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No News Is No News

“Help wanted” sign in Chinatown, Ottawa, May 2017

I feel like a CNN journalist on a slow-news month. “So today, all quiet in the Middle East but… DROP EVERYTHING, A BABY PANDA WAS BORN! WE WILL NOW SPEND THE NEXT 24 HOURS LOOKING AT IT!”

Unfortunately, all I have is panda food growing in my bedroom—the three lucky bamboo stalks are sprouting leaves and roots.

I have no news from my query letter sent over a month ago. No “ah ha, seriously?!” email, no “MAILER-DAEMON” message, nothing.

This is a classic issue of time expectations. First, as communication becomes immediate, response time has shortened accordingly. Second, we all have different time-frame expectations, based on the nature of the business or the industry. I often see that with my clients: an “urgent” assignment can mean “deliver the press release translated and proofed within a couple of hours, else the world stops spinning” or “I need these four slides back three weeks from now, sorry for the rush.”

I didn’t really have a time frame in mind when I submitted my query letter. Past the initial three-day mark—basically, a publisher jumping on an amazing proposal—I mostly forgot about it. Work kept me busy, which is good because as a freelancer, the more assignments I get, the more I make.

Besides, I have zero control over the situation. Publishers don’t have to reply to query letters. They all stress how busy they are. “DO NOT CALL OR DROP BY,” many specify—an option I never even considered since I hate doing business over the phone, let alone try to sell my story to someone who specifically demanded not to be called. Some publishers mention that if you don’t hear from them within three months, six months, a year, then you should stop waiting and move on.

Now, here is my dilemma: should I query someone else even if I didn’t receive an official rejection letter? If I query once a year, I think I’ll still be writing letters by the time Mark starts job hunting. That said, I’m not sure why I’m in a hurry now. After all, I sat on the book for four years, who am I to grow impatient with a publisher?

Oh yeah, I know why.

Because of Quiznos.

Yes, Quiznos—you know, the “toasted sub” in the sandwich franchise war.

There used to be a Quiznos at the end of the street. Feng worked at Subway years ago, so we were Subway customers—plus, we were broke and Subway had better deals.

In November 2004, I walked to Quiznos and bought myself a sandwich for dinner. As I was waiting for my food, I noticed a “HELP WANTED” sign by the door. “That would be perfect!” I thought. “It’s so close to home I can take pretty much any shift and I won’t need Feng to give me a ride.”

I had just received my first work visa and I was job hunting. At 23, the “Education” section on my resume was much longer than the “Experience” one but I was confident I could make sandwiches and work the till. I mean, come on, I’m French—I’ve been cutting open baguette since I’m 2 and buttering my own bread since I’m 4.

I grabbed an application form, filled it out at home (after eating the mediocre overpriced sandwich so that I wouldn’t get fast food grease stains all over it) and printed out a copy of my resume.

The following day, I dropped by after rush hour and introduced myself to the manager. He took my application, read my resume and asked me a few questions to which my answers were an enthusiastic “yes!” (except the one about a criminal record, obviously). He underlined my phone number with his black pen. “We’ll be in touch,” he promised.

A week later, I still hadn’t heard from Quiznos and I wasn’t brave enough to follow up on my application.

Two weeks later, I started crossing the street to avoid walking by the store because surely, I must have done something terribly wrong to deserve such treatment.

A month later, I complained to Feng. “Why? Why didn’t they hire me? I have a work visa, I’m reliable and we live so close I can dedicate my life to sandwiches!”

Feng found the situation pretty funny. “He’d be me, I’d say it’s discrimination but unfortunately, Juliette, you don’t even look like an immigrant…!”

Quiznos wasn’t the only place where I had applied without much success, but it was the only store officially hiring. Plus, I had met the manager so this rejection (or lack of news) felt personal.

I moved on, eventually found a job, then another one, started a position as a French teacher in 2005 (my first real job) and the rest is listed on my resume under “experience.”

Fast forward to 2010. I was working on Parliament Hill, my BlackBerry constantly beeping long after the official work day was over. I had an office with a door and a TV—not because I was particularly important but because I was strongly encouraged to make myself comfortable and not go home at 5 p.m.. I would eventually quit but I wasn’t there yet. That night, I came home and I was taking off my clothes to take a shower when the phone rang. By then, we both had cellphones, so landline calls were typically telemarketing or Feng’s parents. I let Feng answer it.

“Juliette?” he called a second later. “For you.”

I picked up the phone in the bedroom.


“Yes, Ms. Giannesini?”

“Mrs.,” actually, but I didn’t correct him.

”This is John,” he went on. “From Quiznos. I was wondering if you’d be available to cover the morning shift tomorrow, like, come around 8 a.m.”

I was at a loss for words. “It’s 2010,” I eventually replied. “I applied in 2004.”

There was momentary silence on the other end of the line. I assumed the manager was realizing his mistake.

“This means I’m not available anymore,” I volunteered.

“Oh, alright. Have a good day, then!”

I hung up and burst out laughing.

“I didn’t even know they could hang onto resumes for that long! Did they run out of all possible available employees and start digging into the 2004 applicant folder?”

Funnily enough, a couple of years later, I actually interviewed a Quiznos CEO for a marketing case study I was writing for a client. I never asked about their hiring policy, though. Then, Subway toasted Quiznos in the subway war and the store at the end of the street closed—it’s now a Vietnamese restaurant and no, I won’t apply for a job.

So back to my book proposal—yeah, maybe I should query more publishers to avoid another Quiznos moment…

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