Willa’s phone rang.
“Willa, will you please–”
“No, no, no, no, no. I’m sitting outside of an interview right now.”
Willa hung up.
The inside of her car was blazing hot. The temperature that day felt like the first day of Summer. One of those rare nice days that spike up to seventy and then snows the week after. She liked being smothered by the heat. She put her shoes on, sucked in the hot air through her nose, up her chest, and out a long whistle. She took another deep breath. She went inside.
The reception area was empty save for a woman crouched low in a floor-level file cabinet. Her Oxford top was slipped out of her trousers exposing her cleavaged back.
“Good afternoon,” Willa announced.
The woman shot up, startled at first and then recognizing Willa right away.
She tucked her shirt into the back of her pants and walked around to let Willa in.
“Welcome,” she said in a lower, calmer voice. “You’re early.”
“I try to spare ten minutes but I can wait if you were in the middle of some–”
“Absolutely not! I love timeliness. We’re gonna come into my office here on the right.”
They sauntered into a room along the hallway. Willa paced herself so she can enter second. She complimented the woman’s topaz tan trousers, noting her for her fashion sense.
The mood shifted immediately upon entrance into her office. The building outside of her office seemed cold and stale– clinical white walls, blinding lights, a buzzing sound as their heels clanked the linoleum. Willa’s interviewer’s office was instead cut straight from the hashtag “home decor.” Willa had never thought of this. Perhaps the workday felt so long because she couldn’t come to terms with work basically being her first home. She started cataloging the different types of things she’s buy for her desk in her head.
“I love that butter plate. Very cool idea.”
“Oh.. my name plate?” the interviewer said peeking over. “Thank you,” she said genuinely.
“So tell me about yourself.”
“Well.. I just left my role with New Haven City Hall. Spent five good years there workforce planning, conducting damage control on obsolete to extreme conflicts, leading morale training. No staff so unfortunately little leadership opportunity but very heavy autonomy. Before that, I spent two years with Pratt & Whitney. A lot of teamwork-based work with responsibilities that translated into leadership–”
“And what was the size of your team?”
“Twelve,” Willa said back quickly.
“That’s rather large for HR!” The interviewer jotted something down.
“It was a challenge but one with a great silver lining.”
Willa stammered into her final sentence. “Before that, the entry-level generalist role that started it all– Pitney Bowes.
“So you are very accomplished.” Her dialogue with Willa was on a rolling basis, replies ready before they were bid. “This is inappropriate to ask but how old are you?” she asked looking at Willa.
“I’m in my thirties,” Willa said flirtatiously.
The interviewer feigned surrender. “That’s all you have to say,” she said looking down at Willa’s resume. She scanned the sheet with full head movements. “Trust me, I’m gonna be forty-four soon. And where did the time go?”
Willa always felt strange complimenting other women on, not their beauty, but their sexiness. She didn’t know the difference between complimenting a woman on her beauty and her sexiness. It was in her opinion that a homosexual person of the opposite gender were the only ones who could compliment that gender on their looks and mean nothing by it. Willa, unfortunately, felt insecure. The woman was attractive on paper– dense, petite body, blonde bob full of sheen and body, thick, glistening nail polish atop low-cut nails, not too much makeup to overpower her dainty features. She had a feeling her next comment would hold the same connotation as possibly coming onto the interviewer but she said it anyway.
“Well, you’re glowing.”
The interviewer was looking at Willa’s resume. She glanced up, smiled, and peppily thanked her absentmindedly. Willa’s eye darted the floor as the interviewer read, distracted.
“My son goes to Platt. That’s so funny,” she said to herself.
“That’s so funny,” Willa said.
The room was quiet. The interview folded her fingers of the resume and looked at Willa in the face.
“So I know all about you. And I’m sure you know all about the company. But you’ve been through this before. I’m just gonna give you a quick company summary. I mean you’ve seen us on TV. We’ve been around over sixty years. Consumers every corner you turn. Ninety million in revenue. Controversial as all hell, which brings me to my next question– why do you want to work for McDonald’s?”
Willa’s boot-licking template, tailored for whatever she could applaud the company about, was ready. “McDonald’s is America’s homecooking. Even if the world– and by the world I mean McDonald’s– ends tomorrow, the nostalgic remnants of McDonald’s would be an industry on its own. You guys are strong contenders in your industry and I’m drawn to the major corporations with strong legs to stand on. I mean, HR is all about internal improvement. I like strengthening the skeletons of those companies whose HR values are already strong.”
“Well there are great benefits, one including comped meals.”
“Well if I may speak off the record..”
The interviewer’s eyebrows raised and she brayed. Willa pumped her elbow in her mind.
“My mission is a life-supply of your Fish Fillets.”
“Yeah..” the interviewer said trailing her laugh off.
The crease in her nose slightly deepened.
“I have to say, I’m really impressed, Willa. If you have time, I’d love to show you a tour of the place.”
“Of course!” Willa said.
They entered back into the cold hallway beaming of harsh white lights. At the end of the hall they made a left into an open cubicle farm. The carpet was grey, offering a bit more warmth than the hallway but not the interviewer’s office. The layout left no room for sneaking stunt YouTube videos. Everyone’s backs were facing each other. They were hunched over, their necks cranked upward to their computer screens. Willa figured the alternative would bear the same result in addition to occasional awkward eye contact.
