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Desperate for Work

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Best of VoxPop: The World of Work

By Jennifer Lejman 

The ad on Craigslist was for a High Roller Host in Atlantic City. Having worked a seemingly endless string of dead-end jobs, I was drawn to the flashy job title "High Roller Host"  -- that and the extremely lucrative salary offered.

I applied on my lunch break and before the end of the workday that day, a man named Steven with a slight speech impediment, which I later discovered to be an accent, called to conduct a phone interview. Afterward, he asked if I could come to Atlantic City for an interview right away. Surprised at my luck, I told him I could.

That was the beginning of the madness.

After calling my mom and asking her to watch my toddler son for a while longer, I headed out of Philadelphia and ventured over the Walt Whitman as the sun bowed over the Delaware River. I called Steven for directions and what proceeded can only be described as a wild chase through New Jersey.

He sent me to all kinds of places with piss poor directions. Finally, around 9:45 p.m. I saw the bright lights of Atlantic City. I called Steven who told me to meet me at "his casino," the Trump Plaza. I instructed my brother, who I had recruited as co-pilot, to drive around for the next 30 minutes and stay close in case I had to escape. By this time, both of us were suspicious about Steven. Several times during my drive he changed locations and at one point instructed me to come to his office, which sounded more like his apartment.

Someone in the right frame of mind would have immediately recognized the con but all I could see were the bright lights of Atlantic City and a good paying job. In other words, I suspended my disbelief.

I called Steven from the lobby of the Trump Plaza and he told me he would be right down. I paced around the marble floors of the lobby, wondering what it would be like to work in the time-space vacuum that is a casino. The bright lights, the flashes, the bells and whistles. Tired waitresses with too much make-up on or not quite enough. Bored-out-of-their-mind dealers with thick Jersey accents calling out numbers and throwing around chips. High rollers. Desperate gamblers. Old ladies with fanny packs, retirement funds and nothing better to do.

Finally, a short Asian man with a bad suit jacket and faded gray Dockers came down the escalator holding a brown leather zip-up folder under his arms and smelling as if he had smoked a pack of Pall Mall's on his way across the casino floor. This was Steven. He shook my hand vigorously.

Over the next 30 minutes I followed him around the casino floor, observing his twitchy behavior, reading his poorly written biography, listening to him vaguely explain the job, wondering why the hell I was still following him around the casino. Basically, Steven explained, he is something of an outlaw. While working as a casino employee for 10 years, Steven said he learned the numbers of all of the games, knew how to beat the odds and knew how casinos tricked people out of their money. Because casinos would rather have him working for them than against them, Steven said they paid him to bring in high rollers.

During our "interview," I watched him drop two grand at a black jack table while he skittishly scared off a man who wanted to sit next to him. Steven offered me $2,000 a week - always up front and in cash -- to be his personal assistant. My job description was never clear, I wouldn't be on the books, and my hours would be odd and long. The crazy part is, I continued to consider the offer.

I couldn't get out of the casino fast enough, but at the same time, all I could think about was what it would be like to make $2,000 a week. I told Steven I would think about it and I laughed with my brother in the car on the ride home. Why the hell not work for a crazy, hated and feared Asian guy with an addiction to math and cigarettes? I needed the money.

The next day Steven called me and used some car salesman tricks to try to pressure me into the deal. "So, what do I actually do," I asked? Again he told me I would find high rollers and bring them to him. Silently and for only a minute, I almost said yes. Yes to $2,000 a week! Yes to not having to worry about getting my electricity shut off! Yes to never having to sit in a Laundromat again! Sensing that I was ready to say yes, Steven made a critical mistake in his perfect, crazy pitch: "Do you know how to give massages?"

Steven had said the magic words. My dreams of $2,000 a week quickly evaporated -- almost as quickly as I hung up the phone.


Jennifer Lejman is still looking for that perfect job from her home in Media, Pa.



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