August 12th, 2014 – 5 PM
It has often been the case that I have been too closely involved in a situation or problem to see it clearly. Often, my own bias and emotion has prevented me from looking objectively at what was going on and how I fit into it. As the years have passed, I’ve endeavoured to become better at understanding my choices in the moment, rather than having every revelation occur years down the line. In retrospect, I now realize that a lot could have been done differently on the evening of August 12th. Similarly, I also see how difficult it was to have appreciated this truth without the benefit of hindsight.
By 5 PM of August 12th, I was exhausted. I had been up since approximately 6 AM and had done four interviews all over downtown Toronto. I was sleep deprived, hungry and stressed. With that said, I cannot deny the feeling of excitement that was coursing through me. I had managed to snag a coveted dinner invitation to the home of one of Sebben & Sebben’s partners. Furthermore, I had done so despite the faux pas of missing the firm’s RSVP-only cocktail party the night before. Still, I knew that the evening would be stretched to the breaking point. The schedule was as follows:
- Pearson Specter: Cocktail party – 5 PM – 7 PM
- Sebben & Sebben: Dinner – 5:30 PM – 8 PM
- Morgans: Cocktail party – 6 PM- 9 PM
How should I split my time? What was most valuable? Reading this now, you’ll probably easily see the answer. The cocktail parties at Pearson Specter and Morgans were open to all applicants. No one who had been invited to these events had done anything in particular to earn their place. These parties essentially functioned as 2nd interviews that everyone had been granted. The dinner at Sebben & Sebben, however, was for a “select” group of applicants. You had to have impressed someone at the initial interview and passed an initial bottleneck to make it to the dinner. With all of that considered, it seems obvious that I should have devoted the majority of my time and attention to the dinner.
If I stayed for the majority of the dinner, might I make it in time for an appearance at Morgans’ party? Was showing up after 8 PM and staying until the end insulting? Should I just ignore every event EXCEPT for Sebben & Sebben’s? These questions and many others plagued me between 4 PM and 5 PM. When it was all said and done, there was something just terrifying to me about foregoing an appearance at any of these events. I just could not part with the idea (or delusion) that I was throwing the entire job away if I did not make it to each event. While this may have been, strictly speaking, true, it was not an accurate characterization of the cost-benefit analysis. There is an old saying that, if you stand in the middle of the road long enough, you will eventually be run over. I knew it then and I know it now, but I still believed at the time that I could make it work.
My first stop, I deduced, would have to be at Pearson Specter. It would also be my briefest. This party would be both shortest in duration earliest ending. I would put in a half hour, meet as many people as I could and then catch a taxi for the Sebben & Sebben dinner. Pearson Specter was holding their party at Canoe, a very swanky restaurant and bar on the 54th floor of the TD Bank Tower. If nothing else, I was excited to briefly be joining high society . As I walked briskly to the tower, rain clouds began to gather over my head. I quickened my pace, brandished my umbrella and hoped that this was not an omen.
I reached the lobby of the TD Tower with twenty minutes to spare. Sinking into a comfortable leather chair, I checked my phone for what seemed like a few seconds. I did not even realize that I had fallen asleep in the chair until I was roused by loud, familiar voices. By the grace of God, the interviewers from Pearson Specter had arrived at the opposite side of the building and had not walked past my drooling, unconscious figure in the middle of the lobby. Wiping the slobber from my face and inwardly cursing my carelessness, I waited until their voices had trailed off behind the sound of closing elevator doors. I checked my watch and started for the elevators by 5:05 PM, exactly.
Arriving on the 54th floor seconds later, I examined my surroundings. Canoe was every bit as elegant as the reviews made it sound. Feeling distinctly out of place, I followed the signs for the Pearson Specter event and grabbed a name tag that was laid out on a folding table. From there, I made my way to the coat check representative. Preferring to travel light, I had neither jacket nor briefcase to check. Instead, I had my mother’s loud fuschia umbrella. I awkwardly handed it over and the coat check lady smiled ruefully as she attached a ticket-tag to the parasol. I took a deep breath, forced a fake smile onto my face and ventured into the reception’s main area.
