Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Stainless Steel Rat and the Job Interview Adventure

So, I was really early for my interview.  At least, I would have been if the information the interviewer gave me had been correct.  Just pick up a parking sticker at the guardhouse on the way in, she said.  It's on my way; the streets are one way.  An extra 20 minutes should be more than sufficient, even if I have to park in the lot furthest from the building I need to get to.

At the guard shack, I see a note that tells me to go to the safety office to get my pass.  Where is the safety office?  I don't know.  I have no idea.  I am sure it isn't anywhere close to where I need to go because Murphy is a close friend of mine. 

Sure enough, it is not close.  I eventually find the building.  There are no parking spaces for visitors or anyone else.  I park illegally.  I can't find my hazard flashers.  I do not have time for this.

I enter the building and see that the security office is on the lower level.  There is a stairway right next to the sign.  I hoof down it to discover that I am in some sort of Twilight Zone cul-de-sac that has nothing to do with security.  I run back up the stairs.  I look vainly for any indication of how to get where I'm going.  I see nothing.

I enter the nearest office and look for a sign.  I find one.  Security Office this way.  I go this way.  There is no security office.  There are no stairs.  There is no elevator.  I pant.

I turn around and see another sign pointing in the opposite direction of the first.  This one, too, claims to be the security office.  I am doubtful, but I am also in a tearing hurry, so I try it.  Eventually, many signs and a scary stairway later, I arrive.

Security is very . . . relaxed.  They are not in a hurry at all.  They have no easy access to an exit.  I would not feel particularly trusting if I had to call them in case of an emergency.  Eventually, they are suspicious about why I need a parking pass, but even more eventually they believe me and fill one out.  At a some-might-say leisurely pace.  Slowly. 

I retrace my steps at a dead run.  It is still 80 degrees with 150% humidity.  I am wearing a black suit.  I am perspiring.  I am not sure I will be able to get back over to my building around all the one way streets and construction, so I park at the first space I find and limp/run, taking every shortcut I can, trying not to get hit by cars since the sidewalks are blocked off by construction.  I am carrying a ridiculously heavy attache with my portfolio and other professional looking stuff.  Students laugh at me as I pass.  I sweat at them.

I am two minutes late.  I am seriously sweating, and I can't take off my suit jacket because they will be able to see the sweat on my shirt, and this will not make them think I am professional.  Everything I've ever read has said that being late to an interview dooms your chances completely.  I am panting and convincing myself I am not asthmatic because my inhaler is in the car in my coat pocket probably melting in the heat.  I am most likely slightly wild-eyed at this point.  I find a stairway (lovely vaulting) and head up.

Sweat is dripping down my face, and I have no hand to wipe it with.  My hair is wild.  I see that I am on the far side of the building from where I need to be.  A very long, plushly carpeted hallway stretches out before me for a very long time.  Joy.  Then I see two people I recognize from my research into my interviewers, and my desperation is enough of a cue for them to identify me.

They ask, was the construction a problem?   I tell them, Honestly it was the running around trying to get a parking pass that was a problem.  They look at me blankly, and I explain.  They shake their heads, That's not what they told us, sorry for the confusion.  We head to a conference room.  It is closed.  When they get the key, we head in, and the room is not air-conditioned.  Alas.  Spring in the midwest. 

I am a sweaty, frazzled mess, and the interview hasn't even started. I am trying to be graceful as I push hair away from my face and try to wipe away beads of sweat as they fall.  I do not look professional.  I probably do not smell professional.  I am late.  I am doomed.

I remember this great scene in one of Harry Harrison's hilarious Stainless Steel Rat books (maybe Gets Drafted?) where the cheerfully anarchistic SSR explains how to beat a lie detector test: you work yourself up to a state of paranoia and doom before they start, and you let yourself calm down as they conduct the test.

Apparently, this works in job interviews, too because as the sweat dries and my body cools down into focused, serious discussion mode (wherein my limbs usually become freezing cold), things go fairly smoothly.  By the end of the interview, we are having a good time, and I look somewhat competent. 

One of the interviewers even gives me a ride to where my car is parked, and we talk a little more.  Apparently, she calls the next person I am interviewing with and recommends me favorably.

So that's why you should read science fiction.


1 comment:

  1. :-D

    I suppose it could be a good strategy to go into an interview thinking "it can't get any worse"...