When I was in my senior year of high school, I thought that I would become an elementary school teacher, despite the fact that I had had in my life, very little interaction with young children. To rectify this fault, I got the bright idea to apply to The Bearhouse, a store where kids got to stuff their own toy of choice. A bear warehouse, if you will.

Shortly after I submitted a resume, they called me back for an interview one afternoon. I had a last period spare, and I took the bus straight from my school to the mall. I entered the store with my brown canvas backpack slung lazily over one shoulder. The clerk at the cashier informed me that the others were already at the back of the store with the hiring manager. The others?

I realized quickly that I was horribly ill prepared for this interview. I’d taken for granted that I had been hired on the spot for the first two job interviews I’d had. I hadn’t read any interview prep questions, and in all honesty, I had no idea that group-style interviews existed. Had I known, I probably wouldn’t have come. I was okay speaking to strangers one-on-one, but in groups I was terribly shy. I’d go mute.

I joined my group in the back. The store manager was a tall woman in her mid thirties. Her long, wavy bleach blond hair and big blue eyes were reminiscent of a fairy. She wore an orange dress that reached the floor. There were two other candidates. One was a very short girl with jet black hair. She’d later reveal she was a university student studying to become a Core Resource teacher. The other was a middle-aged balding man. He’d been motivated to join The Bearhouse team because it was his toddler daughter’s favourite store. I suddenly felt very young.

The fairy led the four of us to a table in the mall food court to conduct the interview. After a few standard questions, she smiled a whimsical smile that made my stomach twist. She revealed that it was now time for her favourite part of the interview. She asked simply, “what’s your favourite colour?”

“Green,” said the father from my right-hand side. “Because I’m a big fan of nature and the outdoors.”

“Grey,” I said trying to shock them. I didn’t want them to think I was some stereotype teen girl. I didn’t want them to feel they had me all figured out, with my pastel pink long sleeves protruding from beneath my white golf shirt. I wanted them to know there was more to me than they were assuming. They all looked at me rather abruptly, and I felt like I had accomplished something. I explained further, “I just recently reformatted my website” – I meant my LiveJournal – “and I chose an all grey, black and white theme. It looks so good. Very minimalist.”

They gave me some half nods.

“Yellow,” said the college student from my left. “Like sunshine, sunflowers. I feel so much energy from yellow!”

The fairy lit up when she heard this. “Oh yes! That’s what I was hoping. I strongly believe that your favourite colour reveals the nature of your soul..” – she shot me a sideways glance – “well, most of the time…”

Oh crap. I was tar. My soul was made of asphalt and concrete. Smoke and ash. How did I not see that coming?

“Finally,” smiled the fairy. “I’d like each of you to sing me a song.”

She’s got to be kidding me, I thought. I considered just getting up and running out of the mall, but I didn’t even have the guts to do that. I was stuck. I was going to have to sing a song in front of these strangers. And I was first.

I racked through the music catalog in my brain trying to pull up any song I could sing decently. Gangster rap, Eminem songs, were the only thing that were springing to my mind. No, no, no, no. No way. Not appropriate. There was no chance the fairy was an Eminem fan.

The last song I heard in the car jumped to my mind, and I began to sing slowly, “Free-ee, is all you gotta be. Dream, dreams, no one else can see. Some days, you gotta run away, but you never know what may be coming round your way..”

I stopped before the chorus because they were all staring blankly at me, leaning in because I was singing at a volume that was barely audible. It was horrible. I muttered sheepishly, “it’s Bryan Adams…”

“Oh, I think I’ve heard it!” The fairy lied encouragingly.

The natural soul went next. “Well, I can’t really think of a song I know, except for my daughter’s favourite songs. So, twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder where you are…”

The ladies giggled at his flat singing. I couldn’t believe how badly I’d messed his up.

“Similarly,” spoke the sunny soul. “The only thing I can think of is, happy birthday to you…”

Except, she didn’t sing it like you’re supposed to, like at a birthday party. She was singing it operatically. The fairy joined in on the final “you,” and the two of them giggled to the point of tears.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

2006

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16 thoughts on “The Bearhouse

  1. Great story! Isn’t it horrible watching a trainwreck like this unfold in real time? The immediate feedback of watching the interviewer bond with another candidate would be excruciating. This was like a reality show but without the money.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. In many professions, you go through a gauntlet of interviews: first with HR, next with a manager, then a hiring panel and if you are lucky, a team of your peers.

    In the last interview, after all of the above, the people I was going to be working with had one last question:
    “Whether you work here or not, depends on your answer. Are you ready?” they asked.
    “Yes.”
    “Coke or Pepsi?”
    “Coke.”
    “You are hired!”
    “Gosh, are you that into Coke?”
    “Not at all, personally most o f us hate charged sugar water.”
    “Okay……”
    “The thing is, you didn’t hesitate to speak your mind and apparently you didn’tgive a rip whether we liked your answer or not. It is precisely what we are looking for?”

    Liked by 2 people

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