The Day I Was Two Hours Late For My Interview

Justin had a job interview this morning with an engineering firm in Tallahassee (yay!), and everyone we told was very eager to give him interview tips and try to help him out in some way (our friend Ruben even loaned him a sharp dress outfit to wear!). We appreciated all of the support, but I also told Justin to remember that even if he does something to inadvertently “mess up” his interview, it doesn’t matter–if God wants him to have the job, he’ll give him the job. Take, for example, the day that I was two hours late for my interview:

About four years ago, Justin and I were living in Tallahassee and I was job searching in different cities along the Georgia coast. I had already interviewed at a school in Darien, and they seemed really enthused about me and practically told me that the job was mine already. However, a Very Important Person was on vacation out of town, and they needed that person’s approval to give me the “real” green light to call the moving truck and get going to Darien. While I was waiting for the Very Important Person to return, I got two more calls from Georgia schools wanting interviews. These schools in Georgia were roughly a four hour drive from my house, so I smartly decided to schedule the interviews for the same day so that I could get everything done in one trip. That was my first mistake.

Interview number one was a school in Hinesville, Georgia at one o’clock in the afternoon. As I drove through Hinesville using my MapQuest directions, I realized that the town looked a little rough around the edges, but the school building I pulled up to looked brand new and very impressive. A friendly secretary told me to wait as the principal was just finishing up her lunch. I waited for about twenty minutes, urgently checking my watch and hoping that this wouldn’t take too long. My second interview was scheduled for three o’clock, giving me one hour to interview and one hour to drive to the second school (which was forty or fifty miles away). I had no idea what I was in for…

My interview was a with a friendly (but a bit eccentric) fifty-something-year-old blonde woman draped in a wildly patterned shawl with silver bangles on each arm. She was just gushing with pride for her school, and the majority of the interview was not her attempt to get to know me, but rather, a brag fest about why her school was the BEST. After chatting with me for about forty minutes, she stood up and came from behind her desk, and I stood up to shake her hand and thank her for her time, but as she grabbed my hand, she suddenly said, “Would you like a quick tour of the school?” I snuck a glance at the wall clock and my stomach dropped. I really needed to get going to my next interview, but if I refused a tour of the school, wouldn’t that make it seem like I was completely uninterested? This woman seemed to really like me, but one false move could cost me the job! I had no idea what interview etiquette was regarding mentioning other impending interviews, but it just seemed like a bad idea to tell her. So I gritted my teeth and responded with what I hoped was an ethusiastic, “I’d love to take a look around!”

Forty minutes into our tour of the school, and I was really have an internal panic attack. I smiled and nodded and “Wow!”ed at all of the facilities and classrooms that the principal showed me, but on the inside I was going crazy, mentally aruging with myself about whether or not I would ever be able to realistically make a forty minute car trip in twenty minutes, or what kind of  story I could possibly devise to excuse my tardiness to the second interview. Snapping out of my internal struggle, I realized that the principal and I had made our way to the front doors of the school, and my car in the parking lot was finally within reach. But this woman simply did not want to say goodbye! She was one of those people who says goodbye but really talks for for ten or fifteen more minutes before she realizes her mistake and says, “Oh! Haha….look at me, talking your ear off. I guess I’ll let you go now!” Thinking that my interview was really, finally finished, I turned to leave when the principal suddenly grabbed both of my hands in hers, looked unblinkingly into my eyes, and asserted that she felt we had a deep spiritual connection, and that we had been destined to cross paths long ago. Is that her way of saying that she wants to hire me to teach here? I wondered. I didn’t know what to say other than a meager, “I hope so!” and “thank you!” and I literally had to force myself to walk (not run) to my car. As I cranked the engine and pulled out of the parking lot, I glanced at the principal in my rearview mirror, still standing in the doorway waving. I realized how much that patterned shawl draped around her shoulders resembled a spider’s web, waiting to recieve its next victim. Shudder.

After a got a couple of blocks away, I pulled into a gas station parking lot and weighed my options. It was 3:30. I was already a half hour late and fifty miles away from my next interview. I definitely wasn’t going to be able to do it, but what I was debating was whether or not to call. I was really embarrasseed to even face my would-be interviewers on the phone, but in the end I decided that giving them an explanation for my absence was really the polite thing to do, so with trembling fingers, I dialed the phone.

The principal at the second school had a very friendly voice over the phone, which immediatly put me at ease, and he seemed (surprisingly) genuinely concerned about why I didn’t show up to the interview. He seemed to already suspect that something might have gone horribly wrong–that I hadn’t just flaked out on the interview for no reason. I apologized profusely for wasting his time, and was about to hang up the phone, when he said, “Hey, listen–we’re about to have a school board meeting here tonight at seven, so we just sent a guy out to pick us up some Subway sandwiches for dinner. We’re going to be here for awhile. Do you still want to come by?” I almost dropped the phone in surprise, and I assured him that of course, I would be thrilled at the opportunity to come and have an interview despite my tardiness. I hung up the phone and hit the gas, speeding over to the school as quickly as I could.

When I arrived, it was almost five o’clock, making me two hours late for my interview. I couldn’t believe that the principal still had any interest in talking to me after I’d stood him up, but I wasn’t complaining. The interview seemed much more casual (maybe because the principal and vice principal were both eating Subway sandwiches while they asked me questions), but it seemed much more like a proper interview than the first one. The principal actually asked me several questions about my teaching style and how I planned to handle the job since it would be my very first year teaching. Afterward, the vice principal showed me to the classroom that I would have if they hired me, and a few jokes were made about how it would not be a two hour tour (thank goodness!). We shook hands and I got back into my car after spending about thirty-five or forty minutes total in the school, marveling at how different two job interviews could be.

And how did things stack up? The Very Important Person at the school in Darien returned from vacation but never deigned to call (or respond to my voicemail messages) until about three weeks later, after I had already accepted another job. I actually got the call while I was in the moving van, heading to my brand new school! The creepy principal from Hinesville called and wished me all the best of luck with my life journey, but she had apparently chosen someone more cosmically designed for this particular teaching role. And that leaves….school number three, the least likely of my job opportunities, considering I was two hours late for the interview and I almost turned around and drove home without making the call. Who would have thought that I’d get that job?

It just goes to show that God really doesn’t need my help in writing the story of my life. Even if I feel like I’ve really messed things up, He’s the one who controls all things. I just need to sit back and see what He’ll do next.

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