Tag Archives: CRV

Crossing fingers after phone interview marred by no bars, technical problem

I had a fairly good telephone job interview this morning, despite equipment problems on both ends.

And despite me stumbling over some of the questions.

Some of the problems started this morning when I tumbled out of bed and checked my cellular phone to make sure that it had charged overnight. I was immediately troubled to see no bars, not one.

“OK, don’t panic,” I said to myself, of course, leaving out here the expletives. “I’ll just whip up some congee, grab a shower, and check the bars again. Perhaps a T-Mobile tower is down or something and it will take a bit of time to get it up again. If all else fails, I’ll make a run to Starbucks, troll for a cell signal, and pirate some Wifi. And just sit in my CRV for the interview.”

Yes, I do sometimes have extended conversations with myself.

Congee, check.

Shower and shave, check.

Car keys, check.

Laptop and cell phone, check and check.

Cell phone bars, not so check. Still no bars.

So, off I went for the Starbucks. As I drove closer, I checked the bars and the signal seem to be coming in strong. Great!

I circled the Starbucks in the Miracle Mile in Stockton and head back to my apartment to go over notes before I planned to return to the Starbucks in time for my interview call.

Funny thing, though, as I drove back to the apartment – I started getting more bars. Eureka! A strong signal. Perhaps, just, perhaps, T-Mobile fixed the glitch and I’ll be able to receive the interview in a non-stressful environment sitting at my writing desk in the living room of my apartment.

There I sat for more than an hour going over “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview” – of which, the interviewers would later ask only one of the “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview” – and tried to relax just a bit before my 9:45 a.m. call.

Everything was going well enough when I took another look at my cell phone at 9:30 a.m. and – PANIC! No bars, again! Ugh!

I scooped up my laptop, a notepad, a couple of pens, and my cell phone and headed downstairs to the garage. There I jumped into my CRV, cranked up the engine, and headed – at only slightly excessive speed – to the nearest Starbucks where earlier I had found a strong signal and where I could pirate WiFi. (I say “pirate,” but Starbucks provides free WiFi. Using “pirate” is an attempt at making me more edgy. Did it work?)

I parked in the same spot I had earlier, but the cell signal was at only two bars. I didn’t want an every-other-word experience during the interview. I drove around the block trolling for a stronger signal and found one – very nearly in the same spot I had been before going around the block. Time: 9:44 a.m.

OK, quick drink of water. Pull out the computer for the notes on the “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview.” Pull out the pad of paper to write down the names of the people on the search committee conducting the interview. Go online for a quick check of email.

It was then that the phone rang. I let it ring again, popped open the cell phone, paused – “Hello. … Hello. … Hello!”

Nothing. Great! Well what else can go wrong?

I tried dialing back a couple of times, but all I got was the ear-piercing tone of a fax machine. Great!

OK, don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic … DON’T PANIC!

Oh, wait, the phone’s ringing again.

“Hello. … Hello. … Hello!”

Oh, crap, not again.

One more attempt to call them. More piercing sounds. OK, OK, OK, I’ll shoot an email to the person who arranged the interview. Under the circumstances, maybe – just maybe – we can reschedule the telephone interview.

The email was very nearly set to send when the phone rang one more time. By this time it was five or 10 minutes after the scheduled appointment

OK, don’t panic. Let it ring again.


“Hello, Keith. Sorry for that bit of technical problem …,” said the woman on the other end.

Sheesh, that was close. I’ve been out of work for 20 months now and I cannot afford to miss an interview for any reason.

The half-hour interview went well enough, I think, especially since it took place over the phone as I sat in my CRV with a laptop balanced on my knees.

I stumbled on a few questions. It’s a marketing job and my experience is in straight-up journalism, but several of the interviewers have newspaper experience, so they may have cut me some slack. They gave me verbal feedback and laughed where they should have, so it wasn’t all bad at all.

The job would be with a leader in its field and I think skills I honed as a columnist, opinion page editor, editorialist, and essayist could come in handy. The problem would be in having time to write about all the positive aspects. That’s a bit of a change considering all my work experience is in newspaper where much of the news is not good.

Well, I’m crossing my fingers. It appears it will be about 30 days before I find out if I was selected, so I’ll be patient and continue my search in the meantime.

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Ol’ smoke eater, news hound suspects grass fire, finds none

My father was part of the volunteer fire department in Portage when I was a child and I’m pretty sure for a time he was the fire chief, but I could be wrong about that.

He also was in charge of fire protection at the lumber mill where he worked. I remember him running out of the house if the fire whistle in the middle of town sounded or if he received a call from the mill that something or other had caught fire. I also recall going to the mill with him one winter day and him using a frontend loader to mix snow into a waste wood pile that had caught fire by spontaneous combustion.

And given that I spent three summers humping up and down the Sierra Nevada and its foothills breathing in smoke and dirt as part of a firefighting hand crew, it is a bit surprising – at least to me – that I did not make firefighting my life’s work.

In all honesty, however, it sort of was my life’s work since as a reporter I spent much time chasing fire engines and ladder trucks and ambulances while covering cops, crime and chaos.

But I haven’t covered a roadside grassfire or a wildland fire in quite some time.

I was sitting on my balcony the other day reading a Stephen King novel – what Mainer hasn’t read at least one of King’s novels? – when I noticed a rice-paper delicate speck floating into my view. It was the size of a dandruff flake, really.

Then I noticed a dozen or so more drifting over the apartment from the west.

My first thought was “ash” and “fire.” OK, my first two thoughts.

I sniffed the air, but did not detect smoke, so I didn’t panic.

But I did briefly think back to the wind-driven Quail Lakes fire in Stockton during June 2008 in which dozens of families were forced to flee from their homes because of a roadside fire that spread into a condominium complex and a neighborhood, destroying homes and other property. It was truly devastating and I wasn’t planning to go through what those families were forced to endure.

I made a quick mental checklist – computer, change of clothing, get the car out of the gated underground garage – should smoke begin to bellow over the apartment from points west.

I took a quick look out the front door and spotted no browning of the air and smelled no smoke and went back to reading the novel.

More rice-paper ash – my guess was that it had to be from a grass fire perhaps along Interstate 5 that bisects Stockton – floated over the apartment and in to my view. And I noticed a slight browning of the air, even though I could not smell smoke.

I heard no sirens so I figured the fire had to be some distance away, especially since I could not smell smoke.

Giving in to the instincts of the ol’ fire-eater and news hound in me, I decided to hop in the CRV and take a look. After all, if I planned to blog about it, I surely needed to find the fire.

Or not.

I drove around the neighborhood to the west of my apartment for 30 minutes or more and never found fire or smoke. Frankly, Stockton has a pretty good fire department and firefighters are quick to jump on roadside fires. They are not interested in reliving the Quail Lakes fire.

Grass fires don’t normally make it into the local paper. This one didn’t either or I would have added a few more details.

Ah, well, nothing but a couple flakes of ash, a slight browning of the sky, and fruitless evening drive in search of a grass fire. It could have been a much more exciting evening.

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