December, 1985 + Waterville, Maine
I was all decked-out in my highly-flammable, brand-new $79 pure polyester three piece suit. This ridiculous outfit, that made Mister Drudge's look like a well tailored Italian suit could stand by itself in the corner indefinitely. My ensemble included a red and blue wide-angel tie that was one half step above a garbage bag in the pure petroleum cycle from pure grade Pennsylvania crude to animal feed.
I was a dead ringer for a newly-arrived fresh off some low-budget tramp steamer from Starvation Island. I had that, "Hey, Eddie, come get a look at this guy" appearance written all over me. I was headed to Augusta for yet another job interview, this one for a lawyer position at the Attorney General's Office. This was no bean-counter job; this was the real deal.
I just had to get over this time. I had been out of work a year. This twelve month ordeal included losing my first post-law school legal job, marriage, and family. During this period I suffered unrelenting low self-esteem and complete loss of confidence. I thought I could never practice law again and fought endless battles with the conviction I was chronically unemployable.
I couldn't take much more without some sign I was OK or some success somewhere. This job would be it. I could get it all back, once and for all. I put myself squarely under the gun. It was a partly sunny day; the sky would clear in fits and starts, now overcast, now sunny. It was cold, but not bitter. There was little wind and no snow or rain. It was a decent Maine winter day. I mustered all the 'I'm OK' optimism and 'Win-Win' self assurance I could and headed out the door and into my van. Woe was me, my ride looked like I struggled not to feel. My trusted van looked seedy, drab, and unkempt. I shook off a strong sense of apprehension and a shudder of forbodding, chalking them up to nerves. I told myself, "Everything is fine, timing is right, and you look good. Take deep breaths, today's the day you begin to live again". The van started right up, hitting on all cylinders. I was definitely on my way.
I had to make one quick stop for breath mints at a local Waterville store in a perfectly forgettable small town, low rent mini-mall. These mints were anxiety quellers and halitosis helpers. Dragon breath up close is a certified, never-fails job killer. What with the suit, the pressure, and the history, I didn't need THAT to be the deciding factor. I had enough to worry about.
I parked at the mall and got out of the van onto the clean concrete sidewalk. I was careful not to touch anything that might dirty my gloveless hands. If that happened, I'd pretty much be shit out of luck. I was alone and on a tight schedule and would have to go as I was. Mt manual wheelchair was clean, for once. Even the inflatable, deep-tread outdoor tires looked good. These tires had protruding rubber knobbies that consistently picked up whatever filthy mess was around, such as mud. I was as ready to impress as I could be. I had puled out all the stops. Of course I couldn't open the stainless steel and glass door of the store by myself, so I had to knock several times on the glass. The few people there looked around bewildered, as if encountering an unexpected enigma. Someone eventually grasped the situation and let me in.
I bought the mints after a short, nervous chat with the young, slender, and attractive brown-eyed clerk. (Most men notice, no matter what). It was natural to ask her to open the door so I could leave. She did so, and I gave a strong push to get over the shiny metal threshold. I silently grunted and forcefully launched myself over this impediment and out the door onto the hitherto spotless sidewalk.
Before I could even see it, I immediately ran smack-dab into a gigantic pile of hot and steaming DOG SHIT!! By the time I was able to stop by grabbing my tires, I had dog shit all over me. There was canine poop all over my right front and rear tires and ditto on my right hand and forearm. It was halfway up my right arm. My suit was an unspeakable mess; I was a mess. I couldn't move without making matters worse. I had a situation here, one that inextricably horrible.
There was at that moment an Assistant Attorney general in Augusta in a nice clean building in a spic-and-span office wearing an expensive, tasteful suit, fragrant with cologne. This impeccable lawyer, I thought, was preparing to be his/ suddenly shitful interviewee.
Have you grasped the situation in all its wretchedness? Do you appreciate my dilemma? What was i to do? Was I figuratively and literally up shit creek? What would you do? I didn't have time or help to change; I couldn't not go to the interview. That was absolutely taboo. Could I call to postpone? Sure I could. It would go something like this:
Me: "I'm sorry I can't make the interview.
It's a long story, but the short of it
is I'm covered in fresh dog shit from
ankle to elbow. I'm sure you understand".
"Mister Gill, What do you take me for? I've
been doing this for a long time and I
have never heard anything close to your
absurd excuse. If you want to be considered
for this position, you had better be here,
Well, there you have it. I can be dogged at times, Like my Dad. When I get my teeth into something, I go into pit bull mode. I wasn't about to give in or up. If I wasn't going to get that job, someone would, at least have to deal with me, suit, stink, and all.
