awkward, short stories

Cutting-edge technology, sans manners

I enter Moronfabs on a bitter morning in March. In the refurbished brick and mortar building, on a busy, potholed Somerville street, I find shelter from an air that had scathed my skin like a cold razor. I’m 15 minutes early for my interview.

For some reason, reception is up four floors. I’ve already seen three quarters of the building, before I’m received. Furthermore, there’s no one there to receive me. Just a vacant iPad displaying an NDA stands atop an empty reception desk. A signature on the digital doc will notify my interviewer that I’ve arrived, the soulless iPad assures me. I produce my digitized John Hancock. The pixelated line drawn by my own digit, the most technologically advanced way to scribe one’s endorsement, looks bastardized against that same identifying mark scrawled on paper with ink.

I spend those 15 minutes waiting alone, in a mock lobby where potential co-workers pass by. They don’t offer so much as an acknowledgment of my presence. That’s OK. I’m too busy wondering where they got that R2-D2 end table. Perhaps it serves as some conversation piece to subtly indicate that this office and its occupants are fun, despite any other evidence I can observe from the young professional parade coldly gliding by.

A few more minutes pass; it’s now 10:03 a.m. He’s three minutes late for our scheduled appointment. Finally, the ice breaks, as my would-be hiring manager, all 6’2″ of him, enters my whereabouts. He greets me with a half-assed handshake, whisking me through unexplored bowels of the office building. A kitchen adjacent to the lobby teems with uber-casually clad workers. Through there lies a sales room. Slightly more stylish, cooler cats man terminals and adorn headsets, vocally pushing the company’s product to prospective buyers.

I am introduced to none of them.

The next thing I know, after much more whisking through anonymous conference rooms and workshops, I find myself in a small office with a single table. A laptop sits in front of me. Its screen broadcasts two Germans, teleconferencing from Deutschland, which is six hours ahead of our early A.M. Their lack of response to my presentation and thousand-mile stares–I can almost hear the German beergardens calling them from the other end–urge me to rush through the remaining slides. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere. And that place, right now, is Germany; population: this 2-dimensional duo quite literally phoning it in.

I look over at my hiring manager, whose brow gleams with sweat. Will his colleagues accept me? What will they think of his lackluster recruitment efforts? I’m reminded of my overly self-conscious mother, perpetually concerned with how her child’s behavior will reflect upon her.

Not that there was much oxygen in the small room to begin with. But post presentation, it feels like even that thin air has dissipated. If a whole room could have a lump in its throat, it would be this one. For what seems like an eternity, I’m locked in a little, stale closet, with strangers, whose collective body language clearly conveys that they’ll never be co-workers. I long for that cold, outside air.

My now defunct hiring manager follows my rushed presentation with an abbreviated tour of company departments. At best, as he breezes through half-baked explanations for the various areas of his workplace, it feels like a formality fueling justification for my visit. After all, this failed engagement burned a half day from my current job. If I had been contracting, that would have also equaled one half day’s pay.

At last, my tour guide and I reach the exit. A brisk and long-awaited goodbye, capped with a handshake, ends my brief career at Moronfabs. I brave the gray, unforgiving air outside once again. As I look out the window of my meandering Uber ride, upon little reflection, I know the job’s not mine. What may sound like sour grapes is, in fact, relief. I’m thankful to be heading toward a place where I actually like the people. At no other time does that seem more important to me than in this cab.

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