Dead End Jobs

Eight months after graduating college I was going nowhere. I spent my days bagging groceries at a local super market, which was barely a step up from a corner store. Meanwhile my college diploma was proudly affixed to my parent’s dining room wall. It was a shrine of cosmic folly. My parents stared at it glowingly with all the misplaced pride that comes with the receipt of a perfect attendance bumper sticker. Whereas I saw it as a haunting reminder of what life should have been. An accomplishment memorialized on a piece of paper that never bore fruit in real life.

Instead, I stood chained to a checkout counter. My red apron covered in grease, dust and various food stuffs from spills on aisle five.  My ears were bleeding out to the slow jazz renditions of eighties soft rock hits, and every second was seemingly a giant step back from prosperity. I cringed as the revolting chubby Latin girl manning the cash register yapped incessantly about her boyfriend. As a defense mechanism I counted the hickeys on her neck and her overly exposed chest. Apparently, the manager’s constant warnings to button up fell on deaf ears, and the rest of the world was forced to lose their lunch while Priscilla let her boobs breathe.

This was my misery. I was a fucking phenomenal failure of higher education working for minimum wage at a business, which extraordinarily defied its end on a daily basis. My education only served to rob me of my own blissful ignorance. I started to think I would have been better off being born during the crusades. At least then I could seek stardom by bludgeoning the brains of brown people; instead of idly wasting away in the black-hole of underemployment. My hopeful existence had been sabotaged by the realization that business ventures and upward mobility were highly contingent upon nepotism and excess cash to spend on startup costs. The story of rags to riches felt about as legitimate as Jack and the Beanstalk. My future felt like it was entirely out of my control. Instead, my job search had felt like a one sided-affair, where salaries were astronomically reduced by requesting experience, and the title entry level job became synonymous with a Ponzi Scheme.

“Kevin? Why you never listening to me? Come on, we working here. I really don’t like you ignoring me and all. Mrs. Larson needs another Metamucil. This one got stomped on or something. You can get her one, ok? Do it already,” I suppose Priscilla intended to work at the super market all her life, so she needed to maintain a false sense of dominance, “I don’t know why Mrs. Larson, I’m the only one trying to work hard and stuff here. These college boys think they’re better than everyone. It ain’t right, you know? Sorry, ok.”

“Don’t worry honey. Oh I have another coupon here,” Mrs. Larson chirped pleasantly unaware of any inconvenience.

I used every errand as an opportunity to burn minutes off the clock. Lucky for me, there was no Metamucil on the store shelf, and I could add on a trip to the storage area. Now the back room was like a fortress of solitude for my other two co-workers. They had mastered the art of evading the store manager, and were keen on finding any and every location to smoke weed. True to form I found the two lighting up next to the loading area. Manuel, the taller of the two potheads, lazily flicked the joint outside as the double doors opened. Then he scurried outside to recover the joint when he realized I was not our absentee manager.

“Fuck, Kevin you’re supposed to give signal the bro! Let us know you’re coming,” Marty was a kid I had gone to junior high school with, who had somehow disappeared during the transition to high school, “You know the signal? Fuck bro.”

“The signal, dude? C’mon Marty there’s no way to flash a signal through those double doors. Why don’t you try smoking in a little more mysterious spot, you know like not in front of the fucking door?” Normally, I found a sense of respite in the company of the two potheads, but increasingly anything that reminded me of my misfortune operated as a trigger for my self-deprecating rage.

“Chill, bro. Chill, stop the hate. I mean fuck we’re ones who should be hating bro. We mighta lost another joint, and I ain’t getting paid enough at this bullshit job to just being tossing joints all over the place.”

Manuel emerged from the docking station outside proudly holding the joint up in the air, “Nah dude, shit is good! It ain’t cashed or nothing homey. Light it back up, light it back up! Then hold ya lighters up cus ya just don’t give a fuck!”

“Alright cool. I forgive you bro, Kevin, totally fucking forgive you. Fuck I’ll even let you take a hit. You down?” This was going to be an easy decision to make, right? I could take a hit of their skank weed, thus making life a little more tolerable in the short term. Yet, I would risk contracting whatever awful infection/disease/virus created those sores on their lips, and basically destroy any chance I had at passing a drug test for a new job. This should have been an easy decision, except it wasn’t.

Now more than ever I was tempted to allow my life to just fall off into the abyss, and embrace every degenerate activity that came my way. Every day I woke up disgusted by my own image. I was a college grad seemingly light years away from wearing a suit, and covered from head to toe in a uniform that screamed minimum wage. I began to accept that most job applications I sent out would never receive a reply. I stopped questioning why being overqualified was a good reason for a rejection. I started automatically pledging my loyalty to any and every potential employer just to be considered for an interview. It all left me just a little emptier inside.

