He tells me to sit. I do.
He tells me to relax. I already am.
He makes a joke. I laugh.
He clears his throat. I wait.
My friend Andrew had been a manager for a CVS store for at least 5 years. He said he liked the work, but I knew he was lying. I remember those drunken rants all too well. He told me that Boston’s Ice Cream Cone and Coffee was not going to get me anywhere. He was probably right. The pay wasn’t great, especially given the fact that I was managing the second biggest store the company had. And I couldn’t transfer with the company, which seemed to my wife Jennifer, a very pressing matter. She was going to go to flight school for the Navy in Florida in less than 24 months. So Andrew was my in to CVS management.
He says his name is Mark Alexander, the district manager for district 2. He had had his position for a little less than a year but had enjoyed every minute of it.
I say that it is so good to finally meet him. That I have heard nothing but good things from Andrew and that I am very happy to be talking to him about my prospects within the company.
He thanks me for showing up on time and dressing nicely.
I am wearing a $800 suit and he is wearing a neon green button down shirt that has never seen the warm side of an iron. His pants are blue but oddly his tie is red. He looks like a rainbow, an optical illusion. The illusion is not slimming, he still looks undeniably fat.
I clear my throat and ensure that both my feet are firmly flat on the floor with a space of 14 inches between them and put my hands on my lap just the way the Army has taught me.
He asks me why I want to work for CVS?
Money. Why does anyone want to work anywhere?
I say that I think that I have gone as far as I can go with my last employer. Not to mean that I don’t like working for them, but I am looking for a challenge. I don’t like reaching a goal and having no where higher to go. With CVS, I think that the skies are the limit and I want to reach those skies and fly through them.
He nods and smiles as he writes something in a notebook.
I am awesome at interviews.
He asks me how long I had worked at Boston’s Ice Cream Cone and Coffee for.
You know I work for Boston’s Ice Cream Cone and Coffee so you must have read my resume and it says how long I’ve worked there. And I can see the resume is right there next to you. I can see it, just move your fat arm and swing the chair a little bit to the left. No, no. Okay.
I tell him that I have worked for the company for nearly 3 years around a 6-month military deployment for training.
He exclaims that he forgot I was in the military.
The resume…it’s right there.
He tells me about his brother who was in the Army and is stationed in Texas. He asks if I had ever met a Sgt. Alexander.
That’s like asking me I knew one person, by name from Rhode Island. Of course I know every in the Army, there’s only like 50 of us.
I tell him that I have not, but that I’m sure it would be a pleasure to meet him.
He shifts in his seat and stares at his notes. He lifts up his arm, as he strokes the back of his neck with his pen. His armpits are sweaty, sopping. He asks me about my typical day at Boston’s Ice Cream Cone and Coffee.
Well. Either I’m hungover, still drunk or on a sleepless homework bender when I get there at 6 in the morning. Then, I proceed to fix everything that the night crew screwed up. Start pouring as many espresso shots for myself as I can. Steal some ice cream or bagels or cookies for breakfast. Count the money from the day prior. Tell the first employee that arrives to watch the front as I finish counting the money and setting up for the daily deposit. Then the espresso usually goes through me and I have to take a long pee and then I get more espresso and read the paper until my second employee arrives late and I yell at them. Then I go over to the bank, hope for a line and get change as needed.
Then I come back. Let my employees take their smoke breaks or brunch time. I charge them for their food but I give them 20% off. I help customers until I go to lunch across the street at the bar. I have a couple of drinks for lunch sometimes and feel more aptly ready to help customers. Oh, and through all this I take a cigarette break whenever I feel that I have accomplished something. It’s a treat for me. Then the night crew comes in and I clean up for them. Sometimes I don’t clean up. Sometimes I clean them up by writing someone up or firing someone for whatever. Then I go home to drink or do homework.
Well, I wake up eagerly at 5 in the morning and get to work by 5:30. Then I proceed to get the store prepped for customers. I clean the bathrooms if the night crew has not and fill everything that needs to be filled. When my crew people come in at 6:30, I have a team meeting with them about any special tasks for the day and remind them that we are here to help the customer. I remind them that the customers make sure we get our checks and then I start serving customers and, during lulls, I take care of counting cash. I tell him that I never want to leave less than two people on the line to ensure that the customers are getting the best service. After I get the deposit over to the bank and get change, I help spot clean and spot fill items as needed. This includes lifting the 10 gallon drums of ice cream. Then I cover my coworker’s lunch to ensure that they are happy. I tell him that a happy worker is less likely to steal and more likely to pass on their happiness to the customer. Then I smile at Mark, reveling.
