Friday, January 23, 2015

That stuff comes later

When, at some point in the not too distant future, I am going to pen a self-help manual for higher ups across all industries and title it: How To Conduct an Interview. I don't know if the market is saturated in this arena but I suspect not since my interviewing experiences, at least as of late, have proven to be almost unbelievably unprofessional and ineffectual. (With exceptions of course...but those are anomalies.)

Based on recent interview, I'd start out the book by suggesting the following steps:

Step 1: Make eye contact. I spent a little over an hour talking "to" someone who was staring at the desk in front of him and/or the wall behind me. Unfortunately for both of us, he was describing the worst job on earth. As a result, it was like watching a one man play about someone describing how paint dries.

Step 2: Ask questions about the person your are interviewing. As I said before, the interview lasted MORE than an hour and I think I discussed my background and qualifications for roughly five minutes. Five minutes that were, each time I imparted new information, interrupted with some irrelevant fact and/or procedure explanation for the prospective job. Which leads me to Step 3.

Step 3: An interview is not a training session. Look, I get that you are short staffed and you need to fill the position fairly quickly. Your harried, hurried appearance posture and language indicates volumes of explanations that, frankly, are at home in the "cons" section of a candidate's list to take a job. But this hour and change during which I meet you to discuss the possibility of working for you is not the time to show me how to log into your various systems or the step by step explanation of how you place orders or deal with difficult students. Like a new relationship, you should keep in mind that timeless mantra to keep the relationship fresh: that stuff comes later. (That's the phrase that is sweeping the nation, right?)

Also, the venue of a recent interview, and I know this is through no fault of the institution nor of my interviewer at all but is something totally noticeable, noteworthy and unfortunate: the office smelled like cheeseburgers.

Anyway, enough of job interview bullshit. I've saturated my brain with it and honestly, if I had my druthers and the accompanying laziness required, I would just take a damn break from job searching and job applying and job interviewing. However, when I think about giving up and/or in I think of that Bright Eyes lyric: I'd rather be working for a paycheck than waiting to win the lottery.

The search continues. It freakin continues.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Adventures in empathy

We've completed a full two weeks of this year already. Perhaps "completed" is not the correct word. Perhaps "pounded", "ground down into dust", "thrown a thick globule of black mist in every single direction, obscuring our view of a way forward, through the dark nights of the soul." Or maybe it's just me.

I mean, looking over the first two weeks of this year on a global scale, one walks away with the notion that the world is a fuck stew, a hot glob in a scalding pot slowly coming to a violent boil, the kind that explodes all over your stove range and sometimes the floor. I doubt this is different from other years; as a species, we always cook from the inside out. It just feels worse this year. I suppose because a bunch of shit happened right at the start, when we were all still hung over, painfully celebrating the notion that all the shit from last year was over, we'd been fed through the grinder but we came out the other end.

Two weeks is a blip to me but I think about the people directly ensnared by the still flailing tail of the monster that was last year and the Parisians who are now marching or wandering the streets full of anger and fear and uncertainty and how like an eternity two weeks must seem to them. I know how it feels to walk out into a city full of hollow eyed people, afraid of your own shadow, uncertain of what to think, feeling the earth has been thrown off its axis just enough to make the days seem physically nauseating. It happened here in NYC. People have more and faster ways to shout about it now, surely, but I get it. I get that it feels like you live in a haunted house, always waiting for the moment when someone or something jumps out at you. And when you feel that, the most empathetic, comforting you can hear (even if it doesn't feel like it at the time) is that it will pass. It really will.

Looking over the first two weeks of this year on a personal scale, things are decidedly less dire, but no less strange than other years of my life. Nothing terrible or outstanding has happened. I've worked a lot at my part time jobs out of sheer necessity and desperation. I went out dancing and didn't come home until 5 a.m. one Saturday. I've taken a civil service test wherein my Spanish speaking abilities were tested (because civil service is forever trying, and failing, to effectively quantify communication skills), felt cold more often than comfortable, been rejected (over the course of 2 weeks!) by five separate potential jobs, learned the literal meanings of heuristic and pusillanimous (kind of cannot wait to use these words in conversation) and done a lot of reading and writing. I've also done a lot of listening: to others, to library patrons, to coworkers, to my body, to my brain. I wanted to open my eyes and my ears this year and I wanted to pursue adventure and empathy and adventures in empathy. If things keep up at this pace, there will be no shortage of chances to do so.

