A couple of months back, my home room went to a careers seminar. The speakers had pushed that first impressions counted when it came to job interviews. How we looked and how we acted could be the key to getting us a job, or what got us booted out the door.
Well, what could get me booted out the door in this particular instance was my age. I was too young to be in the bar.
But that wasn’t my biggest worry. As I followed Trevor inside I realised I was hardly dressed for an interview. I’d stormed from the house after the argument with my brother in dirty shoes, the t-shirt I’d been wearing three days straight, and a thinned-out puffa jacket. Raking back my hair, I asked if Trevor had a comb.
He looked me up and down. ‘Mr Gordon’s not really going to care about your hair, Owen.’
Yeah, but I did. With the situation obviously out of the ordinary I had to try for a good first impression where I could. Trevor sighed, fished a comb from his back pocket and pointed at the men’s restroom.
The lights in there were unbelievably white and made me look horrendous. The smudges under my eyes at home appeared as massive bruising here. God, would people think I’d been in a fight? I splashed water on my face and dried it with paper towels, causing colour to flush my cheeks and make the ‘bruising’ fade just a little. After running the comb under hot water, I slicked back my hair. Then ruffled my hands through so it didn’t look so slick, and then patted it so it didn’t stand up so much.
Jesus, what am I doing?
The comb shook in my hands. My eyes, when I dared look directly in the mirror, showed dilated pupil. Nerves, and the fear of being in a place I wasn’t allowed. I sucked in deep breaths until my nerves were under control and I was sure I wouldn’t faint at my prospective employer’s feet when I met him.
I unzipped the jacket a little so the top of my t-shirt was showing. It looked tidier that way. My jeans weren’t too bad and I hoped that the light in the bar proper might be dark enough to hide my footwear from serious inspection.
Trevor waited for me just outside the door and took the comb. He wore a half smile. ‘You’re a cute kid, Owen, Mr Gordon will like you.’
God, I hoped so. I really needed a job now; my savings would handle the new power bill but not much else.
Trevor led me through the crowd to a secondary bar at the back of the building. Less crowded, but the light was just as dim. Hopefully that would be in my favour. I just had project intelligence and competence for thirty minutes tops. I stiffened my spine, straightened my shoulders, and acted like I had every right to be here.
The careful ‘first impression’ shell cracked when Trevor spoke to a man at the bar and the man turned to me with a frown. Opportunity lost barely after it began! Was it my jeans? Or maybe he could see my sneakers. Or maybe the dimness didn’t hide the smudges under—
‘Owen,’ Trevor said, cutting off my self-diagnosing. ‘This is Andrew Gordon.’
The opening moment of my long-time-coming novel, which I thought I would mark here because it’s April 5th. This whole meeting between Owen and Andrew is on Andrew’s 40th birthday. (Though he never reveals that!). Thinking about it just now is a little depressing, since 40’s momentous, but Andrew’s been at work longer than needed and is now drinking alone. Not only that, but he’s not even able to go home. He’s been at the boutique pub/hotel for a few days because of water issues with his apartment.
I was very lucky on my 40th – my sister and her hubby flew me to Melbourne for the weekend!
Not that Andrew’s birthday was in any way forgettable!