At Least It’s Not a Fruit Cake: A Response to “Résumés – How the French Spell It”

I sometimes write novel-like comments on blogs that are self contained posts in their own right. I posted this comment as a response to flygirl0’s post on resumes and the process of interviewing. I thought it might be worth sharing it here.


You’re giving them too much credit if you assume people who are interviewing have any idea the hell they’re doing. I have a lot of very clear “WTF” interview memories, and I haven’t even interviewed in like five years. It’s such an artificial and horrible process, and admittedly, I’m terrible at it.

I get nervous. I feel like the only way I nail interviews is that I accidentally channel some deity/ancestor/alien for the length of it, or I’ve interviewed so much recently that I know what they’re going to ask before they ask it. Manhole cover? Answer that makes even the foremost manhole experts, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, take notes. Stapler? Caught and made into a stunning stapler entree to be judged by the Master Chef celebrities.

At the end of it all, you don’t even know if that was really the job that would have made you happy. Sure, you can assume or expect this or that, but usually jobs are full of that day job work thing. You have to go to meetings about meetings, work on working your work in a more workly way, and design review everything (yes, including the design review process). I’ve always suspected that I’m just not cut out for office life, but I’m doing an okay job pretending. I have an office plant that isn’t dead yet, two monitors, walls, and even a window. I’ve reached so many echelon ladders above cubicle farm monkey that I should be positively ecstatic.

The truth is, it’s okay. I’m not dying here, but I’m not fulfilled by this alone. It’s an office. It’s a job where people tell you what to do and you do it. I know there are people out there working for themselves, but I suspect a lot of them are just monkeys to their clients (still not doing what they really want).

I wish I could close this with some kind of epiphany or inspiration other than, “Yes, I agree,” but that’s all I got. My big consolation is that even if you dodged the stapler, there’s no proof that your life would suddenly be fulfilled, and it probably wouldn’t be. That’s such a horrible consolation. It’s more like a fruit basket for a funeral. At least it’s not a fruit cake, but I’m sorry all the same.


I’ve posted on this topic before a couple times (probably more than I remember or list here):
Interviewing Tip Toes
Interviewing: The Real Life RTS Game


Sometimes I wonder if something is wrong with me for how I feel about my job. I know I have a good job (better than any ‘regular’ job I’ve had) that is varied, I’m good at, and has many perks. I’d say it’s a million times better than the full time job I had before this one. The next one I land through working hard at this one will probably be even better. Still, I spend every day at it wishing I wasn’t here doing this.

Is it like this for all artists? Are we all doomed to feel like we’re not doing ‘real work’ when we’re doing something other than our art? I look at other people that are amazing and talented who have ‘regular jobs’ and consider their job their actual job and not just their day job. I can’t help but be a bit jealous. Also, I feel like their advice is always, “find a different job” as if the issue is this job I have, and working for another company or in a different position would make this feeling go away. I know at least some other artists ‘get it’, but I also feel like they’ve all either taken the leap into art full time or have found a better balance (or are closer to it).

I envy them, but I also don’t, because I know in most cases it comes at great sacrifice to some very basic things (money, healthcare, food, etc.). I try to think of all the people that have even less fulfilling jobs than me, or are having a hard time getting a job or one that pays enough to put towards their bills. I feel guilty for not being more satisfied with what I have, and I feel guilty for not doing ‘enough’ or ‘the right thing’ (whatever those are) to change things for the better with immediate results.

Every weekend I try my best to forget about this for two days, and every Monday, this feeling follows me out of bed and through every thing I do. I try to ignore the undertone of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and hopelessness enough to get through the work day, make it to my studio, and spend the small amount of time and energy left on what I feel is my real work.

I do it knowing it’s probably not enough to realize any of my goals. I try not to be sad. I hope that if I keep at it, all of the little bits of time I can spare will add up into great things and somehow get me out of this cycle.

Why is a Manhole Cover Round? Because Microsoft!

I’ve had some friends lately go through the interview process (and some who will be soon). What I always try to impress upon people (and myself when I have to do it) is that the interviewer is bumbling around about as much, if not more than you are. I think the interview at my current job was pretty good, but then I remember this gem:

“Why is a manhole cover round?”

At the time I didn’t know that this was an open-ended question. I thought it was a riddle or a logic puzzle. I’m surprisingly good at these. I say surprisingly, but maybe it isn’t all that surprising when I answered:

“Because the hole is round.”


“Well, is that right?”

