From my book in progress, SHIFT: Stories and Strategies for a New Paradigm.
Please enjoy an excerpt from Chapter 7, in which I recount multiple stories from a wide range of strange interview scenarios over the history of my work life.
Interviews are not always what you expect and can be mysterious, thoroughly unconventional and even a little dangerous.
Here is one example of a strange encounter that took place while I lived in Japan for one year in my late twenties.
If you would like to see more from the book, please read Shift – Excerpt 1, accessible from the link below or through the main drop-down menu, or contact me for more pages.
Just a few weeks into a January move to Osaka, Japan by the urging of a friend who had been there for a couple of years teaching English as a Second Language classes, I arranged to meet for a job interview at a local donut shop a few blocks from my home. When I arrived in the pouring rain, I was met by “Yoshi,” a handsome, middle-aged Japanese man and school owner who spoke no English. His young assistant immediately stepped in, a young Australian man named Nick, who was fluent in Japanese. Nick was there to translate and things started off pretty smoothly over coffee and donuts.
Fifteen minutes into our meeting, however, an abrupt decision was made to visit the school. I assumed it was nearby as we rushed outside into torrential rain but things took a turn as I was briskly escorted curbside to Yoshi’s car and was politely instructed by Nick to get in for the short drive to the school. I climbed into the backseat while Yoshi drove and Nick sat in the front passenger seat. Nick continued to translate Yoshi’s questions about my experience and background.
Then, a sudden moment of silence followed, by a hushed exchange between the two men. I was instantly engulfed in fear, realizing I had no idea where we were or who these guys were. Did they even show me their IDs and credentials? In Osaka, every neighborhood looks the same and there were no clear markers for me to connect to visually. I blurted out to Nick, “Are we going to the school? Where is it? Where is the school? What street is it on? What street are we on now?”
Yoshi must have sensed my discomfort and panic or perhaps he thought I was behaving boldly or in an impolite and forward manner for a woman subordinate. I had not yet grown fully aware of Japanese customs and expectations. I was surely speaking out of turn and much too loudly, too aggressively.
heated and rapid conversation between the two men broke out. I became more alarmed in each passing second as they continued to talk vigorously without answering any of my questions. What am I doing, I thought? Back home in California, I would never have gotten into this predicament, never gotten into a car with two strangers, two men I know nothing about! What have I done, what is the matter with me! I wondered repeatedly.
I asked Nick again what was going on exactly. “I thought we were going to the school?” I queried again, trying to be more composed this time. Nick turned to me with what seemed like a completely different tone and tenor to his voice and his face, stating flatly, “We are not going to the school” and turned back to face forward. I was horrified now as the rain continued to pelt the car in blinding sheets of water. I had no idea where I was and my common sense compass was spinning out of control.
I said to Nick, “I’m very uncomfortable with this situation. I think we should return to the donut shop, please.” Nick appeared to be translating my words to Yoshi and yet another rapid-fire, heated conversation unfolded though no response was given to me. I was completely left out of the equation.
My hands were sweating and my heart was pounding by now, unsure of what to do or say. I was being ignored. My anxiety was mounting. About two minutes later we pulled quickly to the curb and I sensed my escape was imminent. I opened the car door and got out swiftly, snapped my umbrella open and looked all around me to get a sense of my location. I searched for any sign of a nearby subway line.
I turned to Nick and asked, “Is this where the school is? Are we going there after all?”
Nick blinked twice and looked at me, incredulous. Through condescending eyes, he spoke.
“We are at the donut shop. See? It’s right over there,” he said, pointing to the building just behind me as I turned to look. “You are right back where you started.”
The rain began to taper off softly in that moment, almost imperceptibly, leaving a refreshing mist in the air. I bowed to the two men, this much I had learned, and made as much of a gracious departure as I could muster up. I could hear an argument erupt as I left them on the sidewalk.
My walk home was one of deep inquiry. What exactly had just happened? Was that completely honest and innocent or were they Yakuza (Japanese mafia) looking for “hospitality girls”? Did I put way too much faith in the idea that Japan is safe and crime free? Have I seen too many horror movies? Is my westernized mindset letting my imagination run wild? Or did I narrowly escape some ill-fated outcome?
Why were they arguing? Was Nick upset because he had recommended me to his boss after sorting through résumé s? Had he lost face and credibility with his boss because I was not at all what Yoshi was looking for? Maybe Nick’s job would be in jeopardy now, placed in an untenable position with his boss, a man who seemed angry and imperious, even impossible to please.
I never heard from them again, so I’ll never know. Lesson learned — a multi-layered one, in fact. I was happy to get home, throw off my wet shoes and make some tea.
. . .
This is a brief excerpt from Chapter 7 of SHIFT: Stories and Strategies for a New Paradigm, © 2018, Mary Corbin. No reprints without permission.