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Smiles and Nods

It’s twelve fifteen and a woman is waiting in a busy coffee shop for a man she doesn’t know named Scot. He was supposed to meet her at the door but when she arrived she found no one, understandable considering the rain. She looked for Scot inside, but since she didn’t know him she was only looking for a man that seemed to be looking for a woman— that is to say a man who has an appointment to meet a woman for a job interview. This will be her third in-person interview for this position, a receptionist at a small software firm, and she was hoping it would be her last.

She’d never met Scot before but she did have his phone number. She tried it but it went straight to voicemail. She tried the woman in human resources also, since she was her contact at the company and since it was her that had arranged the hiring process up till this point, but that also went straight to voicemail. This wasn’t surprising. It’d been this way with everything, not just the interviews. Her applications had disappeared twice and following up on them had shown her right from the start that the people at this company were allergic to phones. She had to take her resume in and physically hand it over to the woman in HR to get anywhere, and then it was a phone interview that she was told was on Tuesday but which was supposed to be on Thursday, and another phone interview that just straight slipped the interviewer’s mind, an on-site interview with a man who had a thousand more important things on his mind, and another at eight o’clock in the evening. That last one took place in the parking lot— the man she was interviewing with only remembered the interview when he saw her in the parking lot as he was leaving for home. They chatted at length about many things beside his car, interminable small talk having nothing to do with her ability to be a receptionist at their company, and if he noticed her teeth chattering from the cold he didn’t mind. Some people wouldn’t have put up with it. People who don’t need a job, for instance.

After fifteen minutes of waiting, her phone rings, a text from Scot asking where she is. There’s a man standing outside, holding an umbrella and looking at his phone. She crosses the coffee shop to let him in.

“You must be Scot”, she says from inside the door she’s holding open for him.

“--— —.—--—— —--— —”, he replies, as if speaking, but instead of words, hissing and buzzing and popping like an arc of electricity rippling through the air. She looks at him uncomprehending.


“--—------, —?”

She smiles and nods like the hard of hearing do and tells the man she’s gotten them a table. The man smiles and follows. “Do you want to order anything before we get started?”, she asks as they pass the line for the register.

“— —”, the man replies, breaking off from her. “--—— —--—— —?—--—----— —.”

“…I’ll be over at that table, over there”, she tells him, pointing to the spot where she’d been waiting. She looks around the room, watches people in conversation, and she listens. There’s a lot of noise in the coffee shop, but she can pick out their words. Then it isn’t her hearing. But she looks at the man in line, watches him order his coffee. From across the room she can hear the buzzing and crackling coming from him, but the cashier rings him up without trouble. Then it isn’t his speach….

After ordering, he waits by the counter, and his order must’ve been simple as it’s handed to him quickly. He joins her at the table, setting down the coffee cup and his phone, which is running an audio recorder.

“--—------—--------——--—--,—----—--— —.”

Again she smiles and nods. She figures he must’ve said something about the recorder. Glancing at his coffee, she sees the lid has “Scott” written on it— two t’s, but close enough. At least she knows she’s talking to the right person. Or, something like talking.

“--—----—--—----—----— —,—------,—--—--— —--—--—--—--—--—----. —--,—--—--——--—------, (— —--—--),—--—------.—--— —--—— —…—--—--— —--—--?”

She smiles and nods once more, hoping that what he’d just said wasn’t a question she was expected to answer, but he keeps looking to her like he expects more of a response than a smile and a nod.

“I’m just looking for a fast-paced team that I can grow with”, she tosses out limply, figuring that whatever he may have asked, that’s a pretty all-right interviewey thing to say, but as the words topple out of her their stupidity rings in her ears and the sad humor of the situation—that here she is, a miracle of life, and this is how she spends her time, and these are the things she uses what may be the rarest phenomenon in the universe, language, to say—makes her chortle, but she catches herself and fakes a little cough to cover it.

He smiles at her pleasantly and says, “--.—— —. —----—----—— —— —--—------—--—--—--—--—--”, and extends his hand to her. She shakes it and smiles. “--—--—— —--—----.—--—--—------?—--….”

He had shaken her hand and stood up, so the interview must be done. Short, but that could be good or bad. Probably bad, she thinks. Either way she’s glad to be done with it.

“Thank you”, she says, but the cafe is crowded and noisy and he mishears her and thinks she said “No thank you.” It doesn’t make much difference. He smiles again, she smiles back. On the way out he gives her a little departing wave. She eyes a chocolate croissants in the pastry case but decides not to waste the money on it, what with her unemployment almost gone, (not that two dollars seventy-five cents is going to save her anyway). Later on that afternoon she’ll get an email from the woman in HR, and to her surprise, it’ll be a job offer. She’ll then return to the coffee shop and buy one of those chocolate croissants, to celebrate. At last! she got a job.

Language may be the rarest phenomenon in the universe, but the job market wants smiles and nods.

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