The Interview That Wasn't

Submitted into Contest #249 in response to: Write a story about a character running late for a job interview.... view prompt

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Creative Nonfiction

“Careful, you’re going to rip them,” Donna warned as she stubbed out her cigarette.


“Why didn’t I try these on before we left?” Frantically tugging the stockings, I tried to pull them up higher. No such luck. A few inches shy of fitting, they left me with webbed thighs. Crap.


“Want me to run out and pick up a new pair? I think I saw a Duane Reade down the block.” Rising from the bed, she peered out the window to the street below.


“There’s no time.” I smoothed my skirt down before tying the bow on my blouse. I turned to my friend and asked, “Do I look okay?”


“Very corporate. The job is yours,” Donna replied, flopping back on the bed.  


“Imagine?” I forced my feet into the new pumps, wincing at their stiffness. 


“You would have to move to Boston.” She reached for her pack of cigarettes, then glancing at the still-smoldering ashtray she quickly stood and paced the room instead.


“Obviously I know that. I wouldn’t have driven here if I wasn’t prepared to move here.” I put on my suit jacket and exhaled.


Donna came at me pointing the aerosol. “Once more for good luck,” as she sprayed my already over-sprayed hair. 


Reaching for the doorknob, I turned to look back. “You have any change? I want to call my mom. She’s probably freaking out.”


“Call here,” she nodded her head to the phone on the nightstand between the beds.


“Nah, I’m already late,” I frowned, checking my watch. Shit.


***


Running down the cobblestone street, I cursed myself as my stockings slipped down even lower and the pumps dug into the backs of my ankles. I clutched my folder while trying to read the scribbled directions. My sad sense of direction left me exasperated as I spun around the crowded street corner. Was it this turn or the next? Why didn’t I take better notes, or draw a map with landmarks?


The phone booth across the street caught my attention. I stepped off the curb suddenly only to jump back as the blare of a horn made my heart race. Startled faces turned to stare at me. “Please don’t let me die on the way to this interview,” I silently prayed. 


Checking the time again, I decided a quick call would be worth the risk.


“Mom? Can you hear me?” Leaning back to close the folding door I shouted into the receiver.


“Linda! Your father and I have been worried sick. We almost called the hotel to make sure you arrived.”


“Mom!” This was a mistake; I didn’t need her nervous energy. “I’m fine. Just running late. Can I call you after the interview?” I held onto the cool metal cord for dear life.


“Running late? Linda, that’s not making a very good first impression. You should have gotten up earlier. I told you to pack your alarm clock. Did you eat … “


I cut her off. “I’ll call you later. Love you.” I hung up the receiver and opened the door to walk out. Impulsively, despite the hands of time ticking on, I reached back to check the change slot. Empty. Shit. What was I thinking? I turned back onto the sidewalk, praying the office building marked 855 would magically come into view on the congested and unfamiliar city street.


***


Beads of sweat appeared on my forehead under my stiff hair as I ran through the crowd, my mother’s endless advice playing in my head. 


“Don’t tell them you want to get married and have children; they will never hire you.”


“Mom! Women can work and have families, you know.”


“Maybe you’ll meet a nice young man in Boston. He can move here to New York to be with you.”


“Mom. Stop.”


Swept along with the crowd I passed through the revolving door and stepped onto the plush carpet. Grateful for the airconditioned lobby, I wiped the sweat that had accumulated on the back of my neck, stopping myself from wiping my hand on my skirt. I held onto the last shred of finesse I could muster as I approached the receptionist.


“I’m here for an interview.” I leaned on the counter grateful for a moment’s rest.


“What company?” She turned her attention away from a glossy magazine, obviously irritated at the interruption. Not quite the welcome committee I would have expected upon entering the professional office building.


“Computer Connections.”


She looked at me with surprise. “Eighth floor, last door on the right. Elevator is that way.” She jerked her head to the side before picking up the phone as it rang. “Good luck.”


I turned away as “You’ll need it” reached my ears just barely audible.


***


Surrounded by the men in the elevator I studied my reflection in the mirrored walls, hardly recognizing myself. 


“Who are you?” I asked my reflection silently. “What are you doing here? You really want to become a computer programmer six hours from home? Or is this an excuse for a long weekend of partying in Boston?” Self-doubt crept in as the doors opened to the first floor and the crowd shifted with the exchange of businessmen.


Glancing down at the folder, I pictured placing my resume on the desk between myself and my future boss, sliding it over for his review. “I graduated with a degree in computer science,” I would say. “I am hard working and would be an asset to your company.” He would look at my credentials, nodding.


“Don’t tell them you want babies.” Back came my mother’s voice as the doors closed and we continued our ride up. 


“Mom, I went to college for a BS, not an MRS,” I had shouted, finally losing my temper. “This is 1986 not 1956. Get with the program.” 


***


With two minutes to spare I made an executive decision and ducked into the ladies’ room after the elevator deposited me on the eighth floor. I fluffed out my hair, retied the bow on my blouse, and turned on the faucet. The cool water washed over my hands. 


