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If You Were A Tree...?: (A Short Story)
... So I was sitting there on a chair, on the other side of the desk from the interview lady. She was going to talk to me about the positively thrilling possibility of the bank taking me on as a teller. I had jumped through all the hoops: electronically sent out my resume---yes, the bank required a resume (the elegance of it all!); I had had to fill out an application on top of that, devoting more energy than was customary for me for a job application. With irritatingly time-consuming research, I managed to supply the full, exact details of my previous employment: names of companies, addresses including zip codes, phone numbers, and first and last names of previous supervisors, even if they had moved on to greener pastures. I've held a lot of jobs in my time.
Yeah, whatever. Anyway, after all of that the lot of us had to take a basic skills test. Here we are, after three weeks of an ordeal that really should be an Olympic event, along with the Pentathalon or something, I finally get to interview for the grand position. Oh, I forgot to mention: The bank had made us get three references. Full details were required, of course: full name, address, phone number, profession, relationship, years known.
References! That part had privately infuriated me! References! As if we were trying to get a job at Buckingham Palace or something, serving tea to the Queen. Or perhaps the Vatican in Rome, clipping the Pope's toenails.
I guess what really gets on my nerves about it---apart from the very fact of having to do it, as if we were trying to work at the Vatican or Buckingham Palace---is the fact that I'm an introvert. I don't have many friends. I don't know that many people. I don't have Facebook or Twitter accounts.
Twitter! I may be a man of few words, but I don't see how anyone can express themselves with a limit of 140 characters!
People I had gone to highschool with. People I had gone to community college with. People with whom I'd work at other jobs with in the primordial past. People I'd done volunteer work with. People whose lawns I'd cut. Old girlfriends---all three of them. I'd had to go over all of this bygone terrain. I used phone books and did Internet research. I had to do all that to dig up three people I felt comfortable enough to ask for references.
So... I'm sitting there on the other side of the desk from the interview lady. I"m wearing a suit, on the advice of my mother. I had never worn a suit to a job interview. Why wear a suit in seeking this level of employment? This had always struck me as overkill, as it did now. But... you know... make a good first impression and all that... whatever.
Now, if I were applying for a job at Buckingham Palace or the Vatican, nobody would have to tell me to wear a suit! Especially the Vatican! See, I'm a Catholic and it would be an honor getting a job clipping the Pope's toenails.
But, since I didn't see any such openings in the newspaper, here I am interviewing at the bank: The Grand National Mutual Omaha Nebraska Ontario Bank of the Western Hemisphere. That mouthful was the actual name: The Grand National Mutual Omaha Nebraska Ontario Bank of the Western Hemisphere. Clumsy name. Must have involved a merger or two. Whatever!
After all of that, after I been through, after all I suffered, after reliving the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts to get to this point, the very first question that the interview lady---sitting on the other side of the desk from me---had had the nerve to ask me was, "So if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be and why?"
What kind of tree?! What kind of tree?! Lady, you cannot be serious! You don't have the right to ask me to be so revealing. You don't have the right to ask me to have that level of imagination for a lousy job paying ten dollars an hour, which doesn't even guarantee full-time hours. I'm going to have to pick up another job in the evenings, another twenty hours a week, just to TRY to make ends meet.
I'm going to be way to tired every night to even think about trees, much less imagine the kind of tree I, in my uniqueness, would be if I were one.
What kind of tree?! You ask me that for a job with meager, shaky benefits, and no security? You can fire me "at-will," as its called. You can fire me anytime, for no reason at all. Not a dscriminatory reason but you can decide one day that you're tired of my face and dismiss me, sending me back on the unemployment line.
What kind of tree?! You know what kind of tree I'd like to be, lady?
I'd like to be a magic tree that could materialize arms and hands, so I could use them to strangle you to death and then go rigid again. Because who would ever think a tree could commit murder? I'd like to be a magic tree like they showed in the movie, The Lord of the Rings. I believe they called those walking and talking trees, "Ents," or something like that.
Who do you think you are, lady, making my admittance into this wage slave purgatory contingent upon answering a question like (What kind of tree?)?
