There was a loud screech, an even louder thump that one felt as much as heard, and then, nothing. That’s how it all began.
I had been on my way to an important job interview. Having been out of work for a few months, every interview had become important. My savings were dwindling fast, even with my watching what I spent. At this point in my life, I really didn’t want to start living on tuna fish and mac and cheese.
I looked at the others who were stuck in the elevator with me, to see if they were as uncomfortable as I was about being stuck in such a small enclosed space. There were four of us in all. Two men, another woman and myself. The men were examining the control panel, trying to figure out which was the magic button that would get us moving again. The woman … well, more of a girl, since she was probably no older than 22, was frantically tapping away at her cellphone.
I gently reached past both men and pressed the alarm button, which made cellphone girl look up from her tapping, although only for a second before she was back to tapping. The men looked at me with a mixture of awe and annoyance. The younger one had the look of awe, the older one, annoyance. It’s amazing how something can be right in front of you, but if you’re too busy looking for “the” solution, you completely miss the obvious one. It’s also amazing that in this day and age, men can get annoyed when a woman can solve something that they can’t.
Within a minute a voice came on over the intercom, telling us that they knew we were stuck and that they are looking into the solution. It was somewhat comforting to know that people out there were on the case! Somewhat, but not completely. It would have been more comforting had they said that they have actually figured out what was wrong and how to get us out of there.
I was a little concerned that I would be late to the interview, but I had given myself a lot of extra time to get there, just in case the subway had delays, which was very likely, considering how often the subways had delays. As it turned out, today there were no delays. Even with waiting outside the building for ten minutes, and the five minutes I had to wait at the security desk in the lobby to get my visitor’s pass, I still had fifteen minutes before my scheduled appointment. I would allow myself a few more minutes before panicking about showing up late to the interview, even after all my careful planning.
“It’s ok,” said the younger of the two men, “they will probably have us out of here in a few more minutes.” He was kind of cute, I noticed, and I quickly scanned his left hand for a wedding ring. Not that the absence of one really meant anything. My friend Tom is married, and he doesn’t wear a ring. His wife Peggy wears one, though. She wears both the wedding ring and the HUGE rock of an engagement ring that she makes sure to show off all the time. I often wonder if that’s because she loves the rings, loves being married, or simply wants to rub it in my face that I’m still single?
I wasn’t sure if it were my imagination or if the older guy was still giving me an annoyed look for having figure out the alarm button before him. He was probably some “C-level” executive and was used to people kneeling to his leadership. I’ve worked for a couple of jerks like him in the past.
“Oh My God!”, I had thought to myself, “What if this guy was Mr. Hanson, the person I’ll be interviewing with? I’ve heard those horror stories. The ones where the person steals the cab from someone or the parking spot or something like that, only to walk into the interview room to find that person is the one interviewing them! It would be just my dumb luck if that turns out to be the case.”
I figured I had better smooth things over, just in case.
“Well,” I said, “while we wait, my name is Casey.”
Cute guy introduced himself as Peter. He had a dimple in his left cheek when he smiled. And the bluest eyes I had ever seen, with really long dark eyelashes. Why is it that the long lashes are always on guys?
The older gentleman introduced himself as Bill. I didn’t know what Mr. Hanson’s first name was, so that didn’t help me much. But at least he wasn’t shooting daggers with his eyes at me anymore. Perhaps I had misjudged him. Perhaps he was just uncomfortable being stuck in the elevator, just like I was.
Cellphone girl simply looked up at us, rolled her eyes and looked back at her cellphone. I could not believe how rude she was being. But in a way it was good. Because with her being overly rude, I was Mother Theresa compared to her!
