THese are the adventures of a young man searching for meaning. Friendless, loveless, purposeless, his only companions are television, beer and delusion.
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I'm exactly ten minutes early.
When I got here I was twenty minutes early but I've been here for ten minutes.
There's a big clock on the wall and I've been staring at it the whole time.
It goes tick tock tick tock very loudly.
Other than that, the only sounds are my breathing and the secretary typing.
She types really fast.
It goes click, click, click.
Oh wait, now I?m nine minutes early.
The walls of the waiting room look like wood panels, but I think they are plastic that looks wooden, or maybe vinyl. I don?t know what they make fake wooden paneling out of. There are two couches with rust colored cushions and wooden armrests, which are actually wooden. They are pressed up against two of the wood panel walls with some kind of plastic plant between them that looked real when I first came in. The carpet here seems slightly purpler than rust colored. Maybe it?s more red. There are two grey filing cabinets at opposite ends of the couches with little office style decorations on top of them - you know, tiny calendars and stuff. In front of the secretary there?s a kind of half wall divider thing, separating the waiting room from the secretary area.
She sits at a chair and type type types.
It?s really cold in here. They have the air conditioning on too high. Maybe she would turn it down if I asked. But maybe that would be rude. I don?t want to be rude. If I?m rude they won?t give me the job. But maybe if I asked politely they would see how polite I was and give me the job. Yeah... no... I don?t know... I?ll ask.
"Miss, excuse me,Miss"
"Would you please, pretty please, turn down the air conditioning?" I scrunch my face up to look extra polite.
"The air conditioning?"
"Yes, ma'am," I say.
If you want to be polite you have to always say sir or ma?am.
"It?s not on," she says.
"Oh," I say, "thank you anyway."
"Would you like to have a seat, sir?"
"No thank you," I say.
Behind the secretary that?s typing extremely fast is a big oak door. I want to get through that door and speak to the Director of Personnel at KREG News. Once I speak to him, I hope to start working at this fine establishment immediately.
The secretary is black, like Oprah. She?s wearing a nice maroon dress and her hair is done up in spirally curls.
She?s got purple fingernail polish on and her fingers flutter like hummingbird wings as she types god knows what at a million miles an hour.
Click, click, click.
It makes me smile a little bit. Her fingers are like purple streaks of lightning.
Since I got here, twelve minutes and forty-five seconds ago, I?ve been so excited that all I can do is stand here and stare at that big clock.
I just stand here and stare and wait.
seven more minutes.
?Would you please sit down sir?? The nice receptionist says again.
I only smile. She stops typing to look at me for a minute.
I suppose she?s deciding whether or not I?m KREG material. She?s acting as sort of a gatekeeper or screening agent. She?s the filter that stops all the ones who would not be a good fit here at KREG. After all, not everyone can work at television. She gives out a sigh of approval and goes back to typing, saying something like ?daisy,? or ?lazy? or ?crazy.?
I don?t really understand what she says so I ignore it.
It?s not important anyway.
To pass the time I start to hum a little song I heard on television. It?s from a sit-com called ?Henry?s Place,? which is about a New England bar owner whose sister dies and he has to take care of her thirteen year-old daughter.
It was a heart wrenching comedy for the whole family to enjoy.
The secretary ? the one with the fingernails ? kind of looks me over again and shakes her head.
I guess she doesn?t recognize the song.
The clock goes tick tock tick tock.
The plastic plant sways in the breeze of the air conditioner.
The hummingbird fingers flicker.
Type, type, type.
Click, click, click.
I?m wearing my favorite white button-up shirt.
Actually it?s my only white button-up shirt.
I?m wearing black slacks and a nice pair of tennis shoes.
I got the shoes from the mall ? one of those discount stores that sells brand names for less. Only these aren?t a brand name.
I stop whistling when the secretary sighs real heavy and glares at me real hard.
I don?t want to distract her.
She?s doing such a fine job typing.
She asks me to sit down again but I decline her invitation. I?m too excited.
It?s good that she?s worried about my comfort, though. I suppose when I have a secretary she?ll be someone just as considerate as her.
And just as quick with typing.
"What?" she says.
"Huh?" I say.
"Did you say something?" she says.
I say, "no."
