Saturday, February 19, 2005

Magdalena: The Good News

Sunday morning Magdalena fixed herself a spinach-feta omelette and brewed some of her last supply of single estate Assam tea. She dined in a leisurely fashion over her brightly patterned blue and white tablecloth while she read the Saturday newspaper, which was cheaper and less time consuming than the Sunday paper. Eventually, when she felt sufficiently collected, she picked up the phone.

“Hello?” came the voice at the other end.

“Hello, Mom! It’s Magdalena!”

“Why, good morning, sweetie! It’s so good to hear your voice!”

“It’s good to talk to you too, Mom! How are you?”

“Well, I’m just fine. Everything’s fine. Your father’s burning the trash outside. How are you today?”

“I’m fine, Mom. Actually, I have news!”

“What is it?” Her mom sounded a little nervous, as if afraid Magdalena was about to announce the unveiling of her stegosaurus.

“I got a job, Mom!”

“Oh! Oh, that’s wonderful news! Your father and I have been pulling for you. You have so many talents, and we’ve just hated to see you get turned down. I don’t know what the world’s coming to today. Everyone’s out for themselves. People work at the same company until they’re 55, and then they’re let go so they don’t get their pension. It used to be that people stayed at the same company until they died, and now there’s no loyalty to employees. Your father and I are so lucky. Many of our friends aren’t so lucky. You know, when I went to look for work, a long time ago now, I went to one place, showed them my diploma, and they hired me. They didn’t interview me or talk to anybody about me; they didn’t ask me anything; they just hired me. Now you go to all these interviews, and you’re so smart and so talented, and I feel so bad for you! That’s just wonderful that you’ve been hired. I’m so glad for you. Your father will be so happy. Oh, but I do go on. What is your job, dear?”

“Don’t worry, Mom, that’s okay. I’m the facilitator at the snack bar at the new ski area on Mittelmont. I think I’m sort of in charge. The pay’s a lot better than at the library, and it’s full time. I’m really excited.”

“Oh, honey, that’s great. I hope they know how lucky they are to have you. Your father and I would like to see you start saving for retirement. This is a step in the right direction. We know you can do so much more than this, but it’s a foot in the door. That’s all you need.”

“Aw, thanks, Mom. I love you.”

“I love you too, honey. You be careful driving to and from Mittelmont. I don’t want to stand in your way, but you know it’s dangerous there, and if you work late, be sure to stay awake and watch for deer; don’t drive too fast at night...”

After assuring her mother of her never-ending vigilance, hearing tales of every visitor to her parents’ house in the past week and news of every acquaintance of these visitors as well, and eventually giving her own news to her father and dutifully taking note of a few stock recommendations, Magdalena hung up the phone, turned to her herbs, and said, “Feed me.” Then she remembered she’d just eaten an enormous breakfast, so she fixed herself a bowl of raspberry sorbet with a couple sprigs of fresh mint, wishing that just this once she had purchased double chocolate fudge brownie ice cream instead. Magdalena loved her parents more than anything else in the world, but for some reason their conversations often made her hungry.


Friday, February 11, 2005

Magdalena: The Interview

Magdalena proofread her application twice, stood up, paced the kitchen a few times, examined the contents of the refrigerator — a six-pack of water bottles with five left in it, two Pepsis, three different fruit juices, and a couple of yogurts not quite old enough to have value as antiques — ran her fingers over the countertop, gathered herself, and sat down again. She stared fixedly at the wall and took deep, slow breaths, willing herself into displaying composure.

She ran through potential interview questions in her head. What kind of supervisory experience do you have? Who was your least favorite boss, and why? How have you resolved a conflict turning it into a win-win situation, so that everything turned out better for all parties? Describe your organizational strategies. What would your references say about you if we called them? If an employee told you she defrauded the company out of 15 minutes’ pay, what would you do?

Eventually Amanda stretched her long, slender neck through the door frame. “All set, dear?”

“Yes, ma’am, I have everything here.”

“Wonderful, but please, just Amanda, not ma’am,” replied the willowy woman as she smoothly picked up Magdalena’s completed application with her sinuous white arm. She drew the papers to her and glanced through them. “You were in a Circle of the Arts? I love circles.”

“Oh, yes, we would sit in a circle and discuss our projects, and sometimes we’d take trips to Chicapolis...”

“Round trips?”