I think the world is in a perpetual state of recovery mode. As such, we would do well to take the advice of many of the most effective recovery programs: one day at a time.

To tomorrow...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

End of this year at loooonnnggg laaaast.

Time again for my year end meme. If you had a great year, good for you! You fared better than 98% of the rest of the planet! If you had a bad year, take heart, it is over.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
I visited the Dominican Republic, Philadelphia, took an actual bike riding lesson(s), got called for federal jury doody, got laid off from a job and subsequently interviewed for more jobs than I ever have in my life.

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did not make any and did not accomplish anything particularly spectacular. I have a truckload of resolutions for next year and I'm going to do them all.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No but 2015 is going to be very, very busy year. ;)

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No and I'm grateful.

5. What countries did you visit?
Dominican Republic and assorted cities in the U.S. It was not a big year for travel.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
A stable, full time job and an apartment in NYC.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
This entire year will be etched upon my memory, however, May 28, the day I got laid off from my job of 6 years. Afterward, with a tear stained face, I sat in my car eating an ice cream cone and a homeless person walked up to my car to ask for change, which I gave to her and then told her how I just got laid off to which she replied, "That really sucks, don't cry into your ice cream, though. It probably cost a lot."

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Adding sugar to lemon water. Not quite lemonade but not quite lemon juice.

9. What was your biggest failure?

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing notable whatsoever.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Concert tickets to all three Arcade Fire shows I saw this year.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Almost everyone I know personally has come up against one personal trial or another and all have handled it beautifully and gracefully. That's all we can expect from ourselves and each other. (Same as last year and probably will be true until my life ends, and beyond.)

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
It happened years ago but the Bush administration and their tacit approval of torturing prisoners and subsequently every single person who sees nothing wrong with that.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent. Moving. Booze. Food. Concerts.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Arcade Fire in August, traveling with my family in July

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?
"I Just Might" by Ryan Adams since I probably listened to it 700 times in a two week span. Ghosts dwell in the streets from a hit and run...

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
happier or sadder? a little sadder
thinner or fatter? the same
richer or poorer? poorer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Traveling, writing, yoga

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Worrying about the future. It takes so much time and energy from the present. (Same as last year. Same worry, same regret)

20. How did I spend Christmas?
Eating, drinking being happy with the family. (same as it ever was.)

22. Did you fall in love in 2014?

23. How many one-night stands?
Do I count the orgies? Then 56.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Mad Men, as it has been and ever shall be, world without end, amen. (same as last year) However, props to Kroll Show, Parenthood and Bob's Burgers which always, always lifts my mood.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
No. Hate is still a waste of time.

26. What was the best book you read?
Again, need to mention a few: Wolf in White Van, How to Build a Girl, One More Thing, Little Failure.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Due to many of my old favorite bands releasing new material this year, I'd have to say that musically, it was a rediscovering more than a year of discovery for me.

28. What did you want and get?
 Some clarity, some perspective and to get to live in the city again.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
Hands down it was "Only Lovers Left Alive". I am officially obsessed with it. A very, very close second is "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
38...time keeps creeping, through the neighborhood...
I worked on my birthday this year, it falling on a totally normal Tuesday. I was blessed with doing a lot of really great stuff on the days surrounding my birthday including seeing Cabaret on Broadway and eating a lot of good food.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Job security.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Same as it ever was. And, this cannot be stressed enough, THRILLED that the 90s are back in fashion.

34. What kept you sane?
 Honestly? Wine. and Whine. and the close friends and family i have...same as last year, and the year before that.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I'm going to have to go with Russell Brand.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Don't even get me started. Toward the end there it was a veritable blitzkrieg of things to be stirred about.

37. Who did you miss?
Old friends who live far away!

38. Who was the best new person you met?
I meet pretty remarkable people every year.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014:
It is essential to be able to move and flow with life. It is a current that you cannot control, no matter how tightly you hang on. Life becomes infinitely easier if you move with it instead of resisting it.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Spent more time contemplating this lyric than I care to admit.

