Tag Archives: job hunt

Season of the stomach flu

happy toilet bowlI am a stickler for cleanliness in food preparation. I actively think about cross-contamination, heating temperatures and holding temperatures, the timing of separate dishes, and the kinds of food that go well in one’s stomach and not just with one’s taste buds. I dedicate myself to these tiny causes as if I were wielding a neon green small plastic fork, usually only suitable for battles with tasteless green olives before they are drowned in a sea of gin and tonic. My persistence comes not because I was scared into it by countless local news broadcasts, but because I have intersected salmonella before, and have vowed to avoid it from here on out if at all possible. And I certainly, most definitely, to the nth degree do not want to unleash that kind of hell onto anyone else.

Especially my wife.

To say I was upset that she was ill would be an understatement, but whatever it was, her emotions regarding her sudden lack of stomach control were probably more intense.

We presumed something had gone off the rails with regard to the chicken I’d made Friday night. I was just fine and she was the keeling over canary in the mine. Perhaps the bacteria party had only made a scene on one chicken breast and not the other.

Saturday and Sunday she struggled through, mostly sleeping, and me mostly writing downstairs, venturing out to the supermarket a couple of times for electrolyte-rich liquids. By Sunday evening she was mostly repaired.

roasted chickenI was excited to start my Census training the next day, on Monday. Well, excited might be a bit of an overstatement. I was happy to get back to work, and interested in knowing where they’d send me and what my door-knocking experience would be like. I had a little stack of items the recruiter had said I’d need, a little bundle of my personal identifying information or PII as the government calls it. The government has never met an acronym it didn’t like. TGHNMAAIDL. Well, maybe that one.

Monday morning, I felt oddly sluggish, and not entirely myself. Having no direct recall of being anyone else, I couldn’t name who else I felt like, so I just took the 70 percent that was me and sat up. This turned out to be a bad idea. I bolted to the bathroom and threw up the little that was in my stomach after 8 hours of sleep. While this might seem fortunate—generally, people don’t like the experience of vomiting, after all—what it really meant was that the material that had moved on past my stomach was just looking for the next nearest exit, which as anyone who’s ever flown a plane knows, may be behind you.

I was supposed to report to my swearing in at 9:00. It was 7:50. This was not good.

I showered briefly, cursing my alimentary canal for the Judas it was, and I crept back into bed for I don’t know what reason. Susanne pet my head.

And then she acknowledged that perhaps I hadn’t made her sick. I groaned in response.

I figured if I didn’t eat anything and didn’t drink anything, I could make it through the so-called “administration day.” I’d have to swear to protect the Constitution, which I’ve done before and having seen a good number of inaugurations, am pretty sure how it goes. I’d get fingerprinted, and fill out lots of paperwork.

Question: How long could that take?

Answer: Long enough to have to run to the men’s room and heave a few times.

The Census staff were nice enough, but the problem was that these trainings—even for the rote paperwork chicken scratching—are designed for inattentive or otherwise unfocused people. Every direction is read three times, using slightly different words. One would think this would be a helpful device, but it’s not, because those inattentive and otherwise unfocused people, or IOUPs, as they’re known in this blog, get all caught up on those differences.

“Wait a minute,” said one young fellow looking at the tax withholding form, “how do I know if I’m exempt from taxes?”

“Well, let me read you the definition,” said the crew chief. Because most people are exempt due to the fact that they’re retired and on Social Security, the chief knew this guy didn’t fit the criteria already, but he read it anyway.

And still, my young friend did not understand. Now he was getting confused between excluded from taxpaying and withholding allowances, like for head of household or the Duggans’ 20 dependents.

Five minutes later the crew chief was back on track and I had forged ahead with my paperwork, my hands neatly folded in front of me.

I held myself back from taking hold of any of the bottles of water in the room. Oh, water, I thought. I love you so much. You are a part of me. I am sorry for our recent misfortune. I don’t want to be like those leaky-from-the-mouth water people on that recent episode of Doctor Who. I just want to drink you. I am Alice in wonderland, okay?

