The International Writers Magazine: Life Stories
The Job Interview
“Rod MacInerney here to see Mr. Hummer, Mr. Richards and Ms. Toole,” he said politely to the security guard. The guard was dressed like a cop, had a badge, a gun, everything. His security uniform must have been too small. He bulged through it and his sleeves were rolled up to show off his biceps.
The guard snapped his gum. “All I have is a Nimrod MacInerney,” the guard said with a grin. “You Nimrod?”
Rod wilted. “It’s a family name,” he said, trying to think of himself AS Rod. Lowering his voice and shifting his eyes back and forth, he said, “My grandfather on my mother’s side, alright. Can you please let me up?”
Rod was allowed to sign in. He received a throw away plastic badge announcing him as a “Guest.” He got in the elevator and went up to the 13th floor.
Rod had heard that some buildings refused to have a 13th floor on the grounds of superstition. This place was either showing it wasn’t superstitious or it was purgatory incarnate. What Rod really wanted to do was be a writer, and a bongo player, and a master of transcendental meditation, and an entrepreneur, a yoga instructor and a hypnotist and a massage therapist and a chef and a host of other things too. But how was he ever going to move out of his mother’s attic without a “real” job? He was in his thirties now. Sooner or later he’d either murder her, or move out.
Rod was forced to wait in a crowded reception area, with mints in a dish on the table which he knew had been there since the place opened, if not left by the previous owner, yet Rod still wanted one. Our candidate restrained himself. If he had to guess, he would say there were twenty five people there, in a room meant to hold twelve. Some dressed better, some worse.
Rod had four copies of his resume in a satchel that stated professional without shouting “GAY!” He had bought the suit at Kohl’s on sale, $250. Nimrod hoped they didn’t put him through a second interview. It was his only suit. Do they remember what you wore at the first interview? Could he get away with just a different shirt and tie?
Soon, it was his turn. A blonde secretary with bad acne scars led him through a warren of undignified cubicles, and into the meeting room. There across from an impressive oak table sat his interviewers. Nimrod hated the group interview where they rapid fired questions at you, as if part of your initiation was to dodge live rounds in front of a firing squad. They sat with vicious little smiles, piranha to the smell of meat.
“Keep your cool,” Rod thought. He had read about positive visualization and used it in the waiting room and before arriving. He hoped he wasn’t visibly sweating. His hands felt hot. Nimrod kept two handkerchiefs, one in each pocket to make sure his hands were nice and dry for those ever important handshakes. Two pumps. Grip well. Not too tight, that means you’re trying to overpower them. Too loose and you’re a pushover. But how hard is too hard? How loose too lose? They never got into the specifics. You’re just supposed to feel it. And in these situations, Nimrod had a hard time feeling it out.
Mr. Hummer had a good natured, plump, fatherly face with a gray mustache, graying horseshoe pattern of hair, close cropped, and a rotund belly. He smiled wider but without showing teeth, and offered his hand. Mr. Hummer gripped really hard. The next person was Mr. Richards—a black gentleman in his mid-forties with a pencil mustache and a shaven head. His eyebrows were thick and interesting. He had on a very nice, dark suit. Mr. Richards shook like a robot, cold and mechanical.
Lastly, was Ms. Toole a lithe, stunning beauty with gleaming white skin, dark hair and eyes the color of the Arctic Sea. Her handshake was like holding a cool cucumber. She had on a fashionable lady’s business suit with a short skirt and black pumps. The suit had a long pointy collar, some sort of new style. Ms. Toole looked bored.
“Mr. Nimrod, please sit down,” said Mr. Hummer.
“I go by Rod.”
“Of course you do,” said Mr. Hummer, facetiously. The panel chuckled, Ms. Toole nasally. “Do you have a copy of your resume?” He had. The applicant gave a copy to each of them. “Tell me about your experience.”
Nimrod had worked various office positions—temp work, one terrible teacher’s assistant job and substituting and construction and cab driving and teaching overseas and a nonprofit…but he made it all sound good, or at least as good as possible. He catered it to the needs of the position, the sales manager position.
Rod knew what he wanted to do, now. He wasn’t lost anymore. He would have his identity, if they accepted him, if someone just said “You’re hired.” Rod had the skillset and the experience that mirrored their needs perfectly. All he needed was a place to grow. All he needed was a place to set roots. Rod wanted to climb like ivy up that corporate trellis.