She says, "Didn?t you just say 'five minutes?'"
I say, "No, I only thought it."
She goes back to typing.
I go back to staring at that clock.
Tick tock tick tock.
And she?s just typing away so I?ve got to know.
"How fast can you type?" I ask.
She doesn?t stop to look at me.
"How fast is that?" I ask.
"Fast," she says.
She doesn?t even flinch. What skill.
I go back to staring at the clock again.
I kind of rock back and forth in my place and whistle the tune to the theme song of that movie staring Dick Johnson. The one where he?s a plastic surgeon at the end of World War Three and all the people left in the world after nuclear war have weird mutations growing out of their faces.
That was a good one.
The receptionist with the purple fingernails has little designs on her dress. It?s hard to make out what they are. I strain my eyes and try to stretch my neck so I can see over the little divider thing at the dress.
I guess she senses my looking because she stops typing and looks over at me.
She looks at me sort of like her forehead?s real heavy.
She looks at me like her eyeballs are stuck looking up and she has to bend her head down to see in front of her.
I look away quickly and after a few seconds and a few sighs she goes back to typing.
There are a few pictures on the wall too. They are all black and whites of children on swings or little girls holding flowers. There?s one of a windmill.
I wonder what I?m going to do with all the money I?m going to make here. I bet I?ll be able to buy a new car by next year. I'll just pay cash for it.
Tick tock tick tock
Click, click, click.
Type, type, type
After a little straining that I hide very well, I am able to tell that the design on the receptionist?s dress are actually little palm trees. It makes me think of ?Prodigal Sun? which is that movie with Denise Roden about how in a billion years the planet?s sun is going to explode and so these astronauts get sent to its core to stop it from exploding.
It was an apocalyptic look at earth?s distant future.
It was a little too heady for me.
Suddenly I realize my whole life is about to change. There?s going to be money and friends and fame and respect.
I?m going to be famous eventually. I?m going to get a lot of good things out of this. I wonder if I?ll be the anchor or the weatherman. Well, that?s at least a few months away. I?ve got to first start out at the bottom. That?s how they do it these days. That?s how Richard Ryan, host of ?The Early Show with Richard Ryan,? got his start. He started at the bottom.
My heart starts to pound a little bit faster and I can definitely feel myself sweating. It?s all over my forehead. When I wipe it off it gets all over my hand and I realize that soon I?ll be shaking the Director of Personnel?s hand.
I wipe the sweat off on my pants. Luckily they are black.
tick tock tick tock tick
type type type
It feels like my chest is going to cave in on itself. I start to choke. I need help.
There are tears burning in my eyes. I try to hold them back by coughing and squinting.
My legs get weak and shaky. I?m going to fall over. Oh God, this is too much for me. I can?t take this.
On the wall the clock is counting down the last seconds of my old life.
Change is scary, I guess. I just have to hold myself together and accept my fate.
twenty seconds from now, I?ll be a new man.
I close my eyes and take deep slow breaths.
I feel my heart slowing.
I?m calm. Breathing deep.
In and out. In and out.
Type type type.
Ten, nine, eight,
My chest relaxes. My legs find their strength
Seven, six, five
I think of water running softly from a faucet
Four, three, two
This is it. Life begins
The door is still closed. No one appears.
Ah, that figures. That?s how it goes.
Maybe this place isn?t as great as it seems to be, with Directors of Personnel being late and such. Maybe I shouldn?t work here.
I let out a disappointed sigh and sit down on the couch.
When the door finally does open I?m completely caught off guard. The man comes out and I almost don?t see him. He has to shout something really loud before I realize he?s there and he?s waiting for me.
I stand up and smile and walk toward him. I remember what I learned about job interviews. Dr. Brian, on the Dr. Brian Show, says that the best thing to do when going on a job interview is to make eye contact. So when I stand up I look directly at his eyes. He looks at mine but then kind of looks down at the receptionist.
She doesn?t pay attention.
She?s too busy typing.
I walk up staring at him the whole time. The only time I stop staring at him is when I walk by the receptionist. I look down at her and she looks up at me with that heavy forehead look. I wink at her to boost my confidence. Then I go back to looking at the man?s eyes.
Because I?m looking so hard at the guy?s eyes I don?t see the little end table that I run into.
