My cell phone rang.
I had spent most of the day filling out job applications, and had just finished polishing off a cover letter to a public relations agency in San Francisco.
The screen shows a 707 area code, one that seems vaguely familiar.
I answer it warily. “Hello?”
“Hi, Samantha, this is Solage Calistoga. How are you doing?”
“I’m fine,” I say, sitting back in my computer chair.
“I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you, but I wanted to know, have you found a job yet?”
“No, I haven’t.” I started to get excited.
“Well, I have a full-time operator position open for you. Would you like it?”
I paused in surprise. “Y-yes, of course I would! Thank you!”
“Of course! The job starts next Tuesday, when you’ll begin your training, and we’ll send you a welcome email detailing all of the information by tomorrow.”
“Oh…I have a trip scheduled with a flight next week. I leave on Thursday.”
“Oh, well we’ll just give you those days off. It’ll be fine. So we’ll see you Tuesday?”
“Yes of course! Thank you!” As I hung up the phone, I did a victory dance around the small space between my couch and my bed, then moseyed into the office where my mom was furiously working on correspondence from the school where she works.
“So…I just got a job.”
My mom looked up in shock. “What??”
“Solage just called and they have a full-time operator position for me. The HR director asked me if I wanted it, and I said yes.”
“That’s great, baby! We have to start looking for apartments for you and get you moved up this weekend! Oh wait…how much are you getting paid?”
I stopped rejoicing for a moment. “I don’t know, she didn’t say. She said they would send me an email by tomorrow.”
“Well, you need to find out,” she said. “You won’t even know how expensive of an apartment you can afford. Especially in Napa Valley.”
I knew she was right. Napa Valley’s crappiest apartments start at $750/mo., if you get lucky, and those are usually apartments above people’s garages or next to their houses in Angwin. Most, however, start around $950-$1000 a month. And again, those are the crappy ones.
I wrote her an email back asking about the salary.
When I received the email back informing me of my salary, the excitement of getting a job completely drained out of my system. The numbers read “$12/hr.”
My mom quickly drew in a breath. “That’s not enough. Especially for the cost of living up there. You need to ask her for a higher salary, or else you’re going to be scraping to get by, maybe not even be able to make your rent every month.”
For the next few days, I struggled over whether I would accept the job as it was, or whether I’d ask for a salary raise. I knew that there was the possibility that Solage would not raise my salary, and I would be back to square one. Finally, I emailed the HR director, letting her know that relocating and living in the area would be nearly impossible on the salary, and gave them a minimum of $15/hr.
I waited through a discussion between the HR director and the guest services manager. The HR director called me back, letting me know that they had examined the budget and that the highest salary they could offer was $13.50/hr.
With a lot of heaviness in my heart, I told her I had to think about it, but knowing that I would decline the job. Later on in the evening, I wrote her an email thanking her for working with me, but that I would be declining the job.
It’s hard to do the thing that’s best for yourself when you don’t feel like it is. I was so excited to be on my own, have my own apartment, and be working rather than not having anything to do most days. But I knew that I deserved better, and hoped that something better would come along…soon.