My mini-depression made it seem almost more appetizing to ensure my future was fucked up rather than allowing the possibility of success to linger. I looked at the joint and then watched Manuel eyelids fight the weight of his high. He giddily encouraged me to take a hit, “Yeah! Get high! So high with us, homey! Come on show ya love for the reefer, puff pass puff pass this fucking awesome stash! Them hoes in the rap video gonna let me smash! Oh fuck homey, I swear I’m an awesome MC when I get high.”

Ok it really wasn’t such a hard decision based on the company, “Nah I’m good guys.”

“Bro, what did they teach in college? To be totally fucking lame? You keep disappointing me.”

If only he knew how disappointed I was with myself. How I longed for the days when my youthful fervor allowed me to pursue every day with reckless abandon. How I sulked religiously like an exiled member of a recently usurped royal family, deep in the throes of my own self-loathing, constantly bitching about how we use to be rich, because I use to be rich with potential.  The potential to change the world. The potential to take any profession and make it my own. The potential to write my own ticket to the oval office if it suited me. I was so fucking rich with potential! I may as well have been a Saudi Prince dumping potential dollar bills on random potential eastern European prostitutes.

Now though, the truckloads of infinite possibility that had once followed me around religiously vanished as if they were consumed by a sudden and mysterious black hole. Yet, I was all too aware of the absence of my potential. I longed to return to those carefree days full of drunken revelry, where I cast aside brain cells as if I was impervious to aging. I fantasized about those moments where I held the unwavering belief that my drunken transgressions could never blot out the brilliance of my future. I longed for the days when every moment overflowed onto the next ripe with the promise of a better tomorrow.

Yet, that promise is never as bold and abundant as when you’ve yet to discover your own super power.  When you’ve yet to ascertain where your talent lies, and you’re nothing but a big fucking sweaty ball of ambition. I would say it was simpler time, only because times are always simpler when you write about your own origin. As any good American child would I had built my own little private paradise in my mind. So when I set off for a pre-collegiate leadership conference in Chicago, my expectation of living a prosperous and remarkable life had yet to be tainted by the dreadful reality of the mathematical equation that is American society.

Fireworks in a Mexican Sky

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 9 of Masturbating With Strangers…graffitti-cover

My strides began to quicken as I heard the fireworks building towards the finale. I could hear the crowd cheering from the deck of the ship. I was tempted to stop for a moment to see if I could distinguish a familiar voice, for one last listen, but I knew any hesitation threatened to rob me of my courage. So I pressed forward towards a string of cab drivers hollering things like ‘hola gringo,’ ‘viajar conmigo,’ ‘vamos,’ and ‘hey guy, hey guy, we go.’ I quickly assessed the cab drivers trying to determine who was the most trustworthy based on their facial features, tone of voice, build and age. I found there was very little I could read about them in the night air, which was only illuminated by the flurry of fireworks. So I settled on the one that spoke the most English.

After a short Spanglish filled negotiation I managed to drive down the price to 800 pesos for my four hour trip to Guadalajara. I knew the rough price it should cost based upon my review of Lonely Planet articles on the internet, and like any well-informed tourist I anchored myself well below the amount I was willing to pay. I could have fought further by employing the most effective negotiation tool for an ex-pattie, which was walking away, but I decided 800 pesos would be acceptable. Not to mention I wanted to stay in the cab driver’s good graces, lest he should be tempted to plot a robbery, rape or murder upon my gringo ass.

“Welcomes you Puerto Vallarta, amigo,” My portly cab man resembled an old tired version of Fernando Valenzuela. He had soft gray streaks running through his bushy mustache and sideburns. He could barely muster a smile as he opened my door for me. I took my backpack off my shoulder then stepped into the back seat. The upholstery was so worn that gaping holes exposed the cotton filled inner linings. The portly cab driver moved slowly around to the front, and flopped down into the driver’s seat letting out a long working-man’s sigh. A raspy sputtering roar came from the engine as he turned the key in the ignition.


He glanced back at me in the rear view mirror, our eyes both filled with distrust, while the reflection of the chaotic finale of the fireworks danced in the background illuminating our passing ice cold glances. A last gasp of erratic and continuous fireworks shot up into the sky like heating seeking missiles, one chasing after the other, hell bent on catching the last, until their imminent journey full of light came to a swift and crackling fate, burning out brightly, fading far before they could ever reach their desired destination. Soon the flurry of passion from the finale subsided gently into the smoke-filled skyline. The sparkling remnants of those final explosions fizzled into the hollow night, their restless ambition lost upon human eyes, and their lofty dreams forever trapped in an invisible purgatory of what ifs.

