Book Review: Blown Sideways Through Life: A Hilarious Tour de Resume, by Claudia Shear

Blown Sideways Through LifeBlown Sideways Through Life: A Hilarious Tour de Resume
by Claudia Shear
The Dial Press
116 pages

When I was job-hunting, one of the things that I found to be somewhat of a pain was having to complete a job application with the same exact information as on my resume. I know there are reasons for such, but it just always struck me as something that took entirely too long – and I don’t have nearly as many jobs in my history as most people.

Now, I can be thankful that I’m not Claudia Shear, who writes in her memoir-turned-one-woman-show Blown Sideways Through Life about the 64 different jobs she’s held – and quit, and been fired from, too.

“She worked as  (among other things) a pastry chef, a nude model, a waitress (a lot), a receptionist in a whorehouse, a brunch chef on Fire Island, a proofreader on Wall Street (a lot), and an Italian translator.” ~ from the book jacket

Told in essay format, on their own these stories seem to be simply a collection of “I had this crappy job, I hated it even there was this cool person or two that I worked with, but I wound up telling the owner to go fuck off, so I got fired or quit.”

Repeat. Repeat again. Sixty times.

This is billed as “a hilarious tour de resume,” which made me think that I was going to be in for a very funny read. Although there are certainly some amusing moments as Ms. Shear is sharing anecdotes about her various jobs, something about this kind of irked me and it took me awhile to figure out why. Because I can understand this “take this job and shove it” mentality once, maybe a couple times in one’s career… but not 64 times.

Finally, it dawned on me: I’m reading this in the wrong decade.

Because no way, no how does anyone, in this 2014 economy, treat 64 jobs with that kind of laissez-faire attitude. But Blown Sideways By Life wasn’t written in 2014; it was published nearly 20 years ago, when life was all kinds of different, indeed.

The takeaway is what matters, though, and it’s timeless. It’s especially relevant for this economy. It’s a reminder that every person taking your order, bagging your groceries, cleaning your hotel room, answering the phone, sweeping the floor, and getting your food is more than their job.

You got that, right? We, you, they are more than our jobs.

“You talk to the people who serve you the food the same way you talk to the people you eat the food with. You talk to the people who work for you the same way you talk to the people you work for…

“Sitting on rooftops, desktops, countertops, under counters; perched on milk crates, wine crates, paper cartons, front steps, hanging out in back alleys, deserted cafeterias, spooky hallways, we are all the same: a motley crew of artsy-fartsy types and single mothers and social misfits and immigrants who work six days, double shifts and send all the money home. We are people in recovery, people in denial, gay guys shocking the shit out of pizza guys from Queens – and vice versa. We all fit in because none of us belongs anywhere. And, boy, what you can learn: dirty words in every language and the fact that nobody is just a typist, just a dishwasher, just a cook, just a porter, just a prostitute. That everyone has a story. Everyone has at least one story that will stop your heart.” (pg. 114-115)

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