Category Archives: New York City

Through the wringer

I guess I’ll start this off the Kurt Vonnegut Jr way and give you the ending first — I was offered a job this afternoon, a long-term temp job in medical editing, and I am very happy. I start on Tuesday (no more sleeping late!).

But I still wanted to write a bit about some of what led up to that, as yesterday was quite challenging emotionally and physically.

To start off, I wasn’t happy with my interview suit, and I’d picked shoes that went with the suit but were uncomfortable. I knew this, but I figured I could tolerate them for a short time, and I put them in my shoulder bag. I’d wear sandals and switch right before I got to the interview.

Oh — I also wasn’t having my best hair day. I managed to get it reasonably under control. I was wearing jewelry when I left the house but when I saw myself in the mirror later I didn’t like the look, so I took it all off. Basically, I was approaching the interview a little uncertain about my appearance even though I was wearing the “right” clothes and should have felt just fine.

I was meeting a friend later in the afternoon and would have a few hours to kill in between. So I brought the current manuscript I was proofreading plus my journals. I shouldn’t have brought them, I should have just grabbed a few sheets of scrap paper in case inspiration hit. Then there was the folder of materials to prep for the interview and a small makeup kit and hairbrush. The bottom line was that my bag was quite heavy.

The recruiter had called me on Wednesday and set up the interview for 10 a.m. Thursday. Unbelievably, I had gotten a second call on Wednesday from another agency, which wanted me to do a phone interview at 10 a.m. on Thursday. I haven’t gotten a bite in months and now two potential employers want to see me at the same time? I told the second agency I couldn’t do 10 a.m.–what about the afternoon? She said the company didn’t do interviews in the afternoon–what about 11 a.m.? I said that was cutting things rather close. She suggested 11:30 and I reluctantly agreed to that time, knowing I was still cutting things too close and there was a good chance I would not be done the first interview.

The second job, by the way, was a temporary fundraising/telemarketing gig. I wasn’t exactly jumping at the bit for that kind of position, but since I wanted to show the agency I was willing to work, I thought it best not to turn it down flat. I simply should have said, “No, I won’t be able to do the phone interview on Thursday morning.”

I got to my 10 a.m. interview a few minutes early, just as another person was arriving, and she was there to see the same recruiter I was seeing. Wasn’t sure if this was a bad sign or not. I tried not to think about it.

The receptionist then handed me the most massive application packet I’ve ever seen. Besides the application itself there were at least 20 other forms to read, fill out and sign. I even had to give them a voided check and routing numbers for direct deposit.

The paperwork took a long time, almost an hour and a half. I estimated I’d printed my name 19 times, signed it 16 times, given my date of birth 15 times, provided my Social Security number 10 times, and wrote my address and phone number 9 times.

Then they took me into a computer room where I had to fill out information and my job history again–electronically this time. Then I had to take a proofreading, MS Word and MS Excel tests. I finally met with the recruiter at around 12:45, and was finished at 1:05.

Jumping back, a few minutes before 11:30, I asked for a bathroom break. I had the second company’s name and number and needed to call to try to reschedule the interview. That was all I was calling about; I didn’t think I needed to have the agency’s name handy.

The lady on the other end of the line didn’t seem too happy about my requesting a new time. It turns out I’d written down the name of the interviewer wrong. I remember repeating the name to the agency representative, but either she had mispronounced it or I just hadn’t heard it correctly. I had written down a similar-sounding, but different, name.

As a result of this mix-up, I suppose I didn’t sound very bright on the phone (I didn’t know I had the wrong name until later–I was simply surprised when they told me there was no one there by that name). They told the agency rep that I was “unprofessional.” I guess if I were the person awaiting my call and didn’t know what had happened I would have called me “unprofessional” too, but there was a lot out of my hands. It was unprofessional of me to agree to the interview, that’s for sure.

I wasn’t sure about writing about that event in my blog, but I think I am going to leave it in because I want to show that not everything goes perfectly all the time. I’m sure others can identify with similar mix-ups. Even though we’re supposed to be competitive and knowledgeable and always well-prepared, sometimes things happen.

Anyway, the main interview went well, I thought, but you never can quite tell. Later that day the rep called back and said I had an interview set up with the actual company for 1 p.m. today.

It was business casual, she said. Business casual, huh? Is this going to be a trap? I decided to wear black slacks, a nice button-down shirt and a suit jacket. The shoes were comfortable. The bag wasn’t too heavy. I had all my information and gave myself plenty of time to get there. And I had researched the company as best I could with only one night to do so.

What a relief to see the interviewer come into the room wearing blue jeans. She was friendly, the second staff person I met was friendly, and I was ready with prepared questions (yes, I wanted to do everything right after the previous day).

I took a fact-checking and two proofreading tests, and that was it. Handshakes all around. The interviewer said I was the last of the interviews and they hoped to make a decision by that afternoon.

And less than two hours later I got the call–I’d made the cut.


