Wednesday, August 3, 2016
But on that day in 1985, I experienced no delays and arrived at my potential employer's building with more than 15 minutes to spare. This was a state job, which I had applied for by filling out a generic state application for "Human Services Technician, Senior", indicating on the application which counties I was interested in. Louisville (pronounced "lewisville", not like the beautiful city in Kentucky) was a small town in a rural no man's land. It had once been the state capital many years before, but it was now just another small, south Georgia town.
Inside the nondescript building, I announced myself and was seated in the lobby to wait. The secretary/receptionist looked like she was about 19 and I marveled at her loud gum smacking and chewing. She seemed unaware. At one point she caught me staring at her and startled, stopped chewing for a minute. I smiled. She smiled and went back to chewing.
Eventually, the phone on her desk buzzed and she told me to go down that hall to the conference room on your right. I gathered my purse and notebook and walked down the hall. I entered the conference room to find three people sitting at a conference table that could accommodate ten people.
Let me stop this story for a moment - only a moment - just long enough to tell you that I do not play poker, nor any other game that requires one to hide reactions. I can not do it, except in very specific situations.
How do I describe these three people without sounding like a horrible human being? I will try. I will probably fail. First let me say that six of the ten chairs were pulled away from the table and stacked in the corner. At the closest end of the table sat J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoon. You remember Wimpy? He was the fella who loved hamburgers. "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
Sitting on either side of Wimpy were ladies with very modest dresses and gigantic bouffant, beehive hairdos. About a year later, I learned that the two ladies were probably members of an Apostolic Pentacostal church and, therefore, chose not to cut their hair. But I didn't know that at the time. So turning the corner to find Wimpy, flanked by these two magnificent hairdos almost did me in.
Wimpy rose to greet me and shake my hand. He introduced the two ladies. I was so flustered, I retained none of the names and titles. He then gestured to the fourth chair, which was situated at the farthest end of the table. I hiked down to that end of the room and sat in that lonely, isolated chair. I felt like I was in a Saturday Night Live skit. And then it got worse.
Wimpy picked up a piece of paper from the table (my resumé) and announced, "Well, Mizriz Jones, we have had an opportooonity to look over your ree-zoom, and I must say we were impressed with your skeels and expeerience." Candid Camera could not have written a better opening line. Given my severe lack of a poker face, I would, today, happily pay $10,000 to have a video of my face from the time I entered the room up until he spoke those words. I must have been a sight.
The interview progressed with questions that alternated between standard interview questions and "stress" questions that were popular in those days. "How would you redesign an elephant?" was one of those. (My answer: "I would take away the tusks so humans would stop slaughtering them.") All questions were asked by Wimpy. The ladies took copious notes, but otherwise did not participate in any discernible way.
I knew from the moment he asked me about my ree-zoom, that I could not possibly work there. I finished the interview and drove home. I did receive an offer, which I politely declined. They weren't ready for someone like me and I wasn't ready - yet - to sentence myself to rural Georgia.
But soon I would find myself working in Millen, Georgia. And that's an entirely different story.