I made it through the fingerprinting and had finished all but one of my forms and saw, to my horror, that I had been there for two and a half hours. I asked the assistant crew chief how much longer we’d be today.

“Oh, we’ll go to 4 or 4:30,” she said cheerily.

I stabbed my eyes out with my pencil. At least, I thought hard about doing that but realized it wouldn’t actual help me with anything. I really just wanted to drink some water. In my mind I saw water fountains, bursting faucets, twirling bottles of Evian. My stomach lurched and I felt unsteady and shaky. I hadn’t eaten or drunk in 16 hours.

“I’m sorry, I have to go,” I told the crew chief, who seemed to recognize that I was a cesspool of virus strands. I was Patient Zero.

He looked to see what else I had to complete and told me if I could bring it back in later today, I could come back for the start of training tomorrow. I nodded and thanked him.

The rest of my day was a feverish blur. I froze under a thick woolen blanket on the couch and slept, and Susanne sweetly delivered my signed papers to him. But Tuesday morning I was no better, the thermometer reading 100.6. I was now holding down liquid, but I’d lost 8 pounds, I guessed all in water.

I blew my opportunity to work for Census, although they’d said I could do another training in May. Given that we’re heading out of town at the end of May, it doesn’t seem worth it to me or my friend the government. Susanne summed it up for me in a way that made me laugh out loud in one duck honk:

“I feel like your blog is all about the stuff you’re about to do but that doesn’t somehow work out for you.”

Touche, darling. Touche.

Why was 6 afraid of 7?

I’ve written about the Census here and there, in part because the idea of really being able to count everyone in a country as big as this is next to impossible, and I’m extremely curious about the actual logistics involved in knocking on every single household’s door. I’ve worked with the Census before, though not in the enumerating capacity. It’s one thing to sit in a meeting in a run-down basement conference room on Census’ campus, the distant but distinct sound of water dripping through pipes like a kind of static behind the droning conversation about boring (but politically loaded) words like imputation, matching algorithms, and so on, the voices starting to sound like the tuba-speak of adults in the Peanuts comic. Wa waaah wa waht waaaaah waa.

The reality of walking around a neighborhood must be different, if only for the absence of GS-11 level and above staff. It’s just a temporary employee with a badge and a clipboard, and oh, reliable transportation. They are really insistent about the reliable transportation, having asked me, at this point, no fewer than five times if I have it. I would get a tattoo of my VIN on my forehead if I thought it would silence the question, but that’s no good over the phone.

So the Census has asked me to be an enumerator for them, meaning, walk around and knock on doors. I said okay, sure, I’ll take the $11.75 an hour, happy to have a job offer from anyone after 19 months of no real income. The $30 for doing the reading at the Roadshow last week was great because it was money from writing, but one dinner in downtown Walla Walla and I was back to having $5 in my wallet. (Still, it was great to take Susanne out to dinner again, I’ve missed that little grace.)

I reminded them about my amazing aluminum steed, so very reliable, and confirmed that I do not speak a lick of Spanish. If I were dropped out of a time machine—hot tub or otherwise—into 1984, the one thing I would change would be to sign up for Spanish, not French, classes. I mean, French is useful for reading Derrida and Lacan, and possibly for my citizenship test for Canada, should I some day apply, but wow, that’s about it in this lifetime.

Between my lack of Spanish and the Census’ map of the area’s initial response rates to the census form, I am betting I’ll be asked to go to Waitsburg, two towns east of Wallyworld. I don’t think I’ll be knocking on doors near the prison, but who knows?

Waitsburg is the cute town with the anti-abortion protesters, the very ones that I flipped off last winter for holding up pictures of completely inviable fetuses. They were not what I saw as an appropriate welcoming committee.

