Monday, February 23, 2009

The Interview

I finally got a job interview. I just got back from it, actually. I had to work at my part-time job this morning (for almost two hours). Then, I had to shop for a pair of khakis (for the interview). The khakis had to be purchased from Maurices, though, because I had a coupon that was nearing expiration. I found a pair that I liked. For once, I found something that looked better on me than it did on the shelf. That was a first. It felt good to get new khakis that fit well at a discount. Driving home, I was rocking out to "Long Haired Country Boy" on the radio. I had just enough time to get home, change into the khakis, go to the bathroom, drink a little water, brush my teeth (again), put lotion on my hands, and get out the door again. En route to the interview, my mind was consumed with "Something to Believe In" and "Lovely Rita." I never realized how funny "Lovely Rita" was until today, when the DJ explained that Paul McCartney thought it would be cool to write a song about a person that most people don't like--a meter maid. Why had this never struck me as odd before? Why did I take "Back in the USSR" so seriously? How enlightening to see that one of my all-time favorite bands had a sense of humor. As I was pondering the Beatles, it occurred to me that yes, I did find "Rocky Raccoon" to be an amusing song. Especially the line, "Her name was Magil, and she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as Nancy." That could've come straight out of Monty Python--and that's my kind of humor. Well, one side of it, anyway.

So I'm driving along, occasionally checking the time, scared that I'm going to be late to this interview, which, by the way, was for a position at an indie coffee house. Never once did I stop to think about the type of questions I'd be subjected to. No, I was spending all my time trying not to be nervous. And really, I tend to function better if I don't rehearse.

Funny thing is, though I've frequented this coffee house before, it's always been a last stop before going home. I've never driven directly there. Thus, I wasn't sure how to get to it. So I took off on 3rd Street, thinking that seemed safe, only to see that it was, in fact, the wrong street. Having 15 minutes before the interview, I decided to keep my cool. If traffic kept moving, I'd just hang a left and drive a block down, take another left and be there. Au contraire. This was a one-way street. Right. A courthouse square. Darn it. Some cities' squares are one-way; some are two-way. I honestly couldn't remember which this was until I saw the One Way sign. No problem, I'll just go around the square and get on the correct road that way.

That worked.

Pretending that I hadn't just stupidly taken a wrong turn five minutes prior, I expertly pulled into a parking spot (taking two or three hitches at pulling in straight) and checked my watch. Ten minutes. "Well heck, I can comb my hair out again. And maybe I'd better take these loose papers out of my notebook and open it to a fresh page. That would look professional. Make it look like I give a crap. I really do give a crap, I just don't know how to show it." Leaving most of my things in the car, I got out and started walking toward the building. A car was coming around the bend in the parking lot. I ducked out of its way, pretending that I had actually intended to slam my body into the back of my own car to quickly put away my keys. I tried it again. Yanking at the waist of my new khakis, I suddenly wished I would have thought to wear a belt. And not drink that water. The interview hadn't even begun, and I already needed to go to the bathroom.

Safely inside, I opted not to use the bathroom. A young man asked, "Can I help you?"

"Yeah, I'm looking for Chase*?"

"Oh," he looked perplexed, "I'll have to call him."

"Thanks" I said looking around nervously "I'm here for an interview," I finished unnecessarily. The kid had already wandered off to call Chase on his cell phone.

I stood around stupidly for a few more minutes, wishing I'd decided to go to the bathroom, but not wanting to because Chase could show up at any minute for that interview. Additionally, I wished I hadn't gotten there so early. When he called me to set up the interview, he said any time after 4:00 would work for him, and here I was, showing up at 3:50.

I sat down. A short while later, a young guy in a green t-shirt emerged out of nowhere carrying a laptop. "Hi. Here for an interview?"

"Yeah. Chase?"

He smiled. My anxiety had begun. I wasn't nervous about this interview until it began. I hate being grilled. I have a hard enough time carrying on a normal conversation with people I know, let alone trying to make a good impression on a complete stranger. Suddenly I felt overdressed. He was in a t-shirt and jeans. And I just spent like $20 on khakis. Oh well, I thought, at least they're comfortable.

Chase was so soft-spoken and unintimidating that he scared the crap out of me. Something is up, I thought, this is a trick of some sort. I'm going to get backed into a corner by a soft-spoken interviewer for a position that isn't even open yet. Yes, I forgot to mention. This place isn't hiring at the moment, but akin to adjunct faculty pools at community colleges, they wanted to keep their options open.

I tried to explain my personality to the best of my ability. I don't know what my personality is. I'm eclectic. In everything. I'm competitive, yet easygoing. I'm shy at first, but outspoken around some. I'm not a follower, but I'm not enough of a type-A to label myself a leader. I don't know what I am. And to make matters worse, all I could think of was "I'm a Joan, Baby!" and there was no way in Hades that I was going to give that answer.

Chase asked why I wanted the job. I tried to answer as honestly as possible that I thought it would be cool to learn to make coffee drinks. And this is true. I didn't want to say anything about looking for teaching gigs because really, with the economy in dire straits, I don't know how long it will be before I'm offered a teaching position. If could be in the next week, or it could be a few years from now. Point is, I need some extra income while I'm looking. I answered the other questions to the best of my ability, thanked him for the interview, and shook his hand. Then, I stupidly said, "I think I'm going to get a coffee while I'm here" and made a point to order the only drink I have memorized without looking at a menu so I actually looked like I had been there before. Upon receiving my drink, I told Chase to "take it easy" and headed out to my car.

All the way home, I worried about not mentioning that I'm looking for a teaching job. I reasoned with myself that had I said something like that, my application would probably have been thrown in the trash. Then I told myself that my application was probably put there as soon as I walked out the door because--kiss of death--I had no questions for Chase after the interview was over. I wanted to kick myself for not thinking of questions while on the road. Why oh why did I think I had to sing along with the radio? There's time for that later. I should have been focusing on questions for the interviewer. But then, I told myself, they're not hiring at the moment anyway. Perhaps I'll get a call from a community college requesting an interview for a teaching position. By golly, if I do, I'm thinking of some questions.

*Name changed for privacy purposes


BJ Roan said...

I HATE interviews! I can't ever think of intelligent questions either. I would probably have asked if he liked coffee...

Fun post!

Robin said...

A coffee house is interviewing people when they're not even hiring, to build up a pool of potential employees? Wow. Just, wow. I think I'm speechless.