“If You Were An Ingredient in a Salad, Which Would You Be?” (December 23, 2010)

My friends, this is no attempt at satire. This is a straight-faced question posed to me yesterday afternoon during the course of what seems like the thousandth job interview since mid-October. The self-satisfied 27 year-old in an ill-fitting suit who formulated this query seemed very pleased with his “out of the box” interview style. I would have been more impressed with this HR Manager had he been able to tell me anything about the job’s potential hours, pay rate or expectations.

But instead I had to listen to personal tales about his birth in Dubai, his brief military career and when the topic of commuting came up, I mentioned that I would prefer to ride my bike. The office of this life coaching center, which is looking to hire a part-time marketing and media writer, sits about seven miles from my humble abode. This is when my interlocutor decides to tell me that he has ridden a bicycle exactly once since moving to Chicago – to make a much needed run to the liquor store.

Throughout the course of this extremely trying half-hour, a question ran repetitively through my weary mind: “Why are you employed and not I?”

When we got around to the titular question, so mystified was I (because really, what could this answer possibly tell about my potential for success?) that I blurted out “the dressing!” before I had time to compose myself. This is when Mr. Smug Jr. Executive informs me with a sneer that “everyone says that.”

As I sat sweating in the young man’s office, not from nerves, but rather from the 90-degree setting of the thermostat, I asked if I would be able to meet the hiring manager before I left. I was informed that the man was very busy, but I was welcome to return tomorrow (now today) when I could also ask my tiresome questions about hours and pay. You could tell that this guy believed he was an angel who willingly took a tumble to Earth just to anoint me with the condescension of this conversation.

Bear in mind that none of these people, including the “hiring manager,” also known as the life coach who doles out the therapy at the center, is a writer. I was told before I walked in the door yesterday to bring a stack of marketing samples from my professional life, which I almost had to remind Smug Jr. to take from me. He assured me they would “closely evaluated.” By whom, may I ask? I didn’t suppose they had Warren Buffet secretly lurking in the back.

By the time I left, after yes, having shamefully agreed to return tomorrow (today), I was on my way to truly hating myself. Eating dirt slung at me from a young punk still working on his bachelor’s degree, for nothing more than part-time work? This is the new normal for the eminently qualified, eminently desperate unemployed.

Merry Christmas to all, and especially to those collecting the government cheese, I say, drink up!

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