The interviewers materialized.
At the newsletter company, four employees materialized into the open space of what had obviously been a factory devoted to light manufacturing at some time in the past. The three women wore wrinkled corduroy slacks, flannel shirts, and clogs. The man was dressed the same, except that he was wearing battered shoes with thick soles.
In a closed conference room the four told me what a wonderful place this was to work. They were like a family; several of them lived together. They did their shopping at the food co-op; did I know it?
Not only did I know it, I was a member!
They breathed sighs of friendship. What kind of writing did I do now? What were my editing responsibilities? they wanted to know.
My mouth answered; my head swam. Perspiration stealthily beaded my forehead. I was too sick to interview. And whose idea had it been for me to wear wool?
I thought, “I gotta get out of here.”
I said, “I hope we can talk again, since I’m not at my best today.”
“You’re doing great,” they chimed.
They faded before me. I could hear them, but I could barely make out what they were saying. I wasn’t sure what I was saying. It was as if we were speaking beneath the surface of the sea. Someone got me some water, and we all smiled.
One of them wondered aloud why I had had to work while I was ill. I replied that my boss had needed my help with an important project. (I felt it couldn’t hurt to seem indispensable.) They were looking at me benevolently, speaking slowly, and being very polite. I became suspicious, aware that the line between what I was thinking and what I had actually verbalized had blurred hopelessly. Had I absurdly used the word “crazy” in describing with my boss?
I dutifully admired the sample newsletters they showed me. But, I said, the contents seemed technically daunting, involving as they did tank hatches and tonnage, pipes and pressure valves, and hose handling derricks.
They assured me that I could learn it all, and gaily implied I would soon love it as much as they did. But even through my flu-induced fog, I knew the subject would bore me to stupefaction.
My interviewers were loath to let me go. Had I been entertaining them with hilariously unguarded revelations? I brought matters to a close by rising to my feet, leaning a hand on the table as I thanked them, and dragging my coat from the back of my chair with as much dignity as I could muster.
I never minded that I didn’t hear from the company again. But I’ve always wondered what on earth I said in that interview.
I’m planning to run a series on working. If you’ve got a weird interview story, share it in a comment. Or, hit me up if you’d like to guest post about interviewing or working.