Our candidate would do anything he had to, no matter how morally reprehensible, how much it kept him up at night, how much he would want to confess afterward and be purged in fire and torment and death. That’s what you had to do, and more, if you wanted to live like a real individual, if you wanted to stand out and be somebody.
Rod wanted to wash away all his former sins, start anew. Wash way all that pot he smoked in college, and that he smoked a day and a half ago, and all the booze-enough to drown a game reserve, wash away all the beautiful and foreign and exotic and interesting girls he took to bed, and all the porn he has watched, and all the drunken rebellious nights where property got broken and people got hurt (mostly stupid stunts and awkward fist fights), and all the pranks Rod had helped pull.
And the candidate thought “What have I been doing with my life?” All the broken relationships, money wasted, terrible half-baked ideas, dead ends. And then he went meta seeing with his mind’s eye all the economic deprivation, the torment and anxiety and despair lying silently below everything, and how many across America and the world felt the same and said nothing, scavengers in a wasteland years after the tidal wave had struck.
He called up a little prayer, if you would just give me a chance lord, just a chance…this is what Rod had really been thinking while he was spewing all the crap they wanted to hear, speaking a language he learned to parrot but was irrelevant in real, human life.
Rod told his friends and family about the interview days ago, explaining “An interview is two great big lies. First, you’re lying about how great you are. And they’re lying about how great the job is. Now if you get hired, then both parties just wait and see what happens.”
He wondered what it would be like if both parties were just honest. Would this be a better world? And another thing that often occurred to him, Nimrod imagined that for all the things the Dark Ages lacked, the medieval apprenticeship system worked far better than our own. At least you had a real connection to your work, and some pride. If you didn’t like it you ran away with pirates, or a band of highwaymen. Both sounded fun. Throughout history there were always places to run to. But today we’re running out.
The two gentlemen in the panel looked as if they were listening genuinely to Nimrod’s monologue. Ms. Toole, Rod suspected, was checking her smartphone underneath the desk. Next came the rapid fire question session. Did you read our company website? Yes he had.
What did you learn about the company? Do you know the duties of the position? The duties and tasks were enumerated in grave detail. What would you do if a call center member came to you and said a customer refused to buy an item? How are you going to increase sales? How many absences would you say are grounds for a reprimand? And on and on and on…
Nimrod thought he answered the questions well. By now he was sure Ms. Toole was checking her phone under the desk. The other gentleman acknowledged it by looking at her. Mr. Richards frowned, said nothing. Mr. Hummer often glanced at Ms. Toole. And nothing Ms. Toole did seemed to bothered him one bit.
Now Hummer spoke up “Okay, I like what I’m hearing. I LIKE what I’m hearing. Now did you fill out an application?”
Now Richards spoke up. “It’s very important we have the application in triplicate. Each one of us is a senior manager. And since we all hold the same title. We each need a copy.”
“Couldn’t we just photocopy one and…”
Ms. Toole interrupted by looking up from her phone. Her sparkly blue eyes and sensuous mouth made Nimrod gulp. “It’s important that an applicant show initiative. Please go out in the reception area and fill out two other applications. I like what I’m seeing here Mr…ah…”
“Yeah, right. Whatever.” She went back to her phone.
As he needlessly, painstakingly scrawled all of his information into each of the other two applications, one at a time, he glanced up from time to time and saw the room getting bigger and bigger, with less and less people in it. He finally handed in his applications and was invited back in.
The two men studied their copies silently, as Nimrod looked back and forth from one to the other. Ms. Toole ignored her copy completely.
Mr. Hummer spoke, “It looks good to me. It looks REAL good to me Nimrod.”
“Right. Right. Anybody got any questions about this?”
It was the same information in his resume, the same information he filled out in the online application on the company website. It was the same information he had explained in grave detail only an hour ago.
“Okay by me,” Said Mr. Williams.
Next came Ms. Toole, “He’ll have to have a credit check done.”
“It costs $75 Mr. Mcahooey,” said Mr. Richards.
“MacInerney,” said Rod, getting annoyed.
“I hope you don’t mind, its standard procedure. And if you’re hired you’ll get a free refund,” said Mr. Hummer.
