Thursday, April 27, 2017

Story 183: I Don’t Spend That Much

            Friend 2 appeared on Friend 1’s doorstep one morning, like a newspaper: “Hi.  I think I need help.”
          “OK, get in here,” Friend 1 said, pulling her inside.  “This must really be bad: you never admit to anything.”
           “That’s not tr– yeah, you’re right, I don’t,” Friend 2 admitted as they sat at the kitchen table; the necessary mugs of tea appeared at hand.  “The truth is, I keep leaving myself short each month and if I keep going on like this I’m probably going to debtors’ prison.”
            Friend 1 ate a biscotti to buy some time.  “Right: you’re not in a Dickens novel, so no worries on being sent to a no-longer-existent prison – ”
            “Phew!”  Friend 2 slumped back in the chair.  “That’s certainly a load off the ol’ mind.”
            “However,” Friend 1 continued; Friend 2 unslumped herself, “if you’re in extreme debt then you’ll probably have to pay creditors for – ever.  And it’s possible you could wind up in regular non-violent-offender prison, which is a step up from the other kind.”
            Friend 2 tapped her fingers on the unsatisfyingly rapidly cooling mug.  “Well, if those are the worst case scenarios, I’m not so bad off.  Bye!”  She stood to leave.
            “Hey!”  She sat back down.  “I thought you needed my help?”
           “Oh yeah, sure,” Friend 2 remembered.  “I’ve been having the awful feeling for some time now that, even though I don’t spend that much, sometimes I may actually be spending a little too much.  Money, that is.”
            Friend 1 gave a non-committal “Uh-huh.”
            “And I may possibly – just possibly, mind – need to cut down a slight bit, but I don’t know where to start, everything seems necessary, and I can’t seem to stop!”
            “Fine: won’t seem to stop.  Will you help me, please?”
          “Now this is something I can work with,” Friend 1 replied, materializing notepads, pens, calculators, and a reference book on household budgets onto the kitchen table: Friend 2 did not see where they came from and did not know where to look first.  “Right: you need to make a list of your income and a list of things you spend your money on every day and every month, and then we’ll work out which ones you absolutely need and which ones you only want.”
            “OK.”  Friend 2 was still in shock as Friend 1 unnecessarily sharpened all the pencils; a visor had appeared on the latter woman’s head as the former one was blinking.
            “So!”  Friend 1 was poised with a pen at the ready.  “Tell me what you make each month.”  Done too quickly.  “Now, what are your regular expenses that you absolutely cannot do without?”
            “Oh that’s easy.”  Friend 2 began ticking off of her fingers: “Water, electricity, gas, rent, Internet – ”
            “Hmm on that last one,” Friend 1 said, holding her pen in the air as her brain worked, then resumed writing, “yep, that went from luxury to necessity in a generation: proceed.”
            Friend 2 had to find her place again: “Laundromat, phone, cable – ”
            “Aha!”  Friend 1 pointed the pen at her.  “There’s your first opportunity: cut the cord and be free!”
            “But if I bundle the services – ”
            “Never fall for that!  It’s decided: away it goes.”  Friend 2 saw her draw several lines through the condemned word.  “Next?”
            “Um, groceries – ”
            “Practically goes without saying.”
            “Car payments – ”
            “Pay it in full and be done with it.”
            “But I can’t, that’s why it’s on a plan.”
            “We’ll see about that.  And?”
            This was getting harder.  “Insurance, shoes – ”
            “I’m sorry what was that last one?”  The pen had dropped.
            Friend 2 knew that she had awakened the beast.  “Shoes.  I need them!  Everything’s made from such garbage that they wear out before I’ve barely worn them.”
            “And how many pairs do you buy each – week?”  Friend 1 thought she was overdoing it: no one was that bad.
            “Two.”  Friend 2 dodged the pen thrown at her.  “I can’t wear the same pair every day, people would notice!”
            “And… it’d be embarrassing.”
            Friend 1 stared at her as if she had never heard anything more inconsequential in her life.  She stared until Friend 2 could no longer meet her eyes, then pronounced:  “There will be a moratorium on your shoe buying, to be revisited in five years.  Make do with the 300+ pairs you currently have.”
            “Yes’m.”  The actual number was not far off.
            Friend 1 returned to her notepad with a new pen: “Continue.”
            “Um, I do buy coffee every day – ”
            “Not anymore.”
            “But I really do need that!  It helps me wake up in the morning!”
          “You’ve addicted yourself to it and need to stop cold turkey.  If you need that much help waking up in the morning, try going to bed earlier the night before.”
            That made some sort of sense.  “Maybe.  Let’s see: I like to buy expansion packs on some games – ” Friend 1 stared blankly at her – “which I will now hold off doing for a while.”  Friend 1 went back to the notepad.  “That’s probably about it.”
            Friend 1 stared at her again.  “Don’t lie to me.”
            “I’m not!  I really can’t think of anything else I spend my money on that regularly.”
            “What’s that all over your face right now?”
“Ditch it: nobody cares.”
“Oh come on!”
“The whole industry is a brainwashing scam!  The only people who need it are performers and funeral home viewings!”
This was too much: “You know I have an acne problem!  And at my age!  What am I supposed to cover it up with?!”
“Try acne medication!”
“Yeah, well, I think make-up makes me look good, and who are you to judge?!”
“I’m the one you came to to save you money, and this would be at least – ” she tapped a bunch of numbers into the calculator – “$195 a month!  And I’m just referencing the cheap brands!”
“Fine!  No more make-up, I’ll just be a giant ugly pimple!”
“A pimple who’ll have saved at least $195 a month!”
Friend 2 was not finished sulking and crossed her arms to prove it.  “Anything else?”
Friend 1 was finalizing her spreadsheet and looked up suddenly: “I don’t know, IS THERE?”
Friend 2  thought for a moment: “No, that’s it.”
“All right then,” Friend 1 said, handing her the report.  “Immediately cease buying, renting, and/or subscribing to the items in column C, and follow the attached payment plans for the items in column D."
Friend 2 scanned the papers.  “How could – you didn’t even know I was coming over today!  How did you do all this just now?!”
“Being organized solves nearly every problem.”
“Except acne.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Story 182: The Professional Interviewee

