Archive for job interviews

Living in the Surreal ..

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/14/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

Life is surreal.

“Surreal” isn’t a term I really like. When I use it, I feel like I’m dumbing down a process through which some major epiphany has granted me the power to move on with my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad life with a fresh, “up with people” perspective.

But if you had been in the neighborhood of 125th and Lenox in upper Manhattan at about a quarter to six this morning, life would have seemed pretty surreal to you too.

I was sleeping next to my girlfriend. She awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Everything seemed normal. She crawled back into bed next to me and we remembered that it was Sunday and that we really like snuggling together and talking under the covers during a lazy weekend. It helps us remember what matters, even if it’s just a moment in time.

Not five minutes after she came back to bed, a horrible sound of crunching metal and plastic erupted just outside the apartment. It seemed to rattle the bedroom window.  I didn’t know what the sound was. I wasn’t awake enough to make sense of it until a horrible screeching noise followed. Rubber scraped against asphalt, and the squeal seemed to echo into eternity.

“Jesus Christ!”

I think I might have said that twice. I said it once before we both sprang from the bed and ran to the bedroom window to see what had happened. Even now, the fucked up visual doesn’t make any sense without context. I said it again after I told my girlfriend that I had to go take a major piss.

Why I decided to go relieve myself at that moment is still a bit beyond me. All I remember is that I was nauseated, and I still didn’t understand what had happened.

I also recall my knees shaking like the leaves of a quaking aspen in the wind. I sat down on that toilet seat and put my head between my sweating hands. I might have stayed like that for minutes or hours. I didn’t really know or care.

Eventually, I stood up and washed my hands. Like some character out of the show Supernatural, I thought I smelled a Reaper in the air.

I was sure that death lingered close by, waiting to claim the lost soul of the victim of a freak accident.

“Jesus H. Christ!”

I got back to the bedroom and stood next to my girlfriend. She seemed more than willing to give me a blow by blow of what was going on out there.

“Nobody’s gotten out of either car yet.”

“Motherfucker.”

In all honesty, I don’t recall saying that last word. I don’t remember much of what was said after that. But as the haze and the shock of the accident seemed to lift from around us both, things started to fall into place. Out the window, on our side of the street, we only saw two cars. The first one was a silver Charger with its back turned to us like a wounded dog hiding its face.  The second car was sort of sitting to the right of the first. It was a green SUV that didn’t appear to have been even been scratched, at least not from our vantage point. The only thing that seemed to have happened, in fact, was that the SUV was nudged a few feet out of its parking spot.

It made no sense. Such a horrible crash followed by a rubber screech that lasted for at least three seconds just didn’t do … what we saw.

But time ticked by. Some of the neighbors from across the street turned on their bedroom lights and peeked outside like we were doing. Thanks to them, I felt a little better about being some sort of voyeur. The cops were on the scene immediately. The fire department came minutes later. EMT’s never showed. That struck us as odd until we came to the most important conclusion.

Nobody died.

I thought for sure someone was going to buy it. For about a nanosecond I was disappointed. I can’t lie. I’m a horror writer.

Then the stomach ache began.

About an hour later, all sorts of things had happened. The driver of the silver Charger, wearing a black shirt with green writing on it, angrily shouted into his cell phone that the car for which he was responsible was a “fucking wreck.”

“What de’ hell I’m ‘a do wid ‘dis shit?”

His friend, a shorter man with a grey tee shirt on, seemed to be the voice of reason.

“Look, dude, least you’re alive.”

And that was what mattered. When other details fell into place, we learned that nobody, in fact, was dead. A third car was apparently involved in the accident. That unknown driver may or may not have been at fault for the entire catastrophe. We never really got to figure that much out.  A tow truck driver couldn’t even tow the silver wreck out of the way in one try. His truck’s hook lost its grip on the wreckage twice.

I grinned. And call me sadistic, but I was thankful I wasn’t going to have to figure out how to pay for THAT repair bill. The driver and his friend drank two cups of coffee purchased at the deli just below our window.

My girlfriend and I  went back to bed. We didn’t fall asleep right away, of course. We talked about the accident. We talked about how our weekend was going before the crash, and how it might go afterwards. Things like money and job woes don’t matter as much when you’re thankful just to be in one piece. That lesson sinks in deeper when you’re with loved ones.  The problems might not go away, but their importance in the grand scheme of the universe dwindles.

I just got through sending out something like 6 job aps. I took a break to watch a show. I thought about my latest submission of a short story to a magazine for consideration. My girlfriend’s out teaching a dance class. We still have lives to live and things to do to survive in this city. She still has to talk to her dad about her insurance costs, and I still want to start writing the latest chapter for my online serial. At least I know she’ll come home in one piece, and we’ll have an easier time figuring out how to scrounge up enough money for dinner together tonight.

There’s a cat purring in my lap too.

Surreal or serene? Take your pick.

Advertisements

Advice on Dreams..

Posted in Drum Roll, Please...., The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 06/15/2012 by Angel D. Vargas

Sometimes, it’s easy to believe that I will be forever young.

I never thought I would find myself giving advice to young people.

I had a job interview today for a place right across the street from me.  I had to wonder what it would be like since I hadn’t had a job interview in almost 4 months, and I had not had a job in fourteen months.

Fourteen.

It was hard to be late for the interview since I live right across the street.  I had fun strolling in with my dress pants and purple striped shirt (sharp dressed men never lose), and I thought I would have some fun checking out my competition.

All of them were either sitting or standing in the middle of the store in a living room -like setting, surrounded by books.  They had all been waiting since about 2:00 pm for a group interview that was supposed to start at 2:30.  I had to wonder why.  I’d read an article on Yahoo.com just a few days ago that suggested that interviewers don’t like when interviewees show up more than ten minutes early.  According to the article, interviewers then get the impression that they are rushed, and that you are desperate.

