When searching for a career, sometimes you’re forced to take jobs you’d rather not. Answering phones at a Los Angeles dance studio was one such job.
It wasn’t the minimum wage that made it so rotten––(that’s what I deserve for sitting in the back of every class; for being the kid who got “disruptive” on all his report cards; the kid who never “maximized his potential”). Rather, it was the quiet hours sitting alone that were the real torment. Some days not even one customer walked through the door. My only company became the perpetual honking of L.A. traffic, the humming fan of the old PC on my desk (which didn’t even have the distraction of internet access), and my own wretched reflection on the ceiling-to-floor mirrors. Inevitably I’d pull out my pen and pad to get some work done on my Great American Novel, but the hard ass owner would say, “I’ll dock you for that,” even though there was literally nothing else to do. And so I wound up sitting there pondering the implications of pinching from the register. I had the “Receptionist Blues.”
Months passed, and the frightening reality that this was not a temporary-hold-me-over-while-I-write-a-novel job, but a job-job, sunk in. I was a dance studio receptionist, no doubt about it. But at least I was able to switch shifts from the interminable midday shift to the 5–11PM slot, the after-work crowd, when actual classes were held and I had a chance to make some commission on sales. It didn’t matter that I had to listen to “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” 50 times in a row as some madly in love couple attempted to recreate the final scene of Dirty Dancing. I was now around music and people.
The group classes were my favorite. Foxtrot, ballroom, hip-hop, ballet, tango, swing––I watched, even practicing some of the steps behind my partitioned desk. But salsa was my favorite of all. Twenty or so effervescent, wildly spinning, perspiring individuals, relentlessly practicing simply for love of the craft.
“You’re telling me you’re not doing this for a competition or special event?” I questioned. I don’t really have any healthy hobbies, so this was a shock to me. They were dancing for exercise, to socialize, to get laid, to cultivate a skill––but they also found great joy in it. They worked hard, and the more I observed the more I noticed the progress they made.
One girl in particular, Jessica (who had curves like the Rabbit), seemed to me a pro. But when I asked her how long she’d been dancing, she said “only two months” – a remarkable achievement considering how she twisted and gyrated so seductively. I’d watch her, the lascivious receptionist that I was, from behind my desk and covet not just her body, but her partnership on the dance floor.
“That’s it!” I decided. “I’ll take classes myself.” But my minimum wage making ass couldn’t afford it (no discount from my frugal employer). “A DVD would be much more practical,” I determined. But I didn’t know what company to choose. And then my time as a dance studio receptionist came to an end, and I’d never see Jessica Rabbit again. But I think of her sometimes, with her red hair and brown eyes, and wonder if one day I might catch her on the dance floor.