That said, I know I can be an impartial counter. I am cheery and I have nice penmanship. I may try to see if different facial hair styles has an effect on people’s response to me, because hey, you never know. Maybe they’ll cover this in training. I’ll find out tomorrow, when I show them my passport and press my fingers into their background checking machine. I suppose I’ll come up in the system, since I used to work for Social Security. It’ll be like deja vu, surely, only this time my background check and training will come on the other side of the country, in a Mormon-owned building. So sure, it’s just like the same thing as the west side of Baltimore. I could see the Wire from my window.

So this job, temporary though it may be, shall be interesting. More interesting than basement conference room, more interesting than watching yet another NCIS or SVU episode while I try to focus on writing a new story. Less interesting than writing a new story, but, and this is a big but, great fodder for an as-yet unthought idea for a new story. And I’m all about the new stories.

Waitsburg, here I come. I promise to keep my middle fingers to myself.

Requiem for a job

smurfette in her declineI spent a lot of time thinking about what I should do, occupation wise, when I grew up. I had a poster of a smiling Smurfette sliding down a powerfully bright rainbow, exhorting that girls can do anything. Being a precocious 8-year-old, I aimed straight for the top, Icarus or no Icarus, and settled on POTUS. Why not president, after all? After a time I saw reason, and selected doctor instead. This wasn’t as big a leap as it might seem, since I spent a good amount of time as a child in hospitals and medical offices, and doctor clearly equaled boss. Which is who I was. I was boss, at least until I stepped out of the house to wait for the bus and came into uncomfortable proximity with the bullies from my neighborhood, and at that point I was pretty much clear that they weren’t responding to my personal sense of leadership.

For a decade, I had picked physician, and it’s difficult for me to explain why I was quite so attached to the concept for so long. I was a kid who thought that there would come a point in my life during which I would have learned everything there is to learn. I hadn’t thought about the progress of humans, clearly, but I also hadn’t given any quality thinking time to the space after I’d absorbed it all. What would I do then? Reread it all? Become a globe of light?

Someone at some moment exposed me to the idea of histology, and my dreams of Dr. Maroon evaporated. That just seemed too hard. I went with the wave of young women giving up, perched as we were, at the precipice over the ocean, quietly taking our turns leaping in. So willing, those lemmings. My friends had gone from talking about fighting fires and scuba diving to find new marine life to being secretaries and nurses. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with office employment or nursing. There is something wrong, in my book, with giving up on one major life goal due to insecurity, but to add the arbitrary nonsense of insecurity from one’s gender, race, or ethnicity, and the world starts to go off the rails a little.

And yet, even as I write this, there are four women in orbit around Planet Earth. Clearly the confines of the 1970s have relaxed quite a bit. I only had the Space Camp movie and Sally Ride as models and hell, I was a long in the tooth teenager by then, my fate already sealed. Okay, of course it wasn’t but I also believed, having not yet acquired a distrust of stupid talking people, everything adults said to me, even when they were clearly incorrect or limited statements. For example, upon graduating high school after 12 years of Catholic education, I honestly believed that people were only ever one of the following:

  • Catholic
  • Jewish
  • Protestors

I have no explanation; we all had to take world religions our third year of high school. I read about Confucius and Hinduism and the Qaran, but I didn’t see those kids in my world, so they must not have been in the United States, or at least, New Jersey. But these contradictions didn’t worry me one bit; I bought what was told to me soup to nuts, and trusted that I was not science-y enough to be a physician. I did get praise, however, for my writing.

rorschach inkblot testWriter, however, was not a word that instilled happiness in my parents. It sounded to them like a straight shot to poverty and narcissistic delusion. Before I could blink my mother whisked me off to Philadelphia to take a battery of tests otherwise known as career counseling. I sat in a wooden chair for 6 hours filling out Myers-Briggs questions, a Stanford Binet IQ test, ink blot and other occupation-oriented tests. And voila, a couple of weeks later, a lovely letter came in the mail with the answer, as if a civil servant and a carnival fortune-teller had a love child with a fixation on material wealth.