Rod was sent down to the tenth floor. He filled out forms with all his private financial information. He was told it would generate his credit score. But he would not be allowed to see it himself. He wrote the check and they processed his paperwork. He brought it back to the panel in a sealed envelope. Mr. Hummer unsealed it in front of him.
“Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Yeah, good score. REAL good score. Nice. NICE!” He passed the paper around. “Listen, think you can help me out with a loan?” Mr. Hummer laughed heartily at his own joke. Nimrod made a face somewhat related to mirth, but coming off more awkward and fearful.
“Man you got a good deal on your student loan. You should see the rate my daughter has for chrissakes,” said Mr. Richards.
Ms. Toole glanced casually at the paper, nodded sharply to the other two. They turned to Nimrod.
“Now you’re doing pretty good,” said Mr. Hummer. “Really, really good. We know it’s a long day for those who qualify. And not everybody qualifies, right, gang?”
Mr. Richards nodded. Ms. Toole gave a short nod while looking at her phone.
“But remember for those that qualify, you’ll get a competitive salary, benefits including medical, dental, 401K—as long we play the market right, right Richards?” Mr. Richards ignored the comment. “And for those who qualify, a sales manager’s meeting in the Bahamas.”
“I go every year,” said Ms. Toole, without looking up.
Mr. Hummer, perhaps thinking of Ms. Toole in a bikini in the Bahamas, cleared his throat and continued, “One thing we can’t have. We can’t have anybody working here doing drugs. Drugs are bad for people and bad for the workplace. We are a drug free workplace.”
“That’s right,” said Mr. Richards. Ms. Toole didn’t say anything.
“We know it’s a long day like I said, but at least you get it all done in one day.”
Nimrod had taken the day off from his horrible construction job. He had misjudged a piece of plywood the day before. He had stepped on the corner of that plywood and fell through. Rod bounced around the framing of the deck like a bouncy ball before landing on the ground. A litany of curse words followed. He bruised his right hip and was concealing a baseball size welt there. He moaned slightly, or grimaced when he crossed his legs, but not so much as the panel noticed. Or so he thought.
“We need you to go down to the fourth floor and give them a urine sample. It’s an alcohol and drug test. We do all our testing on premises. We’ll know in an hour whether or not you’re clean.”
Nimrod met a bespectacled blonde man, whom by his accent he thought to be German, on the fourth floor. This man was way too excited about receiving urine. “This way Mr. Nimrod,” the lab tech said in a thick accent, smiling and bobbing as he walked with his clipboard, a stethoscope and his white lab coat.
The lab tech said he had to watch as Nimrod peed. Rod had smoked a heroic, blimp sized joint with some friends almost two days before. Later, he had gone to a friend’s health food store. Rod prayed that the stuff he bought would mask the weed or hold it in. He had been smoking marijuana quite consistently over the past two years, since he had come back from teaching English in South Korea.
Of course, if a good job came along and he had to quit smoking pot, he would have. But no good jobs came along. And for the jobs that were available, there were too many applicants for each. Nimrod went on six interviews that very summer. No one called back.
Flaccid in his hands, “Can I ask you a question?” asked Nimrod. “Do you have to watch like that?” Hans Goebbelthorp had his hands on his knees. He was bending down with a stupid grin on his face. The lab tech’s eyes went from Nimrod’s face to his business and back.
“Pay no attention. It’s just so I can see there is no funny business.” He said smiling.
Nimrod’s wrinkled raison lay in his hand. He was a grower not a shower. In addition, the overenthusiastic weirdo was making him nervous.
“Oh, I know what will help. Hold on.” Hans exited the roomy, handicapped stall. “Don’t start without me,” he shouted in a singsong voice. All of a sudden, Nimrod heard the tap running and started peeing.
“There we go,” said Hans, with his hands on his knees admiring the stream. “You have quite a bit.”
“Can I ask you another question, Hans?”
“Okay. Shoot. That’s what you Americans say, right?”
“Do you like your job?”
“What are you kidding? I LOVE this place.”
Nimrod was shaking little Nimmy, as a British girl in Korea had called it, getting ready to put him back. Hans was not taking his eyes off of Nimrod’s action. “Not surprised for a German.”
“Oh yeah? Last question, does upper management in this company have to take drug tests?”
“Upper management. Do the members of upper management have to each take a drug test?”
“No. In fact, just between you and me several of the upper management members have had problems with drugs in the past. The C.E.O. himself was in an outpatient clinic just last year.”
