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Open Availability

by Jack Phillips Lowe

Joseph, unemployed five months now, holds the phone with a heavy heart, knowing that he just bungled the interview. Again.

The call, in response to his application, was part of what the lady on the phone termed “a screening process.” She said if the phone interview went well, it could lead to a face-to-face conversation with the HR manager in the store. Maybe.

And the call, Joseph thought, went well. The lady said that she liked his credentials. Her voice sounded impressed when Joe described a Time When He Made Superior Efforts to Help a Customer. She even “hmm-ed,” appreciatively, when Joe gave her his definition of teamwork.

Then the lady asked a fateful question. “This job offers up to 20 payroll hours weekly, and it requires open availability. Is that workable for you?”

Joe took a breath. “I... I’m afraid not. The 20 hours is fine. But I’d have to take at least a second job, and probably a third, just to support myself. I couldn’t do that and give you open availability. I am, though, very flexible—”

“Thank you,” said the lady, cutting in. Her voice had grown suddenly cold, Joe’s ear felt frozen to the receiver. “Your application will remain active for 90 days. After that, you may apply again. Good day.” There was a click and then a dial tone.

Joseph sits there, holding the phone, unable to hang it up. He’s too busy wondering if his name isn’t, in fact, Joseph K, the character in Franz Kafka’s The Trial, who was victimized by the system for reasons never explained. For five months now, going on six.

Copyright © 2014 by Jack Phillips Lowe

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