My portly cab driver lit a cigarette. He turned the knob on his radio, and out of some sort of cosmic obedience to the virility of American entertainment- the voice of Whitney Houston began to sing. “Didn’t We Almost Have It All.” I felt a part of myself fading into the background, but I couldn’t turn back. I couldn’t look back at what I was leaving behind. Otherwise I would lose myself in an unmanned voyage down the recesses of my own mind, privy to all sorts of implications of failure, stalked by alternate universes, and prey to a self-imposed insanity from clarifying the magnitude of it all. I couldn’t acknowledge that I would be missed. I couldn’t acknowledge that at that very moment, my friend Trevor likely stood with his back to the fireworks, fully aware that we had shared our last look, and trying to catch one more glimpse of a friend he so frequently betrayed. Perhaps, he was hoping for some penance of his past sins by deterring me from my half-cocked idea to flee the country that bred me. He would have no such peace and my head would remain facing forward. Now there was only the path and the vigilance it required to ensure that my portly cab driver stayed on the main road to Guadalajara.

The gloves were off. I could no longer be saved by late night phone calls to my parents, the generosity of friends, or even a trustworthy justice system. No I was now in another land. A world where my own vulnerability could make me a king, because now I could finally prove my own worth free of bullshit standards of success. I would no longer be measured by the prestige of the university I attended, the model like features of my girlfriend or the zeroes on my paycheck. Now my worth was based on my ability to survive. The training wheels were off. I torched the safety net, and there was not an emergency exit in sight. There were no more shoulders to cry on or even a language to depend on. Yes now was the time to achieve my true greatness and to build the legend of the lone white wanderer. A man always in search of the best adventure the foreign lands had to offer, and willing to sacrifice it all to ensure that his spirit was always the freest one in the room.

Excerpt from Chapter 3: Time Travel

Here is an excerpt of Chapter 3 of Masturbating With Strangers in honor of Back to the Future Day October 21, 2015:

Unfortunately time did progress. Next thing I knew I was a week from graduating, and I never could have suspected that I’d end up throwing around boxes in a grocery store months later. After all there was an air of invincibility I carried with me throughout college. I nonchalantly assumed everything would work out for me.  Scholastically I had never been challenged. In high school, I breezed into a four point oh grade average without breaking a sweat. In college, I stayed drunk virtually all semester until the last two weeks, when I studied efficiently enough to find myself graduating cum laude. I was a mother fucking white American. When you do well in school you’re supposed to write your own ticket- or so I thought. Even jobless during my last week as a college student, I was confident enough in my job prospects to skip a job fair in favor of a prolonged happy hour, which resulted in quite an adventure back to my apartment.

“Wait, explain this again? You and Paulie ditched that bullshit job fair for some drinks? I get that shit. I knew with that kinda strife it’d be no time till you guys were hitting the bottle. Understandable. Paul’s in the bathroom shitting cus he ate the nachos again. I get that shit. You both lit your ties on fire in alley way to protest something or other, which I kinda get that shit. It’s weird, but I fucking follow. But what I don’t get Kev, is how we got a stripper in our living room?”

“Dude she’s technically not a stripper,” I said rebutting my roommate Mark’s presumption. The fanfare from having a Bostonian roommate in the middle of the south was like winning the lottery. I never grew tired of the strangers requesting him to recite lines from Goodwill Hunting.

“She looks like a stripper,” I’m sure most girls would look like a stripper next to the life size cardboard cutout of the two women in bikinis, who were name infamous for mud wrestling on a Miller Light commercial. Our living room may as well have been a frat house satellite office. Not to mention Mark and Trevor had left a particularly steamy episode of Blind Date on the television. For some reason every date in Phoenix resulted in a spikey haired shirtless dude three way kissing with two bombshell blondes.

“Of course she looks like one. She works there.”

“But you’re telling me she ain’t?” Mark took another look back at the dark haired girl, who for some odd reason was wearing a beanie with her cocktail dress. Her nose ring was sparkling ironically against our faded couches, while she stood in wonder at the ten percent full beer bottles littered throughout the room.

“Noooo. No. No, I mean she’s super persistent in clarifying that she’s a waitress, and does not get naked. She’ll get pissed if you say-I mean she already got pissed when Paul said it.”

“Still she looks like a stripper.”

“I know isn’t it great? I mean isn’t the waitressing just the training wheels for you know like full blown stripping? We’re totally getting in on the ground floor. This is like pre-Star Search Britney Spears right here.”

“Kevin, what the fuck are you saying kid? I totally get your excitement, but I’m at a loss for the fucking words behind it. On Star Search Britney was a midget. Don’t you mean like mouseketeer-ing anyways?”

“No dude I mean Star Search. I know my Britney. Don’t fuck with me on my Britney.”

