Nut, meet shell: Power is back on, cable is out, can’t access photos, this post is all words.
OK, now that we’re all caught up (I’m sorry I can’t show you photos of big trees laying down in places where they ought’nt be) I have one or two observations on life that I’ve learned in the past week.
One: If you have a choice between getting stung by a yellow jacket either at breakfast or at dinner, pick dinner. Because if you get stung at breakfast you’ll have to spend the whole day putting an ice pack on some inconvenient body part; whereas if you get stung at dinner, you only have to wait a few hours before you can take a sleeping pill (ooops, sorry: sleeping aid) and when you get up the next morning you’ll only have a big fat red welt that itches like crazy.
Two: Every now and then, I don’t know, something gets into me and I think that I really have to get out of the house more often, interact with grown-ups, show some maturity and responsibility. So I go on a job interview.
I was browsing Craig’s List and I saw an ad for a receptionist for a law firm in a nearby Gold Coast town and I thought, well hey, that sounds fun. I like sitting at a desk, meeting and greeting; and I like the leather-sofas/dark mahogany walls/ Gentlemens’ Club atmosphere that this particular Gold Coast address promised. So I sent an email and less than 30 minutes later I was invited to stop in for an interview.
When I got to the office, it turns out that the law firm isn’t actually in the boundaries of that Gold Coast town, it’s more like on a side street of a shabby neighborhood past which the cars that are heading for the Gold Coast town drive by. And it’s not so much a law firm as a process-serving place that handles paper work that law firms are too bored to do.
The interview was going quite well until the very end, when the office manager (a woman in her early 30s) asked me, “Do you handle stress well?” I must have looked slightly puzzled (I thought the conversation had suddenly taken a philosophical turn, which surprized me) because she added, “We have five phone lines and sometimes they all ring at once.”
And I laughed. “Five lines?” I said; then I assumed my serious, interview face: “I think I can handle five phone lines”, I assured her.” We shook hands and the woman said she was still interviewing and that she’d be making her decision on Friday.
I had to keep laughing about that last question all the way home. It seemed to me the kind of question that only someone under the age of 35 could have asked, of someone under the age of 30, that question about stress and five phone lines.
What I wanted to say to that question was, “Honey, five phone lines isn’t stress.
Stress is when your kid gets diagnosed with leukemia. Stress is trying to care for an elderly parent who refuses to move into a nursing home. Stress is making mortgage payments when you’ve been out of work for a year. Stress is worrying about a bleeding mole when you don’t have health insurance. Stress is getting a divorce. Stress is having to stay married to someone you can’t stand because you can’t afford a divorce. Stress is being broke and 40. Stress is the regrets, two or three decades old, that keep you awake at night.
Honey, stress is not five phone lines ringing at the same time.
One day, when you’re older, you’ll understand that.”
Three or four years ago I got the idea that working in a bookshop would be fun, and I applied to the local chain store. A skinny, 20-year old assistant to the assistant store manager interviewed me, which meant that he read from a list of questions on his clip board, the usual job interview questions about describing a challenge that I successfully overcame and listing my weaknesses (I’m much, much too dedicated to work; and I used to be a crack whore in the Meat Packing District).
When he asked me to describe a situation where I had to deal with someone greatly different from myself, I laughed. Then I realized he was dead serious. Because when you’re 20 years old and just back from your Junior Year Abroad you think life is full of profound cross-cultural enlightenments. And I didn’t have the energy to explain to him that when you’re 50, and you’ve had pretty much the same ups and downs as everyone else in the Getting Along With Difficult People department and that by now, after all the travel and jobs and roommates and bosses and family issues and financial issues and wins and losses, you think that being married is about all the cross-cultural adventure a person needs. I didn’t have the energy to tell him about how I was a Brownie Troop leader in a Harlem battered women’s shelter, about how I lived in France, and Africa, how used to visit the rich and famous to discuss Faberge, how I volunteered to screen the crazy people applying to adopt cats at a local animal shelter, how I am 50 freaking years old and have not gone crazy myself: I didn’t have the energy to make up an answer so I could impress him enough so he’d hire me to shelve books. I think I said something like, “Hmmm. I can’t think of anyting, not right now.”
Needless to say, I did not get that book shop job. And I didn’t get the receptionist job, either. I must learn to keep a straight face at these interviews.
Does anybody else have a job interview story they’d like to share? Do they bring out the worst in you, or are you a genius at making the great first impression?