I can't find Rachel Hunter. I was fully prepared to take a header off her head.
I got the email today, the "Thank you but no" one. *insert Gallic shrug* "Life," as my syster likes to say, "goes on." There's other jobs, other places. I still love my trains (as evinced by my taking several snaps of the local bringing a long string of brand new UTLX tank cars back to the yard today.*) I simply won't be working on them.
Not being the sort of person who points to signs and portents with a gasp and a quick defensive gesture I'm not going to say that it was ill-omened, because it wasn't. It was sheer coincidence that I had a panic trying to find the key to my brother's truck (my sister-in-law had moved the truck and moved the key, also.) I won't say that being stuck in what seemed like an eternally long line at McDonald's was a warning that perhaps this wasn't my day.
What I might point to in the "could have been a warning sign" was the fact that I arrived for my interview EXACTLY on time.
You see, I'm one of those people who suffer from chronic punctuality. I was raised to believe in the ancient axiom "On time is late" and so I usually strive to be at an appointed place ten to fifteen minutes early. Naturally it was with intense mortification that I watched the "Arrival Time" counter on the GPS stay firmly nailed to 3:01 pm for the duration of the trip, no matter how much I tried to press the speed. Granted, I COULD have made it much earlier but the 5-oh patrol those byways very heavily, so I sped in a very restrained manner.
Walked into the building just as the interviewers were walking out to see if I was there. Performed the necessary paperwork (release of info, background check, pint of blood) and did a quick detour for ablutions (I hadda pee) and went into the Baton Rouge Yardmaster's office.
It's funny. Over the years I've gotten very good at interviews. I know the right body language. I spent the entire time leaned forward in the chair, my open posture showing a receptive nature. Every time one or the other looked up from their notes at me they found my gaze meeting theirs with just the hint of a smile. Not challenging but welcoming. It also didn't hurt that they used the exact same interview system that was used on me just over three years ago when I interviewed for my current position at Very Big Home Health. I scored a possible 5 points out of 5 on that interview. I'm certain I scored the same because they asked the exact same questions. I'm even pretty sure I gave the exact same answers as I did three years ago.
They asked a few off-the-cuff questions designed to catch me out, which I batted back with aplomb. "What do you think is the most important part of a conductor's job?" Wow, could you give me a tough one? "Safety." Along with a detailed explanation on why. I swear, I need to teach a damned course on how to get through interviews. One of the interviewers even went so far as to walk me out and complimented me on my interview, my maturity, my obvious intelligence and my appearance (I guess I was the only guy thus far to come in wearing a polo shirt and slacks. Maybe it was the elegant moustache that won his attentions? *shrug*)
When it was all said and done I went home with a head-full of information and another two hour drive ahead of me.
In that two hour drive home I thought a great deal about what was told to me. That evening I talked it out with Mrs. I and I batted it around my head even more. I weighted and I analyzed and I came to the conclusion that the amount of time I was told I'd spend away from my family simply wasn't worth the eventual monetary gains. I was told that I'd work sometimes as much as three or four weeks straight without a day off. I was told that I'd be many states away from home for the better part of a week every week. Staring out I'd be the low man on the totem pole in an industry where "seniority is everything" and as such I'd get ALL the shite jobs. The nights. The weekends. The holidays. The bad jobs, the hard jobs. The distant jobs. The hire rate, I was told after I asked, was on average once every six months so it would literally be years before I had any sort of pull.
I had a long hard talk with myself before I fell asleep that night and decided that it simply wasn't worth it to watch my daughter grow up in jumps and spurts rather than in a long, slow progression of days. I'd rather see her grow slowly rather than watch her as though I were watching snippets of a movie stuck on a staccato fast-forward. If that means I'll eventually have to be a greeter at Wal-Mart at age 65 then so be it. So, I wrote a very nice, politely worded email to the HR rep asking that my application be withdrawn from consideration.
About an hour later I got the generic, official "Thanks but no thanks" email. Maybe the job went to a guy who doesn't have a family, or doesn't care to be home with them. I hope he enjoys the job. Maybe one day I'll wave and take his picture as he rolls by.
But it's okay. It wasn't, as Schmoopie said, meant to be. I learned a lot more about the job I thought I wanted, and I realised something much more important: I've got a LOT of friends scattered out across the country who know me only by my words and pictures and occasional foray into radio broadcasting. Those friends care a great deal for me and want me to succeed and moreover, be happy. That knowledge, the sure and certain knowledge that you guys are out there rooting for me, THAT makes all the difference in the world.
Post scriptum: Weerelephant's choir group took first place in their out-of-town competition in Texas over the weekend. I was here to hug her when she got home. I'll be there with her tomorrow night when she has another competition locally. I'll be there to hand her a bundle of roses when she leaves the stage at her tenth year dance recital later this month, just as I've been there each of the prior nine years. I'll be there when she steps back off the airplane from spending the summer in Oregon with her Mom in August.
By gods I'll be here for her.