Yeah, I was thinking all that; I didnt' say it out loud. What am I, an idiot? No, what I said out loud to the interview lady sitting on the other side of the desk from me was -- I put on a big smile -- what I said was, biting my lip -- I didn't really bite my lip cause that would've hurt, but you know what I mean... With a big smile on my face I said, "Why, I would be a mighty oak because I'm big, strong and reliable."
I am pretty big. Broad shoulders. I work out a little. I'm cut, pretty buff, you know. I don't wanna brag.
But ugh! Saying that tripe, I wanted to wash my own mouth out with soap. Well, I guess I gave the right answer, or at least a right answer from a narrow range of right answers.
The interview lady, sitting on the other side of the desk from me, asked me, "Why do you want to work for The Grand National Mutual Omaha Nebraska Ontario Bank of the Western Hemisphere?"
That's how she said it, the full five-minute long title, including the 'of the Western Hemisphere' bit.
Oh I don't know, I guess I've grown attached to the luxuries of food, clothing, and shelter. I have such expensive tastes, don't you know.
I wanted to pull out all of her nails with pliers, because that's what she was doing to me on a certain level. But I bit my tongue---I didn't actually bite it cause... well, you know the drill. I bit my proverbial tongue and said... Hey, there's a fancy word, 'proverbial.' I sure dug that out of the storage closet of my mental attic. 'Proverbial.'
Anyway, I bit my proverbial tongue and said, with a smile... I remembered to smile, I was smiling liberally on the advice of my mother again; she always said that when I wasn't smiling I looked scary... I said with a smile, that I had always been fascinated by banking, since it is the heart of our economic system, where everything happens first, the center, you know, fiddle-faddle along those lines. Believe me, as I said it I descended the depths of self-loathing.
To be specific---I knew I would have to be specific to show why I thought the Grand National Mutual Omaha Nebraska Ontario Bank of the Western Hemisphere was the absolute BESTEST bank in the world to work for--- I recited certain facts about the bank, that I had looked up and spun them in the most positive light.That's another thing: research! That's how desperate I was. I had done research to be a teller. You may find this hard to believe, but I had never done research for a job before.
And the host of Family Feud said, "Survey says..." "Ding" goes the bell. I had given another right answer! I wish I could just do job interviews professionally. I could do job interviews for people who were really smart but just didn't express themselves well verbally.
The interview lady, sitting on the other side of the desk from me said, "What would you say is your biggest weakness?"
My biggest weakness is that I am not a magic tree that can materialize arms and hands, so I could strangle you to death and then go rigid again. Because who would think to accuse a tree of murder? Trees don't kill people, unless they're struck by lightning or torn up by tornado, and then fall on people's heads!
This was the final humiliation.
I screwed my face up like I was thinking about it hard. I opened my mouth, waited a beat, then started talking. My frown lines deepened in concentration as I got on with it.
I explained that I had such high standards, demanded excellence from myself in all that I did. I said that I expected excellence from everyone else around me, and as a consequence of this I had a tendency to drive myself and others too hard. This sometimes made me unpopular, but gosh darn it all, I just care so much about everything.
Yep, the old weakness that's not really a weakness routine.
Somebody cut my tongue out, please!
Well, I got the job. For some reason, though, I didn't feel very triumphant about it. The interview lady said that I would be sent to another city to take a two-week training course and then I would be at the bank, working.
Three weeks just to get to the interview and another two weeks training somewhere else. A five week odyssey! Oh God, I hate my life!
After we cleared up the details, I thanked the interview lady and went straight home to drink whisky, to sterilize the inside of my mouth. I've never felt so bad after landing a job, like it was a pyrrhic victory. Whoa! There's another one of those words from the mental attic, 'pyrrhic' victory.
You know what's it's like? Its like being a Jets fan---I'm a Catholic and a Jets fan---and watching them play like crap this season, watching them be the laughing stock of the league. In their last game they just barely managed to pull out a victory over the Arizona Cardinals, one of the bottom five teams in the entire 32-team National Football League.
The Jets won 7-6, and it had taken every bit of energy and determination they could muster to get those seven points on the board. I'm a Jets fan and that win just left a bad taste in my mouth.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. Today is the first day of the rest of my life.