Finally the waitress lost patience with our huddle at the front door, “So seriously are ya’all gonna whisper sweet nothings to each other all evening? Or is somebody gonna pay me my twenty bucks? And Kevin don’t fuck with me, and say you’re doing that time travel bullshit. He would not stop talking about time traveling, and he better not be doing it now so he can back out on his promise. What is that shit anyways? Sounds like blacking out to me.”

“Don’t worry Tamara. I just got distracted, and dude chill with that negative black out bullshit. Time travel is like way too elegant an analogy to pass on. I mean if the last thing you remember occurred at 11 pm, and now its 11 am, you had to do something to fucking get there. So why not time travel?”

“Whatever hun, it sounds like blacking out to me. Can I get my twenty bucks and go back to work before my lunch break is over?

“Whoa, whoa, Tammy we can’t have you leaving our pad with such a negative connation towards the glory that is time travel. Kev, what kinda deal did you make?”

“Who cares? That isn’t important. Tamara, some of the greatest most hilarious feats of man happened when some dude was essentially time traveling his ass off. It’s not a loss of consciousness like blacking out, but rather an inspiration allowing us to be greater than our ordinary sober selves. You know like the ability to approach random strangers and connect the most disconnected- yet absurdly brilliant thoughts, into the most insane profound shit possible. That’s time travel not blacking out!”

“OMG Kevin! You told me you’d give me twenty bucks for a ride home, so I could buy my boyfriend and I Chinese food tonight for our Gossip girl marathon. You’re such a . . . ”

“Did I? That was fucking stupid.”

“Not exactly profound shit is it?”

“Nah that’s pro-tarded. Let me go get some money from my room. In the meantime Marky Mark get funky wit it and learn this girl about time traveling. Be right back!”

“Can you make it quick Marky Mark? Fucking boys.”

“Alright, alright. I got the perfect story for explaining the phenomenon that is Time Travel.  I know a kid from the neighborhood named Danny. Danny goes to U-MASS after high school. He gets a fake id.  He’s wilding out, having a wicked awesome time away from mom and pop. Well, Danny, dip shit romantic that he is, can’t wait to get back to the neighborhood to ask out this broad that used to babysit him back in the day. There’s like drop dead gorgeous girls all over U-MASS, but alls Danny can think about is his old baby sitter. So he waits, you know, dabbles here and there with a few romantic interludes at U-MASS. You know drunken spit swapping, but basically he waits till summertime to ask this girl out to the bars. You know impress her with his intellectual maturity and what not. Well, she actually agrees. Except by the time she gets off her waitressing shift, Danny, a regular Don Juan, is fucking obliterated at the bar. He’s barely seeing straight. The old babysitter, out of the goodness of her heart, sends Danny home in a cab with a hot dog to settle his stomach.

Except, get this, Mr. Obliterated, Danny thinks the cabbie is some new buddy from the bars. So after a small argument he pays the cabbie. He’s offended as fuck cus he thought it was a free ride. So Danny props down on his lawn and just demolishes the hot dog. Then Danny, dip shit that he is, realizes that he doesn’t have no keys to his mom and pop’s place anymore, and he ain’t about to wake em up while he’s in his sorry fucking state of obliteration. Ah, but our Danny Boy, he’s a worker. This ain’t no problem for him. He just figures he’ll hop the fence and go in thru the garage. So last thing Danny remembers is hopping over the fence to the backyard, no impact from hitting the ground, just hopping over.

Well next day Danny wakes up and he’s sitting in the passenger’s seat of his mother’s car with his pop staring right at him. His pop asks him, ‘Hey kid whatta ya doing in my wife’s car?’ Danny has no fucking clue. His head is throbbing like a techno beat. So he says to his pop, ‘I couldn’t sleep.’ His pop says, ‘Well, next time, why don’t you try parking your ass in your bed instead of my wife’s car.’ So Danny says, ‘Okay pop’ and goes back to bed. Sometime like later on that morning, his pop wakes him back up and he says, ‘Come here Danny Boy.’ His pop walks Danny out to the back yard. He starts speaking, ‘I know we don’t have no dog, and there haven’t been any wild animals broke out of the zoo lately, and the neighbor’s kids have been toilet trained. So could you please help me out as to whose shit that might be on my yard?”

I rushed back into the room just in time to hear the tail end of the story. I literally burst into laughter all fifty-seven times I heard it, but there was no hint of comedic appreciation on the waitress’s face, “Here’s twenty bucks. I’m a man of my word. Even if I’m time traveling when I make the promise. My sober self fully supports my alcoholic self. Great story right?”

Tamara meticulously counted the crumbled up cash until she was satisfied it was the correct amount, “Uh yeah, you guys are so fucking sick. Please don’t ever come in the strip club while I’m working again. That story was not worth free Chinese food. I really think Danny is code word for Kevin, because he obviously thinks every stranger is giving him a free ride. I get that he’s time traveling, but you Marky must be high to tell me such a stupid story.”