 Lying in the bed at night
Feeling like I'm somebody else
My thoughts inside my head get lost inside the haunted house
Everyone I used to know left their dreams by the door
I accidentally kick 'em that's how I can tell you're still not sure

"My Wrecking Ball" Ryan Adams

Sunday, December 28, 2014


I emerge this morning, a mostly quiet Sunday during that gray limbo between Christmas and New Year's when generally the engine revs but doesn't start and the pilot flame flickers but doesn't quite ignite,with a mandate...from myself. It is a familiar one, a tried and failed and tried again, ad infinitum, one. This mandate is very, very specific and it is this: DO STUFF. I realize everyone experiences the desire for self improvement at this time of year (though generally it is reserved for after the bacchanalia of New Year's Eve and the shame spiraling of New Year's Day) but frankly, what's a few days early? Maybe I'm finally coming down from the white sugar high of the last few weeks. Maybe it is the nauseating tumult of the past year. Maybe it is the general disconnect I've felt acutely in my recent, overstimulated, kinetic, frenetic, uncertain and unquiet life. Maybe I've been listening too much to the human thesaurus that is Russell Brand. I cannot say for certain. But I decided right after Christmas that I needed to do stuff.

And stuff is an all-encompassing term that describes the overwhelming amount of ways I can find to spend my time. I have this vague notion that there are people who are perpetually bored or who choose voluntarily to do nothing all or most of the time. And while I earnestly feel both that doing nothing is a valuable non-thingto do (or to not do) once in awhile for recharging purposes and that people need to hitch their own personal wagons to their own stars, doing nothing as a hobby or even a regularly scheduled activity is my own private anathema and the Do Stuff Mandate (DSM) will never want for activities. It is really just a matter of being organized about it. In this, I will need guidance. I will need a plan, a spreadsheet, a timer, some bottled get up and go. (Metaphorically, not the 90s college staple of Vivarin or amphetamines. Relax, people!) I long to never again feel the oozing malaise of being is a terrible feeling to me. I think I want to spend the rest of my life avoiding that feeling and since the rest of my life begins at the end of this sentence, I suppose now is a good a time as any.

I just discovered, via the innocent although mentally pernicious practice of cyber...not stalking so much as curiosity ...cyber curiosity, yes...that an ex-whatever of mine finally took all his talk about moving and becoming an artist to full fruition. He literally moved across the world and became an artist. People don't do that, they just dream it. I mean, right? Sure, people change all the time but I could not get this guy to return a text and he worked in the same menial job for at least five years, all the while talking about doing all the stuff but meandering through his days in a seeming zig zag pattern. Yet there he is. Putting aside my surprise, I am truly happy for him as I usually am when someone catapults his life toward the horizon where he's always longingly gazed. Also, I internalize everything. Hence, the do stuff mandate.

So yeah. Do stuff. I sort of snuffed out my own plan this morning when I couldn't muster the will to get up early enough to go to five dollar yoga. However, I'm being kind to myself and acknowledging the fact that I did not fritter away the morning lying about watching episodes of I Survived... or falling in and out of dreamless sleep. I have exercised my brain which falls under the general umbrella of having done "something" and really, isn't that the point of life? Wouldn't it be a good gravestone etching: Here she lies....she did something. Actually after rereading that out loud, it becomes clear that it would all depend on how sarcastic the person reading the gravestone was and in what tone it was read; it could easily be interpreted as a vague question instead of the intended deep, albeit brief, profundity. Honestly, I'm not willing to lie down underneath a potentially ridiculous quotation for eternity, are you?

Ok, I gotta go do stuff bye.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Too old to huff.

I just went to the store to buy some compressed air, (after a particularly shameful hour, I realized that my laptop, admittedly on its last, clangy leg, is now about 70% cat and human hair follicles), and was surprised to be asked my date of birth by the cashier. The following conversation is a dramatic reenactment:

Cashier, about 20 years old, after scanning the canned air: May I have your date of birth?
Me, confused: Um, why do you need that?
Cashier: It is asking me for your date of birth.
Me, alarmed: What is asking your for my date of birth?
Cashier, sighing: My register.
Me: Why does your register need to know my birthday? Do I get a prize if it is today?
Cashier: They want to know because of the air.
Me: I'm being carded to buy compressed air?
Cashier: Yeah. I guess people huff it.
Me: (After giving her my D.O.B.) Is compressed air unhuffable after a certain age? I mean I'm just curious. (Nervous laughter) I mean I don't intend on huffing this. Haha.
Cashier: That'll be $13.50.

Seriously, though, why does the purchase of a can of air require a birthdate? If she was, in fact, right about the huffable quality of the product (I don't judge), then how would my age be a factor? I know they card for things like sudafed and other cold medicines due to the high methability of those items but honestly, if I'm my age and I'm getting high on compressed air then you should just pity sell that shit to me because that is just straight up SAD. Drug addiction is sad to begin with but something about someone being my age and buying air at CVS to huff it in their car or something just brings to down to a whole new level.

