Only thirty-five more minutes to go. The same hostile combination of tan and pink lines swirling across the navy carpet squares. Another episode of a soundless show lining up on the TV. And somehow I ended up with the only end table in the waiting room without magazines. A small gathering of fellow hopefuls sat in similar scenarios across from me. If I shifted seats for an old magazine on fishing, I could disrupt the natural order.
“Mr. Fitzpatrick?” The young receptionist’s shout flew through the waiting room.
How could someone shout with such apathy? She was probably an intern.
She reread her clipboard as she stepped a little closer to the room. “Mr. Fitzpatrick?”
I never understood how people were incapable of pronouncing my name. Kirkpatrick. Kirk. And then Patrick. It’s not that hard. It’s just as common as Fitzpatrick and just as easy to say. I’ll give her a minute to figure it out.
“Mr. Fitzpatrick?” She said again. She wasn’t going to figure it out.
I sat up, gaining the looks from everyone present. I adjusted my tie and reviewed the folds of my shirt before reluctantly walking over to her.
“It’s Kirkpatrick. Kirk-patrick.” I said, hoping it would register this time.
“Whatever…” Her eyes gave me a once over before rolling. Most likely an unpaid intern.
She ushered me into the cramped interview room, and I immediately felt as though I was intruding on the intimacy of the space. A grey-suited man rose from behind the lone white desk. Yup, totally intruding. I’m totally a third-wheel. Before I could retreat from the awkward situation, the intern shut the door behind me, leaving me trapped. Abandoned. Alone with a man and a desk to decide the outcome of my fate. And now sweat, an armada of sweat decided to join us.
“Welcome to Wendons, Mr. Fitzpatrick” the man said with an extension of his hand.
Seriously? I know my handwriting isn’t that bad, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t use cursive on the sign-in sheet. Maybe was this some kind of initiation joke. They saying my name wrong on purpose. Oh my God. This is totally a little joke between this guy and the receptionist. I knew I should have circled the block one more time or found something else to do besides checking in thirty minutes early. Over-eagerness could be a turn off for this company.
I shooed away some of the sweat from my brow. “Kirkpatrick.”
“I’m sorry?” The man shifted his shoulders back with a tilt of his head.
“It’s pronounced Kirkpatrick.”
“Kirkpatrick. Kirk—patrick.” Why was I correcting him? It’s not that big of a deal, and I’m not even employed yet.
“Ok then, Mr. Kirkpatrick it is,” he repeated it correctly. But there was hints of mistrust in his tone. He changed his unmet handshake to a gesture towards the open chair in front of the desk. “Please have a seat.”
At least the chair doesn’t need to say my name.
He waited till I was situated before sitting down to my level. But his chair seemed higher. He looked like he’s higher than me. It was either an authority tactic or extra padding.
“As I was saying, welcome to Wendons. I’m Mr. Allen, head of HR. This is a new branch and we are hoping to fill all the positions by next week. So I promise to keep this interview as quick and as painless as possible.”
“No worries.” I patted the air, as if swatting away his promise. “I’m currently unemployed so it’s not like I have anything better to do today.”
“Right.” He looked to his copy of my application, dismissing my punchline. “Here at Wendons, we pride ourselves…”
I wonder how old he is. He looks like maybe late 40’s. I really like his tie. It’s such a nice shade of blue. Not like the carpet in the waiting room. Are those arrows on it? I’m pretty sure those are arrows. I should have worn a different tie. I hate this tie. Why did I wear it? The red really sticks out in this room. So much white in this room. Or is it grey? Maybe it’s like a creamy grey. Like one of those obnoxious colors like eggshell or dirty cloud. I just noticed there is no clock in here. I wonder why there isn’t a clock. Trapped in a room with no time.
“So what made you choose Wendons?” Mr. Allen said, finishing his monologue.
Easy question. Money. I’m a graduate student who hasn’t had a job in two years. I live with my parents under a festering pile of debt. My only hope for survival and procreation is money. I need money. Money. Money. Money…
“I’m really looking to gain more experience in the workforce,” I said. It was easy to recite the generic answers I had practiced. “And I really think that Wendons would provide the type of experience I’m looking for.”
“I see.” Mr. Allen clearly appreciated my conventional answer. “How do you think you’d fit in to the Wendons’ environment?”
I have an unmatched power of procrastination that would utterly destroy any deadline you put before me. Probably why it’s taken me so long to finish my degree. Could also be the reason I was fired from my last job. I’m still in my old high school bedroom…not even the basement because it was too much effort to move everything down. I am stagnant in life. If Wendons is looking for a mindless, barely functioning, childish adult, then I’m your man-child.
“I think I would provide an eagerness to learn and to grow in the company. I love challenges and problem-solving, and I thrive for perfection in my work.”
By George I think he bought it!
“What do you think others would say is your biggest strength?” Mr. Allen stayed fixed to the preset list of questions. “And what do you think others would say is your biggest weakness?”