I sure feel it though.
The man sees me run in to the table and smiles a little bit. He asks me if I?m OK.
I reach out to shake his hand, still making eye contact.
I say ? yes. I say that I?m fine.
I reach out and search for it. Finally I find his hand. It?s hard to shake hands while making eye contact.
He says,"Good." And then we?re in his office.
Inside the office there is a small oak desk with papers on it. The man sits down behind it and starts rummaging through them. There are a few pictures on the walls, mostly of horses, and wolves. There are bookshelves with books on them. The walls are the same as in the waiting room. The carpet is red.
The man is wearing a red tie with a white shirt. He stops looking through the papers and looks at me. I?m still standing in the doorway, unsure of what to do. He stands up and motions me toward the chair that?s sitting in front of his desk.
He sits when I sit and goes back to rummaging through the papers. He?s mumbling something about disorder. I don?t know what he?s saying exactly but I nod in agreement. I hope he doesn?t think I?m kissing butt.
Behind him on the wall is another clock. I can tell that we are five minutes and sixteen seconds late getting the interview started. I suppose these things happen.
There is another filing cabinet directly to the left of him, just like the two in the waiting room. On the filing cabinet is a picture of a little girl.
"Is that your daughter?"
He stops rummaging. "Huh? Oh, yeah, that picture."
"Yeah," he says. "What was your name again?"
"How old is she?"
"She?s seven now. Do you have kids?"
"No. Um, I mean no, sir, I haven?t had the pleasure yet."
"Oh, yeah, they?re a real pleasure." He rolls his eyes and emphasizes real. I guess to show his sincerity, but it comes off as though he is joking. He starts rummaging through the papers again.
"But she?s a real looker. What a doll." I say. "She?s going to be a hottie."
He stops rummaging and stares at me.
"I?m afraid," he says.
"Me too!" I gasp.
"What?" he squints his eyes.
He stares at me for a few seconds.
"I?m afraid," he says, "that I can?t find your resume. What?s your last name?"
"What?s a resume?"
He stares at me with squinty eyes. I wonder if he?s light sensitive.
"Didn?t you send us a resume?" he says.
"I don?t know," I say. "What?s a resume?"
"What are you here for?"
"I?m here for the job." I say.
"Which one," he says.
"Any. What do you have?"
"Did you talk to Sandra on the phone?"
"I talked to someone," I say. "It was definitely a girl."
"She scheduled the appointment right?"
"I don?t know."
"Did she tell you to come see me?"
"It was a lady. That?s all I know."
"What lady?" he says.
"The lady from the phone."
"Was it Sandra or was it Holly?"
"I don?t know. Can I have the job?"
"Which job?" he says.
"Were you here for the custodial engineer position?"
He rolls his eyes over me.
"I don?t think you?re here for the professional job." He says, and he says the word professional like it?s all in capitol letters.
He hands me a piece of paper that says APPLICATION FOR EMPLOYMENT on it, and says something about "waists in line" or "waifs in mine" or "wasting time."
He tells me to go back in the waiting room and fill it out and then "we'll give you a call."
He stands up.
I?m still sitting.
He waves his hands toward the door so I look over at it. It doesn?t look out of the ordinary.
"Is there anything else?" he says.
"yes" I say.
"Yes," I say louder.
"Can I please, pretty please have the job?"
He shrugs his shoulders so I shrug mine. He walks to the door and says that if I fill out the application I might get the job.
So I stand up and I?m all smiles. I rush to him and shake his hand firmly. I tell him I won?t let him down and I will do the best that I can.
He says that he is sure of that. And he motions me out of the office. He gives me a big smile that is sort of rubbery like melted plastic. It flops around when he speaks. He?s all teeth and gums and squinty eyes.
He?s all slicked back hair and red ties.
He?s pictures of horses and good looking daughters.
I start to walk out of the office but a thought occurs to me. I snap my finger and turn.
"Is there something else?" he says.
"Yes," I say louder.
"How long would it take a custodial engineer to work his way up to weatherman or anchorman? I?m real interested in starting from the bottom like Richard Ryan."
"I don't know," he says kind of stiff faced. The rubber's all gone and he's closing the door before I can say thank you.
Tom was here