I was strongest in expressing myself, I had a genius ability to handle spatial relations, and I was scraping genius on verbal ability, with an exceptionally average ability at math. So of course they decided I should be a lemon grower. Okay, they didn’t say lemon grower. And sadly, there is no Lego Building major at our institutions of higher education, anywhere. The letter said I’d be good at mass communication, journalism, writing, and oh gosh, this was probably the worst news for my parents. And now they were out $400 to boot.

I considered a career as a book editor. That was steady salary and I still got to play with books and words. And suddenly, it was my career path, until I realized that I could easily lose my mind doing such a thing.

I hit college and realized I’d been letting everyone else make my decisions for me, however well intentioned they’d been. I took classes in television writing and directing, only to learn that collaborative writing entails other writers, who are sometimes burned out, sycophants to someone else, or mind-numbingly closed off to learning new stories. One workshop had Sally Field’s son in it, and he was a good writer, but the professor couldn’t do enough to rave on and on about every word he farted out of his ass. For what it’s worth, I thought his work in the workshop was boring and a little too misanthropic for me, but hey, we were all there to learn and grow, right? Over time the prof started showing up drunk, and then he stopped coming altogether. Word in the Hall of Languages was that he was going through a divorce. I just wanted feedback on my story, or for some of his colleagues to help him out. Neither happened.

I realized the end of my college career was fast approaching, so I did what any reasonable person would do, I took the Graduate Record Exam and went straight into graduate school. Even deferring the real world for two years was better than nothing, and when that was over, I looked at my 24-year-old self and still wasn’t sure what the hell to do with my life. I knew I was tired of living on a $9,000 stipend, but I didn’t—still—feel any confidence in my skill set. So I puttered around my college town for a few years and finally took a job selling and buying books down in the nation’s capitol.

It was a terrible, painful, unproductive job, with overworked staff who wanted to know why the boss had hired outside of them, who the fat white girl was, and how long I would last. Anyone who’d placed a bet on less than a calendar year, I hope you made some good money off of me. Ten months later I was out the door, scrambling to find anything in the very-more-expensive-than-upstate-New-York city. Four months into my search—it was well before the tech bubble burst—I found a job as a publications coordinator. This started me down a waterslide of jobs into the heart of information technology, and 8 years later, I was pretty much at the top of the technical ladder. None of this had come from an ink blot.

Moving out to Walla Walla, the people who read this blog regularly already know, has been a helluva big adjustment, and not just because I haven’t found a single decent job lead since we moved. But I do think that it’s given me some things I haven’t had before: time to write and work on my craft, a sense that I can really sit back and think about my next career move, absent the kind of heart-pounding pressure I’ve felt before, and an opportunity to re-evaluate self-evaluation. Maybe I am not my career. Maybe I don’t have to take job names: usability specialist, bookseller, writer, and pretend they are all I am. Those are good things.

I’m not sure what my next move is, although I did get a call from the Census (two, actually, which makes me wonder how many people they’re actually about to hire this spring) to do enumeration for the next ten weeks, and I may have a job with Microsoft, which up until this move has been like spokesperson for Satan. And yet I know that if I go with either of these options, I don’t have to make them about me. I can just be me.

Smurfette taught me I can be anything, after all. And while I didn’t really take any vocational advice from her, that rainbow in the picture? It made me kind of gay.

A meeting of the minds

It was with a cavalier attitude that I called up the Census in a city near me, last week, and offered generously to join their organization, should they need me. Some employee with a name straight out of a 1950s-era reading primer, like Bill or Johnny, cheerfully informed me that there was a test in a few days near me and the exam was all that was separating me from what would surely be a stellar career with the agency. So I agreed to meet up at “the Y,” even though under many other circumstances I would have presumed some kind of gay intimacy would be involved in such an encounter. But I figured this would be a G-rated rendezvous. Johnny boy told me to show up about 15 minutes before the start of the test so I could fill out some forms, which, having already worked with and for the Federal Government, did not surprise me in the least, so I calculated that I needed to arrive at 2:45.

The same flippant approach I had on the phone was with me as I left the house, at 2:43. The Y was around the corner from where I live, and I knew a route to get there that didn’t involve even a single traffic light. I walked in to the gym, my gym, and failed to see any signs directing me to the test, so I asked the receptionist where it was.

