I drifted in and the universe shifted. Theirs and mine, both comfortably unaccustomed to each other. Though, to be fair, They probably didn't notice. The lobby was unassuming enough: stylish asian girl at the reception desk, shiny floors, shiny windows, shiny counters, walls adorned in “modern art” probably purchased from ikea. All the same, it reeked of sin. Sin is a strong word. It reeked of a foreign world, as strongly as an unwelcome barrel of kimchi brought by your korean roomie into the dorm.
I filled out the clipboard-mounted application and waited, observing but refusing to take in my surroundings. The phone rang, and a suit-wearing young man leaned over the counter to answer: “Yo.” A smile crept its way onto my lips. It felt sneaky, being here. I had crossed over into enemy territory. But my skirt matched my shoes today, and no one was the wiser.
After a few minutes of strategic loitering, a tall man who resembled a pencil strutted around the corner, moving as if constrained to a grid. He took a moment to look each of the three of us in the eye. He was good. “Hello,” he said. A statement. We responded simultaneously in a cacophony of salutation. I refused to break eye contact. What a fun game this was turning out to be.
We introduced ourselves. “David.” “Erin.” “Jennifer—I had an interview at 5:15?”
It was 5:24.
“Did you just get here?” Jordan demanded, leaning forward in an effort to indimidate. A successful effort, I daresay.
“Yes.” Her honesty, at least, was admirable.
“Why were you late?”
“The MAX....” Poor Jennifer.
That apparently wasn't worth responding to. Jordan briskly turned and walked away. I laughed audibly.
He returned momentarily and ordered us to follow him. He was smiling, but it felt more like a sneer.
There were three rolling chairs situated in the conference room. Ah ha ha, we've been waiting for you....I sat down a bit too eagerly and rolled a few feet. David, on the other hand, had this down. He sat confidently, calmly, his back quite perpendicular to the floor.
Jordan preferred to stand. He towered over us, a statue of perfectly coordinating suit/tie/vest topped by a handsome face of stone and meticulously arranged chestnut hair. I wondered if he dyed it. He seemed the type.
“So do you know what we do here?” he asked, a challenge. But I had done my research.
I repeated precisely the description I had read online. “....or so I understand. Is that right?”
“That's exactly right, Erin.” He then proceeded to deliver his sales pitch to us. Oh, Jordan. You think I read your website but neglected to read the myriad of pages complaining about the fraudulent nature of your so-called-business? Not so.
I listened to his spiel, smiling politely when he chose to direct his comments toward me. He was now describing the job. Describing the ideal employee. Throwing out all those bohemian profanities: “driven.” “motivated.” “tenacious.” tenacious. Jordan, I can't even be bothered to capitalize my letters.
He explained how selective the business was, illustrating how much they had grown in their short time of operation. He paused every so often, at which point Jennifer and David (good little students!) were to comment: “Nice!” “Wow, that's impressive.” I was growing tired of the charade and my polite smile had shifted into a bit of an apathetic smirk. Jordan had begun to delineate the training period. We would spend a trial week “working our tails off,” after which the company would decide whether or not we were a valuable asset. He was telling us now because “the company” didn't like to “string people along.”
“I'm not going to lie; about 1 in 4 people makes the cut.” He happened to glance at me and I quickly shifted my facial expression to one of mock determination. After a bit more rambling about the job (“this isn't a job; this is a career.”), he asked us, with all the authority of a hockey coach in an inspirational film, “Can you do it?” This seemed to leave two options: you can do it, and you are a success; or you can't do it, and you are a failure.
Jennifer stumbled over her answer. “Sales isn't my favorite thing....but I can do it.” Way to try, Jennifer. Jennifer was 3 in 4.
David sat taller and gave the best speech i've heard in a long time. At least, the most ambitious and tenacious one i've heard. David had what it takes to be 1 in 4.
And then Jordan shifted his piercing gaze to me. I smiled wider and cocked my head to the side. “I'm really good at talking to people. And I'm really good at getting people to talk to me. But I can only commit to a few months, and I don't want to 'string the company along,' so to speak.” I used air quotes, with a smug satisfaction I have rarely known. “So thank you for the opportunity, but I don't think this company is right for me.” I stood and reached out to shake his hand. There was a moment of stunned silence as Jordan gathered himself and his fallen sales pitch. Then, with a respect generally reserved for those of his own kind, he nodded and shook my hand. I spoke to the three of them: "Thank you for your time, and good luck to you both.” I didn't look back until I was in my car. The building didn't look foreboding, as it had when I'd pulled up. It looked small and dim and hopeless. I hated this world, and I was never going back.