“Yah. He was crushing and snorting them off of his desk.”
Nimrod felt numb. He felt scared and uncomfortable before he peed, with the Dutchman watching. Now he was numb. Later he felt violated. Wasn’t a drug test a violation of his fourth amendment rights?! His body had been illegally searched, his fluid illegally seized, as far as he was concerned. And why did they treat you like a criminal, just for wanting a job?
Nimrod waited in the white paneled waiting room another hour reading Family Circle, Oprah, and Modern Living oscillating between boredom and paranoia.
“Okay, so you are all set to go.” The remedy worked. Rod was elated.
He brought the paperwork up to the 13th floor.
Mr. Hummer spoke “You’re doing great Mr. Ramrod. I mean fantastic. Really, really…really great. Now tell you what you got to do. See you go down to the front security desk. You have to have your fingerprints taken. It’s a criminal background check. Now we know this is a big process, but there are only a few more hurdles to jump through.”
“A FEW more hurdles,” Nimrod was beside himself.
“It’ll cost you another $75 processing fee. You will be reimbursed, if hired, in five monthly installments of $15 added to each month’s check.”
“You only get paid monthly?”
Ms. Toole rolled her eyes, but her smart phone was in front of them.
“How do you think we save on accounting,” said Mr. Richards.
“Here are the forms. Don’t bother reading them. It will take way too long. Just sign them and take them down to the security desk,” said Mr. Hummer.
“So Nimrod’s got to have his fingerprints taken, eh?” said the security guard. While coming behind the desk, Nimrod remembered that the guard was armed. The security guard led him to an area in the back where a laptop and a special scanner were set up. He placed Nimrod’s fingers on the scanner, one at a time. He rolled them and the print came off on the screen. But Nimrod’s hands were sweaty. Each print was smudged, incomplete.
“Nervous,” the security guard asked, leveling his gaze. Nimrod held the guard’s stare for a moment then looked away. He felt that bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Pointing at Rod with his chin, “Hey, you messing with my girl upstairs?” the guard asked.
“What are you talking about?”
“Yeah, she was texting me about how you were looking at her, staring at her. How you groaned each time you crossed your legs, like some kind of pervert.”
“I have an injury.”
“Yeah, I’ll give you an injury.” He slammed Nimrod’s hands in the scanner. Nimrod yelped. As he squirmed to get away, the guard smacked him in the balls with his other hand.
One of Rods hands slipped out, taking the security guard by surprise. He reached the guard’s belt, and in a flash had the guard’s gun in his hand, pointing it straight at him.
They both stood there quietly for a moment. The guard slowly let go of the scanner top, releasing Nimrod’s other hand. Rod swung all the way around, ordering the guard to the desk. He had the guard call up to the interview panel and explain to them what had happened. The panel arrived in the elevator. They lined up in front of the security desk, unperturbed.
Rod was utterly perplexed. “What’s with you people, every facet of my life has been probed. I think I’ve even been violated…sexually.”
“You were just thinking about me,” said Ms. Toole.
“What? Not you the German…er Dutchman.”
“Oh, him,” she sighed. Everyone leered at Nimrod. He shrunk at their gaze.
“You signed the release!” Shouted Mr. Hummer. “You can’t sue. Under the circumstances…”
“What do you suppose we do?” asked Rod.
Mr. Hummer beamed. “I don’t know kid. But the way you took this guy. I mean…that shows a lot of spunk. I think you just might be sales management material, after all. Doug! Leave him alone, leave him alone.” Mr. Hummer shooed away the security guard. Rod lowered the pistol.
“Listen, the police have been called. I’ll have to check with the folks upstairs before I know how this thing plays out. But once you’re released from custody, call me up. Here’s my card. I want you to come on in for a second interview…”
© Philip Perry May 2014
Find my writer’s website here: http://philperry13177.wix.com/writer
* I currently write for tipsofdivorce.com a site that sees around three million visitors per day, and positiveproductive.com. I have written for the Guardian Liberty Voice an online newspaper and Access Quarterly the journal of the Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA). I did a five part series on NJ.com called “Into Africa.” And I’ve had two pieces land in trade publications, in Waste360 and Resource Recycling magazine. I am also the founder and president of a start-up social enterprise called Build Up. We plan to import a gourmet African hot sauce, sell it in the U.S. and give the proceeds to charity.
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