“This is Accounting,” the interviewer whispered. “They’re in the zone.” She bobbed a little dance that made Willa feel embarrassed– for herself for not having a quick response and for the interviewer.. for doing it.
They crossed the grey carpet into another small hallway with a lineup of doors. One room held three IT guys, another held the Director of Sales, another was the bathroom.
They went down a set of dark stairs that seemed to lead them to a more modern section of the building. Thick-framed photos of Ronald McDonald and laminated drawings by children hung alongside the staircase. Each drawing had a formal gold placard with the child’s name, age, and school. Willa felt the sentiment but she held her fake gallery-goer smile for the maintenance of the first impression she was creating. They made a right and it was again a long hallway with buzzing lights.
“Down here is our legal team– the muscle of the brand.” They peeked into a large room, the desks set up like a schoolhouse in a perfect square. “And right next door we have our social media slash PR team. They kind of work in conjunction with the legal team– proofing tweets, sending out statements, detonating those fake deepfried rat pictures.”
Gauging the company’s humor a little, Willa murmured, “The poor rats.”
The interviewer laughed again. “Ri– poor rats.” Her laughed diffused gently and she caught a breath. “And then if we come around here.. this is.. just the fire exit. When you work here you’ll get to see how we do our fire drills. And we actually do them. There’s no ignoring the alarm around here. We had a cry wolf kind of situation. Ugh.. more on that later.”
They took the same way they took down in reverse landing again in the hallway that lead them to the interviewer’s office. A tall man was just leaving the office neighboring the interviewer’s. Willa was introduced, he excused himself, and he left.
“Actually..” the interviewer thought for a moment. “This is important. I forgot a section.”
They went through the accounting team’s section again and into the small hallway housing IT and the restroom. Instead of going down the stairs and turning right, they made a left and entered into a cafeteria filled with staffers. Willa wondered where they all came from.
“The building connects at the basement and we share this cafeteria. These are the.. I think they do technology..” she said in question-form. “I don’t know. I pack my lunch.”
Emitting from the cafeteria was the smell of fresh lettuce. Willa felt light inside. She was relaxed. She noticed a smoothie bar in the corner and became excited. Butterflies fluttered through her stomach that she was acing the interview and this would soon be her reality.
“There’s our President. He’s been doing some walkthroughs today. He competes in a handball competition in Trumbull so he stops by whenever he has the chance.” They both finished scanning the room. “But yeah. This is our cafeteria. You can get sandwiches, soup, salads– anything you want. It’s all catered.”
“Do you guys have Burger King at all?”
The interviewer chuckled, “No.. no. No Burger King.” She remounted, sucking a breath of completion in. “Let’s head on back up.”
And so they did. They conversed about the kind of cleansing shakes they make at home. They were in agreement about the acquired taste of kale and how black tea was not quite a superfood with how much one had to consume. They talked about consistency and sticking to a goal, the interviewer interrupting herself as they came upon the long hallway again.
The interviewer skimmed over the doors lined along her hallway commenting the whereabouts of her HR associate and the reason their recruiter’s door is always shut.
“I just can’t take the repetition of her cold calls, I tell you.” The interviewer sat back behind her desk, shaking her shoulder-length hair behind her shoulders and fanning her face, flushed. “Next door is the office where you will be should we decide to hire you. Our last associate just had a baby and decided to take on full-time mom life. Do you have children?”
“I don’t. Just one nephew. I think all aunts consider their nephews their surrogate sons.”
“Well, you indeed give them back!”
“That is correct,” Willa smiled. “He’s great though.”
“Yeah, he’s great.” Willa allowed for anything else the interviewer had to say because she felt there would be no end to their leisure. She said, “Just one quick question before I let you go–”
“No, ask away!” the interviewer said leaning forward on her elbows.
By reflex, Willa sat back.
“What is your method of training? Computer-based? Group? Public speaker?”
“That’s a good question. I love the public speakers especially the ones that teach us all about social media etiquette.”
“Do they do the Facebook hack?”
“Yes! My, when I tell you I was shocked at how easy it is to hack into someone’s Facebook.”
“Blows my mind every time.”
“I bet,” the interviewer said. “But to answer your question, we do group training in times of crisis which– knock on wood– none since December. In general, computer-based is the norm around here.”
“Understood,” Willa said. “Well, like you said, I’ve done a lot of research. I’m very familiar with your mission here. I’m impressed with what I’ve seen of the structure today. My interest is very high and I hope to discuss next steps.”
“Oh.. it was a pleasure, Willa,” the interviewer said compassionately. They stood up. “And I love those ear rings. Are they– do you have a piercing in the back of your–”
“No, the backing is a design in itself. It’s a bit of an illusion, huh?”
The interviewer walked her to the front.
“Yes, very cute.”
They shook hands.
“Pleasure meeting. Have a good rest of your day,” Willa said.
“Alright now. Drive safe.”
Willa was outside before the door to the inside of the office was closed. She got back into her back, started it right away, and drove off.