As I have canvassed earlier in these accounts, I despise law firm cocktail parties. I am not good at them, I do not enjoy them and I feel as though I am constantly being scrutinized unfavourably. For one thing, there are about 9-10 applicants crowded around every one lawyer. Each of them is trying to be just a little funnier, a little smarter and just a little… better than everyone else. You must toe a fine line between not talking at all and boorishly dominating the conversation. The worst part, by far, is painfully sidling up to a group and waiting for a lull in the conversation to introduce yourself to the lawyer. Then, do you have to introduce yourself to every single applicant that is standing there? Some articling hopefuls certainly did. I realize that might have just been simple friendliness, but it still made me want to projectile vomit all over everything. The whole thing is just so fake and disgusting.
Another amusing aspect to this process is pretending to listen with wide-eyed interest at everything the lawyer has to say. Subrogated claim that you were working on recently? That’s fascinating! You belong to a wine club? Superb! There’s a recent change to the Insurance Act that has been receiving a lot of industry buzz? OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD! Also, the most unfunny puns and passing jokes about the weather are met by intense, baying laughter by every applicant. I swear to God, one of the exchanges went something like:
Lawyer: “I’m sure glad the rain has stayed light, today. I can’t imagine you guys having to walk around town to different interviews in the middle of a monsoon!”
Applicants: “HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! OH MY GOD, THAT IS SOOOOOOOOOOOOO TRUE, HA HA!”
It was honestly revolting. I realize that this screed makes me sound like a misanthropic outcast, but I really do tend to get along with people and be fairly easygoing. I just cannot stand socializing under false pretences. With all of that said, I did my best to make my rounds among the lawyers at Pearson Specter. I spoke to my interviewers again and, though, friendly, they urged me to meet other lawyers that I had not spoken to already. This made sense and I made sure to speak to as many as I could. Time was working against me, however, and it felt like 5:30 had snuck up on me. Looking back, it would have been better to announce my departure to someone and thank them for their hospitality. Instead, I quietly (or so I thought) retreated out of a back entrance, down the elevator and onto the street.
It was 6 PM by the time I reached the house of the Sebben & Sebben partner. I was expecting a grand estate, but instead I found a smaller, well-appointed house in the Queen West area. I should have realized that the location alone probably made this house worth millions. Pushing thoughts of real estate aside, I knocked on the front door. A woman in a dress shirt and tie answered the door. I introduced myself and stated my purpose before being escorted in. My fuschia umbrella was again stored away for safekeeping. The partner had apparently hired a hospitality service for the evening. There were hired hands answering the door, serving food, pouring drinks and cleaning up. The majority of the guests were out on the back patio. With a bead of sweat running down the side of my forehead, I realized that I was the last to arrive.
Again, it was difficult to establish myself in conversations that had already been going on for a while by the time that I had arrived. I naturally gravitated towards the interviewers that I had already met, but they (like the people at Pearson Specter) kept the interactions fairly brief and insisted I talk to other members of the firm. Spotting a couple of young associates talking amongst themselves, I sidled over and offered my hand. They shook it and we proceeded to engage in a weird conversation that was 50% testing, 50% taunting. I had barely introduced myself before one of them asked me to state five interesting things about myself. Waiting for the punchline, I realized swiftly that there wasn’t one and that I was actually expected to answer this odd query. I prattled off three or four things, mostly having to do with bizarre medical emergencies I had landed myself in in the past. The two associates laughed briskly and then started making fun of the “amateur” way I had tied my tie that morning. I laughed along with them and inwardly wished for death.
The evening wore on and the sun began to set. If the circumstances were any different, it would have been a truly lovely, summer night. Instead, I was clandestinely cramming appetizers into my mouth as I scoped out the next conversation to shoehorn my way into. Strolling around the patio, I finally noticed an older gentleman speaking to another applicant. I sidled over to the pair and introduced myself to both. The older man was a partner emeritus at the firm and apparently only came into the office once a week, or so. Though I could not imagine how such a person might be involved in hiring, I hung around and tried to make conversation. Owing mostly to the fact that the gentleman enjoyed talking very much and was more than a little hard of hearing, I did not get many words in edgewise. Rather, I did a lot of nodding and “uh-huh”-ing as I chewed my shrimp.