With that Tamara proceeded to exit our humble abode. Mark stood under our Jim Belushi college poster hollering at her as she walked away, “Of course I’m high darling! You know relatively speaking smoking is less of a fucking hamper on ya daily life than drinking. Whereas that drinking shit will really stop ya from being a fully functional person! I ain’t about to fucking start prancing around with a ‘legalize-it’ shirt on, but what’s criminal or degenerate bout some kid passed out on his couch covered in munchies?!!! Nothing right?!!! Right?!!! I mean fucking worst case scenario he’s gonna send Lays Potato Chips stock through the fucking roof. Worst case scenario!”

I shut the door hoping to avoid another complaint from our neighbors, “Well that did not go according to plan. I can’t believe that bitch didn’t love Danny boy and his time travel story!”

Mark smiled whimsically, “So to recap, you deep down in your heart of hearts thought you could bang out a stripper waitress who has a boyfriend? Alls you had to do was offer to buy them Chinese food for their Gossip Girl marathon? Kev you have an astounding faith in underdogs, kid.”

“I mean sometimes when you jump start the flux capacitor and dial up Doc Brown you take a wrong turn. Next thing you know you end up in some Biff Tannen alternate universe bullshit.”

“Bad news bears right? However, there are other times where you save the world and recreate 1985 into a place where your parents like to fuck each other.”

“Exactly my dude!”

“And to think the waitress chose her likely mentally unstable boyfriend, who probably has a child-sized cock over a well-balanced, driven, fine articulate young man such as yourself. Bad move by that broad.”

“Always the optimist aye Boston? Never knew positivity existed up North till I met you.”

“You fucking kidding me Kev? The Sox kid, that’s all I got to say.”

“Good fucking point.”

Masturbating With Strangers Chapter 6 Excerpt

My final date with the American Dream came over Christmas Vacation of my second year of business school. I was interviewing for an internship that half of my classmates offered their left testicle and future firstborn child to be considered for. I sat in a giant germless lobby of a high rise building surrounded by bright faced well-dressed individuals, who probably farted intelligent statements out of their ass. Still I knew somehow I belonged, not because I was gassy, but because I had always been the guy other people considered the smart one. It was the place I always expected to be, but the tumultuous journey through the humbling experience of under-employment left me significantly short on confidence.

I was about to interview for one of the largest and most innovative companies in the world. It was a corporation that registered profits greater than the gross national product of Montenegro. Yet, I couldn’t shake the thought that less than eighteen months ago, I had been a minimum-wage employee long enough to believe it was a permanent career choice.  My self-deprecating thoughts were draining my confidence at an intensity level more grueling than a Jack Bauer torture session. Internally I was screaming at the top of my lungs, because I couldn’t develop the perfect back story for all the holes in my employment history. My palms were moist enough to be declared a national wetland reserve. My foot was tapping so furiously it might have been diagnosed as the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease. Still, I saw this moment as my chance to eviscerate my previous job struggles if only…

“Kevin Saunders?” I looked up to see a crisply dressed brunette roughly the same age as myself.

I stood up like a cadet standing at attention, “That’s me.”

“Good afternoon, Kevin. I’m Marcy Rowe. I’ll be a part of the panel interviewing you today for our internship program,” The gauntlet of potential interview miscues was laid as she extended her hand to greet me. Did I go with a firm handshake or dead fish it up to avoid crushing her hand? Did I completely avoid all eye contact so she didn’t get the wrong impression? Did I call her by her first name or address her as miss or misses or maybe even mam?

Luckily Trevor had taught me a long time ago how to quickly assess whether or not a chick was wearing a wedding ring, “Kevin Saunders, it’s a pleasure to meet you Ms. Rowe.”

“Pleasure as well, follow me.”

The interview team was already assembled when Ms. Rowe and I arrived in the conference room. The fluorescent lighting beamed down upon me intensely like sunshine at the equator. My forehead was collecting sweat puddles like a hardwood basketball floor in an air condition-less gymnasium during summer league. Meanwhile, a self-assured panel stood in front of me completely at ease. Ms. Rowe began to speak as soon as she sat down, “Please have a seat Kevin. So we are happy to have you with us today. Let me introduce you to my colleagues. On the far end of the table we have Bradley Mason, and it is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to the head of our cloud technology department and next in line to be the CEO, Farrell Silver.”

“Well pleasure to formally meet you all,” I made a motion to get up to shake everyone’s hand, but instead stayed saddled to my chair based on her previous instruction. Every interview felt like an out-of-body experience where I helplessly listened to poorly rehearsed yes man jargon roll off my tongue. Not to mention I was god awful at manufacturing a persona that suggested I was in just the right amount of love with myself.

