Monday, December 25, 2006
A CHRISTMAS STORY OF SORTS
Christmas reminds me of a story...
I was interviewing at the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. This was years ago--I was still in school, and they were hiring breakfast waitstaff. I thought it would be good to get a few hours of work in before class.
Once, when I was fourteen, I swallowed a dime. This is the kind of person who thinks that waking up at 4:30 in the morning to serve breakfast to tourists before graduate school sounds like a fine time.
I was also inexperienced in the ways of job interviewers and the kind of bullshit that nourishes them. And the interviewer of a prospective waitperson? This is an individual who seeks an A-class bullshitter, the kind of bullshitter who can stare an overstuffed, spinach-toothed tourist in the face, crack a joke, refill his coffee cup, and brag about the créme caramel.
I was no such bullshitter. Not that day.
Upon my arrival at the as-yet-unopened hotel, I was escorted to a little room with a coat rack. I sat for a minute, waiting. People kept ducking in and out of the room, excusing themselves, harried. It was like a Jane Austen novel the morning of an important ball. Finally, the interviewer arrived, apologizing. She was dressed in black. We made small talk for awhile, then she got down to it.
Her: WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU THINK OF HOSPITALITY?
Now, a real bullshitter would know that the interviewer is not really interested in the FIRST thing that I might think of when I think of hospitality. Not the very first thing. This isn't a Rorschach test, after all. She is not going to use the answer to my question to assess whether or not I am disturbed or autistic or some kind of mathematically inclined psychopath. No, anyone with even the most menial bullshitting skills would immediately realize that the woman wanted to know, not the first thing I thought of, but the best thing. What is the best thing I think of when I think of hospitality? That was the question.
I answered the question as asked.
"I think of Mary, pregnant with Jesus. She's wandering around from inn to inn. Everything's closed, of course, because it's Christmas. She's getting desperate. It's so cold. Finally, a manger. Warm. Glowing. Brimming with hay and other comforts, the perfect place to give birth. That manger, to me, is hospitality, defined."
(That was pretty much what I said, verbatim, except for the Christmas line which I added just now for comedic value.)
I did what I was told. I said the first thing that came to my mind. I was surprised to find out that not very deep into my subconscious lurks some kind of jolly Jesus nut.
The interviewer paused. I twitched. I began to realize that I might have improved my chances of getting the job if I'd said something like, "I think of the wrapped little soaps in the guest bathroom at Granny Lynn's house". But, at least I was being honest, right? I was answering questions as they were asked! The interview continued.
Her: WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR WORST QUALITY?
"I have a problem with authority."
I did not get the job.
Posted by Elka DePierre at 10:29 PM