During those five months I learned to readjust my values in order to play the game of employment-seeking. If on the first interview I thought they would obviously see my genius (can I use my mom as a reference?), by the time of my triple-digit interview I learned that I wasn’t fired from my last job, but that “The position ended.” I learned that I wasn’t simply a cashier in a store but a “Senior Sales Associate.” I learned I had people skills! Yes! And I bought a suit. I was ready.
So here I was in the hub of Swedish Minimalism, waiting for HR. I was sitting on a low sectional IKEA couch. Do I need to describe how ugly the couch was or can you already imagine it for yourselves? Good. Now, they had two items on the coffee table: Time Magazine and the IKEA catalog. “Is this a test?” I thought as I started leafing through the catalog of urban decay.
I repeated to myself: Inexpensive products for people who love designer furniture or It has everything for everyone or even the original Affordable solutions for better living—one of these mantras was getting into the interview. I was going to get this job.
So here comes this elderly lady, shaking my hand like she was a ghost, doing the ol’ “Did you have any problem finding this place?” (Another thing I learned: They don’t really care). And we go into a tiny room, and she slouches in her chair and asks me to tell her about my past experiences, so foolishly I start doing just that.
At the end of the interview she says, “Looks like you’ve lived an interesting life,” which in English (or Swedish) means You’re not what we’re looking for. So I ask, “What kind of person are you looking for?” and the elderly lady from IKEA raises herself slowly and lifts her finger to accentuate the last words of the interview. “We’re looking for someone who could sell, Sell, SELL.”
And that was it.
Drunk and over-confident, I went outside to face the neighbor, but the closer I got, the more I realized how big he was, and by the time we faced each other and he was holding my shirt collar and me pretty much on tip toes reaching to grab his, I knew there was no turning back, and I kind of knew I was in trouble.
When the man realized Honey called the police he simply let go of my shirt and walked away.
Twenty minutes later, two police officers came, a black man and a white woman. They took a statement from our friend and walked outside to look around. Did anyone know the man? Had anyone seen him before? Suddenly one of our friends shouted, “There he is, he’s getting into his car,” pointing at a person getting into a car at the end of the darkened block. The car pulled out and started driving toward us and the police officer moved to the middle of the road, took out his flashlight, and waved it for the car to stop. The car continued. Now, the officer was waving his flashlight with one arm while the other was pulling his gun out. Suddenly, the driver realized what was going on and slammed on the break. When the officer aimed his flashlight at the car we saw an old couple with their hands touching the roof of their car, shaking.
“Sorry,” my friend told the police officer. “It was dark.”
“Well,” he said, in a city still reeling from the Amadou Diallo shooting, “Now you see how mistakes are made.”
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