“Oh, you must mean the Y W CA, she said,” putting such an emphasis on the “W” that she raised her voice half an octave, like she were speaking of the black sheep in her family. Oh, YWCA, tsk tsk tsk. Such a promising CA until all of that nasty business happened. YMCA and I are just still torn up about it.

She asked me if I knew where it was. I shook my head.

“Well, do you know where the ishchaly is,” she asked, suddenly speaking a foreign language.

I shook my head. “The what?”

“The ishchaly,” she said. Now she looked at me like I was utterly hopeless. I went to the wrong building and I didn’t even know where the damn Ischaly was? A look crossed her face that suggested she was wondering if she should intentionally misdirect me. She gave me a street name, Birch, and from that I could figure out where this unruly child of a building was.

Three blocks and 90 seconds later, I was at the YWCA, next to a building marked, “Ice Chalet.” This reconfirmed my belief that people just don’t give a darn about French pronunciation here in the Pac Northwest.

I looked at my watch which read 2:47, and giggled.

About 15 people were seated around tables in a large room just inside the front door. The tables were set up in a large rectangle so that we could all see each other. Against the windows the Census Bureau employee was setting up all of her supplies for the exam. She seemed more than mildly frustrated. Her hair tied back in a bun, it was starting to escape, in some vaguely direct correlation to her increasing anxiety.

“I’m just not sure why everyone is here so early,” she muttered, and I saw that she had several cat scratches on her forearms. I briefly concerned myself with how many cats she had back at home.

Three people stood around her as she sorted through manilla folders and government-issue pens. Though they didn’t realize it, they had the appearance of zombies, standing aimlessly, rocking slowly on their feet, waiting for her to notice them so they could hear her screams and eat her brains.

“Okay folks,” she asked them, pencils clattering to the floor, “can you just sit down and I’ll get to you. The test doesn’t start until 3:30.”

We told her we’d all been instructed to get here a little before 3. There was some nervous laughter around the room.

Well, we were informed, we were going to take this test at 3:30. And someone in the Richland Census office was going to get an earful from Stacy the Overworked Coordinator. After a long day of no thanks, all she gets are feral cats.

More people trickled in, all before 3. We learned that the fella who’d given us all the wrong start time was named Scott. Bad, bad Scott.

I looked at my fellow Walla Wallans who’d showed up for this exam. There were a lot of retirement-age men and women, some young 20s folks, a few 30-somethings like myself. One woman sat down who looked like she was in the midst of a bad affair with crystal meth. I’m not sure if she really even knew where she was, but she’d thought to bring her ID to qualify for the application.

An older man, in the midst of filling out the Census job form, raised his hand and asked, “What if my supervisory experience is old?”

“It doesn’t matter how old it was,” said Stacy, sorting through the test forms and answer sheets.

“What if it was 50 years ago? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” His sudden laughter shot around the room like semi-automatic fire. I jumped out of my chair a little.

3:10 and we all had our I-9s and job applications to complete. The woman to my right slowly screwed her pencil into her own little sharpener. She wanted to know if she could have extra scratch paper for all the math problems on the test. Clearly no one had informed her that this was not the GRE subject test in math. She was one of those chitchatters who at least waited for eye contact before beginning their monologues. I know how to look at my hands really well, so I was safe, for the most part. The person on the other side of her was not so lucky.

The form asked if I had registered for the Selective Service. Damn it. I checked the no box, and filled in the explanations box two pages over. Hopefully Stacy wouldn’t ask me in front of everyone what “transgender” meant.

One man, near a corner of the room, tried to pick his nose on the down low. Gotta have clean nasal passages to deal with the stress of such a rigorous test as this.

A younger, cockier man said he had a question, which Stacy deferred. “I just need a little more time to get ready,” she said, laughing nervously. “I just don’t know why Scott would tell everyone to come so early, hee hee.”

