Thursday, July 26, 2007

a most unfortunate interview

The worst job interview I've had--and I'm a bit reluctant to place this crown on any interview for a job that I didn't get, as so many of the successful job interviews led to months of soul crushingly mundane employment and could therefore be argued to be worse by the nature of their success, though such a precedent would move this post from the merely anecdotal and into something a bit too philosophical for this hour of the morning--occured shortly after my graduating college and wasn't even for a "career" sort of job. English majors rarely have those interviews anyway. No, this was just a simple bookstore job involving little more that stocking shelves and the typical customer service activities. It was something to pay the bills while I tried to talk myself into a grad school program that never materialized. It was not unlike any of the other jobs I had worked while in college and I entered the interview seemingly calm and relaxed. I was trying to give that impression anyway, but an unusually warm January day had rendered my thick turtleneck sweater a poor wardrobe choice that left me baking and sizzling under the cafe atrium skylight like so many of the ants I tortured with magnifying glass as a young child and then again as an older child and young adult.

Ants are bastards.

One of the women across the table, perhaps after seeing me mop my brow with a napkin, offered me water that I declined under the rationale that a candidate refusing water might appear more employable than one swilling free water like there's no tomorrow, as if these two nice older women, one looking oddly like a taller version of my high school guidance counselor the other a dead ringer for a shorter version of the same woman, watching me sweat from three short feet away were in the market for a camel. It didn't make any sense, I know, but I would be that camel just in case.

Irregular sleep patterns, a bit too much drinking, and any number of similar shenanigans associated with the final days of one's college career had perhaps taxed the physique a bit too much to pull of a good impression beneath sheets of sweat, but I did a damn fine job of it for the first half of the interrogation. I leaned back casually in the chair with my legs crossed and a lazy half smile pleasantly stretched across my reddening face. I glided through a seemingly informal discussion of college and previous employment. I threw out anecdotes and asides like a regular Regis Philbin, doing so with such ease that not even I could remember which ones, if any, were true.

Then came the stumbling block that derailed my bookstore career and ended the interview in fearful looks from my tall and short counselors that I would see again and again from across the room every time I visited the store afterward.

My future was a bit harder to make up than my past. I threw out the possibility of going after a MFA in creative writing, which was partially true, and then took it a bit too far by mentioning that I was writing a novel.

"Oh really," the short one said, "What's it about?"

It was a reasonable question and one that I should have anticipated, but didn't. One should always have at least a vague outline in mind before lying about writing a novel. That's just common sense.

Emergency sirens went off in my head. The lying creative section had nothing at the ready, and all the other bits rushed to cover for this inadequacy.

Would I go with an Evelyn Waugh-esque comedy in which a number of tragedies befall some poor bastard, a dark and brooding war novel, historical fiction, some outlandish bit of sci-fi?

Each of these were dispatched from various parts of my cranium, and I unfortunately went with each simultaneously as the interview spiralled to a dark and unfortunate place. In my defense, the interviewing ladies could have ended the line of questioning early on when things less than promising and not insisted on dragging it out. When enough lies to constitute a sizable avalanche have been piled upon one another the decent thing to do is let it go, especially when it is in no way germane to the position being filled.

That's another bit of common sense.

So, as you can see, mistakes were made on both sides, though I certainly bore the worst of it there on my end of the table having just described a novel about hapless used car salesman who, after stumbling across a time travelling AMC Pacer, winds up, on the other side of a series of even more outlandish plot twists that my mind has kindly blocked in time, meeting his rather vivid, ghastly, and altogether senseless end alongside a lovable robot sidekick on the battlefield of Chickamauga.

I wish I was making this up.

After a moment of awkward silence the shorter and obviously more vocal of the two plunged the knife a bit further by asking, still with a look of fear across her face, "What does it all mean?"

Another reasonable question, I suppose. I've never liked those.

"Oh...you know," I stammered, "It's just meant to be light Summer reading. Nothing too heavy."

And that was that.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Mack said...

an unusually warm January day had rendered my thick turtleneck sweater a poor wardrobe choice

I can't think of a season wherein a thick turtleneck sweater would be a good wardrobe choice. Just sayin.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

You wouldn't question my choice if you had seen how well it matched the corduroy skirt.

My legs, as always, were my secret weapon.

6:10 PM  
Blogger Sara Sue said...

Your creative story line sounds a bit like "Back to the Future" ... was it before or after those movies appeared? Someone may have stolen your idea!

8:56 AM  
Blogger OpenJoe said...

Oh, I thought the made up plot sounded like a take off on Hitch-hiker's
Guide...
Rex, I tried to email you. Didn't work.
Do me a favor and
use this.
Thanks.

9:39 PM  

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