The Other Side of the Desk

by Anthony Block

I could tell the man sitting across from me was nervous. He had almost as many years of experience as I had years of life. My questions seemed to throw him off. He came in wearing a suit that didn’t fit him very well. He was sweating.

This job is pretty basic — do you think you’ll get bored?

Oh, no. No, sir. This sounds great.

He really wanted the job. I instant messaged a friend: I wish I were dead.

This was the fourth candidate I had interviewed in two days.

I could tell I was coming across as nervous. The suit I was wearing didn’t fit me very well. I could no better explain my thesis than the problem of evil. I was sweating. I really wanted the job. I really wanted any job. I was unemployed for the second time in a year. Walking out of the office after tepid, unsure handshakes all I could think was: I wish I were dead.

Every day had become so long. I would shake as I went to check each new email I got. It was almost always some company that wouldn’t hire me, but more than happy to sell me something. I’d watch the sun move across the sky from my little room, waiting for anything at all. I would call; leave a message; email; I would give up. I don’t even know how much time passed, and I didn’t even get a “no.” I’d cry while standing in my little room around my boxes of stuff.

Three months later, my luck turned. And three years later, I was on the other side of the desk.

Yesterday I sat across from a woman whose hands were shaking when I came in. I asked her questions about how she would solve a certain problem. She couldn’t answer. I asked her a softball question about the basics of the job, and she wasn’t familiar with what I asked. I felt like I was cut. I wanted to give her something she could get right. She knew she wasn’t doing well. I ended things and went to get another colleague. Her voice almost too small to hear. She was looking at her hands. Do you have any feedback for me? I attempted to dodge the question with my words. I know I didn’t dodge it with my face. Poker isn’t my game.

I remember thinking so much about the people on the other side of the desk when I didn’t have a job. I would carefully hang my suit pants when I came back to my little room — that way I wouldn’t have to pay to have them pressed again. I would think, do they know? Do they understand that they’re on land and I’m drowning — that all they have to do is reach out their hand to save me? Do they care at all?

I know the side of the desk these people are sitting on. I know all they need is for me to reach out my hand. I only have one opening for three months. I can reach out to one person. The rest I can’t save. I can’t help. I can’t even comfort. All I can say is “thank you for your time.” I can make sure they hear “no” as soon as possible. And when they get home and their hands stop shaking, when they’re carefully folding their pants to save four bucks, they’ll wonder if I give a shit at all. And they’ll have no reason to think I do.

Anthony Block lives in San Francisco. He tweets less than he’d like here: @robocopnixon.