yelled louder: "You re not a manager, you re a fucking slave owner!" I had to say it.. So he sat back down and typed the letter as i told him to, and I left. I rented a car and looked for another job. I phoned all my friends but most of them would not pick up the phone, and the rest of them just completely ignored me or gave me appointments and didn t show up. I sent hundreds of emails and got a couple of answers like:
"oh, sorry Nick, you know I m on 3 jobs in the same time and I continue my studies so it s kind of hard to answer the phone all day.. But if you ever have a pb, just keep me informed and i ll do my best to help, take care…"
Meanwhile, things were getting tough for me since Tom wanted to kick me out of our beautiful house the same day I was fired. So I had to threaten Siau Chen to kick his ass badly in order just to sleep somewhere in the house. Soon, Tom Chen tried and succeeded to turn the German folks against me saying that if he had to call the police to kick me out of the house he would kick out all of them, too. This wonderful blackmail did function amazingly well amongst my German friends and I was soon ostracised from this pleasant group. I would sleep 2 more nights in the house thanks to my only friend and ally, Yang Liu who would open the back door for me anytime I would do the "cat code" ( scratch, scratch against the left hand side window). Of course I had already put all my stuff in the trunk of my car.
Then, I realized that it was absolutely impossible to get the slightest hope of getting a job without a proper work permit and I eventually gave up any attempts after having wasted 5 $20 phone cards in 3 days. I also forsake my attempts to see any of my american "friends". Having made these 2 salutary decisions, I began to enjoy my trip for real. I was free and wild and driving in LA! I slept in my car, took showers at the beaches and went where the wind would blow. From Manhattan beach to Melrose avenue, UCLA, Culver city, San Bernardino, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, Sunset bvd, Mullholland drive, Beverley Hills, Hollywood, Venice beach, Santa Monica pier harbour, the 1Oth freeway, the 405, I travelled and met great people, reading Bukowski and eating burritos, fajitas and quesadillas.
Los Angeles is so big… but so big…
Even if the world is too small, Los Angeles is still too big. It's beautiful, too. I will come back one day, and I ll do much better.
A nous deux, Los Angeles!