The two other members of the panel nodded their heads hello. Mr. Silver couldn’t even muster up a smile. It was as if common courtesy was an annoyance well beneath his pay grade. Ms. Rowe continued her introduction, “I won’t bore you with the details of the prestige of our company. I’m sure you assiduously researched everything you did not already know about us.”

“Ahem,” Mr. Silver interrupted. He had styled his gray hair into this kind of controlled carelessness to create an illusion of reasonableness, but his wrinkle-free polo suggested that he preferred to surround himself with like-minded minions, “Well there is plenty to learn, Marcy. We were the first technology conglomerate to crack the fortune 500 within in three years of our inception. You won’t find those kinds of results anywhere else. I encourage you to look. Besides we’ve got to permit Mr. Saunders the opportunity to make an impression on us. Explain why he deserves to be a part of the most successful company on the planet.”

Ms. Rowe quickly fell in line, “Of course. Mr. Silver. I apologize for being reticent about the success of the company.  As you know Kevin, we have a hand in every type of media and technology known to man. We are always on the cusp of the latest innovation, and we pride ourselves on employing only the best and brightest. The perks here are endless. You’ll find everything accessible onsite from a gym to a food court to napping bunks- should your workload cause you to put in a few late nights on the job.”

I must say I appreciated the dedication of tech companies to creating an environment where the employees never wanted to go home. It was a step up from the all too common management trainee programs. Those companies that thrived on cherry picking hopeless unemployed college grads with a promise of upward mobility in a frat-like atmosphere, “Oh I have no problem putting in the hours. That’s the idea right? You invest the time and you get the results you desire. I think hard work and long hours are a prerequisite for any profession worth pursuing.”

Bradley Mason likely the resident specialist in fake personalities and collar popping interjected some bullshit of his own, “Kevin, great point! Hard workers are essential to our culture. I’ll tell you what Kevin, I just can’t say enough about the great opportunities …”

“So moving forward,” Every syllable fell tersely off Farrell Silver’s tongue, “Marcy, why don’t you start with the first question?”

I started to get the feeling my interview was a mere formality, and they had preselected their choice candidate, “So Kevin, please tell us about a time you were faced with adversity and how you handled it?”

Good thing I only had two cups of coffee. Otherwise I would have blurted out something about the world’s most innovative company coming up with better questions. Still, I knew this interview was a reach and I had to do something to stand out. Unfortunately I lacked the douche bag proficiency to survive in a professional world flooded with old-manisms and corporate tag words. Instead, much like a gay child at a Christian Summer Camp, I couldn’t control my urges, and let the bad jokes fly, “Can I say this interview?

“You could but then your resume would go directly to the bottom of the pile,” Farrell Silver quipped without raising his head from his smart phone.

I took a deep breath trying not to get rattled, “My apologies. Well I think that handling adversity…”

I proceeded into a monologue touching on every talking point I believed the panel desired to hear. This was the unavoidable abandonment of individuality that the corporate world insisted upon. The Borg like demand for assimilation. I liken it to becoming a Darth Vader of the corporate world. Someone who is either feverishly frightened by what made you unique and is hell bent on purging your former self. Or more fittingly, you become unaware that a difference ever existed. Soon there’s only a shell of your former brilliance. Suddenly you’re an imprisoned soldier who forgot there ever was a war. You’re so hypnotized by your captors that you find it unfathomable to question the uniformity of thought; as if it were an anomaly that anyone would resist the logic of the machine. It’s almost as if to be successful in this society you have to mimic how money is made. Fall in line like freshly minted bills straight off the press at the US Reserve- all equally identical, equally valuable and equally replaceable.

“Great, great, great Kevin that was great to hear how you dealt with your mother dying of cancer. Wow that’s really touching,” Marcy seemed to be sincere. So much for mom being invited to the Christmas Party. What could I say? White people problems don’t score high on interview questions about adversity.

“Wow, Kevin you just blew me away partner. I did not expect this interview to convey that type of emotion. Well now that we know about your past, what do you say we explore your future?” I nodded my head in the affirmative to Bradley’s question. He sat smiling at me with a mischievous look that made the sleaziest used car salesman look like a Buddhist monk on a hunger strike, “Well Kevin where do you see yourself in five years?”

He may as well have asked me what cult I would like to join. Or how great a fascist dictator I might make given the opportunity. Or maybe he was just trying to assess my long term goals and whether they fit nicely with the company mission statement? Either way, I found each option absolutely detestable and a bloody rape on the originality of the human spirit. Still seeing that I was little more than a box to check off their to-do list, I decided to throw all my creative talents into the question.

“So let me get this straight you anticipate becoming a department head in five years, which includes the six months you have left in business school? Then once you achieved that measure of success with our company you intend to start your own business?” I nodded my head slowly with the somber realization I may have went slightly overboard. Two cups of coffee was probably too much. Ms. Rowe proceeded to recap the rest of my five years plan, “A business that will enable free wi-fi access across the continents of Africa and Asia. Then this business will send all excess profits to create an institute to cure cancer? Is this where you see yourself in 5 years?”

