Nearly all the companies screening me have done so by phone and video, so I was surprised that one essential service wanted to meet me in person for a preliminary interview. It’s probably irresponsible on everyone’s part, but I went along because there was a chance I wanted the job.
I was nervous, so I worked on my nerves by imagining I was inspecting them. The following tale is a result of that, so I’m both sorry and not sorry.
Arriving at the office, the cleanliness level was that of an older teenager’s attempt, so clean-looking without being actually clean. The safety measures that should have been present, largely were not. It was not impressive. People were milling near each other, masked and unmasked. Sniffing the air, I could detect no cleaners or herbal imitation disinfectants.
They gave me a nearly illegible quiz that announced in the last question that it was timed. I gamely tried. “A triangle always has three sides” is not a question I would expect to see, nor is it a question. If I were screening prospects, I would change that:
A triangle always has a bad attitude, true or false.
My interviewer did not wear a mask and said, “I’m not worried. If I get it, I get it.” I rubbed the disinfectant cloth in my pocket for luck.
Some interviews turn out to be cattle calls and this one was like the slowest cattle call imaginable. His weariness told the story of many, many interviews. I knew that dozens of people had been here, sitting in this tiny room and letting the disappointment wash over them. These folks had a low bar, it seemed to me. You had to be willing to show up and learn how to do simple things and not expect a lot of money or praise for doing so.
When he asked for my favorite shortcomings, I was stumped. I knew I forgot to practice something. I said I am getting old. He smiled because that cannot be my final answer, so I said I can be opinionated. Nobody likes that, so it’s either a terrible answer or a disarmingly honest answer which could be considered a positive sign. I realized that I didn’t care if I got this job in that instant. My triangle had definitely developed a bad attitude.
Every new workplace feels alien at first, but this one had a vibe if you tilted your head just a little to let it sink into your awareness. An absent owner who is wringing the business for cash will do that. No doubt the owner has tons of set-it-and-forget-it services in place. The pool service swoops in and vanishes again, so sometimes the only evidence of their visit is the ding in the bank account. Groceries occasionally rot at the side door that no one uses.
I have already imagined this owner as an Imaginary Piece of Work. It’s a very bad habit of mine. It might not be another case of a person who went to school just long enough and hard enough to coast for the rest of their life. Whatever the true story was, it didn’t inspire a joyful work place.
Those exist, right? No, of course not. The job is supposed to be work, and you can enjoy the free coffee or the gallows humor but you’re not supposed to enjoy the job. This has always been a problem for me as a worker, I want there to be some joy and other people tend to think that’s crazy or irritating, like working with a singing telegram flunky.
Finally, he looked at me very pointedly and asked, “Is there anything that would prevent you from coming to work?” I couldn’t think of anything and shook my head, even knowing that I would be prevented from coming to work because they were not going to hire me.
I left and wandered through an abandoned shopping center. No zombies were evident, even though I could not stop thinking about zombies. It’s good to strategize in your spare time, of course.
Over the years, I had been in this place many times and never had I seen the parking lot completely empty before. No rapists were evident, although I thought about them the way I contemplated the zombies. Wouldn’t they be too worried to attack a lone woman in a deserted parking lot? I tried to look just a bit diseased.
A large man was sitting in the entryway of one of the closed stores. It looked to me as if he was surrounded by all his possessions. He was afraid of me, so I gave him a wide berth and my friendliest wave, forgetting that I had just been doing a zombie-rapist prevention walk, which is not at all friendly. Even so, waving feels important now.
If I ever encounter another home-free person who is not afraid of me, I intend to ask why they are so interested in their receipts. When I encounter them, they are always flipping through a clutch of register tape. Are they writing manuscripts on debris? Seems like an excellent way to while away a pandemic.
As long as I was already out in the world, I was intent on shopping for some fresh food. The store I visited was one of those that had previously been preferred by the health conscious, so it wasn’t busy at all. Their super-healthy customers were conscientiously staying away.
After I bought a bunch of produce, having encountered no zombies, I ordered a ride. She zipped right to me in impressive time. I was thrilled to recognize that I had A Lively One. She enthused about her job, told me all about her son and his gifts and accomplishments, and how he had even made the paper as a human of interest. She had plans and strategies and she was already living her best life. Her gusto was infectious.
She said everyone is scared, and she might as well make some money while she was scared.
You and me, girl. We are doing this.
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