The holiday season job I didn’t want and didn’t get, part 2

(courtesy of

Why does Jerry look like he's about to rise up to heaven? (courtesy of

[Read the holiday season job post, part 1 so this post makes sense.]

A security woman sat at the front desk – really more of a maitre d’  stand with a stool nestled in a corner – and glared at me. She seemed to want to rip my head off or fall asleep. I couldn’t tell which; it’s a fine line sometimes. Maybe she wanted to rip my head off because I kept her from falling asleep. I signed in, because that’s what people do when entering an office. She continued to glare, because that’s what people do when they hate you. Only when I asked where to go for my job interview did she take my ID and point me down the hall.

An official-looking woman with a clipboard met me in the actual reception area. She seemed to be about 20 years old and playing grown up. Ah, to be young and employed again… I asked a couple questions and quickly realized she only knew what was on her piece of paper. She checked me off the list and shuffled me past banks of computers and people in various states of interview limbo into the “Turnover Room” to wait. Apparently the online application is the E-Z Pass of the hiring process.

The Turnover Room could hold 50 or 60 people. But the five people there were spread out as if everyone else were contagious. “Don’t get too close,” their placement suggested. “I don’t want to catch your unemployment too.” I can’t say I blame them. Each looked up when I entered and then returned their attention to a cellphone or the floor.

Feeling a little self-conscious, I took a seat on the far side, a few rows from the front and also nowhere near anyone else. The room – with its dingy drop ceilings, worn-down industrial carpet and windows not cleaned since smoking was outlawed in the workplace – was depressing. Corporate inspirational posters dotted the walls. The one closest to me titled, “I Commit To My Own Sales” was signed by those who presumably had. It reminded me of something high school cheerleaders would post outside the boys locker room before the big homecoming game, sans bubbly letters and heart-dotted i’s. A TV and VCR sat on a rolling metal AV cart near the front of the room, as if class that day would be a video. Sound from another TV drifted in from the next room over.

I read a magazine and tried to figure out what was on. If forced to guess, upon penalty of more bad television, I’d have gone with “Living Single,” the mid-’90s show about Black, urban 20-somethings in Brooklyn starring Queen Latifah, Tootie and the guy who voices the God Of War video games. I’ve seen more episodes on late-night cable than is probably healthy. I could probably even rap (badly) the theme song’s Hip-Hop interlude if asked. At any rate, whatever show it was, the laugh track thought it hilarious. And who am I to disagree?

Jerry Springer came on at 11:00. Chants of “Jerry” gave it away. I put away the magazine and played with my phone, texting anyone who might respond while contemplating how to join the talk show circuit. The attitude part would be easy. I’ve already mastered the key phrases…

  • You don’t own me!
  • I be who I want to be!
  • Talk to the hand!

But I’d need a gimmick and some ill-fitting clothes, maybe a bad haircut and fewer teeth. But the gimmick would be key if I wanted to be a regular. Garden variety fat people and unfaithful spouses come and go in the talk show world. And they’re bush league besides. No good persona came to me, so I gave up trying. So much for that career path. Maybe I could be part of Jerry’s show security team.

The Turnover Room started to fill up with applicants, but not so many that anyone sat next to anyone else. Every few minutes another job candidate wandered in, causing everyone to look up, sigh and return to their distraction of choice. Less often an HR rep hurried in and pulled someone out to interview. A clear sense of purpose distinguished the employed from those seeking employment.

The other obvious difference was level of dress. HR people wore corporate business attire; heals and pinstripes predominated. Applicants opted for what might seem like business attire to someone who didn’t know any better. Or they simply didn’t care. I was one of two applicants dressed in a suit. The other punctuated his outfit with a sideways baseball hat. A few people managed a shirt and tie or a nice blouse. The rest wore jeans and t-shirts. The longer I sat there, the more I doubted my choice of outfit.

By 11:30 people who had entered the Turnover Room after me were being called to interview. I felt forgotten (and a little stupid for wearing a suit), but figured my turn would come shortly. Causing trouble and making waves wouldn’t get me hired as a small, cheap cog in a giant machine. I grew restless and even more bored. I’d finished my magazine and texted everyone. The stale air was drying out my throat and making me a little ill; anybody who’s attended a business conference and spent hours breathing canned hotel or convention center air knows the feeling. I was thirsty and needed to use the bathroom, which was two floors down on the other side of the store. And I wanted to take off my tie.

By a little after noon I didn’t care anymore. Waiting an hour and a half to interview for a seasonal job seemed ridiculous. I asked the clipboard lady and another staffer when my interview might occur, trying my best to be deferential. They guided me into an office full of temps and left again. I waited there and then back in the Turnover Room while the situation was resolved. As it turned out, they really had forgotten me and were re-slotting me in the queue. I was finally called to interview 40 minutes later.

The holiday season job I didn’t want and didn’t get, part 1

The holiday season job I didn’t want and didn’t get, part 3

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One Comment

  1. Dana wrote:

    Don’t do it Norm! Stay away from retail! I gave it the old college try, that lasted all of 2 weeks. It was horrible. Not worth it to only be making $10/hr no commission. And customers are a nightmare, the whole time, you’ll be trying to be a good sport, but wondering WHY WHY WHY?!!! It did give me plenty of fodder for the ol blog though…

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

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