“A Very Unlikely Job Interview;” a short story

This is a stupid tie, Josh told himself as he walked into the office. There was one small desk, a simple decorative fake tree in the corner and a green accountant’s desk lamp. Can she tell I’m freaking out about my tie? Whatever. I’m done worrying myself. This was the best tie at the thrift store. If she doesn’t like my ducky tie, she will not like me. Josh hated interviews and this was his tenth one in three months. Openly welcoming judgment of his accomplishments and aptitude was not exactly his idea of a great afternoon.  No one was hiring. Or maybe no one was willing to hire him. One interview he had 2 weeks ago was a group interview which had really killed his spirit. Almost everyone in the room was more ambitious than he was, hailing from better universities and with more internships in their arsenal. Now here he was again, seemingly fighting for his lifestyle. No, he wasn’t starving, but he was getting sick of Ramen and peanut butter sandwiches. He went to school, had fun, and received praise from many of his professors for his work ethic. Now, here he was, seven months after graduation with no clear future. I can’t go to my parents. I just can’t, end of discussion. He tried hard to feign an excited expression for the woman, but all he really wanted was to lay on his couch with a beer. There was no use. He might never get hired, making college just seem more and more pointless. Just smile and shake this woman’s hand. 

“Hi Mr. Dexter. Josh, right? Thank you for coming today. Wow. Very interesting tie, there.” Stacy Matthews was distant and observant  but she had already said the wrong thing. With Josh’s fashion fears confirmed, his sarcastic walls of defense went up. “Tell me about yourself,” she said.

“Ok. Umm… that’s such a broad question. Whenever people ask such a big question like, whats your all-time favorite song ever, or who are you as a person, don’t you feel like all thought just leaves your brain completely? Like, that’s what you just did for me. I literally don’t have any thoughts left in my head.”

Stacy stared at him, eyes wide with confusion, but Josh continued to smile congenially so she returned the gesture, thinking he was simply trying to be light-hearted, and forced a nervous laugh. I was expecting something like ‘I’m a perfectionist, I always have to finish a task, but ohhh-kay.’ “Yes. I, uh, know what you mean. Well… let’s start with where you went to school.”

Josh clapped his hands together and laughed whole-heartedly. “A money pit.”

“Excuse me?”

“I went to a money pit. In this economy, I think its best compared to a strip club. The girls are the dreams you can’t touch, but you continue to go there every week, throwing countless dollars at your dreams, essentially gaining very little… more than likely leaving with an addiction or VD.” He maintained his smile with his legs crossed and his hands folded.

“Umm… ok.” She blinked repeatedly, trying to sweep the confusion from her face. “So, I assume that it was difficult for you to pay for college. What was your major? Did you graduate?”

“Yes, I finished. I majored in tailoring a schedule that would allow me to binge drink till 2am, recover and attempt to function like a responsible young adult by noon. I worked very hard at keeping a balanced budget, allotting funds for alcohol, pizza, and other social activities. I composed numerous essays based on information I skimmed through rather than retained. My biggest success, however, was my design of these glasses that make it look like you are awake, but you are actually dreaming about Sofia Vergara. Somehow I pulled As and Bs out of my rear end every year. College was great!”

Stacy sat there stunned. She wasnt sure if he was serious. He couldn’t be! Yet, his expression was professional and friendly. “Um, Josh…” Stacy had odd interviews before, but they hadn’t prepared her for Josh’s full disclosure. “I guess… tell me about your work experience.”

“You know whats so cool? You have to have work experience to get a job, but you need a job to get work experience.”

“Well, yes. That is an interesting observation, however we accept experience that may have been an internship or volunteer work.”

Josh’s mind was instantly transported back to the group interview with all the esteemed ex-interns surrounding him. “That’s really great, Stacy, but remember that little part about having trouble paying for school. My work experience consisted of any place that hired me so that I could pay for class.” He could feel his smile slipping and quickly corrected himself. “If you needed a shirt board folded, a drink refilled or a baby that needed sitting, I was very dependable and efficient.”

Josh had tried to revert back to his congenially smile before Stacy realize there was a shift in his tone, but this time the smile was forced and she had caught it. He was wounded. The job market was beating him down and he was trying not to explode. “Were you ever fired from an employer?”

“Yes. From all of the aforementioned. I have a real problem with tardiness; another reason why having classes in the afternoon suited me best. I would like to say this. Tardiness is not something you can do on your own. Many, many people contributed to my tardiness. I would like to thank my parents for never giving me a ride to school, the LA city bus driver who took a chance on an unknown kid and last but not least, the wonderful crew from McDonald’s who spend hours making those egg McMuffins, without which I might never be tardy.”

“Mr. Dexter?”

“Ms. Matthews?”

“Was that a line from Clueless?”

There was a tiny spark of warmth that illuminated him from the inside. “I like you, Stacy. Yes, yes it was.”

“Sir? I’m going to need you to set aside your personal feelings and understand that another person’s time is valuable.” Just as quickly as it came, the comforting warmth left him. All was cold inside once again. “Why do you even want to work here?”

“Why?! Why else would anyone want to take a job they are over qualified for, can do in their sleep and need to be severely medicated, perhaps even intoxicated, to cope with? Why else would I volunteer to be judged by a short timeline on paper that truly doesn’t define me? Why else would I apply to a company who is offering $9 per hour, 28 hours per week and no benefits? If I must say it, I have $47.32 in my checking and not much more in my savings, my rent is due in 10 days and not one person, in three months has given me a chance when I know I am a damn good candidate. I’m flawed, but I am smart and capable. You are very patient for sitting here with me today and the way I have acted, you’d never know that I was a hard-working employee, but I know I deserve more than this. I want this job because I just want to stay afloat.” Josh stood tall over the green accountant’s desk lamp, finally feeling the weight of what he had just done. He had given up. He thrown in the towel on himself and disrespected this woman in the process. “Um.. I’m-I’m sorry.”

As he turned to leave, Stacy called him back. “Sit down, please.” Josh, his head down with embarrassment, felt like she was about to call his mother over his behavior. “I get it.” He looked up shocked that anything he had said today had affected this woman. “I have been there too.” Suddenly, she was a person with layers and a history maybe similar to his own. He saw the subtle wrinkles around her eyes and the soft droop of her jaw line. “It’s not always fair and life will beat you down. I want you to come back tomorrow and interview again. We will pretend that this never happened.”

Josh couldn’t believe his incredible luck. This woman was taking pity on him! “Yes!” It was the only answer he could think of. He shook her hand, still numb with disbelief and returned to the door of the office.

“And Josh?” He turned around, hoping she hadn’t suddenly changed her mind. “If you’re going to quote a classic teen movie in an interview, you quote The Breakfast Club.”

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