Working Girl: Cryptic Classified Ads are Cryptic for a Reason

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

Moral #1: Cryptic Ads Are Cryptic for a Reason

It looks like salvation... but here there be dragons. Image by The Cleveland Kid at FlickrCommons

It looks like salvation… but here there be dragons. Image by The Cleveland Kid at FlickrCommons

The ad in the Chicago Tribune said, “Typist wanted. Must be comfortable with adult material.”

I thought, Hey, this could be just what I’m looking for. Could be fun, too.

It was 10 years ago and I was 20 years old. What the hell did I know?

What I knew was I had just lost my job at a jewelry store on Michigan Avenue, and I needed something else. Fast.

Maybe the ad in the Trib was for some kind of gig at an adult magazine, or something. Who knew what the adult material industry needed typists for? Maybe it was a romance novelist wanting to dictate to someone! Maybe, after awhile, I should show her my own writing!

I called the number and left a message with a sultry-sounding voicemail lady.

Probably not a romance novelist.

Not long after, I got a call back from a much more normal sounding woman named Caroline. We chatted a little. I told her about myself, my work experience, and my typing speed. She told me that if I was chosen for the position, I’d be taking dictation for a book. She’d give me details at the interview–which was tomorrow at an apartment on LaSalle St. Could I come? Of course I could! I felt a moment of soaring elation every job seeker is familiar with.

Right before we hung up, she said, “Oh, you know I’m an escort, right?”

I was floored. There was a moment of awkward silence, and then I played it off like I’d figured that out the moment I saw the ad. “Oh, sure!” I said, in a very worldly and wise tone. “I mean, the ad, and then the sexy voicemail voice–of course I know you’re an escort! What else would that ad have been for, right?”

“Right!” she laughed. “Well, as long as you’re okay with that, then I can’t wait to meet you at the interview.”

I said I was looking forward to it, and we hung up.


Moral #1: Cryptic classified ads are cryptic for a reason.


I almost backed out of the interview, but in the end, I was too curious not to go.

It was February in Chicago. Chicago cold is painful cold. It is a cold that cuts through everything you’re wearing, because the winter wind is as bitter and horrifying as an unfinished story by Edgar Allen Poe. I suited up in this weather, got on the L, and went to LaSalle Street.

The apartment building was very nice, but not too nice. There was no front desk or concierge, but I did have a code to get through two sets of doors. There was a lovely lobby, a floral arrangement, and two sets of elevators that (I would soon learn) were kept in perfect repair. I took one of them up to the fifth floor.

Nervously, my heart in my shaking fist, I knocked on the door.

There was no answer.

I waited maybe two full minutes, checked the time on my cell phone, checked the apartment number, then knocked again.

A cat mewled behind the closed door.

I went through this tortuous ritual for maybe fifteen minutes before I gave in and called Caroline.

“I’m not there!” Caroline said. “I went to the Starbucks across the street. Can you come over here? I’m sitting by the window and wearing a ski cap.”

“Oh,” I said, confused. “Sure.” Had I missed something? No, I was sure she’d told me to go to her apartment. But Starbucks was, after all, much safer. What was I doing in the first place, going alone to a prostitute’s apartment without even meeting her first? That was stupid.

I braced myself for the cold and went back out.


Moral #2: Meet strangers at Starbucks. Not at their apartments.

Moral #3: If the person interviewing you can’t remember where the interview is, you’re the responsible one in this relationship.


It wasn’t hard to identify Caroline at Starbucks. She was alone at a window table, bundled up in a poofy jacket with a fluffy faux fur collar, and what looked like a hand woven ski cap. She chattered rapidly into a cell phone, and had another sitting on the table before her, along with four to-go cups. She poured something from one cup into another, pinching the phone between her ear and shoulder.

She was older than I’d expected, but still beautiful. Her lips were big, her nose was slender, and her cheeks were high. Her skin was stretched tightly across her face, as though she’d gotten microderm abrasion.

I approached and stood at the edge of her table, feeling nervous again. Was this a bad time for our interview? Had something important come up she needed to handle right away? I tried not to eavesdrop, but noticed she was talking about her cats. Eventually, after my face started to thaw, she said into the phone. “Hey, can I call you back in a couple minutes?”

A couple minutes? Did that mean I didn’t get the job?

“’Kay, bye!” Caroline turned to me. “You’re cute!” she said.

“Thanks,” I said. I wasn’t sure what it meant when an escort called you “cute,” but I decided it was probably a compliment, rather than an assessment of my marketability. I waited for her to ask me to sit down.

“Okay,” she said. “Go across the street to the Walgreens and get me two hazelnut Yankee Candles, two caramel apple candles, and three fresh linen candles. Get me five packages of Haribo gummi bears, but make sure you look at the packages and get the ones with the least green in them. I really, really don’t like the green ones. Also, get me three things of microwave popcorn, the one with the old guy on the front, and some Colgate extra-white toothpaste and dental floss, and three things of Windex. If they have different colors and scents, get those. But the blue is fine. And then three–no, five cans of Reddi-Wip.”

Somewhere at the beginning of this list, I began to panic. I fumbled in my bag and found my little journal and a pen, and scrawled down everything she said as fast as my cold-numbed fingers could move. I managed to get the last third of the list jotted down in impercetible chicken scratch. Was this some kind of test? To see whether I could remember a long list of things?

“Um,” I said, “How’m I supposed to pay for all this?”

“Oh,” she said. “Here.” Then she gave me her credit card.

She gave me her credit card. She didn’t even know me.

“Um,” I said, “are you okay giving me this? Do you want something to make sure I bring it back… like some kind of collateral?”

“You mean, like your credit card? Did you just offer to give a whore your credit card?”

“Well,” I said, “You gave me yours.”

She blinked at me. Then she laughed. “No, I trust you. Go get the stuff. Just sign my name on the receipt. Meet me back at the apartment.”

“I’m not sure I got all that stuff written down,” I said.

“Just get what you remember,” she said.

So . . . was this some kind of test? It probably was. I would probably fail because I could only remember what she said about the gummi bears, and could barely read my own handwriting on the list. Then again, who gave their credit card to an interviewee? That’s something you only do with a trusted already hired person, right?

I was a 20-year-old blonde girl from a Cincinnati suburb who went to private Catholic school most of my life. Now I was running errands for a prostitute. Nothing about the world made sense anymore. But I needed a job, and with Caroline’s credit card folded safely in my journal, it was beginning to feel like I had one. I decided to be brave and forge ahead.


Moral #4: If you’re hired with no interview, nobody else wants the job.


I’ve had a great time with Money Jedi, but I’m planning to make Working Girl a whole new series. That is, unless you guys really prefer Money Jedi. So let me know!


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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