Aunt Ruth and Uncle John
When I was a sophomore in college, I was informed by my father (and trust me, I was always “informed” by my father) that I had landed a job at the United Nations for the summer. I would be living up in Dobb’s Ferry, New York with my aunt and uncle. Dobb’s Ferry was a beautiful town that was situated along the Hudson River and their house was perched high on a hill with an amazing view of the Tapanzee Bridge. It was beautiful and serene.
I would be commuting into the city on a daily basis but I was really psyched. My uncle was Assistant Secretary General at the United Nations and I was imagining just how great my job and my summer were going to be. I visualized myself brokering a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, working to better the economies of the countries in Africa, end world hunger ... you get the gist.
You can imagine my shock, and disappointment, when I found out that I would simply be working at the UN Gift Shop. Seriously? My parents had my uncle get me a job at the United Nations and I was working at the GIFT SHOP? I couldn’t believe it. I had opinions and like any 19 year old that I know, I even had all the answers. And those answers sure weren’t in the gift shop!
At any rate, this was the situation I found myself in so I made the best of it, moved to New York and began my career as a sales girl. It was seriously one of the most difficult jobs I have ever had. The job was 9-5 with two 15-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch break per day. Other than those breaks, you had to STAND ON YOUR FEET every damn minute. I was already commuting into Grand Central Station and walking to the UN but this standing up shit was seriously out of line. As a college kid used to wearing sneakers, the discomfort of standing up for eight hours in dress shoes was excruciating.
As you can imagine, I had absolutely nothing in common with a single person working there. The girls were incredibly nice but this was their job, their real job. It wasn’t some summer thing between years at college. Fortunately, they embraced me immediately and I actually met people from all different countries and backgrounds and it turned out to be a great experience. I learned to count to ten in Japanese and it turned out that I was a fantastic salesperson!
The best part of the entire summer was when I went back to my aunt and uncle’s each evening. They had lived around the world as my uncle was one of the original founders of the United Nations and they were obviously worldly and quite bright. Every night my aunt, an incredible cook, would make a delicious home-cooked meal. My favorite was chicken curry. She made the best curry in the world.
Every night, my uncle would arrive home from work doing whatever Assistant Secretary General’s at the United Nations do all day, mix himself a martini and then sit down and ask me, “So how was the day of the top salesperson at the United Nations Gift Shop today?” We would then proceed to have a very funny conversation about the goings on in the gift shop, what Japanese words I had learned that day, and what various and sundry incidents occurred. After that, we would sit down and have an incredible meal together. It’s funny because we never talked about his job, which in retrospect was just a little bit more important than my job. Occasionally, I would go upstairs and have lunch with him in the “bigwigs” dining room but mostly I just hung out around the gift shop and cafeteria.
Unfortunately, my days off were Mondays and Tuesdays and since every one I knew in the area had Saturdays and Sundays off, the summer was a bit of a bust from a social standpoint. But I will never forget my summer at the United Nations, even though I failed to put my mark on the world.