Autostraddle Storytime Roundtable: I Quit! You’re Fired! I’m Taking the Goldfish!



I think it best to tell my I-just-got-fired story in the form of a dialogue; that said, before I begin, I will provide you with relevant background. Here we go.

It was the Fall of 2007 and I was temping – an incredibly life-affirming activity -– for the President of the jazz division of a large music label. Let’s call him Mr. B. He was an older gentleman of a certain demeanor and air of self-entitlement.

I was to temp for one week, while his executive assistant was away on holiday. On my first day, Ms. R., the HR individual, informed me that Mr. B was “a big deal” and that I should “act accordingly.” Ummm, ok!

Mr. B comes in – around 10:30 am – says hello, and asks if I have made coffee and, if so, could I get him a mug (the grey one) with sugar and a bit of cream. I oblige, bringing him the grey mug.

I am then promptly told that the ratio of cream to coffee is unacceptable and would need to be fixed. OK.


I bring him back cup number two and, this time, he is satisfied. Down to work: he asks me to dictate all his email messages, as he has “no idea how to use [email] technology, nor does [he] want to.”

He then verbally replies to each; I take notes of his replies … and then I have email the emailer back as if I were Mr. B himself.

Despite the fact that Mr. B is outlandish, arrogant and self-centered, we manage to get along. In part, I believe, because I refused to treat him like he was “a big deal,” Mr. B quickly warmed to me: before the end of the first day, he spoke to me about his mistress, impotence and poop.

Tuesday and Wednesday went on with more of the same, and then on Wednesday evening he invited me and a few of his colleagues to two shows. I went, and although he was all razzle dazzle and more than slightly inappropriate, I felt cool & aware and safe with my two buffers.

Then Thursday morning came … or um, so I hear, as I missed it.

Mr. B: “I don’t need people like you in my life. You are a terrible human being. Don’t bother coming in tomorrow. Don’t fucking bother stepping foot in this building again.”

I woke up at 1 P.M. I rolled over to see 23 missed calls on my phone. I was four hours late! Jesus Cristo!

I should’ve lied, but I called my temping company immediately and told the truth. Then, following protocol, I called the HR individual at the record label and also told her what happened. Though she definitely seemed annoyed – and rightfully so – she said not to worry (“we all have these days”) and to come in and finish the week off tomorrow. Great!

I got ready to meet Riese at the gym…and while I was walking there I received a phone call from the intern who was filling in for me.

Mr. B wanted to speak to me.

Here’s how that went:

Me: Hi Mr. B. I am so terribly sorry; I slept through my alarm…I am so, so sorry for the inconvenience. It is completely my fault….and I take full resp-

Mr. B: Why the fuck did you not call?

Me: I did; I phoned the temping agency and HR, as I am supposed to —

Mr. B: Who the fuck sleeps until 1pm? I don’t believe you. Where the fuck were you? This is completely irresponsible and unacceptable.

Me:I know, I am so sorry, I am so sorry. I have not been sleeping well the past few months and slept through the alarm.

Mr. B: How could you do this to me? How could you do this to me?

Me: I know, I am terribly sorry. I will come in early tomo-

Mr. B: I don’t need people like you in my life. You are a terrible human being. Don’t bother coming in tomorrow. Don’t fucking bother stepping foot in this building again.

Me: I am so, so sorr…


Sigh. Best. Firing. Ever.

[Sidenote from Riese: Natalie then arrived at the gym bawling crying on the elliptical trainer which made me very sad. I comforted her with all the stories of how I was terrible at every job I ever had … oh, here those are!]

“You can’t fire me. You don’t even know my NAME.”
(Margaret, Clockwatchers)




Immediately after graduating from college and moving to New York in 2004, I experienced a series of terrible employment experiences that scarred me for life.

As a fresh young woman of the world I expected to be snatched up by New York Magazine immediately upon arrival in the big city with my DIPLOMA! And my GPA! And my TALENT!

As a fresh young woman of the world I expected to be snatched up by New York Magazine immediately upon arrival in the big city with my DIPLOMA! And my GPA! And my TALENT! Unfortunately things had changed slightly since I’d mapped out my career in 1999 and there were no longer any publishing jobs to be had, those that existed were taken by rich kids who could afford months of unpaid full-time internships as leverage and/or paid in the neighborhood of 25K a year, before taxes. In NYC dollars, that shit ain’t liveable.

