Saturday, April 02, 2005

Adventures in Interviewing (Part 1)

My adventure began as I packed for my trip. Jeff laughed at me for taking our second largest suitcase and a garment bag, but I had a lot to carry. In the garment bag I packed three suits for my two days of interviewing (just in case I needed an extra), and my suitcase contained twice as many as necessary pairs of underwear, four pairs of panty hose, and three pairs of shoes, plus a sleeper, my toiletries bag, and a casual outfit to wear home. I also packed some gifts for my friends who I was to see on Thursday evening after I was free from interviewing. For Mike and Nancy and their future baby, a tiny Illinois t-shirt, and for Greg, a mini Illinois basketball and goal. And for Mike and Nancy because they so desperately miss the harsh Illinois winter (not!), a University of Illinois snow globe. The snow globe had to be transported in my carry-on, but I put the other two items in my regular luggage. It was heavy to transport everything, in particular my backpack which contained two books and all my important interview papers in addition to the snow globe, but I reminded myself that much of that burden would be left in New Mexico with my friends.

I arrived in New Mexico safe but slightly nauseated. We had some serious turbulence about a half hour outside of Albuquerque; upon several occasions our plane seemed to drop from the air. Luckily each of these instances lasted mere seconds, but it was enough to make me queasy. The child in front of me, however, had more trouble stomaching the turbulence, and lost his dinner. I arrived on the ground wishing that I could have lost mine, because I might have felt better.

They had reserved a rental car for me, and I made it to the rental car office without much trouble. The kind woman behind the desk (a fellow Rebecca!) gave me some careful directions to my hotel. I found the hotel easily, and headed up to my room. I called Jeff to let him know I'd made it safely, and then I settled in to bed.

The next morning, I woke up and took a shower, then dressed in an elegant olive suit with a knee-length skirt, given to me by my advisor's assistant Jodi. I brushed my hair and pulled it back in a golden barrette. After that, I applied my makeup, which Marvis helped me select and learn to use in 2003. (My beauty is the joint effort of many people!) I also put on some department-store quality panty hose that I had purchased from a discounter for 90 cents per pair, and my tan pumps with inch-and-a-half heels. I looked at myself in the mirror and realized that (aside from the purple left knee) I was looking absolutely gorgeous!

I met my host in the lobby of the hotel at 7:30. He picked me up instead of having me drive there, because it is difficult for a visitor to obtain a pass, but easy for him to bring a visitor in his own car. He took me to the badge office, where I obtained a visitor's badge for my two day visit, and then to my first appointment in the HR office. After that, we stopped by the cafeteria and picked up some tea. The woman at the cash register complimented me on my outfit, which made me feel even more confident.

My host talked to me about Sandia's organization, and his department in particular, for about an hour. At 10 o'clock I was scheduled to present my seminar. Before the seminar, I made a stop in the restroom, and repeated the mantra I am brilliant, I am beautiful, I am going to give a great seminar! as I freshened up. As we walked to the seminar room, I was really delighted to see my friends Mike and Greg, both of whom work at Sandia in other departments, show up for my talk. It helped me feel even more confident. I also saw someone else whom I knew from my internship in 2001, but I didn't get a chance to talk to him before he left after my seminar. The seminar was very well-received. I had practiced it several times, including once in our seminar, so I was quite confident about it and I didn't make any mistakes or stumble over any words. There were a few questions afterwards, but I was able to answer those easily.

After the seminar, the rest of my two days would be spent talking to various members of the department in which I was interviewing, and of other, related departments. In addition, I would be taken to lunch by two interviewers on Wednesday, and another two on Thursday, and I was to go out to dinner with my host and another interviewer on Wednesday night. This is where the story gets interesting.

After my seminar, I had one appointment before lunch. That appointment must have gone fine; I don't remember anything remarkable about it. Then I met the two guys who were going to take me out to lunch. They decided to take me to a nice Mediterranean restaurant across town. We got into a car belonging to one of the guys, and set off. One thing you have to know about Albuquerque is that the roads are perpetually under construction. In this particular case, the on-ramp to the interstate was under construction. We were traveling down the on-ramp when the car in front of us came to a dead stop. The man who was driving happened to be looking at the traffic at the moment, and did slam on the brakes when the other guy pointed out to him that he needed to stop, but not in enough time to avoid hitting the other car. Moments later, the pick-up truck behind us crashed into the car we were in.

Coincidentally, the next vehicle coming down the on-ramp was a fire department vehicle. Apparently they barely avoided getting in the wreck too; all we saw was there were flashing lights a few moments after we crashed, without enough time elapsing for someone to have called the police. The driver of the fire department vehicle took over and made sure that everybody was all right, and called the police and paramedics.