The irony in all this is that for all of CVS' huffing prevention methods, I ended up leaving the store IN a huff. Amirite?!

Anyway, that whole thing was surprising. Less surprising is the library patron I just assisted. He asked me to help him find a Jeff Dunham DVD. I am currently working at a library where I only have occasional shifts, making a lot of things difficult for me to find. It is perpetually my first day here. I'm on the desk alone because the rest of the staff is downstairs eating their holiday party goodies. (I had string cheese in the car on my way here. Ya jealous??) Anyway, in addition to THAT, all of the catalogs are down today for a system conversion. Nothing in the collection of any library is searchable today at all. So it was taking me a bit of time to find this gem of a DVD. But after some searching and walking up and down aisles, I located it. He snatched it from my hand and walked away and did not thank me. I mean, maybe he was in a hurry to clip his toenails in public or something but that's the last time I try hard.

Well, I guess I better wrap it up. I got a can of air in my car with my name (and birth date) on it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Instant dissolve

This morning, my energy tank 1/4 full on four hours sleep and a medium sized hangover, I hit the ground, not running so much as speed walking in order to catch a train to work. Everything seems possible to me that early in the morning. The dirty-clean air fills the lungs and you can hear people sigh and exhale in a million languages. It is Monday morning everywhere in the universe.

I love the city in the fall, which recently has been baby late summer. And I sail through the empty, quiet sidewalks of an early enough morning. The old adage remains about it being a place that never sleeps but in the wee hours it does rest its eyes for a moment. A few early morning stragglers dotted the sidewalks, walking a little slower than usual, stomachs still full of turkey and family angst, hocking proportionally more loogies than average, yawning out their front doors on their way inside the gravitational force field of everyday tasks.

Last night, as I trawled through Astoria, unwittingly trawling for the perfect Kentucky Mule (found, and tested three times for quality assurance), I told my sister that I would accept whatever fate was going to hand down but that I wished, in a gazing at some distant planet from earth kind of way, that it will involve the city somehow. I needed no adjustment period coming back here, took no deep breaths to center myself. I felt myself instantly dissolve and become part of the atmosphere. But time can only tell. And when it comes to job offers, time has apparently decided to hold a grudge against me.

Lately, during various moments I find I am thinking of a scene in a small movie I saw a few years ago, or maybe it was last year or last week...I can't tell time anymore. The movie was called "Another Earth" which had a fascinating premise: a young woman who is responsible for a fatal drunk driving accident applies to be sent to explore a newly discovered second Earth, but not before making amends to the man who's family she accidentally killed. Anyway, there is a scene that turned out to be one of my favorites where she is telling the man the story of the Russian Cosmonaut and..well, here:

And I identify with this story; I want to fall in love with the persistent, strange ticking that inexplicably fills my brain and often, yes tortures me. Lately, it has been all the rejection. I'm slowly learning not to take myself apart and put myself back together and to take it in stride. I'm learning to balance the sound a bit, little by little.  Still, it would be nice to turn it into, say, a Brahms symphony or an Arcade Fire anthem. I could walk around humming, tapping my feet along in rhythm as opposed to internally, silently exploding most of the time.

Apropos of all of this: in the middle of typing this entry, I got another Dear John: Professional Edition letter. I suppose I should be grateful that someone took the time to reject me in writing. I much prefer scanning the words that come after "however" in an email than living in the perpetual maybe of no response at all. Tick tick tick....

Monday, November 10, 2014

Alice Has It All

We open on New York City, Union Square. It is a chilly, rainy Thursday afternoon. The sky is gray, the sidewalks are gray, the people are gray.

Our heroine is Alice, a woman in her late 30s. She is running almost exactly on time, which to her is the same thing as being late. She is the type of person who not only hates being late but hates being afraid of being late and often experiences preemptive cautionary anxiety. It arises slowly in her brain and once there begins to transform into a burgeoning panic at the base of her feet, threatening to rise up. There is a well dressed gentleman ascending the stairs in front of her and he meanders at a snail's pace, making her quietly insane. As she has for the previous fifteen years using NYC public transportation, she's exited the subway at the exact wrong exit and must do one of those turn around in a full circle while looking into the sky confused moves in order to get her bearings. The music playing here should be quick-fire violin arpeggios. Naturally the building where she needs to be is on the opposite side of Union Square and so she breaks into a sprint. She's on her way to a job interview which is scheduled for 3pm. It is now 2:57. Something, probably desperation, propels her forward quickly, despite her business heels.

