May 27, 2012

Why I Didn’t Get That Homeland Security Job


Out of simple desperation a few weeks back, I decided to do something I’d been forced into a few other times in the past. After noticing the laughable state of my bank account, I began applying (if a bit reluctantly) for jobs. I sent out dozens of resumes. Jobs for which I was highly qualified and jobs that made sense—or at least would have made sense for any other living creature with the same background. It seems these jobs made a little less sense for a blind drunk with a too-public reputation for general orneriness. Still, I tried.

        When none of those came to a whiff of anything beyond the occasionally polite rejection, I was forced into another desperation move I’d tried a few times in the past. Thing is, this one usually worked, for better or worse.

        When the jobs that make perfect sense and for which I am qualified don’t pan out, I go to the other extreme. That’s when I start looking for absolutely insane jobs—positions for which I have no qualifications and no experience. Stupid jobs that at the very least promise to be hilarious and interesting in their own way. Sad thing is, those are the jobs that always come through. It’s how I became a bill collector and a security guard. It’s how I would have become a liquor store box boy at age thirty-five, too, had I not decided to write a two-part story (complete with real names) about how stupid the whole thing was before the owner made up her mind.

        Instead of looking for “help wanted” signs or looking in the newspaper classifieds as I had in the past, this time I did what everyone else does, and went online.

        It didn’t take long. Within ten minutes I’d found my new career: Homeland Security was hiring.

        So I wrote a glowing letter about my deep and abiding interest in domestic security, citing particular interests and even citing my old novel Unplugging Philco as evidence that my sincerity was honest and for true. I attached my resume and zipped the whole shebang off into the ether, fully expecting to receive an offer by day’s end. Well, either a job offer or an ominous knock on my door.

        I more expected the former, though. Something this stupid and insane just had to pan out, right? If anyone was out there consciously looking to hire paranoids, Homeland Security would be it. I began looking ahead to all the attractive high strangeness that would be involved, and grew a little more excited than was perhaps necessary. And hell, after everything, maybe it would be nice to ride out the last ten years of my life with a cushy federal job.

        Well, I never heard a peep. That had been a damn good letter, too.

        Now I was forced to look back and try to figure out what exactly it was that I’d done wrong. Why wouldn’t Homeland Security want me? There’d been all those articles and rants I’d published, I suppose, but that couldn’t be it. There’d been a few interviews too, where I spoke of my deep respect for the Unabomber. I doubted that had anything to do with it either. And it certainly couldn’t have been Unplugging Philco, simply because no one had read Unplugging Philco.

        Then I remembered something else. A warm summer afternoon in 2004, I believe it was. Morgan and I were just returning to my apartment in Park Slope from someplace. Maybe the grocery store. In any case, we were on the sidewalk in front of my building when a rental car pulled up along the curb and stopped.

        A Middle Eastern man of about thirty leaned his head out the window. “Excuse me?” he said. “Can you help us?”

        He seemed polite enough so, being helpful sorts, we agreed. The man shut off the car and he and his two friends (also of some Middle Eastern extraction) stepped out. One of them was clutching a road map. Both the friends seemed a little jittery for some reason, and never spoke.

        “We have been driving up and down Sixth Avenue for an hour,” the driver said. “But we can’t find the Impure State Building. Can you tell us where we need to go to find it?”

        “Oh, well, that’s easy,” I told him, relieved to finally be asked directions I could help with. “See, the trouble is the, ah, Impure State Building is in Manhattan, and right now you’re in Brooklyn.”

        “Brooklyn?” the man said. He turned to his friend with the map and muttered something angrily in a foreign tongue. I expected him to smack the kid across the side of the head, but instead he turned back to us with a smile. “Can you tell us where we need to go? We would very much like to see it today.”

        “Oh, sure. No problem—though you might want to write this down. Now, what you do here, see, is drive down here two blocks, then take a left.” I gestured with my left hand just to confirm for myself that I was sending them the right way. I still have trouble with left and right.

        “Go up one block to Seventh Avenue and take another left. Drive straight ahead—are you getting all this? Drive straight on Seventh until you hit Flatbush. On Flatbush take another left, got it? And drive straight. You’ll start seeing signs for the Brooklyn Bridge—a very important and beautiful bridge here in New York. You’ll want to go across that into Manhattan, and on the other side you’ll want to be going to your right. That’ll be north. You following me so far?”

        “Yes. Yes indeed—thank you.”

        Then I handed things over to Morgan, who knows Manhattan better than I do, and she gave them directions the rest of the way.

        The three men were very grateful for the help, and seemed awfully anxious to get on their way so they could reach the building before it got too late in the day. They hopped back in their car and drove off, as Morgan and I wished them luck and waved.

        “Damn,” I said. “I should’ve warned them about the parking over there.”

        “Oh,” they’ll be okay.”

        As we headed up the stairs to the front door feeling good for having helped out a fellow human being, I paused just a moment.

        “Y’know, if they really do blow it up, I’m gonna be awfully embarrassed. I love that building.”


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