The year is 2006. The job situation is just starting to take a dismal turn here in Indiana. With half of my college education under my belt I find myself in the awkward position of being overqualified for certain positions (read: retail, fast food, et al) and just under-qualified enough to be overlooked for slightly more lucrative clerical and administrative positions. On the advice of a friend I turn to an oft-overlooked sector: small local business. There is a small floral and gift shop just up the road from the apartment complex where I live with a HELP WANTED sign in the window, so I stop in on a whim one cloudy November afternoon. I open the door and in an instant the sterile winter chill is replaced with an artificially warm and aromatic air.

“Hello.” The elderly woman behind the counter seems friendly enough.

“Um, I wanted to fill out an application if I could.”

“Sure.” She begins rummaging beneath the glassed-in counter before her, which happened to contain a number of ceramic dolls. A lot of people find these types of dolls unsettling to look at. My aversion to them falls into the "kill it with fire" realm. The dolls and I engage in an unholy staring contest until the woman slides a sheet of paper in my direction.

“Go ahead and fill this out,” she says. I do just that, pausing occasionally with the pen perched unhygienically at my mouth while I glance over the paper. It seems less like a job application than a checklist to present to one’s family doctor or parole officer.

In the past five years I have:
{ } Interacted with the public on the job
{ } Handled cash on the job
{ } Worked without close supervision
{ } Waited next to my boss' car with a baseball bat
{ } Shanked a prison guard
{ } Pled nolo contendre to an insanity hearing

Okay, those last three aren't on the application, but if you ask me they really should be. Political correctness be damned; if I was hiring someone for a job I'd like to know about their potential to murder me and the various creative ways they would dispose of my body as much as their typing speed and knowledge of Microsoft Excel. In addition to the obligatory questions about customer service experience there are inquiries into my experience with outdoor labour, including but not limited to heavy machinery operation, mowing, raking, and weeding. I am genuinely confused as to what any of this has to do with this particular business, but I am in no position to be picky. I finish filling out the app. The woman looks it over, occasionally glancing up at me.

“I think my daughter will be interested in speaking with you. Is this a good number to reach you?” She indicates the number I’ve written, my cell phone number, and I acquiesce. I leave, feeling neither here nor there. I haven’t wowed someone, but I haven’t necessarily pissed into the wind either. It's a standard feeling whilst job hunting in any sort of economy.

Less than two hours later I receive a phone call from a woman calling herself Christiane. “My mother called me about you,” she says. “She said you seemed like just the type I was looking for.”

I agree to meet with her at the business' home office in Greene County. I do so the very next day, after navigating my way through labyrinthine county roads, some of which were not paved, to a saccharine Victorian style house offset by acres and acres of woods. The kind of woods that absorb screams. I shoulder aside memories of every Stephen King novel I’ve ever read and walk through the front doors.

The same sickly sweet warm air as the flower shop in Bloomington strikes me when I enter. An instrumental version of “Forever and Ever, Amen” by Randy Travis lands peripherally on my ears as I take in the backdrop of overwhelming pink, lace, and gingham that comprises this room. Stuffed bears and even more dead-eyed dolls accost me from every shelf. Out of nowhere I am greeted by something vaguely human.

“You must be Christine,” the conservatively-dressed woman greets me. “I’m Christiane, the owner.”

“Hi.” I greet her. On first glance I can tell she is the type I definitely don't get along with. She looks like someone shoved Donna Mills and a Barbie doll circa 1950 into a Play-Doh Fun Factory. When she smiles I suspect she is capable of unhinging her jaw. I imagine she says things like "shucks" when frustrated. There is an aura of insincerity about her.

“Have a seat.” She gestures to a table that was obviously intended for ornamental purposes only. I lower myself carefully into the uncomfortable wooden chair. The treacly rendition of “Forever and Ever, Amen” starts over in the background.

“So I understand you’re something of a ‘Jill of all trades’,” she says, and I nod like a good little puppet.

“You could call me that,” I say.

“So you don’t mind shifting gears from time to time?”


“I mean, I need someone who doesn’t mind going out in the yard and getting dirty, mowing grass, picking weeds, planting flowers, what have you, and coming in here from time to time to help out when customers come in.”

In all honesty the former is my kind of work. I enjoy being outside. I enjoy being active. I appreciate a minimum of human interaction. The latter is questionable. Though I wonder just how many customers this isolated house of horrors saw.