The two men began to chat about the game that had been on the TV the night before. I have no idea what game. The night before, I had been doing my preparation for the interview. Researching as much as I could find out about the company, and about Mr. Hanson. I always came to an interview ready to impress. Actually, it’s how I was with any work projects as well. Which was why when my company got acquired by a larger firm, it was somewhat shocking to me that I wasn’t one of the employees that got to keep their position. I had been told that they weren’t looking at the performance ratings, but at the salary numbers. And since I’d been in the industry for over fifteen years, my salary was on the higher end. It also meant that there were less available jobs out in the market for me to choose from. If I had to hear the word “overqualified” again, or that they couldn’t come close to my last salary, I would scream! I got turned away because of this before even getting in the door, more times that not.
It had now been eight minutes since we had gotten stuck. I looked up the phone number for David Wyman, the human resources person I had been working with to arrange the details of the interview, in order to let him know I would probably be late. I explained that I had gotten to the building early, but that I had been stuck in the elevator for almost ten minutes now. David seemed more than a little flustered by this hiccup and told me that he would have to call Mr. Hanson to see what his schedule was like for the rest of the morning, and if my interview could even be pushed back.
After I had hung up, Peter asked me where I was interviewing. I told him the name of the company and he joyfully said “I work there!” And although I smiled back, I was not as thrilled as he was. While it would be nice to know at least one person if I were to get hired there, I had a strict “NO DATING” policy when it came to coworkers. If I got the job, there would go my fantasy about how Peter and I would tell our children and grandchildren about how we met when we got stuck in an elevator together, on the day Mommy was interviewing for the job that would lead to her eventually becoming the C.E.O. of the company!
Peter asked what position I was interviewing for, to which I replied that it was an executive assistant position. I didn’t want to give away all the details, as I still was concerned that Bill may be Mr. Hanson. But Peter pushed a little more, and I told him that I was supposed to meet with a gentleman named Mr. Hanson. While there was no reaction from Bill, Peter and cellphone girl both looked at each other with what appeared to be a flash of surprise. But cellphone girl quickly looked back down at her phone, and I swear, her tapping got more furious.
“Um, yeah, I know him. He just got promoted last month to Chief Investment Officer. I heard he was looking for a new assistant.” Peter said, as he looked sidelong at cellphone girl. Something was going on here, and I just couldn’t quite make it out.
“Oh, I hadn’t realized that he was so recently promoted.” I responded, “His LinkedIn profile had only noted his current position and that he’s been with the company for ten years. So, is it that this new position come with an assistant? Is that why he’s interviewing for someone?”
I was told by Peter that Mr. Hanson actually already had an assistant, but that she wasn’t an “executive” assistant, so he had insisted on hiring someone new. This seemed a bit pretentious to me, but perhaps it was more of an optics thing, something that was needed in the eyes of the corporate executives of the world.
“Is he a nice guy to work for?” I inquired.
Peter paused, looked over at cellphone girl again and then responded cryptically with “Well … I personally have never had any issues with him.” “Hmph!” came from my right, where cellphone girl was continuing to furiously tap into her cellphone. I wasn’t sure if that “Hmph!” was meant to be a response to my question or if had to do with what was on her screen. But it all was beginning to seem somewhat strange and I was getting a bit concerned about what I may have been getting myself into here.
Bill must have noticed the tension, so he broke in and asked what job I was leaving and why and I had to explain the whole acquisition situation. He asked what it was I did at my last job, to which I had replied that it had been a small, private investment company, family owned, and that although my title was “Executive Assistant”, I did more than just schedule appointments, type, file, and arrange travel. I also did research on companies that the portfolio managers may want to invest in. I smiled and said “I love to research things. I’m kind of like a female version of Cliff Clavin”, referring to the character from the TV show, Cheers. “Just hopefully not as annoying.” I added. Bill and Peter both laughed. No reaction from cellphone girl, but that may have been because she was too young to remember that show.
Bill actually surprised me and asked for a copy of my resume, “You know, just in case things don’t work out with the interview,” he said. As I reached into my briefcase, the one that I purchased three months ago, when my interview process began, to pull one out, all my research papers came out as well, spreading across the elevator floor.