Mustering all my shamelessness, which admittedly is quite a bit, I asked a kindly looking middle-aged woman for help. I could never have asked a male, for manly reasons. How many Saint Guys could there be? She was a true-blue Maine Yankee who was undaunted by the canine fecals. Lacking water, soap, washcloth, disinfectant, antiseptic, towel, cologne, or if all else failed gasoline, she very kindly did what she could with some tissues she carried. It wasn't much, just more than nothing.
I've given a lot of thought to this episode over the years, most of which runs like this:
When I headed into that store, there was no dog in sight, anywhere. Now for one dog to have deposited that much poop he/she must have been pony sized, like a huge, full grown 250 pound St. Bernard. There was no such poop anywhere when I went into the store, which was very small. I was one of a few customers. The entire transaction couldn't have taken over three minutes. I saw no dog up or down the sidewalk after I came out.
This huge dog had to appear, do his nasty business, and disappear, all in three minutes. Not just anywhere. Oh, no. This canine sociopath dropped his smart bomb in precisely the right place on this sidewalk that was at least one hundred feet long.
Six inches to the left or right or up or down the walk or anywhere else and all, I say, would have been well. Then it would have been someone else's problem. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. OK, so I'm lying about that. None of these deserving victims was interviewing in Augusta within the hour.
Exactly the right time within three minutes, precisely the right place within six inches, on this very day I was going to an interview for a job which I had lain myself squarely on the line. The odds against this event being random are overwhelming. Fido's Revenge could not have been an unknowable quantum event. There were just too many variables.
No, this cries out for the argument from intelligence, like the papverine stories to come. There had to be some purpose behind this. Did the universe require a metaphoric pound of flesh from me? Was some re-alignment needed in the Karmic Canine Quadrant? Was I condemned to Camus' endless, pointless toil? Was my job search a stand-in for the boulder Sisyphus eternally rolled up that hill?
Those philosophical musings notwithstanding, I went into undeterred trooper mode. I fired up the van and sped to the AG office building. My jaw was set, my resolve was intact, and my desperation was on the shelf, at least for the time being. Dog shit? Who cares? I was determined.
I was seated in a small waiting room by the ubiquitous be-speckled administrative assistant in the rather severe office/business attire.
Back on planet Earth. I was fully aware I stunk up the place. I sat there internally pacing and anxiously fidgeting. The receptionist, too, was fidgeting. She was obviously experiencing a great deal of olfactory discomfort and took every opportunity to discover something else to do that got her away from the source of her queasiness.
At this point I asked myself, did I think that it mattered, this interview? Did I actually believe I had a chance? Hope in this situation was the proverbial Bitch Goddess and desert mirage, in one. Yet hope I had. Waiting there was a bit like waiting in line at the Guillotine; maybe I would be reprieved at the last minute.
I was eventually led into a small, cramped, airless room (of course). A very dubious, hasty handshake began the proceedings. I felt like Fecal Freddie touching Mister Clean jeans. I tried to stay as far away as possible from the well-dressed, thirty-something, immaculate white male interviewer/attorney. He had to wonder why I stunk so bad and whether I bathed. I was unable to artfully work Fido's Revenge into the conversation. Neither of us acted like we noticed that the elephant in the room had been very, very naughty. I suppose that would have violated some unwritten code of civilized behavior. Mister jeans rushed through the Q and A session, like he was in a hurry to get the fuck out of there. It was mutual. We skipped the ritual handshake on the way out. Can you imagine this guy's next phone call?!
"Hello, Tom, do you know a guy named Ray Gill,
a lawyer. Yeah, he's crippled. You do? Tell me,
does that poor bastard live in a kennel?"
I'm pretty sure why I was less than impressive. It wasn't the super cheap polyester suit that crinkled when I moved. It wasn't my sub-par interview performance. It wasn't my resume. It wasn't something I said. It wasn't my confusion when I momentarily mixed up fungible springing revisions with perpetual shifting remainders. Nobody knows the difference between them. At any rate, there are more answers than lawyers, the law being as it is. Perhaps Mr. Cleanliness was so shortsighted or so squeamish that he blackballed me simply because I smelled like the local dog pound in July.
Whatever the reason. I didn't get that job either. This limerick captures the day:
"Fresh off the boat looking ray,
Interviewed for a law job that way,
but he just didn't fit,
'Cause he smelled like dog shit,
Making Clean jeans say 'No Way, Jose."