Friday, November 28, 2008

Working at the Job Fair Blues

I’ve got those steadily depressing, low-down, mind-messing
Working at the job fair blues…..

It was in the early 1990’s, when unemployment was hovering around 7.5%, while working for a department store chain headquartered near Cincinnati, that I worked my first job fair.

There were supposed to be at least four staffers working our booth, but, for whatever reason, I was the only one who showed up. Someone from HR came by, looked relieved to see that we had a presence, and promptly disappeared, leaving me with a line of potential applicants that stretched back to what appeared to be infinity.

As I scanned resume after resume, shaking hands and assuring applicants that I would pass their info on to the appropriate manager, I observed several things:

  • A surprising number of people feel the need to cough into their hand in a loud, productive manner, immediately before shaking yours.
  • Although people may be anxious to find work, this eagerness does not necessarily translate into good hygiene.
  • Desperation causes people to abandon good manners and ignore all the people in line behind them while they monopolize the one poor schmuck working the booth for up to five minutes.
  • There are a lot of weirdos out there.

This final point was brought home to me when a 6’3”, 150 lb. man in a chartreuse, crushed-velvet tuxedo, complete with tailcoat, reached the front of the line. He doffed his top hat, removed a single red rose, held it out to me and said, “You will never forget me.”

It turns out what he was looking for, as best as I can recall, was someone to help him make a connection with someone in some middle-Eastern country – Iran? Syria? – so that he could market some product he’d invented. I have no idea why he thought he’d find that person at a job fair, and even less why he’d joined my queue, since the booth was clearly marked as belonging to a domestic retailer. And, I have no recollection what the product was.

He was right about one thing, though.

It’s been nearly twenty years, and, by golly, I’ve never forgotten him.

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