A Tragicomical, Unsophisticated Blog about the Weird, the Absurd, and the Banal

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cover Letters (Tribute: Joey Comeau)

Notes from the Road: Currently in Oklahoma to witness my dear friends S's wedding (the Forbidden Union). Though the hotel is a lot nicer than we all expected for the price, this isn't ideal conditions for blog post composition. Yet, I'm with old friends and, after ten hours on the road, I'm still glad to see them every moment.

And then there's other things. Truth be told, I haven't been able to give SDR as much attention as I would have liked these past few months. I've been reusing material that I wrote months or years ago for exactly situations such as these. I'm very glad to share these pieces with you, but it's not necessarily by choice.

Since June, I've traveled from Louisiana to Minneapolis, four times back and forth between Iowa City and Minneapolis, and now from Minneapolis back and forth to Oklahoma. I've applied for more jobs than I care to share. Before I left New Orleans, I told AC that the job search was already weighing heavy on me and, in an uncharacteristic demonstration of disgust, he said, "Yeah, I know. Job searching is just so physically, mentally, emotionally exhausting..." It's that last point that resonates with me, and it took a few weeks for me to decide why.

Job searching, writing cover letters in particular, is a process of sharing with strangers your personal and professional triumphs and aspirations and then being told, more often than not, that "It's not a good fit," or, that they've found "a better qualified candidate." It's a horrifying, humiliating, scarring process if you stop to think about it.

IB told me that after writing so many cover letters she got to the point where she wasn't really writing cover letters anymore. They had devolved into weird, personal missives. One, which told the brief story of her odyssey to become a community organizer, landed her a job. After meeting her coworkers, I understand why this was attractive to them -- they are an emotionally involved lot, but nonprofit folk tend to be.

This all reminded me of a project and book by Joey Comeau, poet and author of A Softer World, called Overqualified. It's a series of fake cover letters he wrote channeling some of the more absurd points of job searching. You can read some of the letters here -- or buy the book and support indie authors.

Anyway, a tribute. This in response to my favorite job posting for a position I Really didn't want:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am very glad to apply for the Private Investigator position with Walker and Ritter Investigators. With my qualifications, vastly superior to all the other candidates, I would make a terrific contribution to the company. What are those excellent credentials, you may ask? Well, being professional investigators, I leave that for you to discover (good luck). If you haven't been able to find substantial evidence supporting my claim in one month's time, then I guess we'll just have to both consider my craft and acumen proven. In the meantime, I have most of a page left, and I'd like to tell you a story.

There is a small bar/cafe in the Lichtenberg borough of Berlin that I visited with my classmates and friends. It was a cold day in January and we had just finished a long day of touring museums, including the infamous Hohenschoenhausen prison, the Stasi headquarters. It was a beautiful cafe. We sat crowded around a small, rectangular table drinking scotch and beer and talking idly about the city. I was taking notes, St. looked at me strangely and said, "Sam, stop writing." I asked him why, and he replied, "Because we just went to the Stasi museum. I'm German. Writing makes me nervous."

Indeed, the prison made us all nervous, especially the final stretch of the tour. All twenty of us Americans and two Germans stood huddled in a small, concrete, frigid enclosure with two impregnable metal doors on either side of us, wire mesh above, while the tour guide spoke.

I'll paraphrase: "There's a joke: Bush, Gorgachev, and Honecker are being chased by cannibals. Bush turns around and shouts, 'Spare me and I'll take you to a capitalist paradise.' And the cannibals eat him. Gorbachev turns around and shouts, 'Spare me and I'll take you to a worker's paradise!' And the cannibals eat him. Honecker keeps running and shouts over his shoulder, 'Keep following me and you'll be in East Germany in ten meters.' He looks back and the cannibals are gone."

We all laughed, and then the guide said, "It's funny, isn't it? But that joke was told by a twenty year-old man to his friends at a gathering after church. He was arrested and taken here." The guide gestured around him. "This is where prisoners in the later years were allowed to stand outside for fresh air. It was the only time any prisoner was allowed to be outside. You couldn't see the city or hear it -- you didn't even know you were in the city. But, at night you could see the stars in this tiny, concrete enclosure. And if you could see the sky, there was hope."

Chilling and uplifting, didn't you think? We come from very different backgrounds, Valerie Ritter, but I'm sure that you and I had a moment of empathy when you went on the same tour two weeks ago on vacation. The "rest chambers" are really unnerving, I found. But, I'm sure that you also felt some twinge of professional respect, just as I did.

You're probably wondering  how I knew that you were at the Stasi prison two weeks ago. Furiously wondering. Probably wondering how I know you didn't have anything but an Americano from Cafe Envie for breakfast because you hit the snooze too many times, very uncharacteristic. You order Caesar Salad with Ranch dressing on the side. You're left handed, but try to pretend to be ambidextrous. Last month you memorized the Salic Law speech from Henry V just to see if you could. You're obsessed with puzzles and logic games. Every evening you play Go, Chess, or Scrabble against opponents all over the world and typically win. Sometimes it's just Sudoku.

For the reasons stated above, and those credentials I'm sure you will never find, I believe I would make an exceptional member of your team. I very much look forward to hearing back from you and wish you all the best in discovering my contact information.