By Todd Love
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Copyright 2000 Todd Love
“Ok, now what are your worst qualities?” asked the overweight middle manager with wet ovals peeking out from under his arms. Maryanne watched the ovals and thought she could see them growing, like an oil spill on the dusty blue ocean of his cotton-polyester shirt.
“Hm, my worst qualities...” she repeated him, buying herself time. She wriggled in her molded plastic chair, the kind she remembered from high school, and immediately regretted it. Stop fidgeting Maryanne, she admonished herself.
I hate this question. How the Hell are you supposed to answer a question like this?
“I guess I can be too much of a perfectionist. And, I guess, this can be hard for other people at work. You know, sometimes I expect them to work as hard as me.”
Bullshit, Maryanne, your worst qualities are that you’re late every day and lazy when you get there. This was the voice of her mother. In the funhouse of her mind she called “Maryanne Land” she often peppered her usual self-deprecations with her mother’s familiar recriminations.
The middle manager put down his pen and leaned back in his well-worn office chair. It was old, the kind Maryanne remembered the teachers using in grade school. A huge metallic mass, yet too small for the middle manager. The padded back and armrests cut him in half, forcing the fat to overflow like a burst sausage.
The man stroked his greasy five o’clock shadow with stubby fingers and rocked a little, eliciting screeching groans of protest from the chair.
“Nothing wrong with a hard worker–a ‘team’ player” he said softly, and it rang in Maryanne’s ears like an insinuation. The stubby fingers grasped at the pen again as their owner seemed to consider something. They clicked the little button on top of the pen annoyingly–click-click, click-click.
Maryanne felt exposed, and tugged at her skirt a little. It was really too short. Short enough for a stripper, she heard her mother say. But it showed off what she thought of as her best asset; long, tone, tan legs. Was that the source of the catty looks cast her way from the girls in the office?
Maryanne’s good-humored face suddenly lost its humor for the stubby man with stubby fingers. She’d about had enough of his bullshit interviewer questions already, so he’d better not go down this road.
“No,” she said aloud.
“Ah... Look, Mr., um...”
She glanced at the name plate on his desk, the one next to a picture of the wife and kids.
“Mr. Terwilliger, I think it’s best to keep my private life and career life separate. Now, why don’t you have a look at my resume?” she said confidently, though she felt far from it. She took a trim, cotton sheet of paper from the manila folder at her side and set it on the desk. She lay the folder on her lap, covering her legs. That’s telling him, she heard her mother say, and it brought a little smile to her lips.
The pen went back into the dusty-blue shirt pocket. Terwilliger sat up straight in his chair, sending forth another metallic groan. The rolls of fat heaved up with him as he suddenly became the picture of perfect posture.
“Humph,” grunted the five o’clock shadow as its owner gave her resume the once-over. He tossed the paper down on to the desk, upside down to him. Not a good sign. The stubby fingers had left a stubby smudge of grease; the soiled paper lay there dejectedly, mocking the hard work it detailed.
“Now, about the job. We may be able to fit you in as entry level receptionist. It can get very demanding, answering calls, taking messages, ordering lunch, etc. Can you handle a ten-line phone system?” he asked without seeming to have any interest in her answer.
Maryanne sat up straight, an unwitting copy of Terwilliger. She was indignant.
“I don’t think so. I specifically called about the Account Executive position advertised in the paper. I spoke to your secretary, Mr. Terwilliger. She specifically told me you badly needed to cover five sales territories. She told me about the benefits; profit sharing, lead generation bonus, everything. Now if you think–”
“I’m sorry, those positions have been filled,” he said sourly, cutting her off. “Again, I can consider you for the receptionist spot. It pays $6.14 an hour, but there’s room for advancement.”
The middle manager sucked at something in his teeth, perhaps a bit of his hamburger lunch.
“For team players, that is,” he said, looking her in the eye for the first time.