The Inquisition

The two ladies on the left side of the table appeared hollow or rather bored to the point of emptiness. If you drilled a hole in their forehead and sent a stiff breeze through the cavity, cobwebs and dust bunnies would explode from their ears like party favors. The eyes betrayed them. Not their voices, full of professionalism and interest, gleefully reading their typed questionnaires. Or their fingers, quickly taking note of my responses enthusiastically given or my aphorisms, recited with honesty and respect for my past students.

No their eyes seemed to demand, even plead me to finish, to stop. Nothing about their eyes encouraged me or suggested any particular curiosity about my life or experiences. Or the answers to the typed questionnaire. As such, two minutes into the interview I arrived at the answer, the truth that the eyes were attempting to transmit across four feet of table space:

“We already chose someone else. This job. . . this interview is not for you.”

Not that this epiphany diminished my enthusiasm.  Everyone chooses ‘the best’ until they meet someone better.  Like playing Link to the Past before Ocarina of Time, or watching Fellowship before Return of the King. I must out-perform my predecessors.

List the steps you would take to making good choices.

Unless your response involves rolling dice or Jack Daniels, most answers were accepted here.

Their questions recalled eighth-grade religion exams, superficial and vague. What would you say are the three most important characteristics for teaching teens? Describe one time in your life when faced with stress and how you dealt with it. How important is social-networking in the modern library setting?

Patience, respect, and enthusiasm. Organic chemistry and Maxwell House. Very.

After several more rounds of question-answer, in which I attempted to provoke a smile from my thin-mouthed Inquisitors, the ladies released the grip on their pens, their stapled handouts, for my presentation.

A week prior, the library sent me an assignment to bring to my interview: design a class for teens and be prepared to talk about it during the interview. Again the open-endedness of the assignment gave me reason to pause: What kind of class did my Inquisitors expect? Chemistry? A demonstration on exothermic and endothermic reactions? Or perhaps the effective strategies of tanks in Warcraft? The exclusion of leveling in the modern MMORPGs? I could do that. No, no doubt they expected a class on social media, on the use of technology. Library stuff.

Hell, well, that’s . . . unfortunate. Haven’t really studied anything library-related for about three years. Not entirely confident in my ability to BS the topic either, which considering one professor spent an entire semester of a Master’s seminar teaching customer service (e.g. be polite to patrons, do not shout at patrons, reassure angry or upset patrons, write down patron requests on paper with pen or mechanical pencil) should attest how little I’ve immersed myself in my chosen profession after three years of unemployment by any book depository. Thus, after perusing past notes, I stumbled upon a useful website recommended by several graduates of the Master’s program on Library and Information Sciences.

Yes, I Googled it.

My research carried me to a research article published several months ago by the ALA citing that more teens and young adults are seeking libraries for tech advice. That kids may understand texting, Facebook, and Google, but still feel lost when confronted with HTML, CSS, and PHP. That kids’ creativity and work could potentially become a lucrative business in time. More importantly, how posting information and using Web 2.0 programs can hurt others and potentially lead to lawsuits and copyright infringements.

Thus, I decided to craft a class on blogs and blogging, using the platform as an introduction to web safety and computing languages. Teach what you know, right?

After my Powerpoint presentation, the ladies thanked me for my time and showed me to the door. My work had earned no applause or questions, just a simple nod of the head and gesture towards the closest egress. If the aura of the room had altered in any way, I might have felt a little offended or hurt, but their attitude appeared more or less consistent: impassive, unresponsive, bored. Ergo, I retained some semblance of hope as I re-packed my laptop.

Leaving the Inquisitors with my resume, application, and a printed memento of my presentation (signed “Stay classy, Baltimore.”), I slipped through the door and drove off to Barnes & Nobel for a coffee and an iced tea. Sipping a drink in one hand, a stack of books beneath the other, I plotted a familiar course through the stacks, browsing new releases and revisiting old friends: Twain, Doyle, Kate Upton on the cover of Sports Illustrated. I was considering Burroughs’ Thuvia of Mars, when the old woman tapped me on the shoulder.

“Excuse me, young man,” she coughed. “Could you help me? My niece just finished the Hunger Games series. Can you recommend any similar books?”

“Sure,” I smiled, a little confused but already mulling over the possibilites. “Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury if she likes dystopian novels. Brave New World and 1984 are also excellent classics.” I tried to remember who wrote “The Lottery” or “The Most Dangerous Game.”

“But for young adults . . . try Divergent by Ross . . . no, Roth. Very well recommended.”

The old woman thanked me, and it took me several minutes to realize that in my collared shirt and slacks, I had donned the apparel of a bookseller. Proving if anything that employed or not, I am what I am.  On the way out my hand gripped the last Hunger Games novel — the woman had reminded me that I had never finished the series — and I strode from my adopted office, anticipating a long afternoon of coffee and Katniss.

3 thoughts on “The Inquisition

  1. The mistaken identity thing happened to me in reverse. I was doing work experience as a hotel receptionist in what the locals called a castle, but which was really just a hunting lodge which had been transformed into a discrete, frightfully expensive hotel. The daughter of the owner, a Count, was the Hotel Manager. She had a habit of roaming around the reception area in shorts and thongs. I was dressed in the recommended black and white. Customers frequently mistook me for the Count’s daughter, several times in her presence and once in that of the Count. This did not go down well with either of them and, needless to say, I was not asked to remain on the staff at the end of my work experience month.

  2. Well, appearance and confidence contribute about 75% to any successful job. All that remains is performance, which is easy and often unnecessary.

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