I leapt out of bed early the next morning, ready for the day. (Definitely, not normal behavior.) My morning routine is usually a long and painful drama that sometimes ends in tears, but always includes snarling. But not this day, I had an interview in my field and was on the path to success. I was so sure this was my job; I treated myself to the garage. Parking excursions were not something I could handle, while preparing for the most important interview of my life.
I watched morning television in my suit until it was time to go. (I needed to get used to wearing it, I was going to be a business person.) Two hours before the interview, I left home armed with hand written directions, my poor ability to follow said directions and a full tank of gas. (The previous weekend I got lost in Reuben’s neighborhood for two hours. I just kept going up and down the same street looking for my turn, FOR TWO HOURS!!!) Given my track record, I had to prepare for the worst. But, I knew in my heart this day was different. (I only got lost twice and arrived forty-five minutes early!)
As I pulled into the parking lot, I got a little nervous. The location didn’t seem very arty. Maybe I had written the address down wrong. Maybe I was lost again, because I seemed to be in an office park for body shops. I stopped at the first garage and asked the mechanic if I was in the right place. He said “Yes” and pointed to the end of the parking lot. I drove down and parked next to the “office door.” (It had a sign on it that said office; otherwise it looked like a body shop.) There were old tires stacked by the door and other miscellaneous body shop debris lying around. This should have caused me more pause than it did. Instead, I decided they were a company of underground artists who spray painted building murals. In their free time, they did work on canvas. Presumably, they were Philly’s answer to Warhol’s Factory. I sat in my car and imagined myself running with the artistic elite.
At 3:45, I decided it was time to go in. When I opened the door, an unsettling feeling came over me. It felt like I was peering into another world (One where the sun was not welcome.) Everything went dark, as the door shut behind me. The room’s only light came from a couple of half dead fluorescent bulbs. The receptionist was sitting at a desk off to the side of the room. I walked over and said “My name is Cara, I am here for my 4:00 interview.” She looked up from her romance novel briefly and said “Ok”, then pointed across the room at the seating area. It was furnished in “Early American Parents Hand Me Downs.” (Brown nubby plaid sofa, an old ratty coffee table and a puce shag rug.) I perched on the very edge of the sofa, because it looked like it had been through a flood. The walls were covered in framed reproductions of the masters most recognized work (Monet’s Water Lilies, Dali’s Melting Clocks and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.) It wasn’t as underground chic as I thought it would be.
The receptionist walked to one of the doors at the back and screamed through, saying something to the effect of your four is here. I recognized her voice from my phone interview the day before. She walked back to the desk, grabbed her purse and started packing up to leave. As she was doing this, a toothless woman with horrible bleach blonde hair came out of the office and sat at the desk. Toothless slammed drawers and mumbled curse words under her breath while a cigarette hung precariously from her sunken, red lips. (Her drags were so long and deep she finished half the cigarette in one.) She pulled a giant pile of cash out of a drawer and started counting, never removing the cigarette from her mouth. I wondered if they were running a back to work program for homeless people.
The receptionist left and then one by one the strangest band of misfits arrived. First came Tracy, she was a skinny, jumpy, teenage girl, who laughed loudly, often and at inappropriate times. Then came Rich, he looked a little like Anthony Kiedes during the drug years, (but not as clean.) Then Dan, he was a football player type who liked to say f*ck a lot. (Also missing a few teeth.) Finally, came Tara, the most normal of the group. (She kind of looked like Stevie Nicks and was the only one who seemed to have bathed recently.) They could have been in the cast of Trainspotting except for the Philly accents.
I was so mesmerized by the Misfits, I found myself unable to stop staring. Dan and Rich play wrestled while Tracy was giggling in weird spastic spurts. They were making so much noise, the room was vibrating. Toothless started screaming unintelligibly at them. In unison, the Misfits screamed back. It seemed like a hostile exchange, but then everyone broke into laughter. I turned my head for a second to watch this old dude (he was 30) walk through the room. When I turned back, the misfits were focused on me. Rich (Anthony Kiedes) asked me all the obvious questions like “Are you applying? (What else would I have been doing in a garage/office in a suit?) “What’s your name?” ”Your accent is weird, where are you from?” The others sort of chattered behind him with comments like. “Oh that’s cool.” “Her accent is weird.” Then, as quickly as they had focused on me, they went back to screaming at each other.
Tara turned to me and quietly started coaching me on what to say during my interview. She also gave me the social structure of the clan. Apparently, toothless was soon to be the wife of the boss. The whole band of misfits was in the wedding, which was going to be a Wiccan ceremony in the woods. (I had no idea what that was, but I smiled and nodded.) Then she told me that John (The Boss) was a Druid and Toothless was a high priestess (It was hard to believe she was anything but just plain high.) The men were to wear robes and the women, corseted wench outfits. Toothless chimed in and started describing her bridal wear. She was going to wear an outfit made entirely of white sheer lace, possibly with her crotch out. She wasn’t really sure yet, but it would have a hood. I was now actively stamping down a little voice in my head that was telling me to run.
John finally came out to get me. He was a tall guy about my age with long greasy red hair and a big red bushy beard. He was dressed like a burnout, in cargo shorts and a Grateful Dead t-shirt. John took me back to his office. It was a horrible mess of paper, old filing cabinets and the back wall was a windowed garage door. (The windows had been blacked out with construction paper.) We both sat down on either side of an enormous metal desk covered in mounds of paper and an ash tray that had apparently, never been emptied. I handed over my resume. He took a quick look and then started asking me about my personality. You know the questions, i.e. (“Are you a go getter?” ”Do you like people?”) I said, “Yes” enthusiastically to everything. John told me that he had started six months earlier selling reproductions and now he had his own crew. He also said “Your success in this business is completely dependent on how much effort you put in.” I told him about my aspirations in photography and my time working in retail. He said, “Boy you sound like a great fit. I would like for you to come back tomorrow at 8am for training with Tara.” (Thank G*d it was Tara.) Then he said, “You’ll shadow her on sales calls,” (I wondered where we would be calling.) ”Then you can decide if this is really something you want to do.” I said “Thank you so much for the opportunity.” (I still wasn’t sure what the “opportunity” was. I knew it involved selling art posters, but to whom and where?) The lack of information didn’t seem to have any effect on my excitement. We shook hands and I walked out of his office and Tara gave me a look and I gave her a thumbs up. She smiled, nodded and said congratulations. I left the garage/office on cloud nine. (A job was a job.)
I decided to find Reuben and tell him the good news. So, I drove out to his parent’s house and relayed the day’s excitement to him and his mother. Both of them “looked” excited, even though I was giving them a very vague description of a job. Naturally, I left out detailed descriptions of the people, office and the Wiccan stuff.
Reuben and I went out for a celebratory dinner and then I drove back to Sarina’s to prepare myself for my first day of work. For the first time since I moved to Philadelphia, I went to bed excited. If this worked out, I could start school! Things could only get better…… Tune in for the next installment.