Donna at CareerLaunchers wakes me around nine with a job that just opened up. The catch is it’s in Vatican City. I ask if that’s in Queens, and she says no, Italy. As I’m wondering if it’s worth dragging myself out of bed to commute all the way to Italy, she tells me they’ll spring for round-trip airfare, plus free room and board. Sweet! I consider admitting the slight exaggeration on my résumé of my two years of high school Italian into fluency, but I’m three days late with rent.
A guy named Cardinal Roberto meets me at the plane, and I can immediately tell I won’t like working for this guy when he starts with, “You didn’t bring your own miter?” In English, I tell him Donna just told me to “dress nice.” He shakes his head and says, “I suppose, to extend our influence, we should speak the global tongue while you are here.” I’m like, Whatever floats your boat, dude—I can talk in Italian all night long about where the bathroom is and if it is raining or sunny. To spite him, I count the layover in Heathrow on my timesheet.
Cardinal Roberto sent me to bed at 5:30 p.m. last night because I was “surely exhausted from my journey.” Hello—I’m not geriatric. Today during introductions, all my coworkers kneel before me and do that thing where you move your hand around your chest a few times, like when you’re joking about being scared. I suppose it’s their way of hazing the new guy. I ask Cardinal Roberto how long he’ll need me, and he goes, “The interregnum shall last until we select a man who is as spiritually elevated as our Lord and Savior Christ but as corporeally humble as an indigent leper.” Good luck finding that combo with today’s crop of M.B.A.s, buddy. I’m too chickenshit to inquire if the job might be temp-to-perm.
I’m quietly singing along with the James Taylor song “You Can Close Your Eyes” on my iPod in the office, and after I get to “Well, the sun is slowly sinking down / But the moon is slowly rising / So this old world must still be spinning ’round,” everyone stops and stares at me. Cardinal Roberto comes over and whispers, “You mean, ‘So this old world must keep on remaining stationary while the sun and moon revolve around it,’ right?” O-kayyyy—someone fell asleep during earth science.
Pro: I get unlimited use of the bulletproof company car. Con: It maxes out at 12 m.p.h. and isn’t exactly a chick magnet.
Cardinal Roberto gets furious today and screams that whoever left the creamer out “has to buy a new one, capisci?” I figure it’s better to confess than get caught, so I say, “Mea culpa.” He takes a deep breath and says, real slowly through clenched teeth, “It is not your bad. You are infallible. I was erroneous. The creamer is not rancid.” Then, I shit you not, he pours it into his coffee and drinks it. He’ll be feeling that later. I’m guessing he’s trying to play with my mind with reverse psychology, but later as I walk to the fax to send the week’s timesheet to Donna, I trip and knock into Cardinal Guiseppe, who says, with no detectable sarcasm, “Excellent dance move, Your Holiness. I feel blessed.” So either everyone’s in on the “infallible” joke, or I can get away with murder here.
For the tedium alone they should pay me more than $9.25 an hour. I was hoping there’d be some Italian señoritas around to spice things up, but today after I finally meet a cutie in a full-length, sexy black gown-and-hood number named Maria and ask Cardinal Roberto what her deal is, he strongly hints I shouldn’t date anyone from the company or I’ll be “excommunicated,” which I think is office-speak for “fired without a letter of reference.”
They’re catching on that, when it comes to work ethic, I’m no saint. Cardinal Roberto busts me for I.M.ing today, then when I return from my seventh bathroom break of the afternoon, it’s deleted from my computer and there are parental blocks on Hotmail and ESPN.com.
Weekend from hell. On Friday I’m craving tortellini with pesto for lunch and need to get out of the office for an hour, but everyone’s like, “Let’s order in for fish!” Do these people soak up nutrients or something from harsh fluorescent lighting? When work ends and I ask Cardinal Roberto where I should sample the Italian nightlife, he informs me we’re not even technically in Italy, and sends me to bed early again. It’s soooo dead here—they should call it Vatican Village. Saturday I stay up late watching DirecTV, and suddenly see Sinéad O’Connor holding up my 11th-grade yearbook photo and calling me “the real enemy.” Plus I was foolishly following the George Clooney-inspired Caesar haircut craze at the time—not a good look on me. Cardinal Roberto catches me and says I must get my rest because I have to give a speech tomorrow at noon—to a few thousand people. I hate public speaking. And on a goddamn Sunday morning, for Chrissakes.
I’ve been here two weeks and I still can’t explain what exactly I do all day.
Scored an interview tomorrow with Cardinal Roberto and some other suits for the permanent position—I think the official title is “Supreme Pontiff,” which could be kind of cool to tell strangers in bars. I loathe the job, but desperately need the health care, which I’ve heard is lifelong. It seems like everyone around here is a pretty devout Catholic, and since I assume American hiring laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of creed apply here, I think I’ll be up front and tell them I’m not really all that religious. And also that I’m Jewish.