So! First, I interview at two temp agencies who both refuse to hire me due to my “ties to the media.” Funny, considering that those ties are unprofitable, yet prevent me from making a living.

Luckily! I have four years of waitressing experience, was an employee trainer at the Macaroni Grill in Michigan and boast about a year of experience waitressing at The Olive Garden in Times Square when I was 18.

So! I’ll just waitress! And freelance! Yes! Hurrah!

I. The Saz – FIRED.

After failing an impromptu pop quiz at a diner (Who can tell me what’s in a Lumberjack Special rightnow?) and being totally underwhelmed by the life of a “lounge” promoter enlisted to peddle shots of herbal tonics to people on the street (until we are asked for a vendor’s permit and shuffled home, penniless), I walk in to a West Village spot called The Sazerac House and charm the guy there immediately. I begin straight away!pilot_248

“The Saz” is staffed & frequented mostly by older gay men who’ve been living in Chelsea for decades and lost their boyfriends to AIDS ten years ago. They are skeptical of me. (Gay generation gap?)

We pool tips and I don’t make any money at The Saz besides my side income selling my friend’s prescription meds to the bartender. About a month in, after I’ve trained a new gay boy, I’m suddenly fired by the man who hired me allegedly because they’re closing for lunch and won’t need me anymore. The Saz is about two blocks from my apartment so I walk by there quite often and so I know they’re lying. I’ll never know the truth.

II. Craigslist Is Bunk

I get up the day after my firing, armed with resumès and ambition, get off at Lincoln Center and … walk promptly into an afternoon matinee of The Stepford Wives. I’m then immediately seduced by Victoria’s Secret’s Semi-Annual Sale because you know, it only happens semi-annually and stuff.

Not that I care, really, because of all the gigs available on craigslist! And by “gigs” I mean “schemes”! I’ll soon rake in 300 dollars a night as a Jell-O Shot Girl! (fail!) As a bartender at upscale swingers parties! (fail!) As a taker of online surveys! (fail!) Google ADSENSE! (fail.) However craiglist is a fun way to meet random cute girls in the tri-state area (success!) anyhow …

III. Niko’s!

After about a week of nonsense, I walk into NIKO’S GRILL on the Upper West Side because they seem to perpetually be hiring and therefore must be desperate, and I like that in an employer.

I’m hired on the spot! Later I’m told this is only because the Hiring Maven herself, Elise the Douchestress, was out of town and the pervy manager (NIKO!), left to his own devices, actually hired two girls in one day. Elise never hires girls, because Elise will never get a job on Broadway like she wants and therefore must take revenge on the world somehow. Like by never hiring girls, and furthermore only hiring ugly guys.


See — most NYC restaurants are staffed by beautiful wannabe actors & models. Aside from one person (I’ll get to him later) and the other girl hired on my day, everyone at Niko’s is … um. Unfortunate-looking. Which is fine. But it struck me as odd, as did the fact that every staffer had been there for many years or was brand spankin’ new.

On my first day of training, I attempt to make conversation with my dumpy trainer but he rebuffs me. In fact, no one at Niko’s seems interested in conversation. When another trainee asks me a question about the menu test, Elise comes over and scolds us; “We ask you to come in early to study the menu. Not to talk.” When my training shift is over and the restaurant is empty, I’m forced to sit in the back room for an hour to “study the menu,” which I apparently could not do just as well at HOME, as I suggest.

“On my first day of training, I attempt to make conversation with my dumpy trainer but he rebuffs me. In fact, no one at Niko’s seems interested in conversation. When another trainee asks me a question about the menu test, Elise comes over and scolds us; “We ask you to come in early to study the menu. Not to talk.”

It turns out socializing is prohibited at Niko’s, which is actually one of their milder rules. In fact, we all must sit at separate tables while eating employee meals before our shifts to avoid making friends.

The manager Niko himself is totally psychotic. He regularly wobbles into the restaurant on his scrooge-ish cane, sucks his gums like his tongue is a toothpick and writes long notes in “the book,” a notebook which we are all required to write in every evening and read every afternoon. Niko usually writes a three-page rant on one of five basic topics every night, e.g. that he didn’t create the restaurant for us to socialize. When I start dating another server (the cute one!), we’re personally (passive-aggressively) singled out and my elder is told “monkey see, monkey do.”

We pool tips. Newbies like me get half of what the elders get, so obvs here I am again not making any money.


