Saturday, April 9, 2011

How To Land That Job and Also Get Everything Else You Want In Life

At 9:00pm on a recent Sunday evening, Anna and I set out to conduct some research on Fort Greene, a prospective new home for us. Never in a million years did I expect this on-site fieldwork to culminate in shagging* with a stranger in a Brooklyn dive bar. But that's what happens when you meet a fellow South Carolinian who happens to love whiskey as much as you do. At any rate, the following Monday morning I woke up with the spins and a 10:00am interview in Manhattan. I thought, Thank God I wore so much makeup last night that there's enough left on my face for today. I rolled into the tutoring company's headquarters reeking of whiskey, sweat, and hairspray, but I was on time.

Sandy the interviewer herded a few highly qualified, sober applicants and me into a conference room where the motion of the office swivel chairs nearly did me in. When asked, I managed to string together some words about the importance of individualized education. I hoped they'd all mistake my pauses and blurred focus for moments of inspiration. I held it together until Sandy handed out a test of high school-level English and math questions. The words and answer bubbles were swimming. My head was swimming. My stomach was swimming. I couldn't discern whether the first problem was a reading comprehension question or a calculation. I excused myself, vomited, returned, and tried to remember what the hell sine and cosine mean.

Sandy emailed me the next morning regarding my "delightful interview," and offered me the job!

Recently when I drove Anna to audition for Pan Desi, an Indian television network, I planned to wait in the lobby reading Bollywood magazines while she completed a screen test. But when we walked in and the intern said, "You're both here to audition?" I said, "Why, yes we are!" Soon enough I was doing a screen test of my own for Pan Desi's sure-fire hit new reality show, Princess Perfect. I was confused, because the CEO described Pan Desi as "the new BBC" and I couldn't see how anything called Princess Perfect could ever be categorized as remotely BBC-like. By the time I left he'd promised to write a role for me on Pan Desi's version of SNL.

Last summer I got a gig teaching a Shakespeare summer camp for which I was perfectly well-suited. I also managed to wrangle a position at the same organization (a science center, mind you) teaching geology! I dubbed the course Rock On! and in my telephone interview, I dredged up all the knowledge I'd gained as an avid childhood rock collector, throwing around terms like "geode," "volcano," and "clay beads." I emphasized the course title (Rock On!) and that all the campers would become Rock Stars by the end of the summer. And you know what? Puns pay off. I got the job. It was in Ashland, OR and my campers had a great time. Especially my little ginger vegan named Ocean.

You must be thinking, Breanna, how come you get all these jobs you're woefully underqualified for? Don't you feel bad for tricking people who think they are hiring someone who is sober, or good at math, or Indian, or a geologist?

Why no, I do not feel bad at all. I land these various and sundry positions based on the combined merits of my persistence and the ease with which bullshit rolls off my tongue. Here's what happened a few summers ago when I decided I should work at Publix for a month:

Steve the general manager interviewed me. He asked why I wanted to work at Publix. I said, "For my twelfth birthday, my mom ordered me a Publix cake decorated like a big old sunflower. She was running late to pick it up because my little sister had a doctor's appointment but Cathy at the bakery stayed open late just to give us the cake and also she gave my sister a cookie which cured her fever and also she gave me one too. And I thought that was just the nicest thing. And from that moment, I knew I could see myself working at Publix."

Did this episode really happen? Maybe, I can't remember. But Steve thought this was the best story ever, and he was clearly in agony because he couldn't hire me only for a month (that's how long I had in SC before I left for school). I did not say, "Oh, I understand. Thank you for your time, Steve. It was a pleasure meeting you." I sat patiently and didn't say anything until he finally handed me the mandatory employee drug test and a green Publix vest. Done and done!

Perhaps you've encountered this expression on a bookmark or magnet or some asinine optimist's Facebook profile: Aim for the moon, because even if you fall, you know you'll land among the stars. Now, this doesn't make any astronomical sense at all. Everyone knows the moon is a zillion times closer to Earth than "the stars," the closest of which is obviously the sun. So the aphorism's backwards. To reflect the actual physical makeup of the universe (assuming the earthliness of the speaker), it should read: Aim for the stars, because even if you fall, you know you'll land on a nice plushy surface made of cheese.

Remember this next time you find yourself in an interview. If you can speak in complete sentences and exhibit a reasonable degree of shamelessness and self-delusion, you stand a pretty good chance of getting the gig. How else do you think I got hired to drive teenagers around in that 15-passenger van that one time?

*It's the state dance of South Carolina, y'all.