Friday, August 05, 2005

Interview with the Lamp Buyer

Thursday morning. Recently.
Christ, the place was huge. I sat in the parking lot, re-combing my mustache after the drive over and marveling at the hangar-like building that housed World of Lamps and Adhesives. The yellow steel structure was 100 yards wide across the front--something I'd keep in mind for estimating range. In addition to its massive physical size, the discount warehouse store is also one of my area's largest employers, which is what had brought me there that day.
I hadn't had steady employment since Taco Bell fired me, and I'm not the kind of guy who can sit around doing nothing. It amazes me that welfare cheats and college professors can face themselves in the mirror every day, while real Americans go out and work for a living. I'm not like that. Two years of my mom paying the bills was enough. From now on, she would only be paying most of the bills.
My mustache was perfect. I checked my hair, making sure I had properly disguised my bald-on-top problem with the felt-tipped marker. Perfecto. I knew my clothes were spot-on. Khakis, olive-drab shirt, ascot, and tactical boots. Not much more I could do in way of preparation. I was going in blind, since my mom had found the help-wanted ad and set up the interview. I was as ready as I was going to get.
Twenty minutes later.
It took me longer than I thought it would to find the office. Aisle after aisle of lamps and glue, and no signs for way-finding. I didn't ask for directions, of course, so...
"You're late," he said.
I looked across the desk at him. A bit overweight, could use some Jazzercise. Balding, didn't bother coloring in the bare spots. A slob, then. Gordon Allen, the little brass name-plate read, Lamp Buyer.
"Sorry I missed my timings," I said, and thought up a quick excuse. "I was out of ammo."
"No problem." He opened a file, and I could see it was my resume inside. "So, Randall...Do you prefer Randall?"
The resume had my full name, of course. Randall Nathaniel McFab.
"People call me Randy," I said, "or just 'the Colonel'".
"Okay, Randy. I'm not usually the one who does this--I'm the lamp buyer--but the girl who interviews quit on us, so I'm as nervous as you are."
"I don't get nervous."
"Oh, well--good, good." He studied my resume. "So, Randy...It looks like...You worked at Taco Bell for..." His eyebrows went up. "Sixteen years, that's a long time."
"Well," I said, "I spell 'loyalty' L-O-Y-A-L-T-Y."
"That's, yes, that's how you spell it. Good, good. Now, I see you were a 'transaction analyst' at Taco Bell?"
"Affirmative. I input real-time transaction data into a computer terminal that connected to a server and two nodes, after verifying the veracity of the data on-the-fly."
"So your actual job was..."
"Good, good. We need that kind of experience." He studied the resume some more. "I see you've been self-employed the last couple of years. 'Mercenary,' it says."
"Correct," I said. "Of course, I can't discuss operational details."
"Right, of course. Now, you've applied for adhesives. I'm a lamp man myself, always have been, but I've worked with the boys in adhesives and I know what they're like. They can be hard on a new guy, especially one who hasn't been in the glue trade before."
"I'm a hard man, Mr. Allen. I read action books."
He looked me over, and could tell he was facing a bad ass.
"Well," he said, "just so you don't mind a little hazing."
"Not at all."
"They can be rough you know, the adhesives crowd. Physical abuse."
"No prob."
"Mental...Mental torture...mind games..." He shook his head. "Not like lamp people at all."
"I can handle whatever they can dish out, I assure you." It must have been cold in that office, as I noticed I was shaking.
"Other stuff, too," he said. "Stuff we can't prove...rumours...gatherings, Black Masses...gang rape...marijuana smoking."
"Did you say--" I was appalled.
"Yes. Marijuana smoking." He sighed heavily.
"Look," I said. "I can handle hazing. Why, in high-school football, we all got tortured relentlessly when we were freshmen, then we did the same to others when we got older. Physical abuse? No problem, I can take some slapping around. Black Masses? Hell, I own every Iron Maiden album. Gang rape? Why, in high-school football...Anyway, I can accept all of that stuff, but...Drugs? No way. Drugs are why we have crimes that don't involve alcohol, drugs are why people believe we landed men on the moon...I'll can the speech and make it short and sweet for you, mister. I don't work with druggies."
"Well," he said, "I just wanted to be honest with you. We don't have any openings in lamps--everybody wants lamps, of course--but adhesives, I just wouldn't wish that on anyone."
"I appreciate that," I said, rising. "You might have just saved some potheads' lives. My motto is 'kill first and then kill again.'"
He stood to shake my hand. "Sorry it didn't work out, Randy," he said.
"No problem. My mom said her friend Alma's daughter has a stalker, might need some protection. Bodyguard work." It was true, but it would mean I would have to quit stalking the daughter.
"Good, good. I'll keep your number and give you a call if we have any openings in lamps." He leaned in close and lowered his voice. "Say, you don't know where to score any weed, do you?"
Later that day.
I was in my bedroom, sorting my bills and sipping a nice cold Zima.
"Hey, Mom!" I yelled towards the living room. "My Soldier of Fortune subscription is about to run out. You gonna pay it, or what?"