“Basically,” For a moment I thought I saw Farrell Silver’s face take the unnatural shape of a smile. My last answer may as well have been accompanied by a 60s guitar solo with footage of napalm destroying a forest. No doubt I was on my way to becoming another unremarkable grad student racking up student loan debt, while the exceptional two percent of the class dominated the summer internship scene.

Ms. Rowe was about to ask another question when her cell phone lit up. She took a moment and readjusted in her seat, “So I believe we mentioned earlier that this is a highly competitive position. Due to the quality of the candidates that we have interviewed today we are considering an additional unpaid internship. Is that something you would be interested in?”

“Wait, so the additional position would be entirely unpaid?” I didn’t exactly have the mommy and daddy bucks that afforded me the financial flexibility to work for free over the summer.

“Of course it’s an unpaid position. This is an opportunity of a lifetime,” Farrell Silver looked me in the eye for the first time in the interview, “You’re a business school student you should understand supply and demand. We have so many candidates willing to work for free that it behooves our company to follow the market. Families raise their children on ten to twelve dollars an hour. Why can’t you work for free for a summer at the best company in the world?”

What a fucking douche bag! My face flamed up like overgrown shrubbery on a California hillside during a dry season. I bit deep down on my lip as I felt the walls pressing in on me. I tasted the blood on my tongue. I tried to internalize my rage directed at the pomposity and ignorance that flowed so freely from the egocentric existence of Mr. Silver. I wanted to fly across the room and slap him repeatedly until he apologized to all the work families struggling to make ends meet. I couldn’t work for free if I wanted to! I dug my nails into the back of my clasped hands in a desperate attempt to calm myself down with self-mutilation. Then I proceeded to tell one of the most difficult lies of my life, “Ok. Ok. Well, I understand what a great opportunity this is, and I would be willing to accept an unpaid position. After all it is your company, not mine, and it’s not my place to make those types of decisions. I can forego a few months’ wages for the shot at a long prosperous career with this company.”

Mr. Silver exhaled in annoyance, “Well glad we have your permission.”

The room fell silent, while the air conditioner squeakily serenaded the tension filled space. I felt like a wayward miner slowly watching the tunnel sink in around him. I sat painfully and furiously recognizing that there was no escape from my impending demise. My million to one shot at getting the internship had just shot up to a trillion to one. Bradley Mason decided to reconvene the interview, “You know Kevin. I’m a marketing guy, so I appreciate your creativity and willingness to shoot for the stars. I think maybe your talents lie in persuading people on the sales floor.”

“Ok, I’m open to everything.” Mr. Silver shook his head as Bradley Mason rose from his seat.

Bradley approached the table where I sat and laid a rather opulent pen down on the table, “Now Kevin, I want you to take that pen and I want you to sell it to me like I was a blind man.  Tell me about every detail and every benefit. I want you to sell me on it as if nothing in the world were more beautiful.”

I took the pen in my hand caressing its contours in an attempt to dig deep into my soul. I needed to find some sort of genius that suddenly showcased a well-spoken and employable candidate, “Well, I just can’t tell you enough about the feel of the pen. It’s a great weight, very manageable and high quality material. Plus the button at the end makes it extremely easy to tell when the pen tip is out- which is a huge plus for a blind man. The way the ink just glides along the page…”

I paused as I tried to recall the last time I had seen a blind man using a pen. Bradley encouraged me to press on, “Go on Kevin. You’re doing well. What is it?”

Time stood still. I had spent two decades indoctrinated with stories of success, chasing the smell of it through the elaborate maze of higher education requirements, only to discover I was just another lab rat in the control group, “Well, I don’t think blind men use pens. They use brail right?”

“Jesus!” Farrell Silver sprung to his feet in disgust, “Did you even check his background? If I’m going spend my valuable time in an interview you guys really need to screen these candidates. I’m running a business here. I don’t have the time to waste on brainless slabs of meat like this fucking character!”

Mr. Silver rushed towards the exit like a spoiled brat carrying an air about him as if I was a blip on the food chain. I felt so completely invisible and inconsequential. I had succumbed to the temptation of sacrificing my dignity to be defined as a successful person. I shameless lied throughout the interview due to my desperation- only to be discarded like a gum wrapper thoughtlessly flying out a car window. Now Mr. Silver and his ego were about to glide out the door back into the fantasy land of the capitalist bourgeoisie. So I decided to escalate my failure to one of epic proportions and ensure that he remembered me, “Wait, you’re just going to walk out of here before the interview is over? Insult me and walk out? That’s professional!”