“Wow,” exclaimed Peter, “you really did a LOT of research, didn’t you?”
Blushing, I said “It’s better to be over prepared that to not prepare enough, I always say!” I don’t know why I was feeling embarrassed by this. Maybe it was because I didn’t want those blue eyes to see me as a weirdo. Thankfully Peter smiled back and also asked for a copy of my resume. Professional networking takes place in the strangest of places, I guess.
We ended up in the elevator for a total of thirty minutes, making me fifteen minutes late to my interview. After having waited to be rescued from the elevator, I still had to wait another ten minutes for Mr. Hanson to come to the conference room to meet with me. When he did arrive, he seemed annoyed, as if the elevator breakdown were something that I could have control. Without so much as a Hello, he looked at his watch, looked at me and said “I have five minutes. Quickly, tell me why I should hire you?” I was somewhat stunned by his brusqueness, but I tried to keep my face neutral. Although, perhaps my right eyebrow raised up slightly, as it usually does when confronted by things I find shocking. I actually surprised myself when I quickly, but calmly responded “Because you want the best!” Now it was Mr. Hanson’s turn to raise an eyebrow. I guess he was used to people being intimidated by him and his way of asking this question. He asked me two more questions: would I be willing to take a cut in salary, and would I be willing to work overtime. To which I answered, “No” and “Yes”, respectively. With that, he turned and left the room, without a farewell. Not that I had expected one, being that he hadn’t started with a greeting. He hadn’t even bothered to sit down. I hadn’t sat down either, after I had risen when he entered.
At this point, I didn’t know what to do. Was he coming back? Did I stay and wait? Did I leave? I was so confused. Plus, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to work for this guy. He definitely did NOT give me the warm fuzzies. But, in the three months of job searching, I had applied to over forty companies, and had only been called in for three interviews, this one included. Prospects are thinner, the higher you go. It might be getting to the point of taking what I could get.
Just as I was about to leave, David came in to let me know that Mr. Hanson would think about it and that they would let me know by the end of the week. I thanked him and headed back to the elevator, hoping I wouldn’t be stuck on my way out.
When I reached the lobby, I was surprised to see Bill waiting for me. “How did it go?” he asked with a smile. I knew that the industry, while large, was also small when it came to who knew who. So, I kept it professional and simply said that I would hopefully hear back by the end of the week. Bill then told me that while I was being interviewed by Mr. Hanson, he had gone to his own human resource department of his company to see about looking into hiring me himself. He didn’t have an assistant position open though, executive or not, he explained. He was looking for a research analyst. Now I let the shock show on my face. I couldn’t control it. I just stood there, looking at Bill, my mouth slightly agape, and BOTH my eyebrows raised. “So? Would you be interested in risking an elevator ride upstairs with me again so we can have a proper interview?” he asked.
Later, when I got home after the interview and having filled out all my new hire paperwork, my cellphone rang. The display said that it was from Mr. Hanson’s company. I thought it might be David calling to tell me whether Mr. Hanson wanted to hire me. I would happily, but politely decline, if that were the case. But it turns out, it was Peter! He had gotten my number off the resume I had given him. He asked how the interview went, and when I told him all the gory details, he admitted that he knew all about Mr. Hanson’s reputation. He even told me that cellphone girl, who I found out is named Wendy, is his current assistant. Peter told me that Wendy hated working for Mr. Hanson, but she didn’t want to be out of a job, and that the company couldn’t guarantee that they could find her another position within the company. No wonder she was acting that way in the elevator!
I also told Peter about how Bill had been waiting for me, the second job interview and job offer that I had accepted! So, while we would not be working together, I told him, we might get to see each other in the elevator anyway. He responded, “Perhaps we can see each other outside of the elevator too?” I could feel my smile spreading as I thought to myself, “I guess getting stuck in an elevator isn’t necessarily a bad thing!”
Copyright 2019 Lisa Savitzky