Chinstraps and CEOS: Adventures in Interviews

I was worried that I was somehow underdressed.

My suit pants were a little tight from the last time I had to put them on, a result no doubt of the fact that I hadn’t worn them in well over a year and well, I’m a growing boy. The decision was made to swap it out for a pair of khaki slacks. I looked something like a car salesman, but I was comfortable, so I ultimately didn’t think it was an issue.

It’s a good thing that it wasn’t.

I get to the place, and it’s a medium sized building. Apparently they share the lease with a memorabilia collection and sales business. I don’t know what exactly you would call it. The point is, I walk through the door and I’m looking at a signed photograph of Adam West as Batman in the vestibule. Adam West is looking off into the distance, but facing the door, smiling gleefully as I walk in. At the desk are two men, and you know, men is a strong word.

The first guy wore a black dress shirt, untucked, with his sleeves rolled up. I never got the concept of wearing a black dress shirt. I know it sounds catty, but to me it’s what a dude wears when he thinks he wants to be stylish, but really has no idea what he’s doing. The other guy is wearing a white polo, topped the thinnest, douchiest chinstrap beard you could ever imagine.

Chinstrap addressed me first.

“Oh, look – this one has a tie!”

What kind of way was that to address a person you don’t know? I mutter something under my breath, kind of laughing and agreeing. Yeah, I feel kind of dumb with the tie now because this boy band dropout thinks I’m overdressed for this interview. What kind of place is this? Chinny hands me a personality worksheet, the kind that you would get from your high school counselor that would somehow determine if you could go to college or not. Kind of a curveball for a job interview, but what do I know? I start to fill it out when I get ushered to a back room to finish. I step in to find about ten other people in what feels like a small classroom.

Chinster and Blackshirt start their presentation – a tag teamed effort with a lot of checkered transitions. These guys did their homework. If I understood it correctly, I’d start this job as a manager trainee. What that means is that, I’d work for the company, and one day I could be the manager. So following that logic, the guy at McDonald’s microwaving your Fish McBites could someday become CEO, and the future is filled with fun possibilities.

I’d be starting at the ground level, literally walking on the ground, to people’s houses where I’d ask them if they wanted to remodel their kitchens. That’s kind of a crazy thing to ask a stranger to think about, let alone actually do. If I got good at the home invasions, they could move me to the mall, where I’d be the guy that stands and accosts you about your kitchen design outside of Gymboree, because why not. Pay my dues there, I get moved to my local Home Depot. I don’t have a joke for the Home Depot – it’s late. If I work hard in the cabinet aisle, I could eventually become a manager. Anything is possible!

Blackshirt the Pirate is talking about the super lucrative pay structure, wherein the 8 dollars hourly would be supplemented by a small bonus every time I booked an appointment. He describes the fact that the ‘manager trainees’ only work 30 hours per week, but would have opportunities to make more depending on our success. Direct quote, “If you’re doing well, it would be retarded for this company not to give you more hours”. So I’m assuming he was reading from the handbook here.

The Power Point ends, and closes, basically saying that if we want an interview, now would be the time. He ends with, “…if anyone doesn’t want to take part in this success, you are welcome to leave if you don’t think this is for you”. So now, I’m apparently an instrument in my own failure.

This is going great.

I walk out, avoiding gaze with Chinchan while making my way from the door.  I drive the hour back to Lancaster in silence. Did I learn anything? Maybe, but more than likely, no. If nothing else, I wasn’t underdressed.

Nice shirt, asshole.

Confession time, you guys.

I’m a Mets fan.

Always have been, always will be – baby, I was born this way. Believe me, I sure as hell wouldn’t have picked this team given the choice. I was born into a family of diehards, still riding high on a world series victory in ’86, fully unaware that I’d be 24 years old one day with no victory, let a lone a .500 team in sight.

It sucks too, because I grew up about an hour an a half outside of Philadelphia. Which you think wouldn’t be a problem, but in when the Phils won in ’08 it turned my entire area into a zone of fair-weather a-holes. Quick to put-downs, failing to remember that their team still has the most losing record in sports. I digress.

My point is, its hard being a New York fan here. Like I’ll wear my ball cap and get dirty looks often. Another time I was sitting at a bar and this girl on the other side yelled out, “You’d be cute if you weren’t a Mets fan.” Which was interesting, because if she hadn’t yelled and got my intention, I would have never paid attention to her. Ever.

One time I was out at a diner with some friends – the kind of diner where the food isn’t necessarily ‘good’, but you’ve been coming there for so long, it hardly matters anyway. The kind of place where you can buy a cup of coffee, and just kind of loiter for a while. We had a waitress that was a little bit older than us, and otherwise give us pretty decent service. For a diner, anyway.

We finished our meal and got up to pay, and on the way out, our waitress passes right in front of me. She turns and says, “Have a good night, hon’. And the Mets suck.”