After finding the building, she enters through a small, rusted, metal door which belies the openness of the lobby that greets her. At some point in history, this was probably a grand entrance. The ensuing years have not been kind. To the left is one squat man hunched over some paperwork at a podium like desk with a sign that reads "INFORMATION" in red and white lettering. At the squeak of the opening door, he looks up hopefully as she enters, smiles and asks if he can be of any help.

"Hello, yes I'm here to see Darla. I have an interview at 3 pm, So sorry to be late." It is 3:01.

"I actually just saw Darla leave so you probably have to meet at our downtown campus."

"No, she specifically told me to meet at this Union Square location. At 3 pm?" For the briefest of seconds she doubts herself. And when in doubt, her inflection always rises to a question. It was a condition she called "Valley Girl Doubt."

"Well, she WAS here but I definitely saw her leave. What is the job?" He becomes jittery and starts to shuffle through the papers on his desk.

"It is for the library. A librarian job? Part-time?"

A look of satisfied recognition crosses his small features."See, I knew it. The library is downtown. You have to go downtown."

She feels the first tinge of mild panic in her feet.

"Downtown? See I know the library is downtown? But Darla said to meet her here?" Actually what Darla had said during the miles long email chain was that should "anything change" Alice should expect an email saying as much. Darla had indicated that there was a slight possibility that "you will need to go all the way downtown to our financial district campus" but that she would send an email the day of the interview indicating if that was the case. This part of her email, likely thrown in off handedly by Darla had become a source of obsession for our heroine. She had checked and rechecked and checked her email again and again all morning, just to be sure. No email was received. She checks again now by refreshing the page on her cell phone. Nothing.

"I have the email? It says Union Square? See?" Her voice echoes against the lobby walls. It sounds hollow. She shows him the email. He remains dubious.

"Well, I guess I can try calling her cell." He punches in the numbers hurriedly. "She's probably on the downtown subway by now though."

As she waits for him to make the call she is forced to hover over his desk, there being nowhere else to stand. She wears a slouchy rain jacket over her black interview dress, her stockinged feet are damp and becoming uncomfortably cool in the drafty room. She holds her comically large umbrella in one hand and her cell phone in the other, opened to the email, the only proof that she belongs there, she was invited there. As she stands there, anxious, she notices for the first time what was on the other side of the used-to-be-grand lobby.

Across from where she stands is a bank of about seven desks, each manned by an employee in a red polo shirt. In her harried state she had overlooked them. Seeing them now, they make her think of pledge drives or call centers, places that make and take a high volume of solicitations or donations. None of the employees are actually on the phone here, however. They are seated, talking to each other or staring at computer screens. They are of varying ages but all male. Someone is discussing the director Lars von Trier with a totally disinterested desk mate. Another one is mumbling to himself. That there should be a bank of silent telephones in an otherwise empty lobby with none of them ringing seems bizarre, an idea gone glaringly wrong. If this was, as it purported to be, a place of higher education what were the phones for and why were there so many? She started to retrace the steps that led her here.

She had answered an online posting for a librarian job, despite the fact that it had been both vague and all encompassing at the same time. Things in the library world generally were both vague and all encompassing. Neither and both. The ad had read as though whomever had posted it had taken a brief description of the profession from some occupational encyclopedia and decided to cut and paste it, inserting their institution's name accordingly. Ostensibly, it was to be a part time librarian for a film school. The hours were not mentioned, nor the salary. But after being unemployed for six months, going on seven, she needed a job and was going to take on all comers. She had sent her resume, along with about ten others one Sunday afternoon after drinking a beer or two and marathon watching Portlandia, So when the response requesting an interview arrived in her mailbox four days later, the job had sounded only vaguely familiar. One of hundreds. A week and a half of lobbing emails back and forth with dates and times ensued and they had arranged for a time to meet, only to have it be cancelled at the very last minute, via email, the day of the interview. The whole process had left a faintly disorienting sensation in her brain, like exiting an elevator a floor too early. It should have been a red flag.

However, here she was, hovering over this "INFORMATION desk"as he jabbed his fingers into a phone keypad, hidden from her view. He hung up with a sigh.

"As I suspected she left but I was just told she'd be right back. She went to get something to eat." He shrugs as he said this, perhaps knowing how profoundly strange it was to leave for lunch at exactly the time she was to interview a potential employee.

"Well, can I wait somewhere?" She asks quietly, attempting to soften the edge in her voice.

