I agreed to meet Mr. Fuckhead [not his real name] regarding my having responded to his help-wanted advertisement for a…content provider on the Saturday morning before Easter at a mediocre-looking Jewish deli in Marina del Rey. He turned up late. His handshake was firm, his smile imperceptible. I’d met him in front of the place. As we entered it, he mumbled something about its being his de facto office. I asked, as we waited for someone to come lead us to a booth, if they’d named a sandwich after him. He didn’t seem amused. “You know,” I said, “like on that episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.”“One of my favorite shows,” he noted, grimly. We were led to a booth. I liked that he was around my own age, as it’s embarrassing being interviewed for a job by someone whose diapers you might have changed under very different circumstances, like having begun…seeing his or her mama decades before. It turned out that there was no complimentary breakfast in it for me. He had a breakfast meeting at 11, and would eat then. In the meantime, I was welcome to order some juice.
He said, “Tell me about you.” I said a few words about having begun my career as an unjustifiably celebrated music critic. He listened for perhaps four seconds, and then began talking at (not to) me, exuding self-importance, exuding arrogance, never smiling. His eyes didn’t twinkle. I thought to myself he might be the most charmless person I’d met this decade.
He’s a well known travel writer. He has a Website, contributors to which he proudly noted don’t get paid. I was to understand that they should be grateful for the wonderful exposure. I’d told him, when he was still letting me speak, that I love travel. Now he pointed out, a little bit disdainfully, that everyone loves travel. He bragged that he flies 400,000 miles per year. “First class, I imagine,” I mused when he paused to sip his apple juice. No, I was mistaken about that. Intent on knowing what it’s like for The Rest of Us, he flies first class or business only to destinations farther than 2500 miles.
Except that he really doesn’t. He’s so well known to all the, uh, carriers that he actually spends far more time in the galley schmoozing with the flight attendants than trying to figure out a way to be comfortable in a narrow Economy seat. Kind of, I thought, like someone who might have his chauffeur get a bagful of fast food at a drive-thru en route to a swanky little bistro whose chef writes bestselling cookbooks. He claimed to subscribe to some unfeasible number of newspapers and magazines, and, of course, to read them all, as is typical of the breed.He told me that people who use words that ended with st — superlatives, I think he was trying to say — didn’t last long working for him. He gloated for a while about how airlines and others don’t offer him freebies because he’s known to be incorruptible. He was very pleased with himself. I got some small, fleeting pleasure imagining knocking my orange juice over, toward him, and his being all sticky for his important breakfast meeting. He couldn’t tell me how much the job paid. I would have to ask his business manager.
I asked if he’d read the writing samples I’d sent. He claimed he had. All he had to say about them was that I would need to adapt a far less “cute” style if I wanted to work for (not with, of course — for) him. By cute, I think he meant wry. God forbid, I guess, that one should be anything but solemn when talking about something as serious as leisure travel. I resisted the temptation to point out that, after 35 minutes together, I wanted to work for him about as much as I wanted to be diagnosed with testicular cancer. But I need a job.
We spoke of Madison, where he’d attended the University of Wisconsin. I hadn’t much enjoyed my 10 months there. I’d found the typical Midwesterner parochial and duplicitous, prone to grinning hugely and asking, “How’s that brat[wurst] workin’ for ya?” in a Palin-esque chirp while sticking a knife in my kidneys. I didn’t let on. When he told me he would watch the Wisconsin vs. Kentucky NCAA semifinal game, I told him I would too, though I didn’t point out that I’d be rooting for Kentucky.
“Tell him you can’t stand him,” a little voice within me said. "Retain some small vestige of self-respect." But then another one said, “You need a job, brighteyes, and it isn’t exactly as though you’re being invited in for lots of interviews.” I managed a smile and told him I thought we could work together very effectively, though my sense was that I should have said something about how honored I’d be to work for — for! — him. I finished my orange juice. We said our goodbyes, and I walked out to my little car, hearing just one voice now. “How’d it come to this?” it wondered.
Content provider. The glamorous modern way to say “hack.”