When Elise tells Niko that I’m seeing The Cute One, Niko is furious and he then re-does the entire schedule to ensure that I am never working with the person I am dating AND —better!—to ensure that we never even have TIME OFF together. We are actually the first people in the history of Niko’s to not get a day off that we both requested. (That’s the one thing they were good about).

Because The Cute One is an Elder, he works all the best shifts, therefore in order to separate us, every shift I am scheduled for is a dead shift where I can hope to make $30 bucks, max.

I’m so f*cking angry about this that on my way to work one morning I compose a three-page letter telling Niko what he could do better for his employees — I am Jerry Maguire! I AM TAKING THE GOLDFISH! — (you may be familiar with these screeds of mine, I have a habit of it. E.g., yelling at Matt Heaton, yelling at pro-IFC commenters, etc.) I arrive at work, cut and paste my three-page letter of resignation into “The Book”, write “DON’T DELETE THIS” all over it, and stomp off into the sunlight to get a new job!

Niko tells The Cute One that he thought I was a good waitress and that he liked me, which is confusing. Furthermore I am told that he seems visibly reflective about by my letter. Which he obviously removes from the book.



My next gig at a midtown Tex-Mex joint is promising at first — they like me so much and trust my waitressing skills SO MUCH that they don’t even make me finish training! Then a week later I reach into my pill bottle for a Claritin and accidentally take an ambien I didn’t even know was in the bottle and I almost pass out at work.

I am mysteriously fired by telephone a few days later, told that it “just isn’t working out.” FUCK MY LIFE!


NEXT UP! A swanky Upper East Side joint where I make it through one week of training with another psychotic owner (I am warned by present servers that most people don’t get along with him, I brush this off because I’ve dealt with Niko) when some big-time restaurant owners end up in my training section. They’re pissed when Tony tries to transfer the table to a real server because they’ve already established a cute witty banter with MEMEMEME. They tell Tony that they want me back, and I deliver this news to Tony.

Tony: “Fine, whatever! You will only ruin their meal! Now I look like an idiot!”

Me: “I’m sorry—But—what would you have suggested I do?”

Tony: “I just look like an idiot! Whatever! Wait on them. I’m sure you’ll do a terrible job.”


The men leave me an 80-dollar tip and praise my service to Tony. He says they are only being polite. He’s still mad at me. He keeps the tip for himself. The next day of training (also the day that G.W. Bush was re-elected, which we were forbidden to discuss,) he singles me out at the meeting for usurping authority and not being “up to par” with the other servers and bada-bing bada-boom somehow we are YELLING AT EACH OTHER in front of the entire restaurant.

This story ends with me throwing my apron off, trumpeting, “Talking to Tony is like fighting with a fucking brick wall!” and once again storming out the door.

Tony has left me with two suggestions. One: I should apply at the big tipper’s places, where he promises me I will not be hired, because they are not nice, like him. Two: I should consider EJ’s across the street, which is casual. Casual. Like me.


Unfortunately this (unpaid) week of training has cut into my time studying for the SATs that I need to almost ace in order to be accredited as a Kaplan tutor. I forgot that math is hard and despite my promising teacher audition, I don’t get the job … or a second chance.

Luckily I have parts modeling, sketchy jobs filing for lonely men of the outer boroughs, and have just purchased a book on how to make six figures a year as a copywriter! AND! AND! A $10/hour job at Banana Republic!

Somehow I end the fiscal year of 2004 in debt up to my eyeballs … which is why I fail to convince any Banana Republic customers to open a BP credit card like I’m instructed to (I think it’s a bad idea for them to open a credit card! I can’t do that to them!) which is why in January I am told that I am no longer needed after the holiday season.

Luckily! I got some cute pants at Banana which I totally still wear!

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Marie Lyn Bernard, aka Riese, is an award-winning writer, blogger, journalist, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in the midwest, lost her mind in New York City and is currently making it work in California. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better, The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image and The Hazards of Being Female," "Dirty Girls," and "The Best American Erotica of 2007," magazines including Nylon, Marie Claire, GO, Curve, Interlude, and CollegeBound, and all over the web including, Jezebel, Queerty, Emily Books and OurChart (RIP). She was the recapper for The L Word Online and host of Showtime’s Lezberado and her personal blog has earned many dubious honors including Best Personal Blog 2008. Riese has spoken about blogging, community-building, feminism, cyberculture and sexuality at places like BlogHer, Yale, New York University, The University of Chicago and The Museum of Sex. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Interlochen Arts Academy and The Olive Garden's week-long training intensive; she enjoys eating foods, having big ideas, reading books & talking to her stuffed dog, Tinkerbell. Also, she's Jewish. Follow her smokin’ hot adventures on twitter. Contact: riese[at]

Riese has written 2896 articles for us.


