Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.
I like to think I’m pretty savvy when it comes to technology, gadgets, texting and texting etiquette, but I’ve got nothing on June — my 82-year-old technophile neighbor and confidante.
It’s Rosh Hashanah, and she’s been busy with friends, as she always is, but she carved out a little time for me over the weekend.
The best, fastest way to get June is to send a text to her beloved iPhone. So I do. I ask her where she wants to go for coffee.
“Idk,” she texts me, “wut do u want to do? shd we go to la grainne caffe?”
She’s got all the lingo down pat. We make a date for Saturday (although she warns that Friday night will be a “late one out” for her and that she might be groggy). I take my chances and book it.
She beats me to the cafe, which is on 9th Ave. and 21st. Her back is to the door, and she has her iPod on, so when I come up behind her she jumps a little bit.
“Oh, hi! Caitlin O’Toole. My favorite name ever. ‘Caitlin O’Toole’, she repeats, this time in a pseudo-brogue. How are you?”
“I’m good, what are you listening to, June?”
“Jobim. I LOVE Jobim. Do you know of him? It’s actually a Jobim/Vivaldi mix — as the weather cools down I love his guitar concertos. I’ll have to make you a mixtape. Here, listen to this.”
So I put on the headphones, and “Girl from Ipanema” is blasting. I pretend like I’ve never heard it, though I had never heard his particular version.
“I love this! Love it.”
I take off the headphones and realize that I’ve been screaming. I pull up a chair.
“What other music do you like?”
“Well, I have to confess — I am curious about that Lady Gaga — the Atlantic Monthly calls her ‘Gagaloo’,” she giggles. “I couldn’t tell you what she sings, but I think she’s so wonderful and free. The Atlantic says she is the embodiment of a pop star, and well — I have to agree. Pop music has been so disappointing these days.”
“I do like Lady Gaga,” I chime in, “but more for her persona than for her music. She sings that song ‘Poker Face’ — know that one?”
I start to sing the chorus, and June lights up.
“Oh! That’s HER? I thought that was Britney Spears. Yes, I know ‘Poker Face’. Do you like Sondheim? I have to make you a mix. I’m going to do that today.”
“Awesome. And I will make you one.”
“What’s happening on the work front, Caitlin O’Toole? And what do you want to order?”
“Well,” I look down. “I’m doing this blog thing — which is really fun — and I just got a little freelance work, so I am glad. Fall’s here and things should pick up. Um, I’ll have a peppermint tea.”
“Excuse me, miss?,” she goes to the waitress. “Two peppermint teas over here, would you? Thank you so much.”
“What’s happening in your life?” I ask June.
“Well, you know about my son, right?”
“Yes, you told me — he is schizoaffective, right? Is that the right term?”
“Yes, well, I still say ‘schizophrenic’ because I am old school and more people understand that term. But yes, he is. And he has not been well.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“I know you are. Thank you. Anyway, so he has been in the hospital all summer, they can’t get his meds quite right and he has been… well, let’s just say not well. It’s so hard to see a child struggling.”
And her eyes well up. I clutch her hand and we’re quiet for a moment. All of a sudden I feel like a whiner for complaining about my unemployment. There is just so much to be grateful for. Like my friendship with June.
She pays the bill and we get up and link arms and walk towards our building in the cool fall air.
Next up: My new obsession: getting a job at Orkin. Yep — the bug people.
Caitlin O’Toole is a New York City-based writer and editor. A native of Washington, D.C., she began her illustrious journalism career as a Washington Post paper girl. She has since written and edited for Sesame Workshop Digital, Star Magazine, The National Enquirer, Glamour, People.com, Parade.com and Washington’s City Paper. Her work has also been featured on Fox News, ABC, MTV and VH1. She lives in Chelsea with her two cats, Lucy and Ethel. She can be reached for work at her LinkedIn page, Tweets at @MsOToole, and blogs at Shits and Giggles.