Scott is trying to drive you crazy, Stacy, that’s why. Maybe you stuck Scott with one of your feral cats, and he wants payback. I’ll never know.

She passed out the test, telling us to check that our answer sheets and test booklets have the same code, A, B, C, or D. The guy who people realized 50 years ago shouldn’t supervise anyone looked alarmed suddenly. His codes didn’t match. Stop the presses! Stacy came over and said, no, sir, this code right here. He’d been trying to match up the Census form numbers. I was just impressed a 70-year-old could read 4 point font. But I wasn’t so sure he was what the Census had in mind for a long form interviewer. Nor was the woman on my right, a.k.a. Nervous Nellie.

“Everyone has these new Passports now,” she said to her table-mate. “I haven’t been out of the country in so long, I’m not sure they’d give me a passport.”

Someone needed to tell her that if prior foreign travel was the prerequisite for getting a passport, nobody would have a passport.

At 4:10 Stacy let us begin the test. Twenty-eight questions.

Seriously? Twenty-eight questions? All this for 28 questions?

The exam was broken into 5 areas, including 6 questions on math. I hoped Nervous Nellie’s 5 pages of scrap paper were enough. One math question was really tricky: add 3.17, 12.6, and 258. Ooh, those tricky, tricky decimal points! I need some scrap paper for this!

Another question asked us to match up people’s names in two columns. This reminded me of some bad database errors I’d worked on in 2004 for the National Institutes of Health. And because I’d worked with Census before, on standards for data collection, I started wondering if I wasn’t having a mini-Slumdog Millionaire moment where every test question could be answered via some prior experience I’ve had with the government. Only instead of winning 30 million rupees I’d get a $11.75 per hour job wandering around Walla Walla county, trying not to get shot for being a temporary Fed. So it was really like the same situation, totally.

I finished the test first, which doesn’t mean I was the smartest in the room, but next to “Don’t let that guy supervise anyone, ” Nervous Nellie, and Meth Face, I wasn’t surprised to be at the head of the pack. No sooner did I think that, however, than Meth Face put down her pencil. And then seemed to eye it longingly, as if it were a thick, juicy ribeye.

Stacy called 15 minutes remaining. Unlike the actual GRE, one was not permitted to leave if one finished early. So I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes. At 4:35 Stacy called 5 minutes left. The last 10 had already been the longest of my life. But no way was I going to leave only to have to come back for a retest, people watching what it is.

Finally, she called the end of the test. Nervous Nellie immediately began chattering away. She turned to her weary desk-mate.

“Did you see him finish so early? So early! Just wham! Put his pencil down and took a nap! I wanted to just copy his answers but we have different test numbers.”

Those clever Census people, two steps ahead of a woman with her own pencil sharpener.

Stacy collected all of the exams and told us she just had a couple of things left to tell us. She read straight off of the Census guide for oh, four sentences or so, but then began embellishing.

“Remember, Census Bureau staff have to make a lot of follow up calls. If you don’t hear from us by March, you might not be hearing from us. We can’t call everyone back who applies for a job with us. But if we do call, be nice. If you make us laugh, we’ll be very grateful. So here’s something you could say, but don’t all say it or they’ll know I coached you.”

It took me a moment to comprehend that she was babbling, and then I heard her suggestion for making someone laugh on the phone.

“What did the one snowman say to the other snowman? ‘Smells like carrots.'” A few people chuckled obligingly. There is no way in hell I am going to tell this joke to the Census if they call me, I thought.

A man across the room raised his hand, indicating he had a question. What the hell could it be now? I just wanted to get out of here already. I had slumped down so far in my chair only the top 2 inches of my ass was actually still on the seat. Maybe I could just slither across the floor and into my car.

“Yes,” Stacy asked the man with the raised hand.

“They could also say, ‘all I see is black.'” Silence. And then he mumbled under his breath, “you know, because they have coal for eyes, see.”

I considered stabbing my ears out with my number 2 pencil.

Finally, we were dismissed. I did my best not to look disrespectful, but I was happy to breathe some non-YWCA air.

