Thursday, April 29, 2010
The Strong Man Looks For Work
I attended graduate school in Winter Park, Florida, which is basically Orlando. Life was good in Florida. I made amazing friends and learned a great deal. One thing that followed me to the sunshine state, however, was The Dark Cloud. It would sometimes raise its ugly head at inopportune moments, causing fits of anxiety that could only be relieved by a nice, slowly-paced trip to Wal-Mart. I suspect that many people may use Wal-Mart to relieve anxiety or to replace a therapy session or simply to just feel better about themselves. This was in the days before the website http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/ existed. One visit to Walmart will confirm that your life is not nearly as bad as you probably thought it was before you entered the Store That Ate All Other Stores. Peopleofwalmart.com now provides the same therapy, unless, of course, you have seen a picture of yourself on this website. If that is the case, please, I beg you, call me. I must (a) meet you in person (b) have someone take a picture of the two of us together and (c) Friend you on Facebook. Actually, when I visit the peopleofwalmart.com I usually look with one eye open and one eye closed, cringing my body. I know it is just a matter of time before I see someone from my hometown, most likely a member of my own family on this web site. In fact, you could do an entire site devoted to the Wal-Marts of Southeastern Kentucky, in particular the family of Keith Stewart.
The Dark Cloud would also manifest itself in much larger ways than could ever be cured with going somewhere to laugh at others. On occassion, okay a lot of times, relief would require beer. Lots and lots of beer. Many times the Cloud would go to job interviews with me. In one interview, when asked what magazines I read, I went completely blank, then stammered out "Time (which I have never read to this day, Entreprenuer (nope, not read it), and The Cat's Pause." The Cat's Pause? Did that really just come out of my mouth? The Cat's Pause is a weekly newspaper that is devoted to the University of Kentucky Wildcats. I HAD read the Cat's Pause in my childhood. I had even cut out pictures of basketball stars Rick Robey and Kyle Macy and hung them on my wall when I was 9. I had not, however, seen a Cat's Pause in 20 years, and why I thought that 5 men dressed in three-piece suits from the Harris Corporation, a U.S. defense contractor and aeronautical firm, wanted to hear about it was beyond me. At least I had not told them the truth about my magazine reading habits, which included Entertainment Weekly, Mad Magazine, and The National Enquirer. I may as well have said that I read High Times and Tattoo Weekly, though, given the look on the men's faces. Ironically enough, I made such fun of Sarah Palin last year for being tripped up on the same question by Katie Couric. Touche, Ms. Palin, touche.
For another job interview, I was flown to Dallas, Texas, for a position at EDS. Don't ask me what EDS stands for, I have no idea. Thank goodness that wasn't one of the interview questions. EDS housed all the finalists in town for the job interview in their own company apartment complex. Upon arriving and getting settled into our temporary rooms, an official EDS bus was scheduled to pick us up at our door at 6:00 p.m. for the ride to headquarters for dinner and a "meet and greet." I dressed, primped, fluffed, and buffed myself into a shiny, professional looking almost-MBA and waited outside for the bus. As I saw it coming down the street, full of the other finalists, I turned to lock the door of my apartment. I fumbled with the key and dropped it. As I bent down to pick it up and I heard a horrible rip, then a slight breeze on my derriere. Yes, indeedy, my pants had split open from stem to stern. The bus was, at this point, in front of my door waiting, so I ran to its open door, and told the driver and the other 4 candidates that I would be just a minute, that I needed to go change my pants as I had ripped the ass out of the pair I was currently wearing.
The day before my interview at the Walt Disney Company, my friends Traci and Jan had driven me to the dry cleaners to pick up my interview suit. "Oh, Mr. Stewart, we been trying to call you all day," says the dry cleaner of Asian descent . "I am afraid your suit was in the fire." "THE WHAT?" "The fire, you not notice the smoke? The smell?" I had, indeed, noticed both the smoke and the chemical smell all day in the neighborhood, but had never dreamed it had been billowing from the one place in the city of Orlando that I had left my only suit to be cleaned for my big interview. I vividly remember saying to the clerk, "Let me tell you something, little man. I have a job interview tomorrow at Walt Disney, and I have to have that suit. I am interviewing for a job at the corporate office, not to play Mickey Mouse or to sell turkey legs on Main Street U.S.A. Now, I don't care if you have to go walk through that fire, YOU GO GET MY SUIT." The man whose primary language was not English politely smiled at me and replied "Yes, we call you if we find it." Something in me snapped. My language and actions, I am now embarrassed to say, got much worse and I acted out on the dry cleaner. Unflustered, the man kept smiling and nodding, saying, "Tomorrow." Finally, red-faced and defeated, I started back to the car. Traci and Jan had witnessed the entire episode from the front seat. They knew better than to ask any questions until we had driven in silence to the Orlando Ale House and had secured ourselves a pint of beer each.
The good news is that the Dark Cloud only toys with me. It just makes me work harder, makes me stronger, makes me want it more. My suit was retrieved from the fire-filled dry cleaning facility. I wore it to my interview even though it had a charred, smoky smell to it. I even got job offers from EDS and Walt Disney! So, the Dark Cloud was just playing with me. It just had to make sure that I really, really wanted those jobs!
P.S. Instead of shopping at Wal-Mart, shop locally-owned stores and use/consume locally produced items when you can, but please do have a laugh at http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/!