After I throw an assortment of event envelopes, overstuffed folders, wire racks, and a styrofoam head into the backseat, I motion to my guest, letting her know the passenger seat is clear.
She opens the door cautiously, her Louboutin stilettos hovering over the floor mat for about five seconds, quivering as if she’s about to step onto a sheet of ice. My car reeks of cardboard, but her heavy perfume still manages to overpower it. I imagine the fragrance name being something like “Wealth Drops” – squeezed from the eyes of locally-sourced poor people for your pleasure.
Before I get in, I do a quick stretch-deodorant check; thankfully, my Old Spice is still holding up.
“Alrighty, off to lunch!” I chirp over-enthusiastically. Given that my colleague and I just got tasked with interviewing this prospective candidate for our boss over lunch, I muster everything I can to keep from entertaining my first thought, which is to bash my head into the steering wheel.
Her expensively manicured hands buckle the seatbelt over her Chanel blazer; she sits painfully upright, so much so that I quickly check to ensure I didn’t knock the headrest at a right angle. But when I look, I’m blinded by the diamond-encrusted Prada glasses, tipped down to her nose as she surveys the immediate area.
“So, this cafe isn’t walkable, then?” she curtly coughs.
“Nope. And you don’t really want to walk around this area. Even if you’re just running to Subway.”
I opt to leave out describing the pedestrian walkways around our building as “stabby.” After all, I’m trying to keep it classy.
Maneuvering through traffic, I try to keep the already awkward conversation moving while avoiding adding vehicular manslaughter to our lunch menu.
“So, what specifically about the position struck you – drew you in?”
I don’t really pay attention to her response, letting the canned question fall into an abyss-like chasm in my mind the minute it falls from my mouth. By the time she finishes, and I follow up with the expected, “Well, that’s great!” we pull into the parking lot.
While she and my coworker get out and grab a spot in line, I circle and search for a parking place. But after I park, I rummage through the pile of crap I threw onto the backseat to ensure the manila folder with my recently printed resumes and talking points for in-process interviews weren’t bent or mangled. Interviewing possible bosses while searching for a different job myself always makes for an interesting experience – and affords me the ability to hone my question-and-answer delivery.
Over lunch, the candidate picks at her spinach salad, coating the top with salt and selectively eating only the bacon from atop the leafy mound. The chunks of feta sprinkled among the bacon clash with the large pearls perfectly overlaying her blouse.
Rattling off a few more canned questions, I listen dutifully to her rehearsed answers and nod at the appropriate times, interjecting an occasional “Mhmm” or “Ah, I see.” Whether it’s because I’m full, or the day has gotten to me, I start to drift off. It seems I can’t escape the exhaustion that comes with interviewing – from either side of the table.
In my daze, I recall my most recent in-person interview, and fantasize about the possibility of leaving, of starting anew in a position where the “DOE” salary in the job announcement translates into something meaningful – either something close to what I’m currently making, or even a little more. Like most cities, Seattle’s liberal culture and attractive amenities come at an absurdly high cost of living – something that doesn’t exactly mesh with a nonprofit salary. What’s more crushingly painful is the fact that I’ve never made as much as I’m currently making, and am terrified that I’m trapped – that I’ll never escape, and be forced to spend my professional years in a gray cube.
The clang of our interviewee’s fork falling onto the floor snaps me back to the dull present. I mutter an, “Oh, I see…” in response to her latest name-dropping line, and glance at my phone.
“OH, we should probably get going!” I boom excitedly. I’m so ready for this misery to be over.
When we return, I rattle off an email to the hiring committee with my feedback, none of which is positive – the title of the email reading: No Hire.
After I hit Send, I hope that a prospective employer isn’t doing exactly the same thing to me.
Nearly a month later, I’m wrapping up the phone conversation with my soon-to-be new boss.
I hang up, and scream so loudly that Joanna freezes in place, and even sinks a little into the floor.
Tomorrow morning, I’ll submit my notice. All the work-related nightmares of wrapping up one job and starting another will surely follow, but for now, I plan to cherish the excitement that comes from changing directions – to charting a new, needed path.
This year hasn’t been easy, but hopefully this is a turning point.
The HR lead facilitating my exit interview has hung her head no fewer than three times and moaned lowly, “ARE YOU SERIOUS?”
I nod, assuring her that every anecdote I’ve relayed, every painfully problematic Office Space-like bit of commentary is absolutely true.
She scribbles down everything down on her pre-printed questionnaire. With every statement, I feel a little lighter. When we finish, I return to my cubicle, exhale, and start pulling out pushpins, amassing papers into a large recycling pile.
I’d hoped this job would be the one; alas, it’s been everything but.
Today is my first day at my new job. Like a Kindergartner, I’m terrified, exhilarated, and sleep-deprived.
When I step out the door, I begin writing another chapter.
I hope it’s worth a read.
I hope I make a difference.
I hope I feel proud again.