As 8 PM arrived, I heard a glass being clinked. The conversation among the patio died down and a man got to his feet. This was the partner whose house we found ourselves in. He thanked everyone for coming and announced that, before long, the associates and partners present would be sitting down to discuss who would be getting offers. He told us there was no rush to go, but that the night would be drawing to a close before long. As soon as he finished speaking, eager applicants flocked to him to extend thanks, shake hands and emphasize gratefulness. I was no different. Afterwards, the hiring coordinator handed out taxi vouchers to applicants who were headed back into the city. I was one of these people and piled into a taxi with two other hopefuls.
It was about 8:15 when the taxi dropped me off at Houston Bar and Grill on Yonge Street, the location of Morgans’ cocktail party. The cab ride to the bar had been interestingly tense. The other applicants and myself candidly chatted about our chances, our thoughts about the firm and what we had left to do that day. I bid my fellow travellers goodbye and strode into the bar. In contrast to the genteel atmosphere of the previous soirees, the atmosphere at the Morgans’ party was loud and rowdy. It was also particularly crowded, with 60 or so applicants and roughly 10 lawyers packed into the lounge area. The hiring manager spotted me entering, shook my hand and offered me a name tag. She was also good enough to usher me to a lawyer who did not have many hangers-on for a quick introduction.
Once again, I did what I thought was my best to mingle and make conversation. It is so difficult to make impressive-sounding small talk with a stranger when you have nine other competitors trying to do the same thing. Though I realized that I was repeating the same tactic yet again, it was not long before I made a beeline to my interviewer. Unlike my previous encounters, my interviewer this time greeted me very warmly and struck up a lively exchange. She also took me over to meet the head of the hiring committee. The poor man was on his own, at the bar, looking like he’d had enough of the entire evening. With a sense of trepidation washing over me, I nonetheless extended my hand and introduced myself. He smiled wearily and we exchanged a few, brief pleasantries. I remarked to him that he’d probably had a long day. He grinned and replied that I had probably had a longer one. Just as I felt as though I was making a real connection for the first time that evening, there arose a loud crash.
A group quickly formed around the source of the commotion. Apparently, the humidity, anxiety and inebriation of the evening had taken its toll on one of the applicants. She took a spill directly in the middle of a throng of articling hopefuls and lawyers. Muttering under his breath, the hiring partner quickly excused himself from our conversation and went to render aid. I thought about following, but instead stayed on the sidelines and looked out for other cabals to attach myself to. That might sound a little cold, under the circumstances. Rest assured, however, that about a dozen applicants had gone to their comrade’s aid when she took her untimely tumble. Doubtless, they saw this as yet another opportunity to impress their prospective employers.
I mingled for a while longer before I noticed the party starting to thin out. It was by this time after 9 PM. I decided that I had done all that I could. I made sure, this time, to thank both my interviewer and the hiring manager for their hospitality and time. The evening had finally cooled down slightly and the stars had even come out. I stumbled lethargically to Union Station, replaying the entire day in my head. I could not point to any one, overtly awful moment that had occurred at any point in the day. Similarly, I could neither point to any real connection or impression that I had made that day, particularly as it related to the cocktail parties or to the dinner. My only worry was that I had not stuck out from the crowd enough. Of course, I realized, one can stick out in very poor ways. I could have been like that poor wretch who fell over.
The 10:13 train to Clarkson arrived. I climbed aboard and took a seat in a deserted section of the car. I dozed uneasily during the ride back to the suburbs. Call day was the very next afternoon and this one was for all of the marbles. Overall, it just felt nice that I had gotten through the day without any major scheduling foulups or bad luck. Despite this, there was this nagging feeling that I could not shake. It felt vaguely like I had not done enough or that there was something important that I had failed to do. I tried to brush these feelings off as normal, post-interview jitters. Tomorrow would finally bring good news, I assured myself. I smiled a little as I envisioned the telephone ringing at 4 PM and a voice on the other end assuring me how happy they were that I would be coming aboard.
I got into my house by 11 PM and I was sleep by 11:30 PM. This time, my sleep was deep and untroubled by the trials and tribulations of the waking world.