A month or so ago I received a notice in the mail from the Long Beach Police Department. Unlike the typical parking ticket or traffic violation, though, this letter came in a nondescript white business envelope. Not overtly intimidating, perhaps, but still vaguely threatening, as I guess any unsolicited missive from the Police would be. Now I don’t know if you’re at all like me, but if you are, then any overture from the P.D., whether by mail or in person, would certainly elicit from within your soul no small degree of terror. It’s not that I’ve done anything wrong – well, not too wrong – it’s just that I tend to assume the worst.
At the time of its arrival I was puttering in the yard (being one of those outdoorsy types), and Lizzy happened to intercept the mail at the front door. It was she who brought the letter to me, so consequently I had to act pretty damned casual as I took the envelope from her hand.
In the few seconds subsequent to my wife’s words (“Here’s something from the Police!”) I experienced a quick moment of panic. I scanned my memory for any recent offense, but the more I thought about it the more it became clear that this letter could portend punishment for damn near anything. Was I caught on camera failing to come to a complete stop at an intersection? Could a vigilante-inspired coffee shop denizen have witnessed me helping myself to extra java without dropping a quarter in the little cup they put next to the urn? Did my ISP call the cops after learning about the video I downloaded – you know, the one with the dwarf, the bucket of warm mashed potatoes, and all the marmots?
Could they – oh god help me! – could they have found out about the chickens?
But as I say, I tried to remain nonchalant. I opened the letter, and sure enough, I’m told in plain, cold, accusing black lettering that I’m to report to the Long Beach Police Department on the date specified for something very, very serious.
A job interview.
Wait – what?
A bit of history here: a couple of years ago I started the process of interviewing for what was advertised as a municipal job with the Port of Long Beach. It seemed like just the thing for me – one of those clerical spots wherein the applicant need only prove that he or she can type around 10 words per hour, as well as display a proven ability to show up at work with a pulse.
Having worked for about five years with the Massachusetts Department of Revenue – a job that not only required an absolute minimal amount of brainpower and effort, but also imposed upon its employees several breaks during the day, two or three “personal days” a season, a few sick days, some vacation time, and a nice, fat, holiday off a month even if there wasn’t an actual holiday (“Evacuation Day, anyone?) – I new that this Port thing would be right up my alley.
Long story short, several months of waiting, a background check, two tests, three interviews and one economic disaster later, and I didn’t get the job. It’s okay. I moved on.
But now it’s a couple of years later, and I’m suddenly being told to report for an interview for a completely unrelated government job. The letter was threatening in tone, not unlike a summons to appear in court or an order to pay a decade of back child support because of one little mistake you made in Chinatown during a particularly crazy Qi Xi festival. On reading it I got the impression that if I didn’t respond I would most certainly be physically removed from my home and thrown in prison for an extended stay, the duration of which I would no doubt spend as that prisoner who wheels the book cart around to all the other inmates, passing out copies of Mein Kampf and taking furtive orders for things like cigarettes and Rita Hayworth posters.
Now I know all these police officer-types tend to operate on the serious side, but was this really necessary? Frankly, it was damn unsettling. And what if I were to show up for the interview? Can you imagine what that would have been like? I can hear the questioning now: “So, Mr. Miller – have you ever been beaten with a bar of soap and a sock?” or, “It says here on your resume that you were once a Boy Scout. Could you, then, construct a shiv out of an 8-track cassette tape and a kitchen spatula?” or, “Mr. Miller, where do you see yourself incarcerated in five years?”
And whoever wrote this dreadful thing must have felt that it needed an extra dose of intimidation, because a little further down the page I was told in no uncertain terms that I had exactly two weeks to respond, or else there was a chance that I would never be allowed to work in municipal government again.
Scary prospect, I know, and such a tempting offer. But I steeled myself and decided to ignore this warm, welcoming invitation. I figured I’d be better off looking for employment somewhere else – perhaps a job less confrontational in nature. Somewhere where I’d be less likely to have my body and spirit beaten down on a daily basis while enduring humiliating verbal assaults and other indignities from my superiors.
Okay, so that rules out a Hollywood production company – but I’ll keep looking. I’m sure I’ll find something.