“Where do you see yourself in five years?” my reflection asked me. 


“Working as a computer programmer growing with the company that hires me.” The absence of marriage and family hung in the air, turning my bold statement into a half truth.


***


“Good luck. You’ll need it.” The receptionist’s words replayed in my head as I opened the heavy door and entered Computer Connections, surprised to find myself in a crowded waiting room. A clipboard was thrust into my hand.


“Sign in.” 


Adding my name to the bottom of the list I took a seat in the sea of young men. Dressed identically, they stared stoically ahead until clipboard boy called out their names one by one. I watched the slow parade of suits walk across the room; heads held high, shiny new attaché cases in hands as they disappeared into the inner sanctuary.


I crossed my legs at my ankles glancing down to make sure I hadn’t broken the skin or worse yet was bleeding out from my new shoes while the crowd thinned out. I waited for clipboard boy to reach the end of the list and save me from becoming invisible. 


“What is your greatest weakness?” The imaginary interview continued in my mind, keeping me focused and present.


“I can be too detail oriented at times,” I would say, taking the advice of turning an asset into a flaw, giving them what they want to hear. The imaginary interviewer nods, jotting down this bit of info.


***


At long last the door opened, and my name rang out. I rose and crossed the room thrilled to be escorted into the inner chambers. “Hi, I’m Linda. Nice to meet you,” I imagined myself saying with extended hand, smiling, cool and confident. 


“Marge, Lucille, this is Linda,” clipboard boy turned and scurried away leaving me abandoned with two blank faced women sitting in a tiny cubicle.


Standing without a chair to be offered I felt disbelief wash over me. Gone was the power meeting with the carefully rehearsed questions and answers. Gone was the nodding over my resume picked up last week from the printer after agonizing over cardstock and font choices.


“What should we ask her, Marge?” By process of elimination the woman named Lucille turned to her coworker.


Fighting the humiliation, I held onto my composure and offered a solution. “Why don’t I tell you a bit about myself.” Standing up tall despite my aching feet and webbed thighs, I plunged headlong into my credentials. Detailed plans for the future along with my strengths and weaknesses were recited to the women who didn’t take notes, didn’t ask follow-up questions, didn’t nod encouragingly for me to continue. 


An awkward silence greeted the end of my monologue. Realizing my interview was over before it started, I reached out my hand pleasantly. “Thank you for your time and consideration,” although neither time nor consideration had been given me.


The women sighed in relief as I stepped out of the tiny cubicle. I cursed my sad sense of direction looking around desperately for the exit, thankful that clipboard boy appeared to escort me out.


“We’ll be in touch,” he lied, holding the door open for me.


May 05, 2024 20:49

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14 comments

Liane Fazio
20:47 May 14, 2024

Webbed thighs 🤣 I've had some bad interviews in the past & this story brought back some memories. Good flow. I enjoyed it.

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Hannah Lynn
15:06 May 15, 2024

Liane, you know it's going to be one of those days when you start off with webbed thighs hahahaha! Thanks so much for reading. I'm glad you enjoyed it! :)

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Rebecca Detti
13:19 May 14, 2024

Great pacing with this one Hannah. I really enjoyed. It brought the horror of some shocking interviews back 'ummm i don't know...'. Great job!

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Jeremy Stevens
00:38 May 08, 2024

Oh, I so know the feeling of rambling on, without the affirmative nod, audibly telling myself to "just shut up" which was the only reaction -a slight smile- that I received. Thanks for the throwback! Great movement in this; it flowed well.

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Hannah Lynn
21:36 May 08, 2024

I’m so glad it was relatable! Thanks for reading and leaving feedback, Jeremy! 😊

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Alexis Araneta
15:54 May 06, 2024

Oooh, what an interview ! Once again, you brought us a story with great flow and such great use of description. Lovely work.

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Hannah Lynn
23:00 May 06, 2024

Thank you, Alexis! I always love your positive feedback! :)

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Trudy Jas
15:37 May 06, 2024

Poor Linda. One wonders why they even bothered. I hate that question :My 5 year plan. Ugh. Do remember the webbed thighs, Horrible and only marginally better than too short garter belt. LOL Great story.

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Hannah Lynn
23:00 May 06, 2024

I guess they needed the token female applicant. Unfortunately she didn't stand a chance to get the job. Things have gotten better for women BUT still a ways to go and we don't want to start slipping back that's for sure. Thanks for reading!!!

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Trudy Jas
02:23 May 07, 2024

So true! Here's a thought. We'll, put all the women on one half of the world and all the men on the other and see who does better. The ultimate survivor challenge. LOL

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Mary Bendickson
22:17 May 05, 2024

Had it well covered. Good luck. What? Still waiting for their call?

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Hannah Lynn
02:23 May 06, 2024

Ha ha it’s been a long wait. Thanks for reading, Mary!

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Ty Warmbrodt
22:15 May 05, 2024

I've had a few interviews like that. Good story.

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Hannah Lynn
02:22 May 06, 2024

Brutal! Thanks for reading and commenting, Ty!

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