         “There, there,” the Interviewer verbally patted the latest applicant on his shaking shoulder.  “You didn’t do that terribly.”
            The applicant looked up sharply.  “Does that mean I got the job?”
            “No.  Off you go.”  The applicant slunk out to begin his search anew.
          The Interviewer sighed as she moved on to the next résumé: how was she supposed to get any work done when she kept having to meet with people for randomly open positions?  She had the nagging feeling that her increasingly backed-up work eventually would cause her own position to randomly open as well.
            She quickly rescanned the résumé she had read some time earlier.  Everything on the surface seemed to be in order: no significant gaps, good experience, currently employed in the same field.  Maybe this would be The One, she thought, then called her assistant to send Maybe The One in.
            The Interviewer stood as the Applicant threw open the door.
           “Hi,” the Applicant said, walking around the room a bit, “nice company you’ve got here; I really like the décor.”  She closed the door behind her and plopped herself into the seat across from the Interviewer’s desk, slouching a bit to get more comfortable.
           The Interviewer was loath to end a session just as it started, so she soldiered on by sitting back down and attempting to regain control by introducing herself.
            “Yes, we spoke on the phone, my name is – ”
            “I remember who you are; you seemed nice,” the Applicant said as she rummaged through her messenger bag, adding: “Feel free to sit, make yourself comfortable.”  The way in which she said that compelled the Interviewer to do as suggested and she sat back down in her chair.
          Straightening items on her desk to assert some semblance of authority, the Interviewer tried again: “So, what led you to apply to our company?”
            “I need money and you guys have a lot of it.”
            “Yes, well, besides that – ”
            “Aha!  Here we go.”  The Applicant whipped out a packet of papers and sat straighter in the chair.  “Right, let’s get started,” she said, glancing at the packet and then back at the Interviewer.
            “Excuse me?”
            Ignoring that, the Applicant continued: “You’ve read my résumé, you called me in because you are seriously considering having me work for you guys, my first question is this: what’s in it for me?”
            “I, uh, what?”
          “Aside from the salary, which obviously needs to be negotiated upward, why should I, with multitudes of life options, want to devote a good chunk of my waking hours and caring about something other than myself to your company?”
            “Well, we have good benefits – ”
            “Define ‘good.’”
            “Medical, dental, vision; plus three weeks’ vacation a year.”
            The Applicant was scribbling furiously on the packet.  “Go on: retirement plan?”
            “Yes, a 403b.”
            “Hm.”  She tapped her pen against her chin.  “I’m always a bit leery when it’s not an `01k.”
            “It’s practically the same thing.”
            “‘Practically’ is not ‘equal to.’  No matter: moving on to day-to-day operations.  What is the lay of the land around the office?”
            “Um, let’s see, you’d be working in a cubicle, so you’d have some privacy, but we have daily meetings within our department.”
            Scribble-scribble.  “Uh-huh.  And who makes up this department?”
            “Oh, there’re about 10 people – ”
            “No-no-no, I mean what types of people make up the department?  Who’s the slacker, who’s the alpha – clearly not you – ” the Interviewer ground her teeth, “who’s the workaholic, who’s the alcoholic, who’s the drama queen, who’s the underminer, are these all actually the same person, I need names!”
            “I can introduce you to everyone later – ”
            “That’s fine.”  The Applicant flipped ahead a few pages.  “Here’s a good one: I always clock in five minutes late – it’s not intentional, it just is – and I always clock out five minutes late, will that be a problem?”
            The Interviewer thought about the three employees who clocked in 15 minutes late every day and sat around at their end of their shifts; her continuous docking of their pay had no effect whatsoever.  “Well, no, if you’re working the eight hours, five minutes won’t make much difference.”
            “Good – it’s not as if we’re needed on time to start surgery here, am-I-right?”
            “I suppose.”
            The Applicant flipped to the end of her packet.  “Ah, this one: what would you say are your three greatest strengths and three greatest weaknesses?”
            “I really should be the one asking you that,” the Interviewer replied.
            “Let’s agree to disagree.”  The Applicant sped read the last page.  “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
            “I’m supposed to be asking you that!”
            “I asked you first.”
            Fair enough.  “All right, I see myself right here as I am now.”
            The Applicant began writing again: “Not – much – ambition – ”
          “Where do you see yourself in five years?”  The Interviewer snapped, then thought, “Please don’t say ‘At your desk with your title.’”
            The Applicant did not look up from writing.  “In the job I have right now.”
            “Oh… what?”
           The Applicant finished, put her materials away, and stood.  “Yes, this has all been lovely; thank you very much for your time; you’ve been a great interviewer.”  She held out her hand and the Interviewer automatically stood and shook it.
            “Wait a minute, you’re not actually interested in the position?”
            “No, I’m not.  Was that unclear?”
            “Extremely!  Why did you apply and come in for an interview then?”
            “I like to keep my skills sharp.  Oh, before I forget,” she reached into her suit jacket pocket, pulled out a pin, and handed it to the Interviewer.  “You’re my 500th.”
            A response seemed to be expected.  “Thank you?”
            “Not at all,” the Faux Applicant said on her way out, “I love meeting new people!”  The door closed gently behind her.
            The Interviewer stared at the 500th pin and mused on how one certainly does learn something new every day.