  1. I was working at a salon for like 9 months. I adored my boss, I was pretty much her bitch: someone needs to cover this shift. I’ll do it! Can you clean the salon before you leave tonight? (Keep in mind that I was not paid HOURLY, but 50% commission) Sure, I’m on it like white on rice. I’d entertain her 3-yo stepson when her husband brought him in while they replaced shampoo bowls, whatever. Occasionally I had a space cadet issue with forgetting to do my assigned chore before I left – but not all the time by any means, not intentionally, in fact when I remembered I’d do more than prescribed.

    Last August though she made some changes. Walk-ins were no longer distributed evenly amongst us, but would go in order of who that was available had sold the most retail product the day before. I suck at selling retail – pretty good at doing hair, but this is a mall salon, people don’t come in to spend $400, they come in for a $15/$20 haircut! Our cheapest bottle of shampoo was $13. Come on now.

    The new girl butchered hair, but churned through clients and sold retail like nothing else. She could see 5 clients in 2 hours and sell them all something or two things, and she’d do it like this. “You need this.” Plop it on the desk. And the receptionist would dutifully ring it up. That’s gotta be illegal.

    Anyway, new girl was hoarding clients and I was NOT COOL with it, so I began to look for another job. One of the places I looked felt it appropriate to call up the boss and let her know. She called me the morning of my next shift and told me, that since I’d basically quit without giving notice, I could pack my station that day.

    I just said, “You’re funny,” and hung up on her.

    • I worked at Blockbuster for 2 weeks in high school. Standing for 8 hours to be rewarded with a 30 min break was NOT fun. Not to mention the $5.50/hr minimum wage. Now I’m all grown up and get sit with my feet up reading Autostraddle at work & I can take as many breaks as I want!

  2. I was unfortunate enough to graduate from college this past May, right as the unemployment rates were getting totally redic. I have a degree that is quite marketable in an industry that is very big where I live, but NO ONE IS F*CKING HIRING!!! And those who are hiring, hire the older candidates with more industry experience.

    So I live at home with my parents, in the middle of nowhere, in a town all my friends have managed to escape.

  3. I worked at the library at my school (Grinnell College) and my job was filing card catalogue cards…piles and piles of card catalogue cards. I hid in the stacks and read magazines instead and eventually stopped going to work at all. The assistant librarian finally realized that I wasn’t showing up (we came and went as we pleased) and demanded that I meet with her. I ran over to the library and told her that I was a terrible employee and that she had every right to be angry and to terminate me. I told her the job was boring and that I would likely have trouble doing it on a regular basis. I listened to her frustration and anger and her NEEDS and nodded sympathetically (clearly, I was meant to be a social worker). As a result, she asked me to stay on. She didn’t ask me back the following year, however, which was a blessing because my girlfriend got me a job in the AV center.

  4. I, like Riese, could write a book about this topic. Here are the highlights:

    ~Worked at Discovery Zone. Did b-day parties and came in early on Saturdays to clean the place (thank g-d I never had to clean the ball pit). One Sat. morning, after a month of being there, I walk in to a crying manager and pissed off employees. She walked in to a note on the door. “WE were bought out by Chuck E. Cheese.” We were all “laid off”/not needed anymore. Fuck that mouse. About a year later, I get a letter in the mail from Chuck himself saying I was getting a special chance to interview for a job with them. No thanks, ratface.

    ~I gave away a free iced coffee at a donut shop I had worked at for over a year. I was a trainer, a team lead, and I gave my friends a coffee (we ALL did it ALL the time). They had set up a sting operation in the parking lot that night with a computer in the car that was synced to our cash register and saw everything that got paid for vs. what walked out of the store. They came in, asked me if I did it, I knew honesty was the best policy, so I said yes. I said sorry. They said leave. I cried and cried. I went back for the next week (though I was told not to enter the premesis again) and made little signs to put on the table asking the loyal customers to rally to have me hired back. The employees there assisted me with this campaign. I was told to take the signs down and to stop doing this. My mgr and district mgr liked me and finally told me that the CEO wanted me to take a trip to see him and apologize and he would personally decide if I could have my job back! Then they wouldn’t let me talk to him directly, they had to have his assistants hear me grovel and pass it on. So creepy. He let me back, but he had my dignity forever.