Did I mention the procrastination, Mr. Allen? I wonder what his first name is. There’s a slight tan to his complex…maybe he’s mixed race. Medium-length brown hair, not overly combed. Eyebrows untamed, but not crazy. Brown eyes and full lips, with patchy stumble. His knuckles are not hairy either. He looks like he has an earthy first name. Hunter. Forrest. Pine. Oh my god, I would love it if his first name was Pine. Pine Allen. Hi, my name is Pine Allen, would you like to meet my colleagues: Fir and Oak?
“I think people would say that I’m too much of a people-pleaser,” I smiled, straying off-book a bit. “Which is really both a strength and weakness. I am always willing and able to help other people out, but sometimes I think I may do too much. If you help someone out too much, they may never learn to fend for themselves.”
I’ll have to remember to thank mom for that one.
“I used to be a bit of a people-pleaser myself. You’ll learn to balance it.” Mr. Allen made some notes on the application. “Now, what are some other qualifications you may not have listed that you feel can help you in the marketing department.”
Marketing department? Why the hell would I be in marketing? I didn’t realize I might be required to work throughout the office. Maybe I should have read the job description more carefully. But it said entry level. An Entry Level Sales Clerk shouldn’t have to do too much. I just thought it would be selling shit over the phone. Marketing is a bit beyond me. Well, a lot beyond me. I barely even know how to communicate with people over the phone. Why can’t we do sales via text?
“Ummmm…” Something would come to me if I stalled.
Marketing. Marketing. What do people who market need? Oh good, the cavalry of sweat has arrived. I just realized there’s no windows in this room. They need a window, because I’m pretty sure this is an unholy amount of sweat. Pine Allen is waiting. Is that a clock? I thought there wasn’t a clock in the room. Oh no, there isn’t a clock. That’s me. My mind is ticking for itself. My mind is counting down for me. I need to say something. Anything. What do marketers need?
I blurted out the first thought that became audible. “I’m very creative. I’m full of ideas…Sometimes my mind is just full of shit.” Bring it back, Chris. Bring it back. “My mind is full of stuff. Lots of ideas.”
More notes were scribbled on my application before Mr. Allen flipped to another section. “Tell me about your previous job and why you--”
“That woman had it coming.”
Oh…dear…lord… The heat is making word vomit. Who designs a room without a window?
“Bethany Cummings, she was a coworker at my last job.”
Is there at least air conditioning? I don’t see any vents. You can design a room in dirty cloud white but not put in ventilation?
“I see.” Mr. Allen said, skimming through my work history. “Well, what can you tell me about--”
“I was wrongfully terminated.” My word vomit interrupted.
“I’m sorry, I was only going to ask what--”
“I wasn’t the one who should have been fired. Honestly. It wasn’t my pot.” I was really off-script now.
It’s totally hot in here. I don’t know how Pine Allen isn’t sweating too. His tie is probably a clip-on. Why the hell did I wear this tie?
“Mr. Fitzpatrick, I was merely--”
“Kirkpatrick. My name is Kirkpatrick. It sounds like Fitzpatrick, but it’s Kirkpatrick.”
“Right, Mr. Kirkpatrick. I was simply going to ask you about--”
“I’ve never even smoked pot. So it couldn’t have been mine.” I was swerving.
“Honestly, never have. I mean, I’ve wanted to, don’t get me wrong, but never have.”
“That’s good to know, Mr. Kirkpatrick.”
“I swear the pot they found in my desk wasn’t mine.” They should at least give you a fan if you’re going to be trapped in this room. “I don’t know how it got there. I’m pretty sure it belonged to this coworker of mine who was arrested a month later for possession. Cause I wouldn’t have brought pot to work. I know better than to do that. No pot at work. I think someone planted it in my desk. Who would be stupid enough to bring pot to work? I mean, unless you worked somewhere it was legal. Are you even allowed to bring it to work in those states? Wait, is it legal in this state? I’m not asking cause I want to bring pot to work; I don’t even smoke cigarettes.”
There was a soft set of knocks on the door before the receptionist peeked her emotionless face in. Thank the lord! If I wasn’t still in the company of Mr. Pine Allen, I would bow down to you, my new savior. I would praise your unfeeling soul for saving me from my spiraling rant. Bless you Oh Indifferent One!
“I’m sorry to interrupt, Mr. Allen.” Her monotone apology expressing no honesty.
My goddess, you are magnificent. Please interrupt away.
She looked across to me, blessing me with another benevolent eye roll. I pushed all the warmth and love I had for her salvation to the front of my pupils. Look upon your faithful follower so you may know his gratitude.
“There seems to have been a mix-up,” she continued. “Mr. Fitzpatrick has shown up for his interview.”
Mr. Allen looked at my savior and then back at me. “Wait. I’m sorry. Are you not Mr. Fitzpatrick?”
“It’s Kirkpatrick,” I corrected again. “Kirk-patrick.”