Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Interview

The Interview
I recently had an interview for a job. It was to be the potential main source of income for my new, more expensive locale on the west coast. It seemed to align with my skill set and offer the casual scheduling that would integrate well with my intent focus on creative works. Turns out, I didn’t take the job. Although I decided to leave before the end of the application ‘production’, I came away with a very fascinating story from Act 1. 
My preparation for the interview involved bringing my computer to a cafe where I could be on the computer as well as on the phone (the place I’m staying can’t guarantee both reliably). I was feeling relaxed on my way to the interview, but a little later, I was sitting in an entirely full cafe except for one seat along the little bar next to me.  I was directly behind the smoothie blender (and therefore periodically being deafened), not knowing what the phone interview was going to entail and if I’d be able to hear my interviewer, and not knowing what specifically I would need the internet for (it had been a pre-requisite). To top it all off, I was 2 minutes to the time we were supposed to connect, and I had just run over from another cafe that had decided to mention they were closing in 15 minutes right after I had bought tea and a cookie and had gotten myself settled in. Beyond that, my cell phone was receiving no service even this far into town, so I turned it off and on again, hoping the ‘what the hell! we’re in a serviceable area!’ jolt would do the trick. And so it did. Less than 30 seconds after I turned it on, I received the call from “Blocked”. Good start. 
The reason my phone interview was fascinating has to do with the structure as well as the content. Immediately after the standard pleasantries, I was told to open up a Word document and begin transcribing our conversation - verbatim. Interesting. So I open up Word and she continues talking - rife with ‘likes’ and ‘ok, so’ and ‘ums’ - Am I supposed to write all of these down? As she’s speaking somewhat circuitously, a man taps me on my shoulder. Frantically, I look over as I’m still trying to type and listen, while the man points to my bag on the seat next to me and says, “Can someone sit there?” in a way that was probably friendly enough, but the shock and frazzle that was swelling in me took it as an angry demand. Now I’m hastily nodding to him, pulling my bag from the chair, dropping it beside me, shifting my smoothie and computer over a few inches, trying to type as she asks me a question that I’m not sure I remember the beginning of, and I’m trying to catch enough to write something that is at least in the ballpark.
By the time she stops talking, the man is comfortably beside me, on his computer, giving me the ‘look’ because now I’m the rude woman on the phone. My voice drops a few decibels, to be more respectful - I don’t doubt that it’s raised a bit since this all started. I begin answering her question, from the last thing she said. As I try to work backwards, I realize that I don’t at all know the first thing she asked - its not in my memory or on my Word document. I clumsily taper off with a response that seems open-ended enough to potentially answer her question but opens the door for her to ask it again in another way if there was something left unsaid. She moves forward. I take a breath, but I’m not inhaling much relief. 
She immediately tells me that I will need a separate e-mail account if I am to work with them. Ok, I say. The phone then cuts out and I sit in about twenty seconds of awkward silence followed by her saying, ‘Let me know when you have it set up.’ I frantically type “Let me know when you have it set up” as I try to will Gmail to open simultaneously and sign out of my current account so I can get to the form to sign up for a new one, since I’m obviously behind and she’s been waiting for me to get my new e-mail address. Does she have a stopwatch on the other end, seeing how long it takes me to set up the account? Did I somehow just become a puppet that she’s ordering around and making a little crazy? It’s clear that the answer to both is likely - yes. Nonetheless, I decide to accept it, largely out of sheer curiosity to see where this is going. I continue typing.
Create the account, open Google Docs and find the documents she’s dropped in. Open one to make sure I have access to the file. The tests of my competancy, it seems. And of my ability to be puppeted. I’m in strange water at this point. I know what she’s doing and we’re certainly on the path to nowhere, but I’m so very curious. And as a reward for my curiosity, things are about to get stranger. The file she has me open as a test? Regards allergies and a scent-free environment. 
Now, I myself have a number of allergies, so it isn’t much of a lifestyle change to avoid an environment with lots of perfumes and strongly scented deoderants - although I do have a love of sage and incense (my allergies have been kind to me in that regard). This, however, is not exactly the environment they are talking about. 
Three day detox, and a list of usable, unscented products that I must use before I even show up to my face to face interview. I can use only a washer and dryer that do not use other detergent or fabric softeners, and I have to shower in baking soda. And since I’ve got dyed hair, I get to wrap it up in a baking soda soaked towel when I come in for the interview - and that’s all before my sniff test. 
Ok. I understand chemical allergies and I would hate to cause anyone suffering. Nonetheless. And, you know, what I don’t understand is that my ‘employer’ is pretty active in the world. Lots of traveling - hardly home. I can’t imagine everyone my ‘employer’ encounters has had time to do a 3 day detox before meeting. Perhaps it’s an effort to keep my employer’s home a safe haven and it really isn’t as severe as they make it sound. It’s just a little intense for me, who has just moved out here and is staying with her boyfriend and his roommates. I can’t demand they use certain laundry detergents - or baking soda. I won’t, in fact. And I won’t change into randomly donated garments that have been detoxed and live in the garage of my employer’s house every time I come to work.
We have gone quite beyond our crossroads already.
But I continue with the conversation. And once it’s been asked of me to respond to 15 different documents that are on Google Docs, pasting them into the body of e-mails and writing questions or comments on them, BEFORE I meet with them for the official face to face interview in three days, WHILE I am doing the detox process and buying new toiletries - I’ve pretty much lost the will to type this inanity verbatim. But at that point the conversation is over, and I am able to stare at the computer screen, at my frantic, misspelled notes, and then throw my stuff together and escape from the noisy, crowded 

I felt a bit like I had just been hit over the head with a rubber chicken. I wasn’t sure if it hadn't hurt me and I was fully oriented, or if I was totally out of whack and actually on the ground, looking at the kaleidoscope of colors crossing my vision from the rubbery assault. Yet I made it back to my car, and arrived home. After a wonderfully entertaining discussion with my boyfriend where he deduced I was in the midst of a cult initiation, I chose to forgo work on my hours of homework (my interviewer assured me some files would take 3-4 hours by themselves) and detox procedures. 
I gave up a gem, there, I know  :-p Thanks, craigslist. You bring something fascinating into my life. 

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