Mark writes something down than asks me my favorite part about working at Boston’s Ice Cream Cone and Coffee.
I can leave whenever I want.
I tell him my employees. I tell him that it makes me happy to see such a great bunch of coworkers show off their great customer service skills. Also, knowing that I hopefully taught them something and hopefully impacted them for the rest of their careers.
Mark doesn’t miss a beat and asks me my least favorite about working at Boston’s Ice Cream Cone and Coffee.
The employees, always complaining and doing stupid things. I once had an employee that called me after the store had closed because he locked his keys in the safe. The safe was opened by a touch pad, not a key. This other time two employees had relations on my office chair. Not only a violation of food standards, ethics and whatever, but I had to get a new chair. And, of course, one of them had to tell me and held his hand up for a high five.
I tell Mark that I wish I was able to do more. That I wish I had more employees so that I could allow myself enough time to really show off the dreams I had for the store. But the company was too small to have more employees. Then I told him I wished there were more hours in the day, too.
Mark told me that he had wished for the same thing many times. I grinned at him. Both of us stuck in a self-delusional round of lying to each other. Round and round.
Mark told me that he started out at CVS when was 17 as a merchandiser and loved every minute of it. He thought it was incredible that he could get paid for just putting merchandise away. He was getting a workout and was getting paid for it.
Obviously, that had to have been a long time ago and there’s not much to lift at his current position except that pen.
He told me that he kept working hard and up through the ranks he went. He told me that I had it lucky because CVS never used to hire management outside of the company. That before the highest position one could apply for was shift supervisor.
I told him that the company is lucky now, because they would have been missing out on some real talent that they could have stolen from other companies.
He took my application and resume and leafed through it. He asked me if knew what I had scored on ethics and performance test.
The test that I lied on nearly every question. The same test that I had given to my store’s applicants at Boston’s Ice Cream Cone and Coffee.
I told him that I didn’t know.
He told me that I had the best score he has ever seen. A 99% on job performance and 100% on ethics.
I smiled and told him that I must have not been paying attention on that one question.
He smiled back.
Then he got somber. He asked me an odd question; who I would have clean the bathroom given a list of workers. He said if it was between a merchandiser, who used to work as a janitor, a shift supervisor, or a cashier, who perpetually came into work late.
This was the question that every hiring manager comes up with to see the true resolution of character. They come up with asinine reasons why it should be one person over another. After I would give him the answer, than he would ask why I picked that person. And that would tell something about me.
I told him that I would rather do it myself. That I trust myself to do everything needed in the store correctly. That a store is my store and I needed to ensure it is working correctly from the smallest thing to the largest. I told him that I do not displace my rife and if that employee was perpetually late I would not take it out on them in unconventional ways. The employee who is willing to do even the worst task in a store is the true person in charge. And I told him that I try to lead by example so that later I wouldn’t even have to ask.
He winked at me and nodded.
Then he asked me how much I was looking to get paid.
I told him that if was anything less than $55,000 that I would have to walk. I told him that I thought I deserved it and that I would make him proud of his decision if he did hire me.
He made a note of what I was looking for on my resume and asked if I had any questions.
I did have questions.
Why don’t you wear deodorant?
What was the real answer to the bathroom cleaning question?
Do you know that I am still in college too? It’s on my resume.
How much do you make a year?
What is your favorite part about working for CVS?
What does CVS stand for?
Do you know that Andrew talks about you behind your back and wants to sleep with your wife, not because she’s pretty, but just so he can mess with you?
Do you know that everything I have said is a lie?
Do you think that anything I have said is a lie?
Do you know that I wouldn’t walk if you offered me $50,000?
Do you know that I will never clean a bathroom in my store?
Did you smell the whiskey on my breath or did the gum cover it up?
I tell him that I don’t but I that I did look forward to hearing from him and hope that he had a great day.
Two days later, on Thursday, Mark called me and told me that I would start training on Monday. He told me that he was really happy to see me come aboard and thought that I was going to do some really great things for my store and his district.
Two months later Mark was fired for sexual harassment.
As a CVS manager, my first interviewee enters my office.
I tell him to take a seat.
I tell him that this should only take a few minutes.
He glances at his watch.
He is dressed in a button down shirt. It’s not tucked into his over-sized jeans. His black shoes are coupled with white-ish socks.
I ask him why he wants to work for CVS?
He tells me that he thinks it is a great opportunity for him. He has always enjoyed shopping at CVS and thought that working here would be fun as well.