This is a story from a few months ago, but the humiliation still lingers so I felt it worthy of being shared.
In July, I came to D.C. by myself to find an apartment. By the end of that very sweaty and exhausting week, I had a day left to search for jobs. I decided to start with Capitol Hill. It seemed to me that the best bet for dropping off an univited resume would be with the folks representing the two states I’ve lived in. Now if you know me, you’ll know that I am affiliated with the Republican party. In both states that I have lived in, this is not the most popular group to belong to. In D.C., I am soooo not part of the “cool club”. According to a September, 2008 article in The Washington Post, the district is 74% Democrat. And, after the 2008 elections, Capitol Hill reflects the American voters’ anger with the GOP. So, being the practical girl I am, I knew it foolish to hold out for a job with the red team. I’m fairly moderate anyway, so I had made my peace with working for “the other side”.
I met the aides at each office with a huge smile, chit-chat about life back home, and a gleaming white copy of my resume. I knew if they looked closely at my work experience, I’d be discovered, but it was worth a shot. My previous experience includes working for a non-profit called Concerned Christian Citizens. It was non-partisan, and in fact, the board of directors was represented by both Democrats and Republicans, but just looking at the name, who on earth would ever think it was anything but a forum for pushing a conservative, evangelical agenda? I had also worked to elect a candidate to Parliament in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a member of the Conservative Party of Canada. If those two things didn’t give me away….
I laughed out loud in disbelief when I got a call from one of the office’s I had visited…one of the democratic offices. They asked if I would like to interview for an internship. I’m 27, I have a college degree, I’m married, I’ve traveled the world, I’ve already had some solid work experience…work for free for a politician that I don’t know much about and who I probably wouldn’t agree with anyway? Sure, I’ll give it a go. I figured I would at least do the interview for the experience.
Before the phone interview, I popped onto the politician’s site to do a bit of research. It was mostly what you would expect and I spent just a few brief minutes looking things over. When the call came, my stomach turned as the questions began- I was completely unprepared. I knew that to be successful, I needed to be vague about my own political preferences, but I certainly wasn’t willing to lie…well, I didn’t think I would lie, but one sort of slipped out, and for no reason at all!
The girl asked me to describe a situation in which I had dealt with a difficult customer, and how I had handled it. My mouth started moving faster than my brain could catch up, and after the first few words were out, my brain started screaming “NOOOOO! Anything but that story!” But it was too late and I forged ahead, marching my way towards complete humiliation and a lame, lame lie.
“I work at a sailing school, and one time some students showed up who stunk something awful. You know, like they had really bad B.O.? Yeah, it was terrible, and when they walked into the office, the whole room just reeked. They were going to be going out on a week-long course with two other students and an instructor. A week is a long time to be on a boat, let alone with someone who stinks like that, so I pulled them aside and explained the situation and asked them to please shower before they left for their course. I gave them quarters to use at the harbor showers.”
LIAR! That story did happen, but it wasn’t me that dealt with it! I had hidden at my desk like the awkward geek that I am and my boss, Jermaine, was the one who carried out the dirty deed! Plus, could I have possibly picked a more disgusting and awkward story to share?
When I had finished…..silence. Just silence. Then a few small giggles in the background and the main girl responded with “Huh. Well, we don’t normally have to deal with issues of personal hygiene.” Ugghh, kill me now.
I thought that might be the end of the torturous interview, but she kept going. Perhaps she was enjoying toying with me- the weak and helpless prey, caught on enemy turf. She asked me to name the elected official’s priority issues. I thought to myself about the things that all democrats like and figured that was as good a response as anything. “The environment.” Nice job, Kati…the environment is a safe one. Besides, it’s not like they would contradict me on that. Feeling a little more confident, I continued with “making sure everyone has healthcare paid for with tax dollars.” Shoot- probably should have just stopped with the word “healthcare”. Then I remembered some little blurb on her website and my mouth shot out of the gates again with “women in the military- yeah, that’s a really big priority.” Oh my gosh, not that women in the military don’t deserve attention and accolades, but come on, is that really any politician’s main priority? Is anyone going to build a re-election platform on that?
Again….the silence. And again, the giggles in the background. “Okay…” the girl tried to speak, but her voice was heavily strained with impending laughter. “Well, thank you for your time. We’ll let you know when we make a decision.”
My face burned red for two days every time I thought of the disaster on the phone. At 27, I should have learned by now that opening your mouth when you have no clue what you’re talking about, is a horrible, terrible, very bad idea. Maybe I deserve to not be paid.
And then they offered me the job. No joke. They planned to eat me alive- savoring every blush, every sweat of my palms, every stumbling word that tumbled out of my brain-t0-mouth disconnect. I was sure of it. Why else would they take me? I politely declined after considering it for a day. The thought of spending 4 months with an office full of masochistic, political minions terrified me.