Boardroom Rejection
Samuel Cole
Break

It's happened eleven times in eleven months, another stalemate no, "sorry, but we've gone with another candidate," the human resources person hanging up so fast I never have the chance to ask why not yes, why not me, what did I do wrong, what did I not do right?

I can hear my wife breathing in the hallway, our kids whining for her hands. The stack of bills and credit card offers mounting on the desk, so close to tipping over, my hands still warm from squeezing the receiver and my chest. We're all out of resume paper, pull-ups diapers, and milk.

I always customize the cover letter and resume to the given address, positive I meet the necessary requirements and qualifications. I use readable fonts, modern language, well-crafted design, and references available upon request—I have way more than three.

The latest email from some Annie Greening said she'd be calling between 9-9:15am. It's 9:14am and I'm starting to worry.

"Hello. This is Reginald." I always answer as if I'm already working there, using the most sincere tone in my vocal register. I now have exactly fifteen minutes to be funny but not hilarious, positive without being abhorrent, charmingly humble while confidently projecting what I have done and what I can do, bring, offer, give, and be if given the opportunity, please God.

"Yes, I'd love to come in for an interview. Tomorrow at two forty-five works for me. That's sounds great."

I can hear my wife exhale, our kids grappling at the door. "Daddy, we want to come in."

On the carpet, the four of us sit Indian style. I convince the kids to play duck duck goose instead of impersonating Disney World. I feel too much like a mouse anyway, and my wife is no Minnie.

"Where did the cartoons go?" the kids ask, one bopping me on the head.

"We don't get those stations anymore."

"But why?"

"We're waiting to see what else is out there."

My wife laughs, sitting in the center, her dry hands maneuvering her dry hair into a ponytail-bun-thingy.

"Daddy needs to get some work done. Playtime is over."

My wife laughs again, pulling the kids by their arms. "By the way, that's the last of shampoo and conditioner, too."

I always wear the same fitted suit and tie, nothing too flashy or colorful. I'm not square, but I'm definitely not a circle pattern either. I always polish my shoes, brush all my brush-worthy appendages, and spray very little cologne on my neck and writing wrist. I bring along two extra resumes in a black leather stitched portfolio and two matching pens in case one of the interviewers forgets—it's happened. I always shake hands like a peaceful man and never cross my arms and legs, trying to present myself as I want to be perceived: vulnerable, open minded, forthright, ask me whatever, I've got nothing to hide.

"Be sure to ask about the benefits package," my wife says, dropping me off at the company door, our kids half asleep in the back of our drafty old mini-van wearing flimsy jackets, mittens, and hats. We'd be sunk if either one got pneumonia.

I always rock the interview, never pausing for more than three seconds before answering their questions calmly, collectively, crisply, getting right to the point. I try to offer my hands and use receptive body language to convey what I have done, and better yet, what I will do right off the bat. Sometimes, depending on the age of the interviewer, I even snap my fingers. I never take a sip of water, even though my throat does get dry, as I don't want them to think I stall under pressure. I make sure to use eye contact. I never say anything bad about anyone or anywhere. I talk fluently about my three greatest strengths and weaknesses as if I'm fully aware of who and what I am, giving honest examples of conflict resolution, time management, how to openly communicate personally with co-workers, other staff, and my boss. My tongue feels on fire, every synapse in my brain engaging then reengaging every nerve cell with wise, civil sparks, each word perfectly aligned as material witness between me and them. By the end of the interview, all I need is to be pointed to my new desk. Sometimes they even say that, jokingly of course, but not really, not if you saw what I saw. On the drive home I always tell my wife, "I'm gonna get this one, for sure. It's nothing too avant-garde or a la carte. I could do it in my sleep."

But then two weeks three days dreaming of Disney World pass and I haven't heard zilch. I can feel my wife's patience freezing, our kids growing into toddlers with crafty ideas of their own.

"Heads I call, tails I don't."

"Okay, two out of three."

I always send one of my wife's homemade cards, taking my time to write in my best penmanship a real thoughtful, observatory, precise thank you note. No smiley faces, but not Reginald C. Jackson either, just Reg. That's enough. I'm enough. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down with me to discuss the job. I like what I see and want to learn more. I'd feel very fortunate to work at (insert your business here).

"Sorry, but we've gone with another candidate."

They never pick me, and fuck it, I don't understand why. According to my wife, it's absolutely something I said or did or something I didn't say or do. "I bet you didn't even ask about their benefits package."

I can hear her packing in the bedroom, hangers banging into each other, zippers being unzipped and zipped again, drawers being slammed, calls being made, our kids begging her to please, mom, let's just stay and watch cartoons.

Samuel Cole lives in Woodbury, MN. He loves to run, STEP, photograph radiators, hang with friends, boo bad movies, and of course, write. Website: www.maneuverableword.com.