Goodnight, Irene

Not to make this weekend’s storm all about me or anything, but one good thing about being out of work is that I didn’t have to worry about this morning’s commute into the city. I offered to drive my husband into the city if it turned out to be an issue.

He usually takes the MTA Express Bus from our corner; in Manhattan he transfers to the 1 Train south to Houston Street. He had planned to walk south if the trains weren’t running; his office is about a half-hour walk from the bus stop. But he told me that the trains were back in service when he got into town.

The subways had been shut down at noon on Saturday in anticipation of the storm. Some anonymous MTA employees called it a massive overreaction, but considering how lack of preparation has led to horrible devastation during other storms and natural disasters, maybe it was the best thing they could do. The trains were running this morning, and a lot of people apparently chose not to go to work, so the commute was not the hellish scenario my husband had anticipated.

The ever-helpful MTA announced that riders who prepaid for unlimited Metro cards will not get refunds on the two days they lost. I hope they change their minds on that one. It really is nasty to stick it to people like that, especially those who may already have lost money by not being able to get to work this weekend.

The worst of my problems, as I finally emerged from the apartment after two days, was that I could not get to Michael’s Art & Crafts because roads were closed, either by downed trees or downed wires. Reports were that over 4 millions homes and businesses lost power, and I’m guessing that Michael’s and other stores along Northern Boulevard were affected, because employees were not answering the phone. I ended up at my local Staples instead, a veritable nightmare of parents and kids swarming the aisles, hunting and gathering school supplies. I escaped as soon as I could claw my way through to the door. The last weekend in August doesn’t mean that much to you when you don’t have kids–until you encounter a whole congress of them in one place.

A little excursion around my neighborhood found the downed tree pictured above, just a few blocks away. It was a pretty large tree and was completely across the street — but it appears it did not damage anything except the sidewalk. A good example of what could have happened, but didn’t, during Hurricane Irene.

Spaced out on the train

This has nothing to do with writing or editing, it’s just a little NY Slice of Life. I plan to post SOLs occasionally when the mood strikes.

One of my “issues” (I have many) about life in the big city is that I get anxious over people being too close to me in public. There are times when you have to put up with touching others; during rush hour on the subway there’s no way around it. I’m OK with that. I have to get somewhere and it’s unavoidable.

But if someone’s breathing down my neck in the subway and there’s plenty of room on the platform, I keep my eye on that person because I don’t trust him. In other words, he makes me nervous. He’s either up to no good or there’s simply something “off” about him because he’s standing that close. I say “him” but it could just as easily be a woman.

I like to space myself out on the train or the bus. As a matter of fact, all people who ride public transportation should should space themselves out. If one person is in the first seat, the proper course of action is to take the back seat, or at least the middle. If the bus or subway car is mostly empty, I don’t sit next to the only other person there. And if I’m the one who’s there first and someone sits close to me, I’ll probably move.

I got on the LIRR (Long Island Railroad) recently with a friend. It was early on a Sunday afternoon, so the train from Great Neck to Manhattan was not crowded. A lot of those seat pairs that face each other were available. My friend wanted to grab one of those. I don’t normally sit in these seats, mainly because if the train gets crowded and all four of these seats have to be occupied, they are too tight for strangers to share–in my opinion, of course. (This is all about my opinion.) Since it seemed unlikely that we’d have to share seats with strangers that day, I reluctantly agreed.

My friend moved toward one of those seats, which was opposite a family with a few kids. I signaled “no” to her and urged her to move on. A baby was screaming in the next car so we moved on again. We finally found a seat in the third car, which was almost empty. Two passengers were across the aisle from us in the pair of seats that mirrored ours. I already felt uncomfortable because I was violating my normal spacing “rules” (there were plenty of empty seats away from other people), but I sat down facing my friend and tried to be OK with it.

However, I soon realized that the young couple across the aisle from us was making out, and because they were facing forward and I was facing backward, we were in each other’s lines of vision.

Excuse me, but … no, this isn’t happening. I don’t mind Public Displays of Affection, but I have my limits. Watching a couple kiss and grope all the way to the city wasn’t how I wanted to spend my ride. My friend was facing forward so I don’t think she realized why I was uncomfortable. I moved and sat right next to her on the same seat. I felt foolish explaining why I’d moved, so I lied: “I think we can hear each other better if we are next to each other.”

She seemed to buy this, and we both put our feet up on the opposite seat and relaxed, having some nice conversations all the way into town.

On the way home, my friend again chose a pair of facing seats. The guy across from us was practically the only other person in the car and there were plenty of secluded seat options that we passed up. I don’t know if I was transferring my uncomfortable feelings onto him, but he seemed anxious, the way he kept shuffling his newspaper and slamming sections of it down onto the seat. Once again, I felt weird explaining my feelings to my friend. I admit they are not logical. Maybe part of it is simply not wanting to bother other people, which I do realize is an impossible dream–people bother other people, especially in NYC.

So I put up with our seating choice but kept my eye on the nervous news reader across the way. I was very relieved when he finally got off the train at Auburndale.