Everyone was all right, aside from being shaken up and having a few bruises and sore muscles. The paramedics came anyhow, and they took my blood pressure and made sure that everyone was all right. And we may have all been okay, but the vehicle we were in was not. It was totalled. It was interesting to see the crumple zones, and to see that car window glass breaks up into small, inert shards that don't stab you when the window breaks. Strangely, the airbags did not deploy in the accident, which was surprising to me. The paramedics had us stay out of the car, because they were afraid that the airbags might go off if the vehicle was jarred.

They asked us questions, presumably to assess whether we had sustained any brain damage. But when they asked me who I was with, I couldn't remember. I had met those guys maybe five minutes before we got in the wreck, and any memory of their names flew right out of my brain in the accident. I explained the situation, and they did not seem concerned about the state of my memory.

Unfortunately, it was a particularly cold and windy day in Albuquerque. It was especially uncomfortable for me to stand there in the wind, because of what I was wearing and the fact that I had banged my already purple knee on the dashboard in the collision. The paramedics let me sit in the ambulance for a while, but they had to go on to their next call long before we could leave the scene. So I think I stood outside in my suit and heels for at least an hour.

While we waited for the police to sort things out and for the wreckers to arrive, the man who had been driving tried to call people at work in order to get us a ride back to base, and to make my host aware of what had happened. The problem was that it was lunchtime so nobody was at their desks. Eventually he got hold of a secretary in a different department, who had carpooled in with her husband and didn't have a car, but managed to secure a government pickup truck and came to pick us up. Unfortunately, that made four people in one seat, so we wouldn't be able to get back on Sandia property in that state (everyone must be wearing a seat belt). She solved the problem by dropping us off at a nearby restaurant and calling her daughter to pick her up, leaving us with the keys to the pickup truck.

The restaurant was a local fast pizza/sandwich place. I had the best pastrami sandwich ever, presumably because I was famished, although it probably would have been quite tasty under any circumstances. The guy who hadn't been driving when the accident occurred took the wheel. We didn't get back to Sandia until nearly 3 p.m. By that time I had missed two appointments with two interviewers. My host felt really bad about what had happened, and he made sure that I was feeling capable of continuing. I told him that I was a little bruised and windblown, but otherwise just fine.

The story of the accident spread quickly, and preceded me into most of my appointments. Everyone was very nice to me and I enjoyed talking to them all. In the evening, my host and another interviewer took me out to a very nice Italian restaurant in the university district. After I got back to my hotel, I immediately called Jeff and told him what had happened. He was very calm about it, because he's been in several accidents, whereas this was definitely the most serious accident I've ever been in. When I lay down on the bed while talking to him, I realized that my neck was extremely painful as a result of the accident. After I got off the phone I soaked for a half hour in a hot bath before turning in early for the night.

The next morning, I dressed in a pants suit and flat shoes. If I hadn't packed the extra pair of shoes, I would have been wearing those same heels and hurting my knee again, so Jeff can stop laughing at me now. My host picked me up and took me to the Sandia medical clinic, because he thought we should have a record of what had happened. The people at the clinic didn't know what to do with me, because I'm not an employee, so they just wrote down the fact that I was sore from an accident that had occurred the previous day while I was interviewing. That caused me to miss my first interview of the morning, but the rest of the day was spent meeting with others. Two other employees took me out to lunch. I had decided that if we got in a wreck that day, I would have to take it as a sign that I didn't belong at Sandia. Luckily, we had a safe journey to a local Mexican restaurant, which had delicious food.

During my interviews, I met with many people, including three women, my host (who would be my boss if I were to take this job), his boss, and that boss's boss. I asked all of the women what things were like as a woman working at Sandia, and got nothing but positive replies. At the end of the day, my host asked me what I thought of the job, and whether I thought I was interested in working there. He also told me about the procedure they use in offering people jobs. I may not hear anything from them for more than a month, because he has to collect the interview review sheets from everyone who interviewed me, and then if they decide they're interested in hiring me, he has to go through all the bureaucracy in order to get higher-level approval and the money to hire me. I might hear sooner if they reject me than if they accept me.

On Thursday evening, I went out to dinner with my friends from Illinois. We had a great time together, and the gifts were a big hit. I made it back to Illinois all in one piece the next day, although I was dead tired because I had missed so much sleep and had awakened at 5:30 in order to catch my plane. From the Albuquerque airport, I had called the student health center on my cell phone, and scheduled an appointment for late in the afternoon for an examination of my neck. They thought my neck was going to be fine, and I think they are correct, because it is hurting less today than it hurt yesterday or the day before.

I have now recounted all the events that took place during my interview, but none of my opinions or feelings about how it went. It has taken me well over an hour to write all this up, and I need to head home now. I'm afraid you'll have to wait until "Adventures in Interviewing (Part 2)" for the analysis. Stay tuned! I'll be back in the office tomorrow, and if I'm lucky I'll find some time to write that.


Your brother-in-law said...

Was the Italian restaurant you ate at near the university the one called Scalo?

Rebecca said...

Yes, that was the one!