Going to Work with Leesa Cross-Smith
Leesa Cross-Smith writes really dope stuff that makes me nostalgic about my hometown, and about every hometown in America. Her stuff always makes me remember being fifteen or twenty or about being a day younger than I am, makes me remember first dates with people I’m not even sure are on earth anymore. She just had these really great poems that were published in Hobart. The poems are about the moon(s) and I would say they are pretty good representations of her work in general. Just this giant longing, and this giant celebration.
I started this interview a long time ago. I’d just read Leesa’s book Every Kiss A War and I thought it was some of the sharpest short fiction I could ever recall. But not just sharp, also so heavy with the kind of juice that I don’t know the name of. Her stories read like the way some David Bowie songs sound to me, or the way some VHS tapes used to look when I rented them from the video store that used to be in my neighborhood, before it burnt down. Anyways, I started this interview a long time ago and then Donald Trump got elected and I felt like shit about it and I kind of stopped writing for a while. But eventually, I picked Leesa’s book back up and read some of her stories again … and damn you should read this rather than listen to me blab on about how something is good. “Out of the Strong, Something Sweet” at Paper Darts
This column has been about working … and sometimes I talk to writers about some jobs they’ve had. To carry on with that, I asked Leesa about some jobs she’s had. I’m a one trick pony that way it seems. <3
What kinds of jobs/tasks did you have to do when you were a kid?
My main job when I was a kid was cleaning my room, which I hated doing. I’m still not very good at it. My favorite chore when I was a kid was cleaning the fridge, mostly because the only kind of cleaning I like to do is when I can instantly see progress/results. I hated vacuuming because vacuums are so loud and I don’t like loud.
What about after you got a driver’s license?
My first real job after I got my driver’s license was working at the Gap in the mall. I worked there for four months and then one day, walked in and quit because I hated it. I think I’m forever on some kind of list that says I can’t work at the Gap anymore because I walked out one day? I’m a rebel.
What happened at the Gap? Were your coworkers punks asses?
When I started working there I worked for a kind woman I really adored and then she left and the women who replaced her weren’t my fave. I liked the other people I worked with. The customers were fine! Every man who came in shopping for his wife told me she was about “my size” when I asked them what size she wore. I was sixteen.
What was your worst job?
My worst job was working at this bagel place. I only worked there for like eight hours total. I think it was two different shifts. I did it mostly to help out a friend. I was terrible at it and I had to wear a yellow shirt and I don’t wear yellow shirts and I had to wear a visor thing and I don’t wear visor things. I didn’t like it so I left. I’m a rebel.
Hahaha, what’s wrong with yellow shirts? What else did you hate about the bagel store?
While I don’t think there’s anything inherently evil about yellow shirts on other people I look awful in yellow shirts and don’t ever put them on my body! I don’t feel very me in a yellow shirt. I only own one and that’s because it has the name of my friends’ bar on it but I don’t wear it. I didn’t like anything about the bagel shop but I especially hated feeling stressed standing there making sure I put everything the customer wanted on the right tray and I didn’t know anyone. The worst thing was the visor and the shirt. My favorite part was probably sweeping. I don’t mind sweeping.
I also had a job organizing things/files/stuffing envelopes at a radio station but mostly I just drank coffee and smoked (I don’t smoke now but I smoked then just because I liked having smoke breaks.) I wasn’t very good at this job either and one day I just didn’t go back. I’m kinda bad at jobs?
That is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. “I smoked then just because I liked having smoke breaks
What was your best job?
My best job was being a barista. Two different coffee shops and both places I was working with my best friend. I loved making drinks. The worst part of that job is that so many people are rude and awful so that’s something I had to deal with everyday. I wasn’t very good at dealing w/that but I was good at making drinks. I was a barista for years until I got out of college. Another best job was my only job out of college before I got pregnant with my daughter: writing obituaries for the local paper. I felt like I was actually using my English degree and I liked the people I worked with. The only thing I didn’t like about that job was that I never had two days off together and we had to work holidays So I was legit super-pregnant on Christmas one year and writing about dead people on Christmas morning. That sucked.
Oh man … Christmas and writing obituaries?
Yeah that sucked, Christmas and writing obituaries. Also I was super-pregnant. But I was thankful to have a job because my husband was working with a temp agency that let everyone go and he was hustling looking for a job and working anywhere he could and I had a good, solid job and was glad to be able to do that. I liked writing obituaries and I can type really fast while people are talking to me so that’s like, a skill…I can use for stuff. It would be pretty intense when people would stop by in person and I’d have to go downstairs to talk to them about the memorial they wanted to place for their loved one and a girl in our circle of friends was killed in a car accident when I was working there and the funeral home called the next morning but I took the call and passed it on. I wrote her obituary but didn’t talk to the people on the phone. I just got the info from my coworker. And when I was super-pregnant my coworkers wouldn’t pass the baby obituaries on to me…they wrote them instead which was like the sweetest thing because a lot of babies die…it’s just easy to forget if you’re not in the funeral business or working in a hospital or directly affected. I had to do some grief counseling, which was helpful. Every single morning when I went to work there was a stack of obituaries on my desk waiting to be typed up. Not real easy to escape your mortality when you’re writing about it all day. I loved the people I worked with though and by the end I was hugely pregnant walking around eating pickles in the office.
What were all the places you worked?
The Gap, two coffee shops, the radio station, a bagel place, the newspaper. I’ve worked with some ridiculous people, I’ve worked with some really awesome people. I met two of my closest girlfriends at work at the coffee shops and we’ve been friends for about 20 years. I used to work with this one guy who was in the Navy and he was like, a meteorologist for the Navy, so he’d always talk about the weather in an interesting way. He also was a priest once upon a time so he was a pretty cool fountain of information. I’ve worked with hippies who went to the bathroom to like, do drugs for hours when we were working a shift together. I’ve worked with a woman who complained to our manager that she didn’t think I liked her and she was right because I didn’t and I worked with a man who complained to another manager that he didn’t think I liked him and he was kinda right because he was so moody and sometimes rude to me. People seem to really want me to like them even when they are nasty and rude to me? I haven’t figured that one out. I cried at work once when I was pregnant and I felt like I’d ruined my “career” because women aren’t supposed to cry at work. And one time at the coffee shop, the girl who thought I didn’t like her…we were working together and she was going off on some customer about something and he got pissed and threw an entire cup of coffee at us but none of it got on me. That was weird. I went on maternity leave from the newspaper eight days before I had my daughter and I haven’t worked out in the world since then. That was back in 2004.