Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Dog Incident

My job search has been going on for a long time and has resulted in many interesting and horrible experiences. More than seems fair, really. Here is a story about one of them.

Earlier this year I had an interview at a Public Relations Boutique in Seattle. It was one of my first interviews after graduating from collage and I was super excited. The job description I'd read online made it seem like a cool, hip place to work, full of interesting young people who probably went to coffee shops and listened to alternative music while wearing skinny jeans. The job description even said they bring their dogs to work! How laid back was that? And they must have a sense of humor, because the header for the job description read "Must Love Dogs!" I was sure I'd fit right in, since I wear skinny jeans and drink coffee and am awesome. Everyone would love me and I'd make a bunch of new best friends.

I got there (Pioneer Square) very early and decided to compound my extreme nervous excitement with some coffee from a nearby Starbucks.

That was my first mistake.

I finished my unnecessary coffee and, twitching with nerves and caffeine, entered the building and told reception that I was there for an interview. The receptionist told me it would be a few minutes and asked me to take a seat. I sat on one of the couches and fidgeted while I looked around. This PR boutique seemed so cool. They had trendy art on the walls, and slouchy couches, and everyone was drinking coffee and the receptionist had cool artsy glasses and there were dogs in the office! Dogs!!

I should explain that I don't particularly care for dogs. I am a cat person. But the idea of pets in the workplace? such a very cool concept to my young, inexperienced mind.

Eventually a young woman came over to lead me to her office and begin the interview.

I barred my teeth at my interviewer in a strange, caffeine filled grimace and gave her my full attention as she told me more about the position I had applied for. I decided that the best way to show I was paying attention would be to maintain eye-contact. And that is why I sat there, for about ten minutes, trying desperately not to blink, all while maintaining my insane grimace (because you should always smile in an interview). I was concentrating so hard on smiling and keeping up eye-contact that I didn't hear a word she said about the job. When she stopped talking and asked me if I had any questions about the position, I was stumped. My smile absolutely dripped off my face and my empty, unblinking eyes widened.

"N..No. No questions," I stuttered and, realizing my smile had slipped, immediately barred my teeth again.

And so the interview continued. She went on to ask about my study-abroad experiences, my communications classes and my previous work experience. We reminisced about the University of Washington (since we had both graduated from there,) and I thought the interview was going really well.

Then she asked about dogs.

"As you can see, we have a few dogs in the office. People bring them to work. Are you allergic to dogs?" She asked.

"No," I said. "I love dogs." Which was a lie, but I had decided that I could tolerate dogs in exchange for a job.

"Do you have a dog?" She asked me.

You must understand; I was desperate for these people to like me, so my first instinct when she asked if I had a dog was to lie and say I did. My imaginary dog's entire life history was on the tip of my tongue, name and breed included, but I knew how dangerous that could get, having become tangled in my own web of lies before. So I said no, I had cats, and insisted that she look at pictures of them because that's what I do whenever anyone shows even slight interest in my pets. She didn't seem overly impressed with Kiki and Archie, so I decided to move the conversation back to dogs.

"Do you have a dog?" I asked, staring unblinkingly at her.

She replied that she did not.

"Well, if you did have a dog, what breed would you want it to be?" I asked. I was desperate to stay on the subject of dogs, having somehow gotten it into my head that if I pretended to really like dogs, they would hire me on the spot.

"Um...I don't know. I've never thought about it, I guess," she said, shifting uncomfortably in her chair. I'm pretty sure she thought I was autistic or something, with my wide crazy eyes and weird smile and my inexplicable fascination with dogs.

"If I ever got a dog," I continued, "I'd get a Beagle. I think they're cute. Snoopy was a Beagle." There was a brief silence during which I smiled widely at her, proud to have demonstrated my dog-related knowledge.

She moved the conversation back to work related things and we talked for a little longer. Then finally, the interview was over. I stood up shakily, the caffeine rush having worn off mid-way through the meeting, and held out my clammy, slightly trembling hand for her to shake.

As we were walking out of her office, I was overcome with doubt. Had I convinced her of my awesomeness? Did she know how perfect and amazing I was? I decided I needed to do something drastic to establish myself in her mind as the perfect candidate for the job.

The first thing that came to mind, of course, was dogs.

"I think I saw a dog on my way here," I said, coming to a halt right outside her office door. She stared at me uncomprehendingly, so I clarified. "In the office. Is there a dog here?"

"Yes," she said, frowning and looking down the hall towards the exit, probably hoping I'd start walking again.

"Can I pet it?" I asked hopefully.

I don't know why I thought this question would help me get the job.

She looked confused. "You want to pet the dog? It's in another office. I guess I can go get it..?" She paused, clearly waiting for me to withdraw my request.

I just looked at her vacantly, unblinking. I tried to appear hopeful, but probably just managed to look desperate. I could feel the interview spiraling out of control but had no idea what to do to fix it. I was committed.

"Okay...just...stay here a minute." She left and returned shortly with a Golden Retriever. He sniffed the hand I offered but, as is usual for dogs when meeting me, seemed uninterested. I gave him a few perfunctory pats on the head and looked up with a smile. "Thank you," I said, "it was lovely to meet you. Thanks for your time." I was speaking to her, but she could very well have thought I was addressing the dog after my bizarre insistence upon meeting it. I shook her hand again, the one not holding the leash, and walked out of the office.

I did not get the job. In hindsight, I am not surprised.

Thus ends the Dog Incident of 2010.

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