part one. the coyote catches the cat
I’m going on my first full month of unemployment and after watching the entire series of; the Office, Parks and Recreation, Arrested Developement, Flight of the Conchords, and numerous documentaries I stumbled upon at netflix I’m coming to a point where this no longer feels like an extended vacation. I’ve kept myself busy cleaning house, making dinner, finishing projects I’d been putting off, and endlessly finding new ways to inspire myself artistically.
Money is tight but unlike when I lived in Los Angeles I don’t have to live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Don’t get me wrong I’d like a job, especially one in which I could make money doing what I love, but there is another part of me that almost feels like I could take any job offered to me without question.
Being unemployed or in a terrible work situation can be one of the most stressful and trying times in a persons life. SInce college with the exception of a brief period when I moved to LA and a brief period when I moved to Seattle I have always had a job, that is not to say that some of those jobs weren’t terrible. They were, but making money is always better than not making money.
That is what get’s to us when we lose our job, suddenly we become that person that they talk about everyday on the radio, suddenly you become that person the working class so often wrongly accuses of being a lazy drain on society. For many this is exactly what drives them to make frighteningly terrible occupational choices.
This is what happened to me two years ago.
My wife and I had just returned home from our wedding in Seattle. My job at Borders was providing fewer and fewer hours and hoping to add to our bank account I found myself logging hours of time frantically searching craigslist for something better.
I had been at it for about a month when I got a call in the late morning on a Friday. It was the first bite I’d received and when everything seemed to be saying that something’s not right with this job I just couldn’t hear them. The first thing they asked me was if I could come in for an interview that day. Honestly I wasn’t in the mind set, but who the hell holds an interview the same day they call you? The Marines maybe.
An interview was scheduled for the following Monday which would be held at their office in Chatsworth. After hanging up the phone I stopped to take my first breath in two minutes and as if my brain was a hose being pinched and someone suddenly let go and the information I’d been told came blasting out at me all at once.
I had so many questions. Chatsworth was a good hour north from my apartment in Franklin Village so why would I have applied to a job in Chatsworth? I tried to decipher the napkin next to the computer I’d seemingly just scratched the pen at, what was the name of the company? What was this interview for?
It took hours but after back tracking my emails I found a craigslist post for an administrative assistant for Bankers Life and Casualty in Pasadena. After a little more research I found that their main office in the area was located in Chatsworth. I explained this to my wife Jaime and we came to an agreement that Chatsworth was just too far to travel. I didn’t know how Pasadena entered into the mix but I would call them first thing in the morning on Monday and inform them that the travel would just be too great and decline my interview.
As I said before I’d been so desperate for anything better than my current job at Borders I was ignoring warning signs left and right. When I got a call from them Sunday evening and began to explain why I would not be interviewing they informed me that they would be opening an office in Pasadena very soon and that I should come in and interview. I found that I couldn’t say no, but looking back I understand this to be the second major warning sign.
Monday came and having given myself an hour and a half to get to Chatsworth I arrived just five minutes early. I was instructed to join a crowded table in a sparse conference room where the receptionist explained that Ricky the branch manager would give a half hour speech concerning the company followed by individual interviews. Then she handed me a “Find your Color” questionnaire.
I sat down at the last remaining seat and began to fill out the form, which for the life of me I still do not understand. The group of people joining me at the table could have been used for a public service announcement promoting racial and gender diversity. You had the older white woman, the older Mexican man, the older African man, young mexican man, older white man, young Asian woman, young white woman, and me young white man.
Ricky entered and began what turned out to be a three hour sales pitch of the company. I’m embarrassed to say that it actually took me about an hour and a half before I realized that there was something wrong with Ricky, the company, and this interview.
Bankers Life and Casualty claims to offer long term care and health insurance to Seniors. Ricky regaled us with a sob story about how he quit Harvard law school when his father fell ill and he had a total life changing moment and he began to work for Bankers Life and Casualty. He claimed to earn over $350,000 a year but from looking at him I would place it at around $50,000. His worn dockers and ill fitting white button up told it all.
We were informed that we could earn up to $7,000 a month working at Bankers and that he’s known people who made up to $14,000 a month. Some how I didn’t get up and walk out of the room when he said all this. I was a 25 year old who’d never made more than $14,000 a year how would I even qualify for a job like that?
Then Ricky asked us to go around the room and tell everyone who we are, what our experience was and what we were looking for. This was by far the most depressing and insane event of the day. There were sad stories of those who had held decent jobs until the recession hit and they fell victim to brutal lay offs. Then there were bizarre stories as well. The African really was African (Nigerian) and I struggled to understand him but from what I could hear supposedly he was the CEO of a multi million dollar company before he was forced out by his business parter leaving him jobless. I chalked up much of the truly bizarre elements of his story to bad translation.
It was the young Mexican kid I’ll never forget however. According to him he was an Aeronautical engineer and just up and quit because he didn’t feel it was the right job for him. Never mind that he couldn’t have been older than 20, even Ricky balked at this one and asked in return what exactly he throught the right kind of job for him was. His answer; “I just don’t feel like I was meant to work with my hands, something in the medical field… like a brain or heart surgeon maybe.”
I suppressed some gut busting laughter and waited for Ricky to throw this kid out of the room for being a complete and utter moron. When that didn’t happen I prepared myself for Peter Funt to come waltzing through the conference room door with a camera crew saying, “you’re on candid camera.” This was the only way I would have been able to explain what was happening here.
Finally RIcky wrapped up his three hour infomercial for Bankers Life. He informed us that we would be split up into two groups and we would be interviewed by himself or the office assistant manager individually. Then he handed us a sheet of paper which had the standard questions that included availability etc. Before he left the older white woman across from me spoke up.
“Excuse me, this sounds like a sales position. I thought I was applying for an admin position.” I was glad she spoke up because I was thinking exactly the same thing as her. Ricky flipped her a bullshit answer and hurried out of the room refusing to answer any further questions. After he left everyone began to busily fill out their forms and I just sat there. I had a very strong feeling I knew what this job was, when Ricky would take me back to his office we would pass by rows and rows of cubicles with phones and chairs. This was I guessed a telemarketing job.
I reluctantly filled out the form not because I had any intention of seriously interviewing for the position but because I’d come this far I just had to confirm my suspicions and ask Ricky one burning question.
Please check out part two tomorrow to find out what that burning question is and an absolutely douche bag answer.