"Sure, that's no problem."

"Good. I mean, I know it doesn't look like much, but it's usually just me and my son here and we also have the bed and breakfast upstairs, so sometimes it can get to be a bit much for just two people."

There is a lot to digest in such a brief statement. She has a son. This means that some unfortunate man has mated with her at least once. Colour me intrigued, and nauseated. Also, at the mention of the son I notice the frilly curtain behind her rustling ever so slightly. I imagine said son lurking behind this curtain, cleaver in hand and a thirst for my blood on his palate. Speaking of, what ho? Bed and breakfast? HOLY SHIT! I hereby promise myself that if I get this job the first thing I'm going to do is start looking for the body chute. I amuse myself with this thought while she talks some more about the job, duties, etc. when she busts out with this gem.

"So are you a Christian?"

Cue record scratching sound. (I wish; this point in the conversation marks about the eighth fucking time that "Forever and Ever, Amen" has played on repeat). Since this incident I have worked in human resources and I have a fair knowledge of what is legal and what isn't to ask at a job interview, but even at this rudimentary phase in my adult working career I know it is extremely fucking illegal to ask an applicant's religion. I am speechless. I simply stare agape at her as she continues talking.

"I built my business on wholesome Christian values," she says. "There is a certain image I want to uphold here and I expect my employees to be able to do this as well."

Now I am an atheist, but not to the degree where anything faith-based is like kryptonite to me. I'm fond of a saying I saw on a bumper sticker once: "I have no problem with God; it's his fans I can't stand". This pretty much sums it up. There are normal people who just happen to be Christian. Then there are batshit insane fuckers like this crazy broad who, regardless of her religion, would probably still be batshit insane and insufferable. By now I consider myself entirely within my right to walk out of the interview having said this to her, or saying nothing at all, but I remain where I sit. Pure, unadulterated wackiness like this comes along once in a lifetime.

"Of course," I say, relishing an opportunity to practice my acting skills.

"It's in my name and it's in the name of my business. Christiane. Christiane's. Christian."

Great. I was named after the book about the murderous Plymouth Fury, but that doesn't make me a serial killer.

"It may sound like I have a lot of rules, but I really don't," she continues. "I just expect my employees to represent my company in a respectable way that gets across my mission statement. You know, dressing respectably, treating every customer like royalty, what have you. Oh, that reminds me. There will be times that I'll have you make deliveries for me. The van I've got now is kind of sketchy, so I might need you to make a few runs in your personal vehicle. Anyway, I really like for my people to listen to the Christian radio station while they're driving. You know, even when no one can see you, you're representing not only my company, but my Lord. That's something I like all my people to remember at all times."

Okay, fuck this shit. For the right pay I would tolerate her creepy Play-Doh face with its abundance of bright pink blush and the saccharine sweet lilt in her voice. I would even overlook the religious blather. But when you try to tell me what I can and can't do when neither you nor your precious customers can see me, that's when you cross a line. If I want to listen to Norwegian death metal whilst driving naked in my own car, then goddamnit that's what I'm gonna do. What next, is shitting at work verboten because the Bible says that going to the bathroom is a sin? (I assume this is the case; it was in an episode of The Simpsons.)

"I...see." I'm over the acting at this point; I'm just ready for this to be over. And of all the things I could say now, I bust out the most limp-dicked thing of all. I can't help feeling I brought this on myself somehow. Karma ran over my dogma, or something.

"Well I must say Ms. Winter, I really like you. You seem almost too good to be true. I am definitely going to give you some serious consideration for this position. I will definitely be giving you a call back soon, since I want to fill this position as soon as possible."

I say something but at this point my brain has long since said "you can stay, but I'm leaving." I smile, nod, shake her hand, walk out the door, drive home. The second I'm back in cell phone reception I call my friend and tell her about the interview. She tends to be a little more understanding of other people's idiosyncrasies than I, but even she agrees that this woman was out of line and that at least 70% of what happened at this interview could ensure her little flower shop/B&B/cult commune could be shut down by the Better Business Bureau. So this event goes down in my log of "hilariously quirky things that have happened to me that I might write about someday".

Later that night, around 9:00 or so, I get a call from a number I don't recognize. A later check of my voice mail reveals a message from Christiane, telling me she would like to hire me and to call her back ASAP. I delete the message.

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