I’m in an Office Space waiting room with people who look clumsily dressed in business attire. I can immediately tell this is the kind of place where people say things like, looks like you’ve got a case of the Mondays, any day of the week.
This is an interview for a door-to-door salesman job disguised as a Marketing Manager position. I have no other interviews lined up, so this is why I am here. I want to leave as soon as I walk in.
Sandy, the receptionist, cheerily greets me, and I fill out a form with questions like, What are you passionate about? What is your leadership potential? How would you handle rejection?
I hand back the completed form along with two copies of my resume. I sit down in a chair facing Sandy's desk, and I wait. It’s 80-degrees outside and a bone chilling 42 in here.
A dude rolls through the door wearing oversized dress pants with an unmatching shirt and tie and clutching a crumpled resume. The receptionist hands him the form and asks if he has a pen to fill them out. He shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head, Naaah, he responds, as if the question was absurd. Sandy lends him a pen and he goes to his seat. I wonder what the hell I’m doing here.
You know how my name is Sandy?
Then a long pause. I look up wondering who she is talking to. The room is full of people, but she is looking right at me, so I reciprocate her eye contact.
Well, Jamie started calling me Sandy Beaches, and I was like oh my god, how embarrassing!
Then he starting calling me Sandy McBeaches.
And now everyone’s like, heeeeeeeeey McBeaches. (giggling ensues)
In my head, my eyes widen and I say, Why, oh why, are you telling me this?
In real life I nod my head and say, Oh, with a forced smile.
I go back to sizing up everyone in the waiting room. Most people there seemed lost and loser-ish. So unsure of how they got to this waiting room. A guy in his late twenties who never grew out of his frat boy stage is trying really hard to be all salesman-y. I leer at him, but he is too busy tap dancing to notice.
I’m up for my interview with Sara. She is young, slightly stylish, and talks REALLY, REALLY loud. She is extremely intense. I know she likes me and will call me back for a second interview. I know this because I had just been observing the competition for the last 30 minutes.
An hour later she calls me for a second interview. It’s the following day from 9:00 in the morning to 5:30 in the evening. But of course and eight and a half hour interview is perfectly normal, I thought. I am told the day will consist of shadowing a current associate followed by various interviews. It sounds lame and I don’t want to go, but I accept only because I feel like I should- one of the worst reasons to do anything.
I wake up the next morning in a bad mood knowing I have to waste my day. I say I’ll give it until noon, at which point I will grant myself permission to leave if necessary. I'm big on options.
I arrive to a group of average to unattractive, badly dressed people standing in a room set at the same 42-degree temperature as yesterday. There is a mix of current associates and second interviewees, and it appears that affirmative action is back in fashion.
An exceedingly normal looking white man in his late 30's dressed in a polyester beige suit is leading the meeting. If I had to say Jew or Gentile, it would be Gentile all the way. I could tell he was the kind of guy who got off on seeing his name at the top of an org chart knowing all the little people were obligated to fetch him a latte and tell him how smart he is. I could tell this because he actually had an org chart projecting on to a white wall. He is the Leader, Messiah, The Don and sports a kitschy floral tie to show that he can get jiggy with it if need be.
He starts off by congratulating Esther for the highest sales of the week. Because she rocked it and was a kick-ass team player, she is given a gift certificate to Chili's. You heard me right, Chili's, as in The Restaurant Chili's. He shoots her a finger gun and an wink to lock in the congratulations. Everyone claps and woo-hoos knowing Awesome Blossoms at Friday's happy hour are on Ester this week.
Are you there God, it's me, Margaret....I want to leave immediately.
After tossing around all sorts of sales jargon and a team pep talk, he puts on his Life Coach hat. We all shuffle into the next room to watch a video of creepy looking man asking a woman to put some large rocks into a bucket that is filled with pebbles. The lady can’t fit the large rocks into the bucket with the pebbles. It was a long-winded way of illustrating a valid point- that you can’t focus on the big stuff in life if you let all the small stuff get in the way. This video was twenty minutes long, and small icicles start to form on my face from the arctic AC.
I’m thinking this is a really weird job interview.
We are herded back into the other room. And he starts regurgitating Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He draws the quadrants on the dry erase board and everything. Thanks to his presentation I’ve learned that we shouldn’t waste time in from of the boob tube and playing video games because those activities fall into Quadrant 3- the Quadrant of Deception.
He proceeds to tell us that God is his number one priority. And how work allowed him to donate $65,000 to GOD last year and his wife to stay home with the kids. Because he donated this money to GOD, GOD wants him to be rich so that he can continue doing good in the world. He compared himself to the likes of Bono and Bill Gates. Furthermore, if we kick-ass at work, we could one day be as lucky, successful, and philanthropic as
Personally, I thought he was freakish (and I don’t think being Canadian even had anything to do with it). I could picture him getting ready for bed that night telling his wife how he used words like kick-ass to relate to his young subordinates and how he thought the cool flower tie went over really well. What was even more insane was how people were nodding in agreement, taking notes, and even laughing at his lame at jokes. It seemed like they meant it, too.
It's not so much that I disagreed with what he was saying. I think that video games should be categorized in the Quadrant of Deception, but in my world, normal people just don't bible thump in the work place. I was scared and wanted to bolt out of there. Instead, I took the moral high ground and stayed just until this guy was done preaching. After all, I think he meant well.
It’s only 10am and he is done talking. It was time for my exit, and I did thank God for that.
As I searched for the way out, I was promptly approached by Rachel to go into the field to watch her pitch prospective clients all day. I was frank with Rachel:
I don’t think this is the right fit for me, so I am going to go. Thanks.
She gets all ruffled up.
Oh really. Well, let’s go talk to Jamie (the Gentile-life coach-no TV watching guy) so you can tell him why you aren’t interested.
I had never met Jamie, nor did I think it was entirely appropriate to explain that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with his little organization. While wrangling my way out of talking to him I backed up toward the front door. I literally ran down the hallway, out the building, and scurried across the street to my car. I felt enormous relief as I drove home.
I can’t say exactly why I was so scared. From an outsider’s perspective, I could be lumped into this group of lost souls. And maybe I hated being there because it magnified how lost I felt. Maybe I hated how all the people who worked there seem so cracked out with giddiness because they were happy to be there even if they didn’t like their job. Could it be that in some strange way I envied their contentment with the status quo?
Naaah. I think I just hated it because if felt like a friggin' cult.