Hired Hands in The Wild Wild Western Suburbs

My biggest problem, if I had to admit to one (aside from my totally rational fear of fruit), is my seeming determination to make the same mistakes over and over again. Like how I keep thinking I can pull off blonde hair (it might help if I didn’t keep going to cheap salons and ending up with a color less “Blonde” and more “Dehydrated Pee Yellow”) and how I have made out with not one, but three improv actors. Which is great if you like noisy dudes in skinny ties, but problematic if you are made uncomfortable by emphatic gesticulation and disproportionate reactions when doing such innocuous things as ordering a beer they’re not particularly fond of or breaking up with them out of left field. (You’re clamorously pretending to ride a statue in a city park for the third time today? Yes, and... I think we should see other people.)

I had a hard time finding a full-time job after college, and it got to a point where any interview I could land felt prudent to pursue, despite one after another having more red flags than a communist rally. I was working three part-time jobs, but really needed a steadier source of income. So when anyone called me back, I ran with it.

Which is where our story begins.

I got an email for a “marketing” job at a company with which I was unfamiliar. Given my Creative Writing degree, I thought, “Marketing? Sure, I can do that!” So I agreed to an interview, and the following Monday at 10am, I drove an hour to their office in my Prohibition-era-church-lady pumps and ill-fitting JCPenney suit, a look reminiscent of a ten year old in hand-me-downs attending her second cousin’s clarinet recital, with a similar look of feigned enthusiasm. I pulled into the gravel parking lot surrounding the veritable hut of an office, unsure if this was actually a marketing agency or a mildly haunted impound lot. Not a soul was in sight aside from a few haphazardly parked ancient Chevy’s-- the kind of midwestern desolation from which you’d expect a skittering troop of wily raccoons or a tumbleweed comprised of Portillo’s menus. Nervously, I clacked up the unfinished wooden steps and went inside.

There were several other people waiting, clutching resumes and notepads, the air replete with the pungent fumes of printer toner and nervous B.O. The receptionist told me to take a seat, my interviewer would be right out. And so I did.

A young, well-dressed man strode into the lobby almost immediately. He shook my hand and told me to follow him. He walked with the brisk gait of purpose and decision, and I trailed timidly behind him-- back out the door, down the steps, and across the parking lot. He clicked a remote and a car unlocked. He told me to get in.

Now, I really needed a job. Desperately, you could say. But this was, at best, highly unusual. So I did what any reasonable unemployed young person with a useless degree in a bad economy would do. I hopped my ass in his car and hoped for the best.

We started driving. He told me this was a “field” position. Real hands-on kind of work. The job would “explain itself when we got there.” And then he turned on Q101 and fell silent. I was, at the time, a rather timid individual, so, swallowing my growing feelings of panic and uncertainty, I resigned to go along for the ride. But if you are wondering if any of those aforementioned red flags were arising in my mind during what ended up being an hour and fifteen minute car ride, I can tell you, honestly-- fucking duh.

We pulled up to a Burger King. I was a little hungry after the excruciatingly dull car ride, so this excited me. He grabbed a manila envelope from his backseat and motioned for me to follow him. We went inside and joined the line of about nine customers in front of us, with more joining behind us every minute. Shit was hoppin’ at the BK Lounge. We got to the front, he cleared his throat and said, with unbridled gusto, “Hello, I am here to present you with a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity. I am offering you an incredible deal on bulk packages of tickets for none other than the Chicago White Sox, the perfect way to show your employees and customers how much you value them. By putting down a miniscule deposit of $1,000…” And inside, I screamed.

With half a dozen people in line behind us, this human dunce cap was making a sales pitch to a fast food cashier. He finished his speech, to which she said, “Order something or get the fuck out,” and then he turned to me and said, “You can get something if you want, I guess.” So I ordered a burger, pausing expectantly, and then he laughed and said, “Oh, wow, yeah, lunch isn’t included. Weird you would assume that.” So I bought my own damn burger.

From there, we traveled around corporate strip malls, hitting XYZ Generica or RanCrap Technologies or what have you, all with him making the same overly rehearsed, almost clinical pitch and me debating if leaping through the window and hitchhiking home was a more desirable option than listening to Bargain Bin Willy Loman irritate unwitting receptionists into near violence. There was no reason this man should have been this confident. It was like watching a three year-old triumphantly explain his brilliant invention that turns broccoli into sprinkles, except I would not be so inclined to pound a toddler into the concrete and then light myself on fire. And, shockingly, over the next four hours, we did not make a single sale. But not to worry, he assured me, despite the job being 100% commission, it was still the best known way to make a living. Of course, I said, through gritted teeth. This sounds like a great gig. I would totally not rather chew off my own foot.

Hours later, we returned to the office, the clock striking 6pm in reality and End of Times in my soul, and upon killing the engine, he immediately offered me a job. I politely declined, fled to my car and then threw myself off a cliff. Nothing is worth this, I thought to myself. This was a Hindenburg of an interview. Even worse than that time I threw up from a sudden onset of food poisoning and then got hit by a car on the walk back to the train. At least that was over in less than an hour. And nobody threw staples at me for that.

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