"Unfortunately we have no couches. You can stand here."

Fine. She thinks. Fine. I'll just stand here, over you until you feel as awkward as I do and you come up with another solution. This isn't awkward. Nope. 

After 30 seconds, it becomes awkward. She moves a little further back, away from the desk and attempts to find a focal point for her sojourn into interview limbo. Suddenly, one of the red be-shirted call center employees breaks out into song. This is noteworthy, she thinks, for two reasons. Reason one: The bellow of unexpected song, like her voice just minutes before, echoes off the old marble walls of the enormous lobby and it startles her. Reason two: the song choice. For a reason unknowable to anyone but himself, the singer chose the song "Higher" by the "band" Creed. She thinks of Creed as a "band" in quotation marks. She thinks they exist as an idea more than an actual band. This is a self preservation technique: fictionalize the terrible.

Can you take me higher
to a place where blind men see

She hears these lyrics and prays that Darla will not show up after all. She hears this voice as a harbinger of bad things, a warning to run back out into the rain. But just as she turns to exit, in comes a small, pretty Asian woman with a rain jacket and the shortest skirt possible.

"Darla!", shouts the information desk man. "I've been trying to reach you! Your interview is here."

"Oh, cool. Hi! You're...." She pauses with an expectant look on her face.

"Alice?" Valley Girl Doubt.

"Right! Alice! Have you been waiting long?" Darla turns and begins walking towards the elevator before Alice can answer. When she does, Alice sees she is not only wearing a barely there skirt, but she is also wearing knee high striped socks, lending a very school girl air to this recruitment manager. Not being judgmental is something Alice prides herself on however, judgment can be an involuntary muscle. She feels suddenly that she will be interviewed by a college student. No apology for lateness is forthcoming so Alice simply says, "Yes, about ten minutes now."

"Oh, well, today you'll be meeting with the provost and the director of the school." Darla says as she jams her long fingers into the elevator buttons. She smells dipped in perfume. For various reasons, this annoys Alice.

"Right now they are in a meeting with each other so I'm just going to have you wait awhile longer."

"Sorry? They are in a meeting with each other?"


The elevator opens to a cluttered room. To the immediate right there is what looks like an unmanned box office, to the left is a walled off work area with a cluster of desks inside. Next to the walled in cluster is another cluster of tables, however these are out in the open. There are several Mac workstations on each table and about five people are working intensely at a few of them. She thinks these are students but it is not clear what exactly this room is so really they could be anyone: students, employees, fellow interviewees. She decides that when she tells the tale of this interview, she will refer to this room as Clusterfuck Corner.

"You can wait there." Darla holds her lunch in a plastic bag and uses this arm to casually gesture to a set of leather armchairs along the wall. "I'll come get you when their meeting is done."

Their meeting with each other.

Alice looks at a wall clock. It is 3:15. Resigned, she removes her rain jacket, plops down on the chair and takes out her phone, beginning a pro/con list. She is, in fact, desperate for a job so the list will have to be a good one if she has any hope of justifying not taking the job, if it is even offered to her, if a job even exists. For the first, and hopefully last, time Creed makes the list. As she sits there, a parade of people shuffles in an out of the room toward indiscernible, hidden from view locations. Most are young, good looking and relaxed. Her suspicions that this is a study hall are proved false when she notices Darla seated at her desk inside the walled off "office", taking a small sandwich out of the bag she was carrying on the way up. She says something to the young man seated next to her and they laugh loudly, in quick bursts, their energy kinetic. Alice feels suddenly exhausted.

She scrolls through the email on her phone and receives a sporadic job alert. It is for a Librarian. She clicks on the link, feeling bland, like her face would be blurred out from a distance. She has the urge to fake a coughing fit, just to make the random people inside this random room notice she is sitting there, waiting. The job ad reads:

Mid-size college seeks entry-level librarian for start-up library. Must have minimum of 10 years of increasing responsibility experience in an academic library setting.  Demonstrated ability to meet a high standard of quality work independently and expeditiously is required, along with coordinating and training to meet a heavy workload. Must be able to lift up to 55 pounds. Second Masters degree strongly preferred. Fluency in more than one Germanic language required. Salary from mid 30s. 

Sighing, she uploads her resume. Alice has it all: 11 years of experience, increasing responsibility, expeditiousness in droves. The languages she can fake if it ever got that far. The salary, for a job requiring a professional Masters degree and a second language, is so low that she decides to think of it as an abstract idea; a random number somewhere far in the distance. Seven months without a job makes real world issues like not enough money seem very far away.