    ~Got my first restaurant gig in college as a hostess and, after 6 hours on a training shift with a girl who did not train me and just kept talking about what time she would get off of work to go party, I never went back. The manager called me for 2 weeks, and even called my mom’s house (my emergency contact) and spoke to her and told her to have me call and explain why I quit. After one 6 hour shift she said I “left her high and dry”! No call was made.

    ~Finally, I’d worked at Applebee’s for 6 years, 3 of which were as a manager after a promotion prompted by my district manager. I moved to Seattle and wanted to stay with the company, so I went to work for a franchise (as opposed to the corporate store at home). It was g-d awful and the GM was so rude and greedy, after many things tipping me off that he was not a good man to work for (he supported the way his mostly Hispanic kitchen treated women poorly because he said “it’s there culture”)I finally had had the final straw. I told him I was on 5 closing shifts in a row and that he had promised it would never be more than 2. His answer was “there is no one else to do it, and I could do it, except the next day is my day off and I really don’t wanna waste it by sleeping in after being here late.” I was awestruck. That night I finished my shift, wrote a strongly worded letter (printed up and left in the “mgr log”) for all to see, and also emailed a letter to my gm’s boss to let him know what happened. I gave examples, but said that I would walk away and not fight for this job, that it wasn’t worth it. I never went back. They tried to contact me for months to find out all of the things I alluded to in my letter, but I didnt even want to revisit that experience.

    Now I work for a non profit and read autostraddle all day…

  5. I once was hired from Dairy Queen because they thought I was autistic. Looking back, I probably could have sued for discriminatory practices…because I am not autistic…I was just a 16 year old with social anxiety disorder, ha!

  6. jobs ARE overrated. I got ‘laid off’ ( i prefer fired, its more dramatic) from my fave job so far in Feb because of the bastard recession and haven’t been able to find one since so I’m poor and unemployed, but its defo ok because I’m honing my N64 skills to expert level. May be becoming malnutritioned from only eating cereal though.

    • i agree about word usage. where i work when someone was fired they called it “termination” which I thought was waaaay more dramatic than fired. legal agreed the terminology was too strong so now they call it “separation” which just sounds like the company is divorcing them and taking the kids. whatever happened to good old fashioned firing?

      • i love mario kart!its much better than the new wii version. also goldeneye is played a lot in my flat and is useful for deciding who takes the rubbish out etc too. you can tell we’re all unemployed!

        • When we were growing up my brother, sister and I would play Goldeneye on slappers only mode to decide who would win arguments. We figured that if we weren’t allowed to literally beat each other up feeding each other virtual bitch slaps in 64-bit glory was the next obvious solution.

  7. I had a job I loved working with people with traumatic brain injuries. I was supervisor of the overnight shift and loved being there so much that I worked extra shifts at least twice a week. Yeah, I know.

    The trouble started when I noticed a girl on another shift and began a relentless “pursuit of the straight girl.” Eventually, I won her heart and she switched over on to my shift so that we’d be able to have more off work time together, aww. But of course, it was against company policy to date subordinates. However, I saw several of my fellow supervisors in relationships with other staff so I continued on with my relationship, but with a little added effort to keep it under wraps.

    One day, after an administration meeting, the boss called me into her office and asked if I knew this girl and what my relationship with her was. I told her we were friends. It was then that I found out that she had been anonymously informed of our MySpace profiles and had seen them and the mushy comments we had left each other. She sent me home, telling me I couldn’t work until the situation was resolved. The next day I heard nothing. The day after that, she called my girlfriend and asked her six different ways if I had sexually harassed her. The following day, I was called in and fired. Come to find out some time later, the person who ratted me out was my friend and room mate at the time.

    Now, in retrospect I wish that I had called her out on discrimination because all the hetero supervisor-staff couples weren’t ever in any trouble. Or at least spilled the beans that I wasn’t the only one doing it. But whatever, I suppose.

  8. I’m on the jobhunting trail at the moment. I printed out loads of CVs to send out and then noticed on the last one that printed that I’d put my old phone number on it and had used up the last of the ink in the printer.

    I have no money to fuel my Muller Rice addiction.

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