#187 - "The Interview"

posted Jun 23, 2012, 11:16 AM by Terrence Moss   [ updated Feb 13, 2013, 7:41 PM ]
Featuring:
Chris – Erick’s boyfriend
April (in flashback): Erick’s friend
Christine (in flashback) - Erick’s former boss
Sean – the interviewer 

In the six months since being laid off, Erick has been on one interview – and this was going to be it. It’s not that he hasn’t tried to find another job…he just hasn’t tried all that hard. Occasionally he’ll check out the job listings, but then generally thumbs his nose at what passes for opportunity these days and moves on with his day.

With vacation pay, severance, credit and unemployment, which he filed for the day after the layoff, he has yet to reach a financial panic mode. But while Erick’s practical side tells him to find some work so as to not descend further into debt than he already has, the more frivolous side he has tapped into this year has made life much less routinous.

Even when the bills come, Erick pulls them out of his mailbox and scoffs, saying “maybe” or “we’ll see”.

Concerned friends (and some nosy ones) would ask him how he’s surviving and how he’s going to continue to survive. He would just chuckle and respond by saying, “That’s God’s problem. If he can’t handle it, then he should probably let an understudy take over the part.”

****************************

Erick recently escorted April to an industry event in Hollywood in place of the unavailable Grayson. At this event, he ran into Christine Taylor, his first boss from his first job in Los Angeles.

“Erick Davidson,” Christine says in a high but heavy voice dichotomous to her frame as she makes her way through a nearby cluster of people.

“Christine?” Erick responds as the two of them embrace firmly for the first time in several years. Christine takes Erick’s head and puts it on her shoulder. “It’s been so long since you’ve seen me. How did you pick me out in this crowd?”

“Honey, I’d recognize that forehead anywhere,” Christine teases. She notices April standing behind Erick. “Is this your girlfriend?”

Erick and April look at each other and chuckle. “In a ‘Will & Grace’ sort of way,” he replies.

“I figured as much,” Christine says with an elbow to Erick’s side. “You never told me for sure, but we all sure as hell knew.”

“It would have taken me a minute as well if I wasn’t already setting him up with a friend of mine at the time we met,” April piggybacks.

Christine extends a curious hand to April. “I’m Christine Taylor. I hired Erick to his first job out here.”

“I’m April.”

“And how do you two know each other?”

“He made a pass at my boyfriend on a bus.”

Christine fishes a business card out of her purse. “Erick, I am so glad we ran into each other but I have to work this room. Let’s have lunch next week. I want to hear more about this thing with April and her boyfriend.”

“It was nice meeting you, Christine!” April says enthusiastically as she and Christine shake hands.

“Likewise,” Christine replies as she and Erick quickly embrace before darting off into the crowd. Erick and April watch as she engages in polite business conversation with a random group of fellow industry types.

“She once told me that she hired me because she thought I had a cute ass,” Erick recalls.

****************************

Erick and Christine had lunch the following week at Thai Dishes in Santa Monica. The two of them came to the realization that they hadn’t seen each other in almost six years.

Erick had just returned from a disastrous summer in New York. He had quit his job with Christine under such fanfare just a few months prior, so he didn’t even bother calling her to ask for his job back.

Instead, he took a job at Walgreen’s. On his first day, Christine of all people walked in and saw him behind the counter. Rather than gloat, she dissolved in tears over what she felt she had reduced him to by letting him leave. In his heart of hearts, Erick hoped she would have asked him to come back. In her heart of hearts, Christine had hoped Erick would have just asked to come back.

Instead, Erick told her that his job at Walgreen’s was just temporary. That’s how it turned out but at the time, he had no other plans.

Erick went on to tell Christine about living in Massachusetts, the special guy he spent time with out there and the “what might have been” aspects of his final triumphant return to Los Angeles three years ago.

Christine told Erick about losing the account three years ago that built her agency eight years ago. She promised her small but growing staff that no one was being let go. Still, she suggested that they may want to start looking for other work. Her agency’s smaller accounts kept her able to pay the remaining staff but the other expenses were paid for out of her own pocket. She cut back where she could but for several months did not draw a salary – a situation that only she and her finance officer were aware of.

As employees found other work, Christine shifted her slate of services from that of an advertising agency to that of a consultancy and executive search firm. Over the last year, her agency billed more with a lot of much smaller accounts than it ever had with the $500 million account that launched the agency in the first place.

Erick then explained the story of how he and April met. He told her about Chris. He told her about his job with Lefty Magazine. Perhaps to avoid putting her in the awkward position of telling him that she’ll see what she can do and perhaps to keep her from feeling a sense of obligation to find him something at her firm, he didn’t tell her that his job with Lefty ended six months ago.

****************************

“Christine Taylor speaks very highly of you,” Sean Davis tells Erick over coffee at the Big Cup in Hollywood. He was still unsure how Christine knew he hadn’t been forthright about his employment status.

“She gave me my start. She taught me a helluva lot.”

“She tends to do that. I also came up under her auspices at SoCal – but that was probably a few years before you showed up and took it by storm.”

Erick smiles. “I wouldn’t go that far, but feel free.”

“To hear her tell it, I should be sorry to have missed you.”

“That’s very kind and accurate of her to say.”

Sean smiles and nods his head. “It seems you two had a great thing going there at CTA. Why did you leave?”

“Well, the short of it is that an account was in jeopardy and it was either me or that account, so it was me.”

“She fired you?”

“No. I was taken off that account but since there wasn’t much other business, it was essentially a demotion.”

“I see.”

“And I took it personally even though it wasn’t personal. It took me a few years to come to that understanding.”

“How many jobs have you quit?”

“Two. But no firings. The second resignation was me just giving them what they wanted by leaving,” Erick explains as he takes a sip of his latte. “I was undervalued and underutilized. I just can’t work in that type of environment.”

“Interesting. You must have a pretty good sense of what you have to offer.”

“I’d like to think so.”

“And what is that?”

“Enthusiasm. Drive. Commitment. And levity.”

“Levity?”

“Yes, it’s an important release in any environment – especially during those times when everything is suddenly needed yesterday.”

Sean crosses his legs. “So you like to clown around?”

“Not at all. But those releases help me relax so I can get the work done.”

“What about the rest of the team?”

“Well, if I’m struggling to get my part done, then that affects the team as a whole.

“So in this case, there is an I in team.”

“Yes,” Erick says with a smile, which Sean meets with a stone face.

“What would some of your other higher-ups say about your ‘levity’?”

Erick thinks about this for a moment. “Simon didn’t care as long as the work got done. Andrea thought it was unprofessional. Maryanne thought it was great at first but then it got on her nerves. John and Steve from my last job were of a similar mindset to me so they just joined in the levity. Regardless, I tried very hard to make sure it was never a distraction.”

“Was it ever?”

“If it was and I was made aware of it, then I did something about it. What I didn’t like was when people went to HR over it without addressing it with me first. I don’t particularly like rules but I do believe in protocol rooted in mutual respect.”

Sean looks at his watch. “I should be getting back to the office.”

“Thank you for the meeting,” Erick says.

Sean rises and reaches into his pocket. “Here’s my card. If you don’t hear from me in a week, give me a call.”

****************************

“How did the meeting go?” Chris asks as Erick walks through the door of his apartment.

“You never really know how these things go. And I’m not sure I even care.”