"The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation." Jimmy Carter
The candy dish on the receptionist’s desk was empty, just full of dusty balls of detritus that blew back and forth when the central air kicked on. This was useful in roughly dating the last time anyone filled it, or saw the point of filling it.
Also on the counter were large, and hefty, prepared packets of applications – useful as an industrial and assembly line statement for those job seekers overconfident in the estimation of their worth.
The receptionist, attractive and well dressed, had been reduced by the volume of work and was functioning as a human phone tree – catching key words to direct you to one place or another. Since there were only two places, extra friendliness was not appreciated – she frowned at any word not in the algorithm she was using as a sort of behavior modification warning shot, and the threat implied by her look was one of lost paperwork, or just a lengthy misfiling accident if you kept it up.
Given a pile of stapled papers and directed to a long and well-worn table, I sat uncomfortably close to many others and started to fill out the forms. Most of the forms were about endurance – having enough of it to sit steady and enough to retentively write the same information over and over – many of the forms required that you reentered the things from the page before, and after a few pages, it seemed less like information giving and more just a way of weeding out the riff-raff, or those others with inpatient souls or those without anything better to do. It went quick – I had my resume and contact names typed up, so it was really just a fill in the blank drill done over and over. When finished, I returned the pile to the receptionist.
At the desk, the receptionist was on the phone scheduling a person for a third interview. I was surprised, I’d never heard of a third interview for a security guard job, but tried to keep a blank face while I thought about it, and it did make me think about it. She hung up the phone and looked at me impatiently, but incongruently with a smile, and took my paperwork from me. After quickly scanning through the pile she pointed out a section I’d missed and handed the pile of paper back to me.
I missed the essay section, but in my defense it looked more like a list of requirements, or maybe a statement of core values, than questions. Under each lengthy question was a small area to answer – the double part of a double spaced line to be accurate in size. There were five questions and I’ll give you what I remember of the first:
“We believe that the most important value that our organization tries to uphold and live by is the concept of, ‘dare to be great,’ in all you do for the company, and in all your actions. We believe that in daring to be great you show the best that we have to offer as an organization. Give an example of a time when you ‘dared to be great.’”
I filled out the questions to the best of my ability, as viewed through the whims of my nature, and returned the forms to the receptionist. As she took them from me, I gave her my best double dog dare to be great smile and left the building.