And I stiiilll haven’t founnnd…what I’m looking fooor.
I had a job interview tonight. Well not an interview, an “info session.” Just like it wasn’t another bloomin’ Call Center it is a “strategic impact consulting” company. Blech. Spending all day in a cubicle, annoying people over the phone…is a call center.
I got to the dingy mixed business-residential district outside of Antwerp super early, and inside the building it was a mutant cross-breed between a traditional hellish office and a modern Google-inspired “workspace” but straying far closer to the former than the latter.
They put me in a room to wait, plasticky whitewashed walls with the rectangles of unevenly settling cinderblocks clearly showing through. A big bookshelf loaded with books on marketing, sales, and all the assorted weird shit businesses talk about. The only window was a porthole into the central office. This turned out to be the design for the whole place, only interior windows and white cinderblock walls. I kept thinking we were underground, but the funny (that is, horrendous) thing is: we weren’t! There was no valid reason to have no windows beyond the sadistic design tendencies of capitalism. The same people who gave us midlife crises, nervous breakdowns, and the term “human resources.”
Anyway, I was sitting in the little room, kinda digging the place still, and my first co-interviewee came in. Turns out he’s from Portugal, and was told the job is in Portuguese. Then the third guy showed up and he’s Chinese, expecting a job in Mandarin. The fourth guy is from Valencia, and is expecting Spanish.
The interview was supposed to start at 16:00, but they left us in there until 17:00. We were discussing half-jokingly the possibility that this was the interview, hidden cameras seeing how we interacted with each other. Did I say half joking? Make that 10% joking.
Eventually they did come claim us and we were taken to the conference room, past the call center area, rows of undecorated shared cubicles facing each other with blank-faced automatons looking at us walk by exactly like zoo animals. I expected them to snarl, beg for food, or possibly fling their feces at us as we passed. Or maybe just mouth “Run! Save yourself! Take me with you!”
Over the course of our short chat with the company lady I came to the belief that this company is chronically understaffed, by policy (bad idea, I’ll never understand that) and by a relentless habit on the part of their employees to flee. (Oh, and it turns out Juan is a lawyer! From lawyer to Call Center Jockey…I want to know his story!)
My co-interviewees were all cool guys, and I enjoyed chatting with them. Wang (not either of the Iberians, in case you hadn’t guessed) drove me and Juan (Wang and Juan…the cultural linguist in me was positively titillated) to the train station where I thoroughly enjoyed watching the ebb and flow of humanity as it is uniquely visible in European train stations.
Middle aged women with headphones stuffed in their ears. Frumpy businessmen looking intensely annoyed whenever they are forced to interact with others in any way. Greetings and farewells among friends and coworkers, and the differences between them. Warm scarves, fogging breath, and of course a waffle shop in the hallway smelling fantastic.
It was an interesting experience, but taking the job would mean giving up Dutch lessons (as well as exercising, or having any social or romantic life outside of the weekends) since the hours are from 14:00 to 22:00, and that is too high a price to pay for a shitty minimum wage job. I think. Right? Are my expectations too high? Shit.