Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 262 – Big Chance (continued)

          The turnaround on the travel arrangements to Chatanooga was quick. The day after the video interview I had reservations for flights and a rental car and had directions from the airport to the leased VW headquarters downtown. The travel was scheduled for the next day—up in the morning and returning in the late afternoon. There was a connection in Atlanta. There is always a connection in Atlanta.
          I had time to reflect on the curious turn of events while I was in the air. I couldn’t believe that I was going to the next stage in the interview process. I felt there was something missing, but I couldn’t say what. Ted had been kind of non-committal in the video interview. Maybe he was embarrassed by my verbal gymnastics. Maybe he just didn’t want to seem too enthusiastic about me until he knew which way the wind was blowing with the accounting manager.
I never felt like I had established any kind of rapport with the accounting manager. For one thing he was hard for me to understand. He was a Mexican national. He had an accent, albeit a mild one, and he was soft spoken. These, coupled with my high frequency hearing loss and the vagaries of the audio connection at the video conference center had me struggling to understand what he said.
I have this problem a lot. My usual tactic is to nod my head and smile. I have no idea to what I might be agreeing. Since this was an interview and the results had some import for me, I really tried to focus on what he was saying. If I couldn’t piece it together to my satisfaction, I made him repeat himself. Mostly people hate to be made to repeat themselves. I know I do. I was afraid that my repeated requests for repetition were wearing thin with the accounting manager.
I thought he thought my answers to his questions were flippant and contrived. I thought he thought I was full of crap about being an Excel power user. I thought in the end he would be much happier with someone who had actual experience in the disciplines required by the particular job he was trying to fill.
I didn’t have any idea why they were flying me to Chatanooga on two days notice. I couldn’t work any of this out in the 2 ½ hours of flight time to Chatanooga. The best I could do for myself was resolve to chalk it up to practice if it all went south.
          All of these considerations had to do with the interview itself and the unusual way in which the circumstances had unfolded for me. I also had reservations about the job. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to live in Chatanooga. I’ve  been through it enough times to know it’s a lovely place. I’m equally sure that the people there are as nice as they can be.
In my experience, the further you get from the borders of the contiguous continental United States the more congenial and pleasant are the people to be around. I’m not making a judgment. I’m merely stating a fact. I love the people I know from New York, Virginia, Florida, Texas, California and Montana just as much as I love the people I know from Ohio, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.
The fact is though, if I had to choose a place to live based purely on its citizenry, I would choose Oklahoma without any hesitation whatsoever. Why? Because I know that every twenty minutes or so in Oklahoma I am going to witness an act of uncommon civility. I know that in Oklahoma the driver behind me is not going to lay on his horn and flip me off if I am not already accelerating through an intersection as the light changes from red to green. I know that in Oklahoma when I do something stupid, as I know from long experience that I will, the Sooners who witness my failure will smile and shrug their shoulders as if to say, ‘Could’ve been me, Pard. Hope the rest of your day is better.’
There is a lot to be said for living in a place like that, and if you’ve ever done it you will forever after be calculating what you might be willing to give up to return.
          Now, having said all that, I have to say that I really don’t want to leave Florida. I have family here—family that needs me. It’s not just Nelson. My kids and grandkids are here too. They have medical issues of their own. It’s good for my wife and me to be handy to them. We can help.
Beyond that I like the climate. I like salt water. I like palm trees. I like seafood. I like that there is no snow or ice or sleet to stay the post people from their appointed rounds. I like the casualness of everything. I like sandals and bikinis, shorts and T-shirts, outdoor dining and Tiki themed bars. I don’t want to move to Chatanooga, to do work I don’t care for anymore, when I know I’ll be trying the whole time to figure out how to get back to Florida. I might have to do it, but I’m not going to like it. How much better would it be to get a job in Florida and not have to leave? Way, way better is what.
So I’m conflicted. I’m going to do an interview that I don’t understand why I got and that I don’t think I’m going to do very well at for a job I’m not sure I want in a place I’d rather not be. Still, under the circumstances, I’m committed to doing the best I possibly can…if only for the practice. I’ve remarked before that I was raised Roman Catholic. I can carry a boatload of baggage into almost any situation. Why should this be any different.
The actual interview took 18 minutes. It was over before it started, although it took a long time to start. I had to cool my heels for 45 minutes in the first floor lobby before someone came down from personnel to collect me. I say cool my heels, but there was nothing cool about it. It was hot as hell. The air conditioning either didn’t work or was just inadequate for the acres of glass that seemed to magnify the heat of the street outside. There were no chairs in the lobby either. It was torturous.
When I finally got upstairs I was put in a closet for a preliminary meeting with the accounting manager. He told me that I needed to tell the board members I was interviewing that I was being considered for one of two positions—the capital investment analyst and a general accounting position. That’s all he had to say. He was in and out in 30 seconds. I would like to have known why the board members didn’t already know this. It seemed odd to me that I needed to tell them what they were interviewing me for. That and this is the first I was hearing about the general accounting position. Something didn’t smell right…again.
The board guys were a little scary in a vaguely Eastern European kind of way. I’m sure they are wonderful men, good husbands, caring fathers, pillars of their community. Maybe it was the accents, or the accents in concert with the leather jackets and a level of dishevelment two days past needing a haircut. I don’t know. Germans can be imposing to the rest of us. I say this even though I am ¾ German myself. My German imperiousness is always getting the better of my Irish sensitivity.
Germans are almost always scary on TV and in the movies. I think the scariest character I ever saw, admittedly in a lifetime of avoiding scary movies, was the Gestapo officer in the black leather trench-coat in Raiders of the Lost Ark. That dude was evil.
Whenever Hollywood wants to make someone scary they make them look like Nazis. As evidence I submit Darth Vader’s WWII German helmet and the uniforms of the Imperial officers in Star Wars, Nazi imagery in Ralph Bakshi’s animated version of Lord of the Rings, and even the comic edginess of Cloris Leachman’s Nurse Diesel in High Anxiety. I know there are many others.
So I found these two guys from Germany to be intimidating. I may have been unfairly pre-disposed to this feeling, but that doesn’t make it any less real and I guarantee you they didn’t do anything to dispel it.
The first thing they wanted me to tell them was how much actual experience I had analyzing capital investments. I told them I had none. They asked me if I therefore wanted to terminate the interview. I told them I was being considered for two different positions. They told me that I was not. I decided it best not to argue with them.
I didn’t think they were packing Lugers, but I didn’t want to test that supposition either. I told them that I felt I could do the job they had in mind because I had a wealth of experience, but I was sorry to have to tell them that I had no direct experience with capital investments analysis. They asked a few perfunctory questions about the experience I had and told me they would be in touch. I walked out, stunned. It had gone even worse than I imagined.
The HR lady met me outside the door. She wanted to know how I felt it went.
“Not very well,” I said.
“Oh,” she asked, “why not?”
“Because it lasted less than twenty minutes,” I said.
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” she said. “They have a lot of people to see today. Every candidate has been allotted 22 minutes, and they are determined to stay on schedule.”
It didn’t feel right to me…no matter what she said.

1 comment:

  1. Hey there, Days of Living. Just now realized you are linking to me. Many thanks.


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