The person who wrote that article never had to deal with the pains of public transportation.  Even in New York City, you’ve got to plan as though one train or bus will get you there too early, but  the following one will get you to your destination just about five minutes too late.  That seems to be the norm EVERYWHERE in the country that has public transportation.  You plan accordingly if you’re a strap hanger like me. The interviewers are just going to have to deal, especially if your interview is taking place in the winter or in the summer, and you don’t feel like waiting outside in the elements..

I was thinking about all of this as I stared at the other applicants, all of whom were beginning to show signs of impatience.  And then I realized that strolling in “with two minutes to spare” from my apartment across the street was only the beginning of what set me apart from them.

I am older than anyone in the group by at least ten years.  I wrote that in the present tense because it’s not like they’ve all aged twelve years each since we last saw one another.  Funny how those kinds of things come up in writing.

But I digress.

It didn’t take me long to strike up a conversation with a young Asian man who was standing next to me.  It was clear to me that he was losing his patience.  Much like many other people in college, he was trying to determine the course of the rest of his life.  And, much like the rest of us, he had been looking for work for a very long time.

“I need this job,” he said.

For a moment, as I stared at him and I peered at the other young people with whom I was situated, I had to wonder if I was making a mistake.  I had forgotten, of course, of the retailers’ penchant for the group interview.  This occurs when a group of people are called in to meet with a mysterious store manager or human resources person.  They are herded through one area where they are “registered” or branded like sheep. Then they are corralled into another area where they all wait their turn to bleat their answers in unison to some basic questions.

My ex used to write about this for job fairs when she began her career as a teacher.  She used to preface each of the aforementioned steps with increasingly bored or frustrated versions of the word “Moo…”

She was absolutely right..

I looked around again at where I was and who I was with, and I realized that I too needed a job; that I was one of the 99 percent.  And I simply refused to leave (as though anyone was actually trying to get me to leave in the first place).  Way to take that stand!

But as my conversation with the younger man continued, not only was he smart enough to claim I looked more like a 20 year old than the 32 year old that I am, he reminded me of what awaits anyone who is about to enter “the real world.”

It was once thought that there were certain areas of study that college students should stay away from if they wanted to garner “gainful” employment in the job market.  Philosophy majors could go on to think deep thoughts about being unemployed.  Sociology majors might become social studies teachers.  You only became a psych major if you wanted to be an underpaid social worker or you really needed to figure out what Freud and Skinner had to say about you and your “issues.”   Conversely, at least when I was attending college, there were certain majors that were considered “cash cows.”  You were going to do alright if you were a math major as you could probably get some wild, completely esoteric papers published before you learned to use your riding crop to turn your future college calculus students into your little bitches.  And if you were a computer science major, the sky was the limit, especially in the heyday of Silicon Valley.

Now I could sit here and compare and contrast my own lifestyle to that of all of my friends who graduated from the same college with different majors.  But as I stood there today talking to this bespectacled Asian student, I listened to his concerns about “looking professional,” and I wanted to shake my head.  But then he mentioned the word that has been the bane of my existence for the last fourteen months. He mentioned the “economy.”

“With the economy as bad as it is, it isn’t like I can do what I want to do with my life.”

And that was when I got on my soap box…

Me- “With the economy the way it is, now is the best time to follow your dreams.”

Asian guy – “Why is that?”

Me –  “Because you’ve got nothing left to lose at this point.  Why not go for yours?”

Asian guy – “What do you do?”

Me- “I write things that will scare you and your children.  It took me ten years to get to the point where I gave myself permission to pursue a dream.  This economy has utterly convinced me that life is too short to put that off.  Don’t listen to what unhappy older people tell you about the real world!  If you don’t have dreams, you don’t have a soul..”

I meant every word.  Still do..

Of course, when you venture out into it, the real world sort of makes you wonder if you can survive the Blitzkrieg.  You have to learn to balance your checkbook, make sure you can pay back your student loans if you have them, pay your bills, your rent, etc.  If you’re in a relationship at all, other things may or may not have to be considered in your long term plans.  But all too often, we’re told if we work hard in school and graduate, everything will sort of fall into place.  But how does one bear witness to that when one wants to balance living in the real world with the fulfillment of one’s dreams?

Ten years of holding one strange job after another has caused me to conclude that all the work in the world is absolutely MEANINGLESS without a dream to pursue.   People who tell you that you should be okay for the rest of your life holding down some boring ass nine to five job without having other dreams are people who gave up their own.  Sometimes, they feel like they had no choice because they had kids too early.  Other times, they had people around them who were less than encouraging.

But what happens to people who don’t pursue their dreams?

They grow older, less happy, and then they may tell others to live life like they did.

That’s not the kind of person that I want to be.

My dad often talks this way, and then follows it with a private conversation over a beer or two about how much he might have given up because he had kids too early.  He forgets that he’s having these conversations with his oldest son.  I love my dad. In many ways, he is what is best in men.   But I WON’T live a life that causes me to have conversations like that with my own kids.  I am going to pursue my dreams.

So I told this young Asian man the same thing I’ll tell anyone who ever asks me about the pursuit of their own aspirations. It’s going to sound a lot like the advice a friend of mine just posted the other night.

Just shut up and do it.

I went on to kill in the interview.  We’ll see where this goes.  They want me to come back on Tuesday at 10 AM with a social security card and a state issued I.D.  My own personal battle was won today.  Now it’s time to continue to the fight for my own soul.  It’s time to renew the pursuit of my own dreams.

%d bloggers like this: