Interview in Search of an Applicant

Monday, June 24, 2013



There is a question that I’m asked on interviews and general conversations that I absolutely hate.  We’ve all been asked the question; it’s just that some people are better than others when it comes to a providing a meaningful answer.  Don’t make me repeat it again.  All right, but this is the last time, “Tell me a little about yourself.”

How can I mess up my only chance for a good impression this time?  Well, let’s see, “I’m a guy.”  Yeah, that’s a good start, I think.  Now what?  Oh, yes, “I’m married and I have two kids.” OK, I think, now I’m getting somewhere.  I don’t know where, but it must be somewhere better than where I was 5 seconds ago.

“Did you want to know how many pets or anything that I have at the house?”

Oh, no, I don’t think I should have just asked that.  Nobody really cares about how many dysfunctional, domesticated animals that I have taking up space in my habitat. 

“But you probably don’t really want to know that, do you?”

I’m not a rocket scientist, nor have I ever considered becoming a rocket scientist, but I know one thing very clearly now; this is not going well, at all. 

“Can I start over again, I mean, after the “I’m a guy part?””

My audience clearly is not amused.  In fact, I think I’ve already seen one guy in my listening circle take a casual glance at his watch. 

“Do you want to know like character traits, or are you looking for something else?” 

I’m not really sure about the protocol regarding asking the interviewer for guidance while answering such a simple question, but I think someone needs to throw me a bone or something so I can get a better grip on things. 

“You probably already know that I have black hair, right?  Although, on my license I think it might say, ’brown’.  You might be looking for something a little more substantial.  Am I on the right track?  I’m sorry, but can you repeat the question one more time?  I think I’m getting away from the essence of what you’re really looking for.” 

I’m beginning to make all kinds of mental notes in my head.  First and foremost, I’ve really got to get some kind of answer to this question prepared in advance, so I can at least appear to know a little more about myself than I seem to at this point in time.  I have lived with myself for a while.  I’ve got to know something that I can put into words that might suggest that I didn’t just inhabit this body a moment before the question was asked. 

“Just to be clear, you want a little more than my favorite color … which is green by the way.  Oh, I know, I like music.  I used to play the saxophone, but not really anymore.  I still play the piano, though.  And some might assume that I’m a guitarist, because I have a few guitars, but really I’m just in a permanent learning mode.  Is that pertinent at all to this conversation?” 

A long silent pause follows.  “Is it getting a little warm in here?  Because I feel like I’m starting to sweat like a pig – although I heard once, a long time ago, that pigs don’t really sweat.  It’s some kind of myth, I think.”

Two of the three inquisitors politely excuse themselves from the conversation.  One person remains, makes a final note on her legal pad and thanks me as positively as she can.  I know that she is being totally insincere.  I should have mentioned during the interview that one of my strong skills is being able to accurately measure BS when I hear it. 

I’m still trying to figure out how my mental train of thought had jumped the rails so effortlessly.  Why couldn’t I have mentioned my creativity, organizational skills or strong work ethic?  It doesn’t really matter anymore; I’m sure they had already emailed me the appreciative rejection notice before I even got back into my car. 

So where does this leave me?  Well, it’s a little too late for that.  But for any future interviewees out there – take note:  prepare a few thoughts about yourself in advance.  Don’t think so much about a direct answer to the question.  A lot of the information that they are looking for is in the way you answer the question.  Be yourself.  Be calm.  And just for fun, throw in your favorite color. 

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Who's Dinner is This Anyway?

Thursday, May 30, 2013


We make simple dining requests throughout our lives.  Some are made out of convenience, others are made at the recommendation of friends or food critics.  I made such a request, for my past birthday. 

My wife asked me, perhaps out of an expected birthday courtesy, where I would like to eat for my birthday dinner.  I responded with a choice that I am quite fond of, an Italian style place that has a railroad theme inside; the name escapes me presently.  She paused just long enough to pretend to give it some thought, “I don’t want to eat there.  You’re joking, right?” 

I wasn’t joking, actually.  It had been a while and I had a real craving for the manager’s favorite with clam sauce and mizithra cheese. 

I should probably offer up a little background about my wife, for those who are unfamiliar.  She has clear opinions about restaurants, as any normal person would and should.  When it comes to dining, she’s not a big believer in second chances.  If she’s had a less than perfect experience once, it’s not likely that she will return there anytime soon.  I’m slightly more forgiving about such things, food poisoning excluded.  I know why she doesn’t want to go back to this place, but it was my birthday, and I do like the restaurant.  Besides, isn’t it standard operating procedure that the person with the upcoming birthday gets to choose the venue?

Up until the night of my birthday, I had held out some small hope that my simple request would be fulfilled.  On our drive home from work that day, she asked me again where I would like to eat.  I had my suspicions that it didn’t really matter what I said, she had already decided on a place. 

I have no complaints about the restaurant that she chose.  It’s a place on my short list of acceptable eateries.  She had even gotten more family and friends together than I had expected.  All in all, it turned out to be a good birthday meal.  In fairness, she didn’t ask me to bake my own birthday cake.  Baking, after all, is one of my hobbies; she could have easily twisted my arm and I would have whipped something up. 

But, you know, I still have a craving to go to dinner at the restaurant that I had originally suggested.  It’s been a while since I’ve eaten there, especially since my wife added it to her “no dine” list.  I spoke with my daughters and my brother, and everyone is on board to eat there with me one day in the near future.  Will my wife join us?  I’m not sure.  But if she does, I’ll be sure to alert the manager at the Spaghetti Factory beforehand to make sure that everyone on staff is on their best behavior.

photo courtesy of The Old Spaghetti Factory

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Countdown to Colonoscopy

Wednesday, May 15, 2013



I believed myself to be cancer free, but I didn’t know if I would be able to say that again on the following day. In the morning, I was going in for my first colonoscopy. This is a procedure where a doctor examines the colon, at close range, looking for polyps or other out of the ordinary growths that don’t belong. There are three possible scenarios that I imagined I might awaken to, following the procedure: #1. I could wake up with the doctor telling me that everything went well, and there were not polyps. #2. I could wake up with the doctor telling me that there were only a few polyps, nothing suspicious, but they are being sent to the lab for review. #3. I could wake up with the doctor telling me that they found some very suspicious polyps and had to remove a section of my colon. He would go on to say that I need to meet with an oncologist to talk about a further course of action.

I was thrown, a bit, when I read the name of the colon cleanse solution that the doctor had prescribed for me to drink: MoviPrep. It sounded almost like it might have included a free movie rental in the box, something to pass the time away while sitting and waiting in the bathroom. I can clear up any confusion right here and now; there was no DVD in the box, but the colon cleanser was quite the blockbuster.

The process of the MoviPrep cleanse is a simply one. At 12 Noon you begin to drink the first quart of the concoction, one cup at a time, in fifteen minute intervals. I know the words “pleasant tasting” are bandied about quite a bit with liquid medicines, but this one really didn’t deserve that recommendation. I would say that it had a lemony flavor, but not like the lemon drinks that you might voluntarily consume. It tasted more like the lemon in Lemon Pledge - as if that were some sort of drink enhancer - instead of the very effective wood cleaning product that it is. Also, even though the reconstituted, two powder combination was clear, the consistency was thicker than water. I used a straw (strongly suggested) and powered down each eight ounces in record time. I chased the chilled beverage with spoonfuls of soft frozen lemonade, which was actually quite tasty. I didn’t gag or hesitate. I followed the instructions and did what I needed to do. I could go into detail; no, I really could - I kept a log, but it’s probably just best to say that there were soon some stomach noises followed by a growing desire to take a bathroom break.

The afternoon passed fairly quickly and before I knew it, it was 5:00PM - time for my second 32 ounce dose of Lemon Pledge.

On the day of the procedure, after filling out a few forms relinquishing all of my rights as a human, I was escorted into room number 11. It wasn’t really a room, but more of a wide stall. One of the nurses asked me to remove all of my clothes, except for my socks, and put on the gown. I’m sure I don’t need to describe a hospital gown to you. The bare butt joke has already been done in movies a few too many times. While changing, I kept looking out the window, trying to make sure that no one in their cars would be able to see me in my compromised state. I quickly slipped into the thing and got under the sheet of the hospital bed. The nurse then brought in a pre-heated blanket that rivaled the heated blankets at the Red Cross. They even offered me aromatherapy (citrus or lavender); I chose lavender. I could easily have mistaken being in a day spa, waiting for a deep tissue massage; but, of course, I wasn’t.

10:20AM The anesthesiologist told me that she was going to be giving me Propfol. I instantly recognized this drug, as anyone else who was alive when Michael Jackson died would have. Some things get tainted for life after public milestone events. (For me, it is still the Bruno Magli shoes that O.J. Simpson wore on the night of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman’s ‘mysterious’ homicide.) The Propofol was a white liquid in a syringe. I was told that I might feel a light burn when the drug entered my bloodstream. She asked me to count to ten in the one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two format.

I did feel a very slight burn, and after one-thousand-three, I told the doctor that I was beginning to feel the effect. I remember making it to nine before going blank. I can’t speak about anything else until I heard the nurse calling out my name.

I half-heartedly opened my eyes and asked what time it was. She said that it was 10:56. I couldn’t keep my eyes open for long, as the drug’s effect hadn’t left my system yet. I’ve felt like this before, at home, not being able to stay awake despite trying my hardest. It may have been another 5-10 minutes before I really began to regain my senses.

Just like a good episode of Barnaby Jones, all good things must come to an end. After eating a hospital provided day-old chocolate chip cookie for my first solid meal, the doctor came in to check on me. He said that everything went well, and I was completely normal - no polyps. This came as a big relief to me. He went on to say that I wouldn’t need another colonoscopy for another 10 years. I would hope that the MoviPrep people would take advantage of that time and come up with some kind of improved version of ‘pleasant tasting lemon flavor’.

I would encourage anyone who is either at risk of colon cancer or nearing the age where this preventative test is recommended, to put aside your fears and see a gastroenterologist. Peace of mind has a value in life. A colonoscopy is a small price to pay for that peace.

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Is This What Dads Do?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

I got the strangest call from my daughter recently.  It wasn't really strange, but it wasn't totally normal either.  I can only paraphrase, because in my advanced age I don't always remember all of the exact words.

"Dad. Can you bring my black shoe to school?  I accidentally put on one blue shoe and one black shoe.  Can you come over now?"

As I'm not always in the mood to leave the house in my pajamas, I asked what I thought was a logical question, "Can't you just wear them that way for one day?"

"What??" I'm not really sure if she didn't hear me, or was just in disbelief of what I had suggested. Apparently, she is on the cutting edge of fashion statements - except when it comes to footwear.  This blue/black combination absolutely would not pass the smell test of her classmates.  My daughter, usually brimming with a contemporary sense of humor, was having none of my foolishness this morning.  Taking a last sip of my morning coffee, I resigned to the fact that I would have to get out of my pajamas and get dressed for school. 

I'm not a stay at home Dad.  Yes, I stay at home, and yes I am a Dad.  But I do work from home and have some responsibilities to the company for which I work.

The office attendant at school must have stories to tell.  I can only imagine what kind of strange and awkward requests they have to deal with during an average day.  As stupid as I felt walking into the office with a left shoe in my hand, it must have been equally amusing to the person sitting behind the desk.  I put on my game face and made every attempt to act nonchalant.  "Hi.  I'd like to leave this shoe for my daughter." It sounds so ridiculous even now, that I wish that I could have thought of something else to say.  The attendant gave me a piece of paper to write down my daughter's name.  I couldn't wait to walk out of the office.

And here I thought that my days of getting embarrassed at high school were behind me. 

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Encore Performance

Wednesday, December 26, 2012



There were no volunteers to help clean the dinner dishes this evening.  I didn’t expect any.  I was just happy to see that everyone had finished their meal.  It’s always a challenge to decide on a dinner plan when my wife is out of town.  I don’t want to go too fancy, because I know that my efforts won’t be appreciated.  I also don’t want to offer hot dogs or breakfast cereal every night, because I’m not that kind of Dad.  So, I’m reduced to low-key experimentation where I decide on a staple ingredient and slowly expand its horizons. 

Chicken was the clear winner tonight.  My youngest wasn’t interested, and voiced her preference for ice cream.   A slight shift to my authoritative voice, and a subtle sidestep to block the refrigerator, squelched that plan.  Now more than ever, we were definitely going to be eating chicken.  It never sounds too interesting when you say “chicken.”  Add to that “boneless and skinless” and you slowly back yourself further into a corner.  As a reminder that life is not always easy, the chicken thighs were frozen solid, so half the challenge would be to defrost them in time to cook them. 

Moms and Dads have to get creative when cooking for their children.  The fine-tuned palettes of adults, many times, don’t mesh with kids.  You try to make it fun and interesting.  Sometimes you succeed, and other times the dogs get a bonus meal at the end of the day.  Yes, there is luck involved.  But often the thrill of the attempt makes it all worthwhile.  I improvised a little due to a few missing ingredients, and I might have changed a thing or two in retrospect.  Overall, it was a good night. 

Oh, my daughters did get their ice cream for dessert.  They didn’t wash or offer to clean any dishes, but that kind of encore performance is one that I’m used to.  After all, I don’t love my daughters because they do the dishes.  I’d like to, but I’ll settle for them eating my tentative dinner creations.

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Checks and Balances

Monday, September 24, 2012




There’s probably an explanation as to why I’m sorting through old bank statements and cancelled checks from 30 years ago, but the reason somehow eludes me at the present moment.  I’m making a real effort to sift through my stagnant ‘life collectibles’ and today is the lucky day for bank records. 

Back in 1982, I probably wouldn’t have given a second thought to throwing away old bank statements (yes, many of them have my social security number printed on them).  But as they say, “That was then, and this is now.”  It’s kind of like peering through a window in history as I look over all the old checks that must now be shredded.  Did I say shred?  I’ve got so many years’ worth of checks and statements, that I decided that it would be quicker to burn them in my barbeque.  I'd be lying though, if I said that I wasn't wondering a few times if my next-door neighbor would call the fire department.

I ran across checks made out to companies that have changed names, that no longer exist and that no longer have a significant place in my life:  B. Dalton Books, The Wherehouse, Price Club, Best Products and May Company.  I used to do a lot of work on my car, so there are numerous checks made out to auto repair and parts shops too.

Now I have a new appreciation for electronic copies of checks, instead of the antiquated returned checks with statements (something that I clung to for dear life when it was still offered).  Was that me that actually paid the bank an additional monthly service charge to get my checks back with my monthly statements?  Only my hairdresser knows for sure; and even as I think that thought, I wonder if I should have been spending more of my hard earned money on therapy instead of haircuts all those years.  For some unexplained reason, I felt a freakish sense of security knowing that I got my checks back every month.  Did it make it any easier to balance my checkbook with actual checks instead of copies of the checks – or was that one of the anal retentive things that most people eventually outgrow?  I won’t answer that question, because I get real tired of hearing myself refer to myself as anal retentive.

Who even writes this many checks anymore?  Now I hardly ever carry a checkbook, and many times I don’t even have any cash to my name.  I use my ATM card for almost everything.  If I make a purchase under $5.00, I usually look for something else to buy to avoid the embarrassment of ATM-ing a $2.17 purchase (for example).  Is that weird?  I guess I’ll have to ask about that the next time a get a haircut. 

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