The room I wait in is a climate-controlled sixty degrees, but I sweat beads of desperation.
One more check then my unemployment runs out. I’m interviewing for a job I need. Simple as that.
The door to Senior Director Barry Clydesdale’s office opens. He’s shaking hands with a guy half my age—twenty-five at most—and laughing, and I just know I’m fucked, that this guy’s already got the job. I swallow hard; Adam’s apple presses against a too-tight collar.
Golden Boy floats through, all pearly whites and freshly pressed suit. I’d like to see him flattened by a bus.
Clydesdale puts on glasses and flicks his iPad.
“Okay then, what do we have here. Bob Nowski?” he announces, even though I’m the only one left in the fucking room.
“Alrighty. Let’s get this done.”
He retreats into his office without extending his hand. I sit across from him. His office is sterile—one framed photo facing him, advertising awards lining the walls, one big window overlooking the muddy river. No paper on the desk, just a computer screen thin as a credit card.
His focus is on the electronic tablet. Probably studying my resume for the first time.
He puts down the iPad and steeples his fingers, like he’s trying to figure me out. I smile in a way that I’m sure makes me look like a gargoyle.
“So, Mr. Nowski. You were a, uh, newspaper cartoonist? With the Gazette?”
That’s what it says on my fucking resume that you have right-in-fucking front of you. “Yes. I worked there for the last eight years.”
“Why’d you leave?”
“The paper’s parent company has pursued a belt-tightening strategy for the last year, and—”
“They considered your position expendable?”
It appears I have a wound. Could you rub some salt in it? “You know how the newspaper industry is these days. Very few can afford a full-time cartoonist.”
“Mmm hm. I see you once worked in marketing. If you left the industry before, why should I hire you now?”
Because I’ll do whatever you want. Because I have no ambition so I’ll never take your job. Because it’s this or robbing liquor stores. “Because I’m a team player. I’m very dedicated to my work, as all my references will attest to.”
He nods and goes through the standard questions. What’s your experience with In Design, what are your strengths and weaknesses, etc. I have my hands in my pockets, feeling for the pocket knife on my key chain.
Pretty soon he’s back to the iPad and wrapping things up.
I’m about to get up and accept defeat when his ice-blue eyes meet mine. My collar feels like it’s getting tighter and tighter, about to pop my head off. “Tell me, Mr. Nowski, why is MediaPlus Communications the right place for you?”
I sink back into the chair, chuckle. “Why do I want to work here?”
“Why’s this the right place for me?”
“That was the question.”
“I’ll tell you, Clydesdale. Come here, come a little bit closer.”
He raises an eyebrow but leans in anyway.
“Because it’s a fucking job that pays in fucking dollars! Why does anyone want any job? THEY NEED MONEY, you dumb shit. You think—”
“Okay, Mr. Nowski, that’s quite enough. Please leave immediately or I’ll call security.”
I hesitate for a second, but think better of it, walk out fast as I can.
It’s drizzling, but I sit on the curb anyway, rip off my tie and pop open the two buttons on my collar. Does nothing to release the pressure.
I don’t smoke anymore, so I stare at the clumps of well-manicured trees and office drone cars.
Across the lot, I see Clydesdale’s champagne-colored S-Class with the terribly creative license plate BOSS-123.
I don’t think about it. One moment the pocket knife’s in my hand. The next I’m puncturing holes in all four tires, each hiss making me laugh a little.
Then I run the blade across the driver’s side. Cherry on top of the sundae.
On the ride home, I’m scared shitless. What the hell was I thinking? How is that going to help me get a job?
Fuck it. I stop at a gas station for a pack of smokes. First one’s the best thing I’ve tasted in a long time.