When I search for work I pretty much use every job board available. LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor and even Craigslist. I know a lot of people shy away from craigslist, but sometimes you can find some gold there, even though mostly it's just ridiculous ads. Especially in the "gigs" section. So many ads looking for women for "photo-shoots" that are most definitely adult films, but that's not my problem.
Anyway in late March I had responded to an editorial ad that was for a theater publication. It was a lengthy ad, said there would be a stipend, lunch provided and that you would be learning from the editor of the publication as well as the owner. It seemed like a pretty great experience so I applied.
To my surprise I received a call later that day from a man, who I'll call Steve out of respect for his privacy as well as his publication. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't pretty excited after that call, even though it started off terrible. Steve had a thick accent and immediately began the call by telling me what was wrong with my resume and cover letter. It was a pretty terrible way to start, because while I listened and wrote down some of his points, it felt like he was rambling.
He then finished that call with an offer to interview and an explanation of his teaching style and what I should expect, which was a mentor experience and the title of assistant editor. The interview was to take place in the form of a day with him at his house in Philadelphia, where he worked out of an office. I said sure, and next thing I knew I was walking up to his house the next day.
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it was definitely something a little more composed and grandiose. He had explained his house as an old three-story home with character and vigor, which it had both for sure, but it also had a lot of other stuff. Like a lot a lot. My grandfather was a hoarder, and I knew the stages all too well, and the lack of seating and wall space wasn't a good sign for this man. There were paintings, trinkets and paperwork everywhere, and I had only seen the first floor.
In retrospect this was strike one.
He then proceeded to give me a tour of the house that ended on the third floor where his "office" was. I use office loosely as it was also a kitchen and a general explosion of stuff, including countless piles of paper and folders.
Steve said part of my duties would be to help him go through and organize these papers that seemingly had been sitting there since he moved in. Papers that were old tests and manuscripts of students long past. Oh, I forgot to mention that he was a tenured professor at a few schools, another reason I was excited. But that excitement was fading fast, and it wasn't even 10 A.M. yet.
As we settled in to a corner of the office I sat on "the good chair" behind his computer, which was an ancient dell laptop because his other was being fixed. Now I can neither confirm nor deny that there was any other computer, but for his sake I hope so because this thing was difficult to do anything on, let a lone run a publication which I was slowly realizing consisted of one man in an attic.
The next four hours was like when you visit your grandparents to get some information, but end up staying for hours listening to stories from days gone past. Interesting for sure, but not very educational.
Also Steve couldn't keep his stories straight, which was really difficult to deal with. He would start talking about one thing and then branch off into another story over and over again without ever rounding back and finishing the first thought. The amount of notes I have that lead to nothing filled up five whole pages. Oh yeah, I was instructed to take notes. Not encouraged, instructed.
I mean I would be taking notes anyway because I like to look back on interviews to learn more about what went well/didn't go well, but when I was already writing and he would interject to say "make sure you write this down" was mildly unnerving. The unlimited tea I was promised was bland also.
Strike thr-- actually I don't really like tea anyway.
As slow as the morning dragged it was now about lunch time. Time for the free lunch I was offered. If there was one bit of solace I had about this day it was that I was going to get a decent meal out of it.
I was sorely mistaken.
For lunch I was tasked with walking his dog, something I was happy to do because A) dogs are great, B) I needed to get out of the house and C) dogs are the best, and his dog reminded me of the one my family has back home.
While on this walk Steve would make lunch where he gave me some options: lentil soup or bread and cheese. I opted for bread and cheese, hoping that he meant a sandwich.
He did not mean a sandwich, he meant literal toast with cheese and a side of boiled beets. I may be living in poverty while trying to survive a new city, but my god at least I was eating real meals.
So yeah, that was strike three. And as we all know: three strikes and you're out, which I was desperately trying to do. Get out.
The afternoon proceeded much the same as the morning, except I took more bathroom breaks to try and get someone to pick me up to no avail. I ended up embellishing the fact that I had to make it to a friends workplace around 4:30 in order to attend a charity event, and to do that I had to leave by 3:30/4.
At first Steve was fine with this, but then he received a call saying his computer was fixed and offered to give me a ride. Apparently he also wasn't taking no for an answer.
We left the house and he gave me his dog to hold while he got the car out of the garage. As a distinguished man of foreign descent I assumed either an old jag or BMW would roll out, but to my surprise I saw an depressing red hatchback. Honestly I probably should've expected it by now, but I was still hopeful.
As I got in and we pulled away I was somewhat taken aback at the aggressive style he drove. Two blocks later I was actively gripping the handle as he swerved around potholes, parked cars and traffic. I severely regretted not putting up more of a fight to just take the train.
All the while he told me more half-stories while also telling me that he really liked the way we worked together. To this I simply nodded, because I had done literally nothing the entire day except for check his email, crop a picture and walk his dog.
Steve let me out on a corner three blocks away from where I wanted to be dropped off, but this was at my request. I said thank you and goodbye, knowing this was the last time I would be in contact with him. Walking away all I could think about was the severely bizarre experience it had been, while also trying to figure out where I was.
Did I learn anything? Sure, life is full of experiences, and this one happened almost a month ago. The fact that it's still so burned in my memory confirms the bizarre nature that the day held. Always say yes, and always keep going, because in the end that's all we've got, our experiences.