“What does the yellow button do?” I ask. I mean, I guess it’s stupid to think I can avoid talking to the guy about work stuff, right? He has information I need. Maybe if I act professional, he’ll do the same.
He points at me. “Good question, Baileys Irish Cream. The yellow button is a lobby-only intercom—see? L-O-B-B-Y. And it’s mainly used by the information desk to page lazy dumdums who’ve lost their kids or wives.” He hits the button and an unpleasant sound crackles from unseen speakers. He holds out the receiver to me. “Go on, say something, superstar.”
I shake my head. Not happening. I don’t like the spotlight. Now I’m regretting that I asked about the yellow button.
He tries to coax me into taking it with that laid-back voice of his, but his eyes are 100 percent challenge, like this is some sort of contest, and he’s trying to see who’ll break first. “Come on. Don’t get shy on me now, glamour girl.”
Again with the catty nicknames? What is his problem? Well, he can forget it. Now it’s a matter of principle. I cross my arms over my chest. “No.”
“It’s just a little-bitty intercom,” he says, wiggling the receiver in front of me.
I shove his hand away. Okay, maybe I kind of slap it away. But I’ve just about had it with him. I’m genuinely irritated.
And I’m not the only one. The easy-breezy manner leeches out of his face, and I can tell he’s kind of pissed at me now too. I don’t really care. He’s not my boss, and I’m not doing it.
His jaw flexes to one side for a moment. Then he leans closer and says in a calm, condescending voice, “You sure you’re cut out for this? Because speaking on the intercom is part of your job description.”
“I . . .” I can’t finish my thought. I’m angry and embarrassed, and I’m freezing up all over again like I did when he asked me where I was from. Part of me wants to cut and run, and another part of me wants to slug Porter in the stomach. But all I can do is stand there like a dying fish with my lips flopping open and closed.
It takes him all of five seconds to lose patience with me. I see the moment his eyes flick to the waiting crowd behind us—the moment he realizes he’s supposed to be talking to them, not me—and something close to embarrassment crosses his face. Or maybe I imagined it, because it’s gone a heartbeat later.
He holds the phone up to his mouth. “Testing,” he says, and it echoes around the cavernous lobby. “My name is Bailey, and I’m from DC, where apparently mismatched shoes are the latest trend.”
A few people chuckle as I glance down at my feet. And to my horror, he’s right. I’m wearing the same style flats: one black, one navy. I have three pairs in three different colors, and because they’re small and comfortable, I packed a pair in my carry-on. I was in such a frenzy to iron my dress this morning, I threw them on without looking before I walked out the door. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
And, to top it all off, I now realize that Porter was never checking out my legs—he’d been staring at my shoes the entire time.
My cheeks catch fire. I want to melt into a puddle and slide under the tacky orange carpet. I can’t look at him now, much less come up with a witty response. My mind has flipped on the autopilot switch and blanked out, and all I’m aware of is the sound of my own pulse throbbing in my ears. I’m so numb, I can’t even manage to feel anything more than the smallest drop of relief when Pangborn shows up and swaps groups with Porter so we can tour the other wing.
I swear, if I never see that boy again, it’ll be too soon. And if life is the least bit fair, I’ll be assigned a job that’s light-years away from him. I’ll do anything. Clean toilets. Take out trash. I’ll even make announcements on that stupid-ass phone. As long as it means I’ll have little to no contact with Porter freaking Roth, I’ll do it with a smile. Because one of his job requirements seems to be Getting a Laugh at Bailey’s Expense, and I would rather get on a plane and fly back home to Mom and Nate if that’s how things are going to be around here.
I think about Alex, and how much better I’d feel if I could go home and tell him about all this. He would definitely sympathize. And I need someone to vent to, because, really, could this day get any worse?
When the tour is over, and we get our schedule assignments from Mr. Cavadini, I find out the answer to that is: yes, oh hell yes, it sure enough can.
I stare at my printed schedule in disbelief. I’ve been assigned to ticketing.
LUMIÈRE FILM FANATICS COMMUNITY PRIVATE MESSAGES>ALEX>NEW!
@mink: I started my summer job today. It was terrible. I hate it more than Dick Van Dyke’s fake accent in Mary Poppins.
@alex: WHOA. That’s a lot of hate, gov’ner! Are you still working with your mom like last summer? Or am I not supposed to ask? Is this a Forbidden Zone topic? I’m mentally checking the list and don’t see it on there.
@mink: Not my mom. (It’s on the list, but I’ll give you a break this time. The list IS kinda long.)
@alex: You can shorten it any time you’d like. Say the word and I’ll give you my e-mail. Or even my *gasp* real name!
@alex: All right, all right. Tell me about your terrible, no-good, really bad day. Does your boss suck?
@mink: Eh. Too soon to tell. I got stuck with the crap assignment and one of my coworkers is a colossal dickbag. He’s going to make my life miserable. I can already tell.
@alex: Make him miserable right back. You are Mink! Hear you roar!
@mink: *cough* *sputter* *broken meow*
@alex: Chin up. You’ll best this loser. Boys are dumb.
@mink: So true. How was your day, BTW?
@alex: Not bad. Now that summer’s started, I’m back to the full-time, two-job routine. Usually I get all the dimwit coworkers at my main job, but maybe they sent them your way. Besides, I’m still holding out hope that my groovy friend Mink might get up the nerve to come visit her dad this summer and come see North by Northwest at the film festival with me. How can you resist Hitchcock? (And you call yourself a film snob. Prove it!)
“Whatever happened to chivalry? Does it only exist in ’80s movies?”
—Emma Stone, Easy A (2010)
The rest of my training is a blur. I’m not even sure how I manage to find my way back to my dad’s house. All I know is by the time Pete Rydell walks in from work, I’m armed and ready with a memorized list of calm, collected reasons as to why I can’t work at the Cave . . . which quickly degenerates into me flat-out begging him to please-please-please let me quit. But he’s not having it. Not even when I promise to apply to Pancake Shack and bring us home free pancakes every day for life. “It’s just a ticket booth, Mink,” he says, flabbergasted that I could be so bent out of shape about taking money from strangers. And when I try to justify my bitter dislike of Porter, one of his eyebrows is lifted by so much rising suspicion, it could inflate a hot air balloon. “The boy we almost hit on the crosswalk?” almost hit on the crosswalk?”
“I know, right?” He remembers the drugged-out friend. He sees the light now.
Only, he doesn’t. Things are now being said about how much trouble he went through to pull strings to get this job, and how bad it would look for me to quit so early, and how living out here isn’t cheap, especially on a single parent’s salary—one that isn’t a lawyer’s salary, like Mom’s—and that he’d like me to help pay for the insurance on the Vespa and my cell phone bill.