Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Monday, February 11, 2008

First Impressions

"For truth is always strange; stranger than fiction."
-Lord Byron

Last year during my very long sojourn in Ireland I applied for a multitude of jobs. The trouble was that nobody was clear on how long I would stay and as soon as they knew of my impending visa, it all changed. The interviewer's face would put me in mind of a little door closing far away. A light would go out and I just knew that the remainder of the meeting would be a formality and a polite waste of everybody's time. They wanted me to promise devotion until death and, as I had other plans, could not do so. Still, I had to be honest with each and every one of them. That was my downfall but I am not regretful. I could never have misled a prospective employer into assuming that I would be anything less than permanent and then, once they had trained me, to skip away happily westwards.
As the year progressed, however, I began to tire of the endless cycle of no-hope. After all, my position in limbo might have lasted for years- at some point a job would be essential. I began to highlight my best skill in louder measures: I could type many words per minute and was an avid proofreader.
With this as the required talent, I went along to the city to attend one particular interview with a good measure of impatience and ennui. The meeting, strangely enough, was held in a hotel and would be a group interview. I did not know what that meant but I was willing to see what happened. A group interview was, as the name indicated, one where several people were to be questioned at once through means of written multiple-choice questions and impromptu verbal answers. They would determine, through our collective answers, whether we were suitable at all for the position. I did not know what the position entailed; I knew not the name of the company, nor the location of the office. It was all a deep mystery and as a result I felt that I had better opportunity to prove myself and not dwell so much on the transience of my situation. I would have ample time to inform the interviewers of my extravagant typing skills.
The hotel was a sweeping monstrosity of a building. Resume in hand, I entered the lobby dressed with elegance in a fine new blouse, cardigan and trousers. I had spent a fair amount of money on the clothing in the hope that some day I would work in them and that the cost would pay off. I found a notice relating to my interview on a wall of the lobby near the reception desk. It told me that I needed to ascend to the third floor. I climbed, and as I reached the designated area found that a trip to the restroom would be in order. I had no notion of how long the interview might take. I espied a gathering of similarly-dressed people by a closed door; as they too were clutching envelopes, I assumed that they were my competitors, if you will. So, pleased that I had sorted out the matter of where to go next, I proceeded to search for a restroom. I had at least ten minutes to spare.
"The interview is here," one fellow said, loudly.
"Thank you," I responded. Still searching for the restroom, however, I did not join the group and he was puzzled.
"Are you lost?"
"No. I'm fine, thank you," I called back politely. I am not particularly comfortable around strangers and so, while I appreciated his assistance, would have preferred that I be left alone until such time as I was ready to assimilate. I am aware that it strikes a reader as callous and selfish but I had endeavoured to go there, after all, in order to better my skills. The distance between us was the entire length of the hotel floor; so any discussion was most inconvenient.
"Are you looking for something?"
How does one shout about anything while maintaining a reserved disposition?
"I am here for the interview," I replied through clenched teeth, "but I'll just browse around here for a minute."
"What did you say?"
I repeated myself as calmly and as ladylike as I could.
"The interview is over here," he boomed back.
"I know," I snapped. Yes, I barked at him. He was beginning to fray my nerves at last. I continued to roam around the third floor. He continued to look at me with some interest.
"I'm looking for the restroom," I eventually offered, more for his curiousity than my necessity.
"There might be one downstairs," he said after glancing around as I had been doing.
I went all the way down to the reception area, furious with him and rolling my eyes. He most likely had wanted to fluster me or get me out of the way so that he could win the so-secretive position in the company. I did indeed find a restroom but a lady was cleaning it and I had to wind my way back up the stairs and enter the interview room which was now open.
"Come in, come in," the interviewer was announcing to everybody.
We looked at each other.
"Did you find the restroom?" he queried.
"No." I sat, subdued, into the nearest chair.
What a smashing move that was. The meeting had not even begun and I had expressed impatience with my own interviewer. Inside I was utterly deflated. I slipped off my jacket, and moved to do the same with my cardigan.
A word to the wise: never wear a new shirt or blouse to an interview. First impressions are most important and even if one has already rudely harassed the boss, the fact of one's blouse suddenly having ripped is assuredly never going to be the magic element that fixes the trouble.
I went through with the interview, in any case. My cardigan saved me from having to scuttle away; I held it closed with one hand and noted my answers with the other.
No less than thirty minutes after I left the interview and was walking into the city for some healing used-book-therapy, I received a telephone call on my mobile informing me that I could begin working for them after the weekend. Against all odds, torn clothing and poor social skills, I had been successful. I was flabbergasted. Elated. Veritably rapturous. I knew instinctively that I had had the best typing skills and they judged from my written answers that I had a decent way with words.
A few hours later my brother drove by my new workplace in his van. All I had was a location, of a sort. They had said what area the office was in but not the job description, company name or anything of relevance. I with the torn blouse and wicked demeanour had not thought that I would succeed in getting the job so I had hardly thought it mattered; but when my worried brother said that there was no such office on that road, and, more eerily, that the road was
a deserted and inhospitable-looking stretch, I began to be fearful about Monday morning.
Once the initial paranoia set in I could not bring myself to think of the job with anything but trepidation and alarm. My Spouse, on the other side of the Atlantic, was adamant that I stay well clear of such prospects. We decided, between us, that my having a job was not as crucial as, for example, my well-being.
Perhaps I was impractical, perhaps the scenario we dreamed up was preposterous: but I tell you this: once I entertained the idea that the entire thing was a set up to kidnap the world's fastest typists for some bizarre operation in a publishing warehouse far below the Earth's crust, I had to terminate the offer immediately.
How fast can you type?
How fast can you run?


hele said...

So good to meet you. I loved this story and I too will be back.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

...and I to your blog. Thanks a lot for the visit :)

Beth said...

What fun! I'll enjoy reading your stories.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Beth, thanks for commenting. I hope to see you here again :)

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