Thirty minutes later, I was on the road, headed to the bowling alley in Tri-Cities for my weekly league night. A few frames into the first game, my cell phone rang.

It was Stacy. I hadn’t checked a box indicating that I had my own transportation. I briefly considered telling her a joke, then decided against it. I thanked her for calling and answered her question, and then thought about carrots and coal.

What a difference a year makes

…or more precisely, eight and a half months. Back last January, when Susanne was being courted by the college that later hired her, I had a call from an administrator at the college who was interested in my resume. Originally, my journal post went something like this:

I got a call from the College that wants to bring Susanne on board next fall. The voice mail had the name of a person and said she was the head of advancement and then asked me to call back. Not knowing what the hell “advancement” meant (am I not advanced enough? I do walk on two legs, after all, and I haven’t dragged my knuckles on the floor in years), I figured she was a head hunter or some such. I called her back. I got her voice mail. It went like this:

“Hi, this is Betsy K—-, Director of the Department of Advancement at XX College. Please leave the date and time you called, and your name and number, and I’ll call you at my earliest opportunity. Thank you. *cough*

Hi, this is Betsy K—-, Director of the Department of [pause]

Hi, this is Betsy K—-, Director of the Department of Advancement Services at XX College. Please leave the date and time you called, and I’ll call you at my earliest opportunity. Thanks.

This is Betsy K—-, Director of the Department of Advancement Services at XX College. Please leave your name and number, and the time and date that you called. I will call you at my earliest opportunity. Thank you.”

I swear, she recorded the outgoing message SEVEN TIMES. I waited patiently, trying not to laugh in the phone’s microphone, because of course I had no idea at that point just when the beep would begin. And so I wondered:

1. how could she not realize she was saving 27 messages?
2. why has nobody told her yet?

Anyway, I did indeed leave my name, number, time and date of call. She called me back. She offered me a job as her assistant, basically, but I said we could talk in a few days since she only had about 10 minutes to go over things with me.

Really? Wow. I am kind of at a loss for words. I don’t even understand the job duties because she was so inarticulate. It has something to do with data reporting, SQL queries, and institutional endowment. Those are my words. Hers were more like, databases, project management, wow, and this college is cool.

Fast forward to today. Limping through the administration building looking for the ID office so I can go to the campus gym and library, I see a familiar name on one of the doors. It’s her! Rampant outgoing message leaver! I try to casually assess the woman sitting at the desk. She doesn’t look at all like I’d pictured — in my mind’s eye I saw a nervous woman with tight hair, a la Bree Van De Kamp. This woman was dressed like a college student in black stretch pants, a green sweater, and penny loafers. She had an office three times the size of my last cube, and for those former SSA colleagues paying attention, a name plate on her door. (Note to SSA: since you’ve already paid for it, feel free to send me my name plate whenever it finally arrives. You’ve got my address already!)

I couldn’t help myself. Could this earnest outgoing message leaving woman be interesting to talk to? Did she repeat everything she had to say 7 times? Could the number 7 be like, a divine number for her?

“Honey, I need you to go to the store. Could you go to the store for me? I need some things from the store, so how about you stop by there? Dear, this is really important, I need you to swing by the store. So if you could pick up a few items for me from the store, that would be great. Just please go to the store today. Hey, you know what would be great — stopping by the store today!”

Okay, somehow I’ve made this woman become my mother. Hmm.

Anyway, I poked my head in and introduced myself, and she remembered me from last winter. After the awkward, “no no, I haven’t found a job yet” moment, we chatted about Walla Walla and what is and isn’t in it. No knishes, bagels, whitefish or any other cuisine a good boy from New Jersey would crave in that 3 a.m. in the morning suddenly way. One, count it, one, liquor store. For 26,000 people. She was friendly and nice and putting a face to the answering machine message and phone calls did a lot to make her more human. And I was glad I met her, even if I still can’t envision myself working for her. And there is the issue of I continue not to have any idea what her job is, or what mine might have been.

Just another day in Wallyworld!

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