Welcome to 2018. I hope you had a peaceful holiday season and are looking forward to a new year full of adventure. We had a lovely Christmas here on the edge of the continent. Hayden and Emily spent a week with us and we had a delightful time. We hiked, and visited the aquarium and other area attractions. We took the Rogue Brewery tour and went whale watching three miles out into the open ocean in a zodiac boat.
Now the new year is upon us. This last week I had a couple of skills tests and a job interview with the City of Newport Police Department. The job was as a records/evidence/property clerk. I received the email before Christmas inviting me to take the skills test.
On the morning of test day, I quickly looked up the 100 most commonly misspelled English words and read that list five times. So, on a damp Saturday morning I went into the Newport City Council chambers only to find no less than sixteen (maybe eighteen I’m not sure) other people there to test for this same position, of which there was one. No pressure. As I looked around the room I noticed that the four men were all very different but all of the women in the room looked alike, myself included.
Every woman in that room was between thirty-five and fifty. We all had on gray or black pants, a simple blouse and a sweater. The only color represented in our collective wardrobe choice, outside of gray black and white was purple. One woman wore boots but every other woman in there was wearing some version of black flats. Those who wore jewelry chose only watches and simple chains outside of wedding jewelry. This was really disturbing. The room looked like extras casting for and episode of Murder She Wrote.
The test proper was not so much a skills test but rather an exercise to weed out the illiterate and inattentive. Within the test, three of the words I’d looked up that morning were among the spelling questions – so take that nerds! The whole thing took about an hour. I must have done just fine because less than two hours after the exam I received and email inviting me to an interview and SECOND skills test on Tuesday morning at 8:30.
I always prefer to be the first person in a line of interviews. I know that I don’t have anything original or particularly interesting to say. I also know that no one else does either so I want to be the first one to say the same thing the interview panel is going to hear all day long. By the end of the day, they will only remember that my interview did not feel like a rehash of all the others, and also my great hair, they always remember the hair.
In any interview where I don’t swear or identify myself as part of any group (protected class, religious group, specific NFL team affiliate, preferring Coke or Pepsi) I feel pretty successful. I like to get a laugh, but it has to be a light chuckle and a laugh-with rather than a laugh-at. There were five people in the room and I made eye contact with each one of them, but not the creepy “I’m looking into your soul” eye contact. I’d give the interview portion a B+. The tech failed during the skills testing and I was delightful and accommodating to the IT specialist. You have to be, they will be our overlords any day now.
As I was leaving I saw the next candidate. Damned if it was not the woman who on test day, first caused me to notice that we all looked alike. Here she was, lovely, nice hair, pleasant smile and dressed exactly f’ing like me. We were barely distinguishable. This was the first time in the process I felt truly thrown. Fortunately, I was done and on the way out. I made sure I smiled at the incoming candidate and said both good morning and good luck (in a nice way), and off I went out into the world. Damn she did have great hair.
I did not really think about it again. I had failed to ask about their timeline when I had the chance so I just assumed it would be a week or so and that there was nothing left for me to do other than write my thank you emails to the interview panel and wait and see.
What I have not mentioned yet is that on New Year’s Day I was attacked and nearly beaten to death by the influenza virus. If a sneaker wave had grabbed me off the beach and tossed me savagely against the rocks I would have felt better than I did over the first week of this new year. So, at the time of testing and interview I was just starting to get the color back in my face. But I was a trooper. I felt confident and again, my hair was killing it.
Throughout my illness I had decamped to the guest bedroom and tried to quarantine my germs to the back portion of the house far away from Cody. Ultimately, I failed. Like everything else I have, I shared my influenza with Cody. He went down as fast as unexpected visitor to Cabot Cove, Maine. With Cody now an official member of the undead, and me in a holding pattern we were kind of hunkered down. As has been my experience in the past, life does not pause just because that’s what I’d like.
I took advantage of this holding pattern to run a lot of errands. On day two of the infestation I drove into Newport and doubled down on my productivity. I filled the car with gas, well I rolled down the window and handed out my card and when I pulled away the car was full of gas. I selected stamps, three different kinds, at the post office. I went to ProBuild for pellets for the stove, Sally’s for face wax (since the demise of circus freak shows I’ve had to spend more time keeping my goatee at bay), and finally the grocery store for ingredients to make Cody my special “Please Forgive Me for Giving you the Plague Chicken and Noodles.”
Traveling alone around Newport, knowing where I was going and what I needed, running simple errands, I had a tickle growing in the back of my brain. Slowly, waiting in traffic, changing lanes in advance of my turn without thinking about it, listening to the local public radio station report on a water pipe repair I had an awakening. I live here. This is my home. My license plates and driver’s license read Oregon. I think I might belong.
Now I have felt at home in my house. I have felt a real sense of peace and place staring down the mighty Pacific Ocean. I have climbed rocks and thought “holy shit, this is where I live.” But this day, with the car full of pellets and stamps, and face wax, and groceries, sitting in unnecessary traffic, I really knew in my bones that this place is my home. I do belong.
I don’t know if it was the Dutch Brothers coffee helping to clear my respiratory system or the realization of belonging, but either way I felt a giant weight lift off my chest a disappear as if it had never been there at all. It was not so much a freedom as it was a settling in. A new kind of comfortable. It felt like the kind of contentment that comes from solving a good mystery just ahead of the protagonist. An arrival at a new understanding when the place is the key and you are part of that place.
When I arrived home, I checked my email to find that the Newport Police will be proceeding with background and criminal history checks on the other top candidate. They took the time to mention that I was there second choice and should the person selected not pass their rigorous screening . . . you get the rest.
Under any other circumstances I would be a wreck. I don’t really like knowing that I was the second choice. At the Olympics the person who comes in second gets a silver medal. In life the person who comes in second is still unemployed. I really did want to be part of the Police Department. I was pretty invested in the community service aspect of this job. I thought I could really invest in working in consort with crime fighters. Coming as this news did, tight on the heels of my new understanding it seems to me there are a couple of reasons I was not completely devastated.
The flip answer is that if we have learned anything from Jessica Fletcher, and I think we have, it is that anyone, even a senior citizen writing for a living can solve crime. But really, I think part of my fascination with this exact position had to do with my search for belonging in this place. I was feeling removed and isolated. I was looking over my shoulder missing where I came from and had tunnel vision connecting me only to the landscape here. I was keyed in to the postcard image of this place rather than the life I can build here. I had not yet settled in, solved the puzzle.
So, Cody and I are recovering. We are both on the hunt for gainful employment with an eye toward a return to the status of landed gentry. As we go along though, it now feels less like establishing ourselves here. We are established. This is home and it may well be the perfect place for us. I am choosing now to look at the future not as building our life by the sea, but rather growing into the life that we already have here. There is some world expansion on the horizon. I am super excited to unravel the next mystery.