When he left the hotel the manager marked a large brown envelope with his name. Whatever mail still came to the hotel would be put in the envelope. He could pick it up when he stopped by.
A few weeks later he stopped by the hotel. The young desk clerk with whom he had had some long conversations, especially on Sunday nights, looked in the envelope. There was no mail.
“Got a job yet?” the clerk asked.
“No,” he said, “but looking high or low. It’s going to take time. Have my resume out. Have been applying for temporary work anywhere and everywhere. Did Steak and Shake call yet?”
The clerk laughed. He was born and raised in Chicago. His father was Mexican. His mother was Lithuanian. They had never married. They had had four children together while they lived apart in separate houses. The clerk was the oldest. He had moved to the suburbs with his mother. He saw his father when he went to Chicago. He was in his last year of High School. He was thinking of going to Junior College. He had diabetes.
“Hey, “ the clerk said, “a friend of mine told me the SuperSonic Station on the corner of Aurora and 59 is hiring. They pay $12.50 an hour.”
“$12.50 an hour? You don’t mean Super Marvin’s or whatever it is called.” he said.
“No, “ said the clerk, “It’s the big new one kitty-corner across the intersection. I was thinking of applying there myself. This job is going nowhere. Christian wouldn’t let me off to go to my doctor last week. $12.50 an hour!”
Christian was the manager. He was from India. He dressed very British.
The clerk got $8.00 an hour, nights and weekends.
He began to walk out.
“What are you going to do about the SuperSonic Station job? $12.50 an hour,” the clerk said.
“I’ll check it out,” he said.
The SuperSonic Station was about two miles down the road. It was on at least an acre of land on the corner diagonally across from Marvin’s SuperStop, a much smaller and older station that was at least five years old.
The SuperSonic Station had twelve gas pumps outside, all self-service, under a large reinforced steel canopy. There was a separate structure for car washes in the rear. Another glassy garage-like structure to the right bore a large sign: DETAILING.
He did not know what detailing was.
The main building was airy, spacious and large. Inside there was a cashier counter in the round in the center of the floor.
Background Rock music played.
Shelves lined the far walls to the left. Freezers and coolers lined the walls to the right.
There was a separate coffee island with clearly labeled varieties brewing in urns.
Nearby by was a donut and pastry station. There were bins of music CD’s and videos, racks of apparel and magazines, toys, games.
A woman in a striped company shirt stood at the register inside the cashier island.
About six feet to the right of her stood a pale unsmiling middle-aged man in glasses wearing a company jacket.
The man was holding a clipboard. He eyed the shelves to the front and looked at the clipboard.
He went up to the counter and stood in front of the man in the jacket. The man ignored him. He stood for three minutes. The man moved toward the woman at the cash register.
He followed the man to the left and stood in front of him on the opposite side of the counter.
The man continued to avoid eye contact.
Customers go to the cash register, he thought to himself.
“Excuse me,” he said to the man in the red jacket.
The man looked up silently and said nothing.
“Someone told me that you are hiring and that you pay $12.50 an hour.”
“You have to fill out an application,” the man said.
“Yes,” he said.
“But before you fill out an application,” the man said, “you have to watch a video presentation in the back.”
“Yes,” he said.
“Follow me.” He handed him two sheets of paper.
He followed the man down a long corridor to the left. At the end of the corridor was a television monitor on the wall about seven feet off the ground. He looked up at the monitor. The man reached up and pushed a button, then returned to the front.
Music played and a voice off screen said, “Do you have what it takes to join the SuperSonic Station Team?”
“SuperSonic Station workers are Team Players!” said the voice while the camera panned a station on the screen nearly identical to the one he was in.
Cut to a smiling SuperSonic Station worker in the company striped shirt.
“Here at SuperSonic Station,” the worker said, “We are all Team Players. When one person doesn’t do his job, everyone else has to work harder. If you aren’t a team player, you will not be at SuperSonic Station long.”
“SuperSonic Station workers have Enthusiasm and Positive Mental Attitude!” said the voice off screen.
Cut to another smiling SuperSonic Station worker in the striped company shirt.
“SuperSonic Station employees have Enthusiasm and Positive Mental Attitude!” said the worker on screen, “If you don’t have Enthusiasm and Positive Mental Attitude you will not be at SuperSonic Station long.”
“SuperSonic Station workers follow a Dress Code!” the off screen voice said.
He had noticed the striped shirt and the red jacket. Cut to a smiling SuperSonic Station employee with an earring in one ear.
“SuperSonic Station workers wear uniforms and follow a Dress Code,” the worker said, “Personal jewelry on the job is limited to one small earring in one ear only.”
The SuperSonic Station worker on the screen modeled his earring for the camera.
If you cannot abide the SuperSonic Station Dress Code, he said to himself, you will not be at SuperSonic Station long.
“If you cannot follow the SuperSonic Station Dress Code,” repeated the worker in the video, “You will not be at SuperSonic Station long.”
Over the course of the next few minutes he learned that SuperSonic Station workers were also Honest, Drug-free, and Courteous.
“If you are a Team Player, have Enthusiasm and Positive Mental Attitude, and can Follow the SuperSonic Station Dress Code,” said the off screen voice in a clearly conclusional tone, ”and if you are Honest, Drug-Free, and Courteous, you too can join the SuperSonic Station Team!”
Upbeat Sesame Street music followed. The screen went blank.
He walked back along the corridor and stood at a small counter. He filled out the application. Along with the usual request for social security number and authorization to do a credit check, it had spaces for three references. Unlike other applications it asked in regard to references only name, position, years known, and telephone number, omitting address and zip code.
Were SuperSonic Station workers not voluminous letter writers?
He went to the front counter. The unsmiling middle-aged man in the red jacket was again eyeing the shelves, now without a clipboard.
He handed him the form. The man took it silently.
“It seems you are mostly interested in hiring young people here at SuperSonic Station,” he said.
“Not necessarily,” said the man in the red jacket.
He turned and walked out to his car.
He had been at SuperSonic Station about half an hour. He wondered to himself where all those who had not been at SuperSonic Station long congregated.
(E. A. Costa copyright 2005)
E. A. Costa 25 September, 2015 Granada, Nicaragua