Silver’s eyes widened, “I think you need to know your place.”

My place? I thought my place in the world was supposed to present itself a long time ago. Long before I ended up in that boardroom. I thought some time, somewhere, it would say, ‘Hey here I am your fucking purpose in life. This is what you’re supposed to do, and this is how you are leaving your mark on this insufferable fucked up world.’ But that day never came because I had always been chasing what other people told me defined success. Still, I knew my place was much bigger than that silver haired freak’s five year plans and personal quotas. I knew I didn’t want to suffocate the joy out of life with attention to detail. I knew I didn’t want to forego all pleasure just to get an extra syllable in my job title. I knew getting an extra zero on my paycheck just to drive a nicer car to and from work didn’t reflect my self-worth. No more measuring up to the Jones or the Smiths. My world was about to become a much bigger place. I stood up and threw the silly fucking pen on the floor, “My place, Mr. Silver…”

“Probably something your parents should have taught you. Let me remind you sir before you say something I think you’ll regret deeply- I’m the gate keeper to your future. One word from me to your professors and you’ll be bagging my gardener’s groceries for the rest of your life.”

There was no going back I had just shattered any hope I had at building a career. He was right. No professor would ever respect me as a student after news of this incident got around. So I decided to go next level on the representative of the gray haired ruling class and all his egotistical cocksucker glory, “Really dude? I mean fuck this! You act like I haven’t bagged groceries before? We all start somewhere, but the smart ones, people who have high emotional IQ, they remember where the fuck they came from.”

“You watch your mouth, son!”

“You watch my fucking mouth, because I got something to say. What do you have that I need? Fucking financial stability? A B-M –fucking-W? Maybe a Bentley? They’re just things man.”

“Things you don’t have…”

“Things I don’t fucking need! What do you really have that I don’t other than a psychopathic need to prove you’re smarter than everyone? I mean shit dude does anyone even like you here?”

“That’s an absurd question Saunders! Of course I am adored by my employees. My reputation cannot be impugned! I set the standard for which other measures their success…”

“Oh dude you don’t see it,” I started laughing at the insecurity underlining Mr. Silver’s WWE worthy rant. The man’s childlike social skills caused such a severe disconnect with the realities outside his office walls. None of this world would ever be mine. I would be a permanent outcast. Yet, I felt a sense of relief skipping along my spine as I began to bath in the joy that this was not my future. This was not my rat race. I would no longer worship at the altar of the American Dream. The whole sorry fucking scenario was on permanent hiatus for me, but it didn’t mean I was above saying one more final fuck you to the man, “Holy fuck you must have a small dick. You treat these people like dogs and they love you like a dog, simply because you bring them food and give them a place to piss and shit every day. You small dick mother fucker. You’re fucking clueless dude! You’re missing it man. You’re missing it.”

I thought I saw a blood vessel rip out of Mr. Silver’s overly fake baked skin. Bradley Mason rushed in between us patiently trying to escort Mr. Silver away from me, “Missing it? You are seriously out of line! Seriously! You need to get the fuck out of my building! You are fucking finished before you ever started you brain dead fucking loser! You know you should’ve tried to fucking plan out a thing or two in your life! I got to where I’m today because I planned-what the fuck are you laughing about?!!!”

“I’m just relieved man,” I proceeded to find my own way out the door as Mr. Silver stood tangled in the cautious arms of Bradley Mason. His brow furrowed like a walrus, while his jaw hung down like an excavated pirate skull on the verge of decomposing. I stopped to turn around for one last look, “You know it’s the oldest the profession and all, but I doubt anyone ever started whoring themselves out because they’d like the idea of being fucked up the ass a lot. But at least you pay a whore. Now go fuck yourself and your fucking unpaid internship you fucking opportunistic thief!”

“You ungrateful sack of shit!!! I’m make sure you never hold a fucking job outside a fast food chain. You’re ruined! You’re fucking ruined!!! You’ll be back apologizing on your fucking knees in no time. Security!!! Security!!! Escort that man out! Escort him out!!

My outburst earned me a security detail out of the monument to American capitalism and a sea of voyeuristic attention from the candidates still seated in the lobby. I felt like a remorseless bank robber finally caught by the police, proud of my last stand, and relieved to give up the charade. I felt no real sorrow for destroying my chance of joining the local country club, registering republican, and complaining about entitlement programs. I cared about doing something bigger than dollar and cents. I wanted to make a difference in the human condition-somewhere, somehow, doing something important. I just was clueless on the logistics of it all. I knew one thing for sure. I just incinerated the value of my degree in less time than it takes to fill out a financial aid packet.

My date with destiny was canceled. The late nights studying were suddenly all for nothing. My diploma may as well have been used to start a forest fire, because I had went down in flames, and had taken my entire future as it was intended to be with me.