I was sitting around waiting for the phone to burp. I had set it to Wandering Minstrel but that sounded too pussy and all I need was to be sitting at the bar nursing a shot and beer, the Racing Form opened before and wetting a pencil tip with my tongue when the dulcet tones of Wandering Minstrel would waft up from my phone. Not going to happen. Its when you’re slipping down a hole that you most find yourself.
Three burps. Didn’t want to seem too anxious though I was. I picked it up and was told to shower, shit and shave. I had to see a man about a horse. Or a job.
The place was on the other side of town which wasn’t that far away. Out by where the Muslims sold bean pies and you could still smoke in the restaurants. Gentrification passed this exit all the time on its way to the airport. I had to be there by 2pm.
I had one suit, black, and two ties, cerulean and indigo, so I could look like a mourner rather than a mortician. My shoes were always stiff from lack of wear and when I put on the first dress sock it was so thin and unfamiliar I used too much force and it ripped. The only clean pair left was a pair of black athletic socks from when I played softball for the Unitarian Universalists but they were really tight and had to be bunched down around my ankles or be so tight pulled up it I’d go crazy. I reminded myself to be relaxed but keep both feet on the ground as I had a tendency to cross one leg over another and lean back in chairs during interviews. Relaxed confidence. So I opened my marble composition notebook with the word JOBS written in the white box on the cover next to subject and made a note in the header at the top of the first blank college lined page “keep feet on the ground” and then wrote my list seeing if I could remember it without looking at the previous entries; smell breath, smile, firm handshake, positivity, ask questions….dammit, forgot collaboration. So I wrote it down and underlined it. Collaboration.
Then I blanked it out
Collaboration and wrote Collaboration
Just as I was about to scrap the list and start over my phone farted with the alarm signaling me that it was time to leave. It would take me 25 minutes to travel 18 miles but I padded it a little just to be sure. My destination time was 1:40.
Hi thanks for coming in today.
Hi thanks for inviting me in today.
Oh, no problem, great, great, have a seat, can I get you anything, a coffee?
No thanks, I already had a glass of water this morning.
Did you take the interstate?
Whoa, no, back roads all the way.
Yeah, he chuckled, Same here. Those interstates can be a pain in the…
Hey I said You’re Lee Ving !?
No, no I’m not said the man across the desk and started tugging down his French cuffs. Let’s get down to business he said. Now look here, August can be downright balmy here in the sweet south and here’s this guy tugging down his cuffs. I’ll leave the whole French cuff thing alone.
I said sure but shouldn’t we roll up our sleeves to do that?
It was a joke. Trying to keep it light. Jovial. I had been out of work and these interviews had become a kind of performance for me. The few jobs I ever got fell apart because the energy had left the room way before the first day sitting at that desk. I was just passing through. Papa was a rolling stone.
Have you looked at the website? We have a lot of low hanging fruit out there and we need someone driven to reach out and touch them.
Yeah yeah I’ll be more than happy to reach out and touch anyone’s fruit but were the stories true about Belushi?
Do you have any questions?
He demurred. Shuffled papers. Sent an email.
Is New York’s alright if you like saxophones? Hey, Let’s have a war with beef bologna? But this guy wasn’t biting.
Maybe it was the skinhead thing. But Belushi would’ve vetted them for that right? You can’t dig Sam & Dave and be a Nazi, right? Maybe he was coked out of his mind by then.
Now this is the 30k view but we’re hoping to back fill this position with someone who can drill down into the market, ask the right questions, evaluate potential, segment accounts into classes and appropriate bands…
Yes, I see. The product line is expansive. The abattoir market is literally untapped.
He pinched his lower lip. Well, Mr. Federmann was Swiss and if you know anything about the Swiss, do you know anything about the Swiss?
Only what I read on the web site. My grandmother was half-Dutch.
The Swiss love chocolate and precision and what started as a more precise way to make chocolate has become what it is today….
What was it like to play Saturday Night Live?
I’m sorry but what?
Halloween 79 wasn’t it? You played SNL and it was chaos. Didn’t they have to cut away from the second song?
Tell me about a time when you developed and implemented a plan. How did it turn out?
Well, see, I love Jujyfruit, all the colors but the black ones especially. You know how when you’re a kid the black ones suck but then as you grow older you kind get a taste for them?
Yes, go on. He checked his speed dial for HR.
Well, I got my box of Jujyfruit and first one out is a black one, what do you know, took as it a good sign like maybe someone down at quality screwed up and the whole box is full of black ones but then next one was green, then red, then red, then orange…
Yes he seemed impatient.
Anyway I went with it, just rolled with it, didn’t matter to me. They all tasted good. Another green, orange and then finally another black and just about to pop it in my mouth when it hits me! I could save all the black and eat them at once when the others were done. So that’s what I did, carefully segregating the black from the other colors until there was nothing left but the licorice ones.
I was looking for something a little more job related.
Oh, I was doing all this at work.
Hmm, he nodded, he noted, he continued, So what’s the takeaway?
Well it was like getting two boxes of candy in one and it was a lot easier than sucking all the coating off Good & Plenty’s then spitting the little nubs into a jar for later; I conceived a plan, executed it and reaped the benefits of financial responsibility.
He nodded and made a few quick notes on my resume before him as if he was drawing a caricature of Chairman Mao and suddenly my heart sank into my BVD’s – Damnit, I realized I had taken too much credit and made no mention of collaboration.
Oh, Oh, I blurted, I told my team about it and we all collaborated on it at the next company function but it was too late.
The old ticker sank further into my shoes and I thought dress shoes are funny things. I can never keep them tied. The laces are too thin and stiff and always feel like they’re coming undone. At that moment it felt like I was a pair of dress shoe laces.
He smiled. He tugged on his cuffs one more time. The cuffs were shaped small golf balls on tees. He gathered up my resume (damn, two pages, stupid!) and tapped it on his desk like an anchor wrapping up the 6 o’clock news.
Thank you. We’re still reviewing resumes and will let you know when we make our decision.
We shook hands at his office door but he didn’t let go until he squared his jaw and looked into my eye.
It was 80, Halloween 1980, he said furtively but not without conviction and punk sincerity. And quickly shut the door behind me.
I stood awhile pondering. Would I ever have the time or the chance to do what I really wanted to do? Does anyone ever? Or does Life just simply catch up with all of us eventually? As I walked away I heard a steady thump thump thump. I imagined it was Lee in there banging his head on the desk, scattering his two cell phones, the laptop, the pc, the quarterly reports, the photos of his kids and the last of his beet, kale and ginger smoothie his second wife made especially for him every morning.
The job had slipped through my fingers. And it was in my fingers I’m sure of it. But it was cool. I got to meet Lee Ving. Besides, people are so busy these days, especially in corner offices with windows, that sometimes you only get that much of a chance. It’s up to you, me or us. All of it. So I went home and waited for my phone to burp.