Her eyes wander around the room. All along every wall are film posters, cheaply framed and worn looking. Some of the films are garden variety "classics": The Godfather, Citizen Kane. There are two copies of the poster for Bad Lieutenant, which features a naked Harvey Keitel underneath the film's title. It is a film she has never seen but has always struck her as being one of those films that people claimed to really like but in reality were lying. Then again, she has that same thought about many things most people claimed to like. She is an autodidact of film appreciation and the prospect of working as a librarian for a film school had excited her. She had had hopes of discussing the finer points of her favorite films with students and envisioned glamorous happy hour parties after work filled with creative types and filmmakers over bourbon and cigarettes. But there is something about this room, its actual purpose a total mystery to her, that rings false.  The film posters struck her as arbitrary, showy and insincere. One of the Bad Lieutenant posters hangs above a closed black door. On the front of the door hangs a plaque that reads Federico Fellini. She assumes this is in homage to the great Italian director and she wants to peek inside; perhaps Marcelo Mastroianni is inside, lighting a cigarette and sporting a skinny tie.

She looks at the clock. 3:35. Darla continues nibbling on her sandwich in her walled off room, avoiding all eye contact with Alice through the glass. No new information appears to be forthcoming. Frustration begins to gather in whorls at her feet and she decides that if, in exactly 10 minutes from now she is still seated there, uninformed and unmoved, she will get up and leave. Maybe I'll cause a scene she thinks. Maybe I'll laugh maniacally and say the time out loud over and over again. She becomes so enmeshed in the entertainment of these fantasies that she nearly misses the thin man standing above her.

"Pardon me?" She was disoriented.

"Are you Susan?" He looks at her quizzically behind his square framed glasses. He has a head of wavy, mildly red hair and a friendly demeanor, but he is unprepared and confused.

"Alice?" She asks, both questioning her own name and feeling strangely apologetic for sitting there.

"Oh we are supposed to meet with you. Please follow me." She gets up too quickly, too eagerly and feels instant embarrassment. She rushes to gather her rain jacket and umbrella and scrambles after him; he was already ahead of her, heading directly toward the Fellini room. There is a sudden flurry of activity in Clusterfuck Corner and she feels nervous.

Marcelo Mastroianni is not in here. This Fellini room is not full of stylized, curvaceous Italian women in pencil skirts, hanging laundry or dancing on the beach nor does it contain sunglassed five-o-clock shadowed men on Vespas. What is here is a row of rusted folding chairs, arranged in a jagged, random mess atop a visibly dirty, black and white checkered floor. There is a scratched chalk board at the front of the room. On the wall opposite the door is a huge, gaping hole from which both rain and cold air is entering the room. She shudders. The harsh fluorescent lighting gives the room a stark, accusatory feel and to her horror, she realizes this is the room where she will be interviewed. She sits on one of the folding chairs and it wobbles loudly.

She is about to change chairs when a second man enters. He is small, broad chested and is wearing a casually buttoned blue oxford shirt with gray flannel pants. He appears to be rushing in from somewhere and Alice gets the impression that this is a permanent aspect of his personality. In his hand he holds a wrinkled piece of paper rolled up like a scroll. Alice sits again quickly and her chair wobbles again.

"Hi, I'm Joel." He offers her his hand as he says this, shakes it roughly and stares expectantly at her, as though he is pulling the lever of a slot machine and is waiting to see if all the cherries line up.

"I'm Alice?" The dirty room and the intense stare from this man who seems on the brink of having to leave the room because of a family emergency makes her a little nervous. However, she remembers that they have not apologized for their lateness and the nervousness passes quickly into something else.

"Alice, this is Bob," he says too loudly as he gestures toward the red haired man who regards her with a kind smile. He is wearing a black sweater and jeans and sits back in his chair, relaxed and slightly amused looking. "He's the director. I am the provost."

Together we are Drovost, Russian superhero cops. Her thoughts become stupid. She hopes that Bob will do most of the interviewing. Naturally, Joel begins to speak.

"So basically we are looking to build a library pretty much from the ground up. We want something that will support our students and that will work within our approved budget. We had a librarian here but she had to leave for a personal emergency and she was in the middle of building up our collection and circulation and inventory system and it never got finished." He looks at his watch as he says this. "So, tell us Alice what do you envision for a library like this?"


