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Target, the Interview & the 81 Fish
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job

One hour, fifteen minutes until my job interview.

Job interviews, I've been told often by friends, are like first dates. Moments spent prior to meetings checking my teeth for pieces of salad, using breath mints, practicing witty and insightful comments to myself, hoping my laugh isn't too reminiscent of a hyena.

I'm looking pretty sharp. Crisp. Fairly corporate with a slight edge as the tattoo on my right forearm peeks out slightly. Wait. What was that? Was that a snag from this cheap and trendy coffee shop chair? On my new pantyhose?

I cross my leg and I feel something spread like an airborne virus on a plane. "No," I say to myself, "this is not happening. I've already paid for parking in downtown. I can go nowhere."

I calmly rise out of my chair as I retreat to the bathroom. I look at the back of my leg and damn it! Fuck fuck fuck!

I say none of this outloud, but do have a hissy fit in manner of a small child, including stomping feet and clenching fists.

What do I do? Do I abandon the pantyhose and go bare-legged, with six-day-old stubble? Do I walk very slowly and carefully so as not to reveal the run that is now making it's way below my knee? Do I walk in front of a taxi?

I call my sister.

"Help! I have a snag! I have an interview! I can't leave downtown because I've already paid a spleen for day-long parking!"

She's quite calm. Quite collected. Not like me at all.

"Can you go buy some downtown?"

I pause. I think to myself, "Is she nuts? where in downtown Minneapolis will I ever find a place to buy pantyhose?"

I'm simple. I'm so very simple. I am a block from Target. You know, the corporation I'm trying to work for.

So I find the pantyhose (or "stockings," if i want to sound all film noir) and extinguish that personal fire. And these pantyhose rock for their control top. So controlling, actually, that blood cannot flow from my head to my feet. That is control top.

Thirty minutes to interview and I find myself sitting in the food court area of Target, listening to an iPod and jotting down meaningful thoughts in a notebook (okay, my grocery list). And whatever romance there is in a girl sitting, writing thoughtful notes and listening to music is completely gone when it's in the Target food court. How insightful can one be when seated next to the Icee machine?

Sure, people stared, wondering what I was doing there when it looked like I should be in Starbucks, sipping overpriced coffee and pondering my existence. I ignored their stares and felt confident that I was making a statement. (That statement being, "I can't justify $4 coffee, so I'll drink 79 cent bottle water instead.")

All in an effort to get a job.

The time came. The time went. I was dazzling, clever, pleasant and charming. I think. In my mind it was a dream interview where I walked on rose petals and was greeted with chocolate and flowers. My words came out like pearls of wisdom and experience as executives swooned at my experience and depth.

I rocked that interview.

At least, the part that required speaking to people. There was an assessment I had to do by computer. An assessment that had the nerve to ask questions like "Three people caught 81 fish. Each person kept only 1/5 of their catch. How many did they end up with?"

I was wracking my brain trying to remember simple math from more than a decade ago, and, just like in high school, I wasted too much time thinking about the other part of the story question, the part that doesn't actually matter.

"But what of the other fish? Did they just throw them back? By counting all 81 of them, obviously they had this large pile of recently-caught fish, and can they be out of the water, in a pile for so long and still be throw-backable? And why did they bother catching that many if they only wanted to keep a few? Isn't that completely selfish? Did they not just waste time? And isn't there a limit to how many you can catch, anyhow?"

On the math I was not dazzling; I was simple. So simple it actually caused me pain.

And although this math has no bearing whatsoever on the job I interviewed for, it still causes me concern because if you take it back to the first date metaphor, it shows a level of weakness that no one wants to display when meeting someone new. It's the equivalent to talking to someone for six hours with broccoli in your teeth.

Will this job be mine? Will this corporation keep food on my table and clothes in my closet?

I don't know. My Magic 8 Ball keeps telling me to "concentrate and ask again later." So I guess I'll keep doing that until it tells me what I want to hear. Or until they call. Whichever happens first.

end of essay
Kari Larson Portrait Kari is one of the many on CSP to have fled North Dakota for greener (or, less frozen) pastures and now resides in Minneapolis with her daughter, Abbey and husband, Dustin. She spends her time working as a Design Editor for a community newspaper (read: suburban) chain, watching movies, maintaining her blog and stalking Trent Reznor (isn't a restraining order just a really official love letter?). | more essays by Kari
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