I remember the man at my former job who had come to me a mess. I saw in his file that he was supposed to return some paperwork for his disability case and he hadn’t sent in the right forms. I went to the lobby and called his name.
“That’s me!” he yelled as he waved his little white ticket number and jumped up to meet me at the door. He dragged a metal cart full of large black trash bags filled with unknown items.
As soon as he sat down he began industriously pulling out clumps of papers and laying them out over the entire desk. Not sure at this point what form he needed to turn in I grasped at the scattered sheets and notes, some office-related, others having nothing to do with his business here. Most were crumpled, and some (is that coffee or…?) were stained.
Starting with my usual routine, I typed away at the computer and began his application interview by asking the standard questions.
“What do you do for exercise?” one of the application questions asked.
“Well, mostly I just sit. So I don’t exercise.”
Next question. “What are your hobbies?”
“Well,” he replied sinking further into chair, “I don’t really have hobbies. I don’t do much of anything.”
I recorded his answers as he stammered on. As the interview grew longer, asking more in-depth questions that increasing ate away at his self esteem, his shoulders slumped and he clutched his face in anguish and self-pity.
“Do you have any family who takes care of you?” I continued.
“Well, no, my family doesn’t really come around.”
“Do you have any friends that help with any of your personal care?”
I typed his answer.
“You know what they say, ‘Having no friends and no family really tells you what kind of person you are,” he continued, with an edge to his his voice.
“You know what they say, ‘Having no friends and no family really tells you what kind of person you are”
I tried to move on to the next question.
“I’m just a loser!” he interrupted, voice growing louder. “I make people upset. And sometimes I talk too loud and people don’t like that.” He was shouting now. People were staring.
Please, just let me make it through this interview without having to call security! “Sir, it’s ok, let’s move onto the next question,” I pleaded with my calming soft voice. “It’s ok. We’re almost finished.”
“Nobody cares about me. I’m worthless.” He slumped back into the chair.
Somehow we got to the end of the interview. I escorted him out with his cart with the black trash bags and he still grasping his wad of government papers.
“Don’t worry sir,” I told him as he passed through the door. “You’re not worthless. You are worth a lot. I think you are worth a lot.”
His eyes lit up. “Thank you, ma’am. Thank you!” He smiled as he vigorously shook my hand.