“Ah, yes....round trips.” Magdalena noticed that Amanda’s gold earrings were hoops.

“How lovely. And can you provide me with proof that you are authorized to work in the United States, and a copy of your diploma or transcript to verify your credentials?”

“Yes, I don’t have them with me, but I can bring them whenever you’d like! My references will verify my work history, too.”

“Oh, there’s no need to speak with your references. I trust you. Why don’t you start on Monday?”

“Monday? Yes! Yes, I’d love to! Um, what will I be doing?”

“Well, of course, you will work at our snack bar. I’d like you to be the facilitator, making sure there are no sharp edges to the services we provide for our guests. You know, serve as many round items as possible.”

“You mean like bagels?”

“Bagels! What a wonderful idea! I never thought of serving bagels! Yes, you see you are perfect for this role in our enterprise. I am never wrong. You will come in on Monday at 8 a.m. I will pay you ten dollars an hour. It is a nice, round number.”

“Th-thank you!” stammered Magdalena. “But I have an afternoon job, and I’ll have to give them two weeks’ notice before I can work here all day. I’m sorry, I’d like to come on full time right now, but I have an obligation...”

“Hm, that is a problem, but I believe we can work around it. I appreciate your candor. You will work every morning and also on weekends until you are free to adhere to a regular schedule of weekdays and alternate weekends. However, you will still begin work on Monday morning. We will not be ready for you tomorrow.”

“That’s wonderful! Thank you so much!” Magdalena tripped over her own tongue in her gratitude.

“You are welcome, my dear. I am willing to sacrifice a little to have you on board. An innovative mind like yours will do wonders for our snack bar. Bagels!” Amanda glided swiftly from the room.

Magdalena stared numbly at the table, picked herself up, and walked mechanically out of the building, meeting no one. Well, she thought, she had been through stranger interviews than that without getting hired. At least this one ended in a job offer. How bad could it be?

The fog lifted as she drove down from Mittelmont, but she continued to feel dazed. She drove along the county road through the fields, over the vivid purple bridge painted by the local contractor who believed bridges should never blend into the background, past a couple of gas stations, and eventually into her own narrow, pitted driveway.

She entered her house, stood stock still for a moment, then screamed, jumped up and down, and ran around from room to room telling her plants how excited she was. She figured that plants respond well to happiness, so maybe this would be good for their health. She hoped that her happiness would continue, and her plants would grow like gangbusters and take over the place.

The first order of business was a thank-you note, and Magdalena dug out her card stock. She looked at it for a moment, then painted a series of interlocking circles in pastel colors on one of the cards and set it aside to dry. What the heck, she painted a second card too, so she could choose the best one.

She glanced over at her Wandering Jew. He looked bigger.

The weekend passed quickly after that, and the hemlock began to look as if it was considering a move against Socrates in the near future.


Friday, February 04, 2005

Killing Bikinis in Winter

Today is my second-to-last weekday of unemployment, and it is 50 degrees out, so I went for a bike ride. I anticipated that the trail might be too snowy and I would not get my ride, and it was, and it was much muddier than I expected, but I rode a little anyway. I rode for 20 minutes, and I spent another 10 minutes brushing the worst of the sand and limestone off my bicycle. I would have gone longer, but the snowy parts were extremely bumpy, and I didn't want to trash my little hybrid bike, which is not the sturdiest thing in the world. I can't keep the front wheel tuned to save my life. At least the guy who sold it to me occasionally tunes the wheel for free, which makes me like him even though I told him I wanted a mountain bike, and he talked me into a hybrid bike instead.

When I can afford it, I will probably order my mountain bike through him, explaining to him in detail why it is that my fancypants shoes, which I insist on wearing when I am not riding or hiking, do not mean that I need a wimpy bicycle.

I am thrilled with my new job. I signed the contract yesterday. It is customary to celebrate these sorts of events with champagne, but I have recently been dumped and am still in the phase of listening to too much Bikini Kill. (I'd offer illustrative lyrics, but this is a polite blog.) Therefore, I bought something that is at once celebratory, consoling, and somewhat badly needed: a new pair of black leather shoes with silver metal buckles. My ideal shoe is a steel-toed black leather motorcycle boot covered in superfluous buckles, but I realize that it would create the wrong impression, so I content myself with snazzy women's low-heeled dress shoes accented with buckles.

I will be apartment hunting tomorrow, but I hope to find time to describe how Magdalena gets her own job.

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