Saturday, October 2, 2010

Chartreuse Mustard and the Prospect of Employment - Part 1

It’s been so long since I’ve been invited in for a job interview that I can barely remember what it’s like. I do remember that sometimes you get a so-called human resources person (that personnel departments are apparently no longer allowed to describe themselves as such is damned spooky, if you want my opinion, and you do, desperately) who doesn’t know Thing 1 about graphic design, and who, after going through everything on your CV, asks something like, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or “Why do you want to work here at Acme?” In a little over five years I see myself in adult diapers in a nursing home in which none of the staff speaks English. And I want to work at Acme, to the extent that I do, solely because nobody else shows the slightest interest in having me, and I need an income and health insurance, thanks so much.

I like having structure in my life. I like having 13 hours of my day (including the long train rides to and from Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan) spoken for. I don’t like waking up in the morning, having only a trip to the gym planned for the day, and having to try to think of a way to fill the other 14 hours in some meaningful way. That sort of structurelessness leads to feelings of uselessness, and they to existential terror.

Not, of course, that working the sort of job I had the last time didn’t. I was the art director at an Italian-owned company that was in the business of selling ringtones, presumably to teenagers. It hardly felt meaningful, and the dour little sourpuss to whom I…reported had no taste at all; she was unable to distinguish the mostly appalling work a succession of undertalented freelancers had done before my hiring and my own stuff, which, by and large, was pretty goddamned snazzy, if you want to know the truth. Nor did I bond with any of the motley crew with whom I shared a big slovenly office. They were a great deal more interested in Lil Wayne, for instance, than I, and a few decades younger in most cases. One of them used the word awesome three times in every sentence, and another, who spent $15 on breakfast every morning, reminded me unpleasantly of a huge chicano kid at Orville Wright Junior High School who every morning during our so-called Nutrition break, for those of us foolish enough not to have eaten A Healthy Breakfast, would order a submarine sandwich he’d pay for with 35 cents he’d “borrowed” from classmates. In today’s money, the sandwiches, whose phosphorescent chartreuse mustard occasionally appears in my nightmares to this day, would cost around $17.50. Profligacy has always made me squeamish.

I will wear what I wore to my sole job interview in Wisconsin — a blue cotton shirt with epaulets I had custom-tailored for me in Huahin, Thailand, in 2006, and the very long, black pinstriped Edwardian blazer that was my favorite clothing acquisition in the United Kingdom during the five years I lived there last decade. Someone at the company in Wisconsin — which didn’t offer me the job in the end — told me I looked very much a rock star in that outfit. I’m hoping that the company with which I’m interviewing tomorrow isn’t the sort where everybody appears to have been dressed by Bruce Springsteen, as at the Italian ringtones company. I hope no one is aghast at my prolifically creased face or faded hair.

I have prepared by examining my prospective employers’ Website. It’s visually slick, but some of the prose makes me more squeamish than profligacy. There is talk, for instance, of communication infrastructure. It reminds me of a time in the early ‘90s when suddenly there was no longer such a thing as software, but only solutions; one didn’t buy graphics, accounting, or test processing software, that is, but graphics, accounting, and text processing solutions. My theory is that nobody actually fails to realize that such jargon is gaseous nonsense, but that everyone feels compelled to keep using it for fear of appearing not with the program or something.

[Continues tomorrow.]

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