You got four more applicants this afternoon, but Scotts been running behind on the information forms, so if he doesnt get them done after lunch, he says therell be about ten more processed for tomorrow morning. She looked up from the Formica on her desk, jaw working the same piece of chewing gum shed been popping since she came in late, at 8:36. Pro Team Employment, it seemed, had been hiring their clientele. We should start contracting from ADM--theyve got better punctuality policies than we do... Elisabeth Dorn drummed her fingers in her odd way, just the ring and index finger. Chandra kept chewing, like she was going for a record in something besides height of in basket backload.
Is there the slightest chance Scott could tell us whether or not we should expect the rest of the days applicants?
Chandra shook her head, no. Says his printers been sick all day. He called the south office to get the spare sent up here, but they stopped answering the phone since its Brandys lunch break. She said shed be back by noon.
Elisabeth didnt know what was more painful--the simple disorganization, or the fact that Chandra either didnt notice it or had internalized it along with her coffee. She had hoped to take Wednesday at home, like her schedule said she could. Perhaps she could at least salvage the afternoon, but the August hiring crunch wasnt giving her the chance. Well, theres no chance of my actually having a day off, then. Get me the applicants paperwork when you get a chance, okay? Chandra flashed a toothy white smile and went back to examining her Formica.
Elisabeth returned to her office. She knew she was, at heart, a meticulously neat person, but time never allowed for it. Her own desk was awash with requests for staff, requests for specific staff positions, complaints about the people sent to fill those positions and about the people who offered them, and the résumés of what looked like a hundred hopefuls to the fast-paced world of temporary office employment. She looked over the sea of paper, where to begin with the flawed timing of a picnic rainstorm Chandra came with the latest batch of application paperwork, characteristically when Elisabeth had developed a plan of attack for letters of complaint. Chandra was still chewing her gum.
Three packets, not four. Each would ideally have the hopefuls application letter, a comment sheet from his or her preliminary interview, a completed personality/aptitude test, and when Scott was at his best a collection of relevant position openings to match the applicants aptitudes and typing speed. The positions werent included, but at least the letters were paperclipped to the tests. Say what you like about her, Chandras good with the paperclips...
Randall Tibbs was the first contestant, and one of the most underqualified she had ever seen. Hed left typing speed and computer experience blankthat alone made a minimum wage receptionists position difficult to swing. Elisabeth paged the front desk. Chandra?
Hello? smack, smack.
Randall Tibbsdid he come with a comment form?
Janice said there were some problems at his interviewhell be in at twelve-thirty, right?
Yes, that was the time marked in pencil in the corner. And that was, against the odds set by Relevant Work Experience: ??" the time Tibbs arrived. He was a short, malleable-looking man with a shiny pink patch in his brown hair, a moustache that projected further than his nose. He wore a grey suit with faded shoulders. They made introductions.
Mr. Tibbs, you said you were in surveying?
Yes? There was a silence, while both sides tried to guess what was supposed to come next.
Could you elaborate on that?
Trees. I worked with trees. Another strange silence. Elisabeth found herself at a lossmost interviewees were more responsive, they generally seemed to want a job. Any job.
In what manner, Mr. Tibbs.
Leaves. Elisabeth made the universal gesture for more information. Oh. Quantity inspection. There was another silence. She puzzled out the statement. Quality, too, but thats hardly worth noting.
You counted leaves?
Yes, thats right, Tibbs said. He seemed to be earnest about it, as if this made sense. Fifteen years.
You were paid for this?
There really isnt much call for it. Thats why I submitted my résumé.
You were with some sort of state agency? Again, a significant silence. She couldnt read his expressionno, she could, but there wasnt anything to read. He was completely open. Well then. Tell me about your work experience. Such as it is.
His open features lit up, it seemed he didnt get to talk about his work very often. The hours were never very good, particularly in the spring. He paused, until Elizabeth said Of course. You understand? Thats the rush season. Every tree, covered with tiny budsits frustrating. The cedar, you expect it to have those little leavesbut an elm should have nice broad leaves. I never did like the springits just out of balance. Everything builds up, hasnt gotten to the nice, broad stretch past about March.
Dorn also felt a little unbalanced. He didnt seem like an unemployment case, making a token effort at a job interview. She looked for the right response. Oh.
He took the cue. Summer wasnt so much better, but at least it was a better schedule. Everything was all sorted out after spring, sometimes there were flowers. They got in the way, but the scents made it worth the botherparticularly mimosa. Mimosa was always my favoriteeach leaf was a handful of little paired fronds, each with one or two dozen pairs of leaflets, no odd ones to muddle the counts, no thorns like mesquite has, though theyre not so different, really. The flowers smell like spun sugar, which is a nice touch, but it was the leaves that made it my favorite. They were so obliging.
The interview was wandering into alien territory, like the time one of the days applicants swore he was the prophet Elijah. It was time to bring some order to the process.
I did the evergreens in the winter. It only made sense, he said.
That did it for order. Dorn clung to the interview; the man was clearly unemployable, but he was as oddly charming as a mimosa leaflet. Do you have any special qualities that you could bring to Pro Team?
There would be no elaboration there. Your previous position your previous position was voluntary. Left for financial reasons. Do you have any references?
There werent many chances to talk. Busy, not a very crowded field.
No references. Ah would you say that you had any particular problems that might have interfered with your previous job?
Mushrooms. She waited, someone would eventually expand on this. I didnt like them. Ugly, blind things, with gills. They actually have gills. One night, a patch of dirt and leaves, maybe those little pollen things you get on live oak towards the end of winter, the next, twenty, thirty sprouting up where there wasnt anything but wet dirt. Its like grave-robbing. They dont need them anymore
The leaves. But theres no call for them nasty pale things.
She reached in the dark for something familiar. Could could you describe your duties in your previous job? He began to open his mouth, but she interrupted, Leaf quantity inspection, I know, but could you possibly expand on that?
He seemed confused, his eyes turned upward in thought, theyd already been through job description. I enjoyed the winter. No, enjoy isnt it, but it was a good time of the year. I had my hardest job set asidepine needles are okay, but juniper, look at it, every little scale. A thousand leaves in your hand. Its cold, but the green, the smell of sap and life when everything else is dead and naked the way each day walks into the next one, perfectly still except for the sun, brighter than the summer sometimes. Enjoys not the word, but it was still the best part of the year. The evergreens would wait."
He continued. Mimosas came up again, though he avoided the subject of mushrooms. He waxed in a manner that would be poetic, if he had better words, on the mountain laurels oblanceolate leaf structure. His own font of words dried up, and Dorn, for her part, had lost the interview when mushrooms came up, but it was blandly fascinating to listen to him. And then he stopped. This seemed a more final silence than those that came before. The shock jolted Elisabeth back to her own duties. It was one-thirty.
She stood, and with polite formality informed him that his application would be reviewed for consideration. Randall Tibbs nodded earnestly, moustaches bobbing, and left. Dorn filed his paperwork under for later consideration, where it would, perhaps, sprout mushrooms, and waited for the next applicant. Outside Chandra smacked her chewing gum and a lost soul fell from on hold to a dial tone.