And this shocked me.

I mean, yeah, Lancaster county, Phillies area – I get it, you’re funny.

But she is a waitress. A waitress who I frankly probably over tipped because the bill was so low. Her only job is to basically bring me my food and not insult the diners.

You can’t just call out people who come in because of the things they wear – that’s reckless behavior. That doesn’t work in most situations.

“Special Olympics? Yeah, I bet your mom was in the special olympics!”

“Johnson Family Reunion 2003? Lame!”

“Hey man, nice sweatshirt. You went to the Outer Banks? Fuck the Outer Banks!”

You can’t do that. Maybe I need to move, but you just can’t do that.

How My Mother Destroyed My Childhood

I remember the exact second my childhood died.

A lot of people, unfortunately, can attribute this to some kind of great stress or trauma. One powerful second when it’s time to put childish things away, grow up, and be the kind of person who makes an impact in this world. The call to be an individual with meaning, who would one day go on to have an impressive collection of blue-rays and an underfunded 401k.

I am that individual.

This is my call.

It begins with my mother.

I remember a time when we were out shopping. The details of this trip were admittedly a little bit fuzzy, I might have been 4 or 5 at the time, but what I can remember stand out clearly in my mind to this very day.

It was a hot, sticky day. The kind that made you even regret going out there in the first place. The three of us had left early for the mall, and immediately I was asking my mom for some ice-cream, but the being the cold-hearted ice queen she is, I wasn’t having any luck. Seriously, Mom, that shit costs, what – a quarter? You can’t spend a quarter on your overheated little boy? Dying here.

‘Child services will hear about this’, I added mentally to my ever growing list.

So Jason and I were in the back seat, buckled tightly in the vinyl seats of her Chevy Lumina. He looked over and gave me a half-hearted smile, the kind of look that let me know he was on my side. Jason never really talked a lot at that age, but he always carried a certain kind of wisdom. He was two years older than me, but I always felt as if he were somehow wise. Worldly, even. A veritable Yoda amongst 7 year olds.

“I want a Push-Pop,” he muttered. Mom pretended not to notice, but I know she heard.

“Ma.” I yelled.

“Yes, Ryan.”

“Jason and I want ice cream.”

“It’s 10am, you can’t have ice cream now.”

“But we want it.”

“You’ll have to wait.”

“Ma, it’s so hot.”

“I rolled the windows down, we’ll be at the store soon.”

Roll down the windows? This lady is always rolling down the freaking windows. Rolling down the windows stopped being cool and refreshing the very second the air conditioner was invented. Get with it, lady, it’s 1993.


“What, Ryan?!” I was starting to get on her case. The tide was turning.

“We really want ice cream!” I kicked my legs on the back of the seat. I was never really one for a tantrum, but if it got the job done, who was I to complain?

“Sweetie, we can’t have ice cream now, you just had breakfast like an hour ago.” She replied in her best ‘ask me again and I’ll hit you’ kind of voice. Jason finally decided to speak up at this point.

“You’re really mean, Mom.”

She ignored this.

“You’re always so mean,” he echoed without reply. I stepped up at this point.

“Jason said you’re mean and he hates you.”

The car braked hard, sending the two leaning forward. Shit. The car started to drag over to the side of the road, finally coming to a stop in the emergency lane. She glared back, first at me, then Jason, her glaring eyes seeing right to the bottom of our very souls.

“Mom?” I tried to offer back to her, knowing I was screwed.

She got out of the car, the drivers door behind her and stormed to Jason’s side. I never thought I would get beat on the side of a highway, so I prepared for what might be one of the most painful and humiliating experiences in my young life. She opened the panel door, and I was suddenly thankful Jason was in my way. Maybe he would get the brunt of the attack. I braced myself and started to whimper.

“Jason?” Mom asked?

“What are you doing, Mom?” I ventured.

“Jason, step outside of this car.” She backed up to allow him space. He looked back at me nervously, and unbuckled his seatbelt. He stepped outside the car and stared up at my mother. This was epic – two titans, Jason the Wise and Mom the Ice Queen, about to square off once and for all.

“Let this be our final battle,” he said. The smackdown of the century was imminent. It never came. She took one last look towards Jason, then a hard look at me, adding, “If you behave better, we might get ice cream later.” She closed the panel-door shut, and instead of wailing on Jason, she went back to the driver’s side of the car.

Jason stared at me in bewilderment. Just what in the hell was going on here?

“Mom…” I asked nervously. The engine roared to life.

“MOM?!” I yelled this time as the car left park. Jason’s mouth was hanging open, he couldn’t believe what was going on here either.

She pulled away. Drove off without as much as a word, goodbye, or ‘here’s 5 bucks, kid – good luck getting home’. I could see Jason getting smaller and smaller in the distance.

My God.

She had kicked my imaginary friend out of the car, and abandoned him there on the side of the highway.

My childhood was over.