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Anna Undercover: Fired.
I had seen it happen before.
A girl would saunter in to the dressing room early, wearing flip-flops and sweats. She'd barely be through the door when a bouncer would stick his head in and call her over.
"C'mere for a second," he would say.
Then, not subtly enough, he would silently show her a yellow pad of paper.
A black marker usually spells out the dreaded words, typically in all capital letters.
"[So-and-so] no longer dances here."
It's a message from Jeff, the owner of the Outhouse, and as I understand it, he rarely leaves a written explanation to go along with notes like those.
When the dancer sees the note with her name on it, a look of surprise and injury usually spreads across her face. Some just turn and leave, headed to another club to find work that night. Others cry and need a hug. Others yell about it and make their exit in spectacular fashion.
It hurts to see a girlfriend lose her job, especially when you know you can't do anything about it but try to help her feel better, get her phone number, and wish her the best.
Even if I could save someone I thought should have been allowed to stay, it is Jeff's business, and he's entitled to run it how he sees fit.
Of course, I never thought I would be shown any message on that yellow tablet.
Call it elitism or any other of a number of things, but I felt invincible to getting fired--ever. In following all the rules, genuinely liking everyone, and loving the job, I earned a reputation for cheerfulness and rule-following without really trying.
But last Monday, at 7:00 p.m., one of the nicest bouncers followed me into the dressing room with the dreaded yellow tablet in his hands.
He looked at me with sad eyes, shaking his head.
"I'm really sorry," he said as he showed me the note.
"Anna no longer dances here," it said.
"What?" I said, not believing what I was looking at.
"I'm really sorry," he said.
"Do you know why?" I sputtered. The feeling of surprise was still establishing itself.
"I have no idea," he said. "You'll have to text Jeff. I'm really sorry." I knew there was nothing he could do, so I didn't press him.
The feeling of surprise gave way to a sudden realization that I had to leave the club I loved so much.
"Um," my voice wavered awkwardly as I prepared to make the announcement to the five or so other girls. "It looks like I've been fired."
"What?" someone said.
"What did you do?!"
"I don't know," I said, feeling the tears well up. "I wasn't here over the weekend. I don't know what I did."
I felt hot all over. What had I done? It had to be something.
I would never do something to get myself fired on purpose. I racked my brain.
A girl pulled me aside.
"You never do anything [to break the rules here]," she said. "Are you sure that nothing happened? Did you say something bad about Jeff on the Internet?" she asked quietly. People know about my blog, but only one or two girls have actually read it and told me about it.
"No, I didn't," I said, pausing for a second to make sure that was true. "I haven't posted anything in weeks."
I had nothing to say about Jeff. I'd had five or six conversations with him, really. And posting about some of the things he's talked to us about as a staff just would have been bad form.
"He hasn't even given me anything bad to say," I said. Well, in the context of working at a strip club, but even then, I hadn't posted anything. "And I really haven't done anything wrong that I can think of. I would tell you right now."
I would have.
We were standing in the same place in the club where I'd first admitted to Jeff that I was the one with the blog, and he'd been OK with it. The only time I ever said things about drugs or prostitution, I ran into him at the club and told him about it in person.
"Text him and ask him what you need to do to come back," she said. "Maybe you'll just need to pay a fine or something."
"Is there a fine on the books for me?" I suddenly thought to ask the bouncer.
"Um," he checked the books. "No, there's nothing. I'm really sorry. I wish I knew anything at all."
Jeff does, rather magnanimously, I think, allow some girls to come back after paying a fine for whatever they did. Depending on the severity of the crime committed (and his opinion of you), I've understood fines to be anywhere from $100 to $200, and as high as $500 or $1,000.
I honestly, and truly, had no idea why I was being let go.
"Where else can I go?" I asked the group. "Is any other place even close to the money here?" Girls either shrugged or shook their heads.
On the inside, I freaked out. I haven't managed my money well recently, and even taxes are going to be hard for me to swing.
"Please tell me if you hear anything," I said to the girl. She nodded and hugged me.
"Bye everyone," I said.
I walked to my car and typed out a text to Jeff, a few tears falling in my lap. I couldn't believe this.
"When I came in to work tonight, Cookie showed me a note that said 'Anna no longer dances here.' What do I need to do to come back?"
Jeff rarely responds to texts right away, so I called my boyfriend.
"I have no idea why I was fired," I sniffed into my crappy Samsung. "I don't know what to do. I don't want to work anywhere else." I sat there and looked out over the field in front of me as he tried to make me feel better.
He failed. We hung up.
I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to go anywhere I'd have to explain that I'd been fired, but I had to figure out some way to pay my bills; no choice there.
Suddenly, I remembered the Oracle. (This is not her real dancer name).
She would know what to do, I thought.
Blessed with an exceptionally stunning face and beautiful body, I am lucky to count the Oracle as a friend. She doesn't like a lot of people, and with an acid tongue like hers, you figure that out pretty fast.
Girls are afraid of her, and her customers are obsessed with her. She seems to know everything about stripping, clubs, and navigating the sometimes tricky situations therein.
I needed to talk to her, but it had been a while.
I called her club. "Does [the Oracle] still work here?" I asked.
She does, a man said.
I hung up and punched my destination into my GPS.
An hour later, I found her.
The club was beautiful and big. I looked around. Three stages? Wow.
Where was she?
Then, I saw her.
Forgetting my troubles for a second, I smiled. She was just like I remembered her.
She lay on her stomach, looking very bored, stretched out across the lap of a grinning female customer. Resting her head in her hand, the Oracle managed, still, to have her nose in the air. Looking at her long black hair and her regal pose, I thought of Cleopatra, and smiled.
She waved me over.
"How are you!" I said, hugging her and ignoring her customer, who seemed over the moon just to get to spend time with her.
"Are you busy?" I asked.
I would hate to see this girl mad. She's at least half a foot taller than I am and much stronger.
"No," she said, ignoring her customer in typical Oracle fashion. I laughed silently, again marveling at this incredibly beautiful girl's ability to eschew any practice remotely similar to 'customer service' and still rake in an absurd amount of money.
I told her what happened.
I wanted her to tell me some kind of secret code, some kind of secret password---anything that would get me my job back.
Of course, there isn't one.
"Sometimes he fires people for no reason," she said. "He's just unpredictable like that."
"You should just move on from there," she advised, shaking her head. "Maybe they'll hire you here," she offered, admitting that money hadn't been good lately.
Well, money is bad everywhere right now, I told her, even at the Outhouse. Money hasn't been consistently good since the end of December, actually. So annoying. [Hearing that money is always bad in January, I decided that next year, I'll simply spend the whole month abroad and forget about trying to make money when there isn't any.]
I went to the management and asked if they would hire me.
Whew! Now, nose to the grindstone.