He gestures toward the rolled up scroll in his hand. "I haven't even read your resume so I'm not sure of your background but tell us what you envision."

"I think that..."

"Because we would need someone to have an open mind while being able to work within a budget. We would need someone who can work alongside and within the parameters of our school's philosophy and who can also help bring us into the most current technology possible. Is that something you could do? Like I said, I haven't read your resume." He shrugs as he repeats this, flippant.

"Yes, you mentioned that." If annoyance sprouted in the elevator with the be-perfumed Darla, it was about to blossom fully, right here in Fellini's ghetto.

"What Joel means is that you would be working with a few restrictions but that we would rely on your expertise a large amount of the time." Bob has a kind demeanor and is less direct with his eye contact. She feels less an object appraised and more, well, more like a librarian being asked a reference question. "Do you have experience in start up libraries?"

He hadn't read her resume either. "I have experience in every type of library; I've worked in various ones, doing various things at various times. I don't really know anything about your library or lack of one. Could you tell me what exactly it has or, um, where it is? Could we take a tour?"

Joel sighs and seems annoyed. "It is at our other campus, of course. We just want a general idea of what you would do, given free reign of the library, with limitations."

Free reign with limitations. Vague and all encompassing. Neither and both.

Bob interrupts. "The previous librarian begun ordering things so there are some boxes still there. The library has been open this whole time, about six months, with students allowed in and out. So we do expect some loss of new materials but you would have some things to work with. Overall though, it would be like beginning a new library. It would be part time hours."

And with that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome scenario, she decides that she has no intention of taking this job, that in fact, she lacks the necessary mental illness and sadomasochistic leanings to take a job like this. She does not feel nervousness or confusion. She feels only pure irritation, this interview has become like a mosquito in her sleeping bag.

Joel says, "Right right. So anyway, what do you envision for this type of job?"

"For this particular job? This start up library on a part time basis? Free reign, with limitations?"

They shift in their chairs, one of which creaks loudly. Her chair wobbles again underneath her.

The wobbling chair, the creak...this annoys Alice. Annoys her more than getting laid off from her job of six long years where she wasted most of her best decade staring at a screen and planning to leave and that the most she can hope for is another job where she sits and waits for the next big thing to happen in her life. It annoys her more than the neverending lacquered runway of fruitless job searching, strutting unsteadily with her list of qualifications on display for dissection and critique and, at least in this case, disregard. Annoys her more than the now persistent echo in her brain which, even after a few moments of silence, Joel and Bob watching her expectantly, becomes louder and louder.

"Well for starters, I envision big stars and bright lights. Part-time stars and lights, of course. I would go big or go home, so to speak. Get the newest, brightest most high tech technology possible. A chicken in every hot pot and an iMac in every dorm room. I'd have a library open house with guest speakers, maybe some entertainers. I'm not talking just any guest speakers. This is New York City and you are a film school. Would it be unheard of to hire Robert DeNiro to just do impressions of himself for a few hours? How about Woody Allen? Could we get him to direct a trailer for the library? I'm thinking on location at the Trevi fountain. Maybe you two can wade through it and cavort, Fellini style. I can just feel him in here you know. Maybe he's coming in through that hole in the wall, haha! Anyway, as it says on my resume, I danced for three years with the Ballet Russes so, even after all these years, I know Diaghilev's nephew can pull together something cinematic for the grand opening. In fact, let me call him now before they break for lunch."

Alice stands from her chair and the creak this time sounds like relief. She grabs her rain jacket and umbrella dashes out of the room to Clusterfuck Corner. The same people are seated at the same desks doing the same nothing they were doing for the last ten or so minutes it has taken to burn this particular bridge. She waves to naked Harvey Keitel as she walks past the elevator to find the stairs. She gets to the lobby and passes the telephone bank and one person is on the phone saying "...self addressed stamped envelope to us and we will mail..." she is out the door before he finishes.

It has stopped raining. The sky is still gray but now has patches of faded blue peeking through. Union Square remains bustling with people on their way home or to dinner or to their jobs inside clusterfuck rooms or holey classrooms. She walks to the subway, oddly contented, her earlier anxiety a deflating balloon in her chest. As she approaches the subway entrance, she removes her cell phone from the pocket of her rain jacket to see if she's missed any calls or emails. There is one new message in her inbox. It's title reads: Entry-level librarian position--Invitation for Interview. She shuts her phone off and descends the stairs.

She walks against the general flow of foot traffic and the mob of commuters ascending the stairs and the rushing crowd has to part to let her through.