“Uh. There wasn’t supposed to be a right answer. It was just an open-ended question.”

“What else would someone even say?”

At the time I thought it was a dumb question, but another way to look at it is that they found out a lot by the way I answered. I work in a job that requires logical reasoning and troubleshooting all day long every day. We quest for the best and most logical answers. I thought I did well.

Still, I don’t know what other people answer this question with, so I thought I’d Google it (about two years after I was asked). Apparently the real reason manhole covers are round is because Microsoft started asking why in their interviews.

I was not the only one who gave the practical, boring answer, but some other answers:

“A round manhole cover cannot fall through its circular opening, whereas a square manhole cover may fall in if it were inserted diagonally in the hole. (A Reuleaux triangle or other curve of constant width would also serve this purpose, but round covers are much easier to manufacture. The existence of a “lip” holding up the lid means that the underlying hole is smaller than the cover, so that other shapes might suffice.)”

Okay, you got me. I’m not an engineer.

“Round tubes are the strongest and most material-efficient shape against the compression of the earth around them, and so it is natural that the cover of a round tube assume a circular shape.”

I’m still not an engineer. This would explain why the internet is so strong, it also being constructed from a series of tubes.

“It’s easier to dig a circular hole and thus the cover is also circular.”

That’s a good point. I spent a lot of my youth in Cape Cod digging holes at the beach and I can’t say any of them were squares or triangles.

“The bearing surfaces of manhole frames and covers are machined to assure flatness and prevent them from becoming dislodged by traffic. Round castings are much easier to machine using a lathe.”

Yet again, these are things I didn’t realize. For all you machinists, score one for you.

“Human beings have a roughly circular cross-section.”

Here are the dumb answers I was looking for! Phew, all of these alternate answers were making me feel inadequate! This one I can totally feel superior to: “We’re kinda (but not really) circle, so they are too!”


…and I burst out into song, from Fiddler on the Roof. TRADITION! TRA-DI-TION! TRA-DI-TIOOOOON! To me, this answer is like saying: “Because that’s how God made it.” or just, “Because.” Even traditions have origins, people. I call FAIL on this answer.

Important to note, upon some investigation, not all manhole covers are actually round. Yes. The question itself makes an incorrect assumption. While round is most common, they also come in square and triangle. I think this easily ties into the message I was trying to send here. People who are interviewing currently, and will be soon as you graduate, don’t be too nervous as you interview. Know that the questions you will be asked and the people that ask them are flawed. They make incorrect assumptions, they steal things from Microsoft, and most have no right answer.

Just do the best to show your best, and you’ll do fine.

So, what do you answer if you get asked why is a manhole cover round?

Because Microsoft started asking people why.

The Tech Support Callers Everyone Loves

…and by loves, we mean we love that we have job security and can secretly feel superior. We remind ourselves this every day. It’s a mantra that keeps us going back to the phones no matter who we have to talk to.

Here is a short list of some of the regulars who call phone tech support. What a coincidence, these people call you too?

If you think you are one of these people, I assure you, the people who do these things know not what they do.

The Nommer
This guy waited until his lunch break to call you. How do you know? Because he’s nomming, slurping, and smacking in your ear. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, he pops a cough drop in his mouth and starts clicking it against his teeth in your ear.

“…click-clock-click …smnosh-smnosh… Yersh, Ihve jrest shent crunch… gulp… you an email with the error.”

The Ummer
This customer is characterized by uncontrollable verbal tics such as: “Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”. We also have, “um”, “er”, “ah”, “like”, and ending every sentence as if it were a question. A lot of people sound smarter than they are, but these people never do.

“Er. Um… Uuuhhh… I have… like…. Ah. Veesta Ultimate?”

“Ummmm… I’m running… like… the newest one, Snow Leopards..?”

The Entitled User
When people are way too good to know anything about their own computer (or try to check for you), check system requirements, or take responsibility for messing something up (or at least not blame it on you), there is a good chance they are an Entitled User. There’s nothing you can do, say, or fix that will change that fact.

“Why do you make this so complicated? It should just work. What do you mean this won’t run on my computer? You have to support Windows 2000. I’m going to put you on hold. I need to reboot my computer.”

I use Vista, Have UAC Still Turned On, and the VOLUME PUMPED
I don’t know what the call is about yet, but I know it will be painful more due to the fact I have to listen to:


every time I ask you to do anything.

Can You Hear Me Now?
This guy is jealous of your headset. He cannot type or use a mouse with one hand. He thinks that speaker phone works with his dog barking, children crying, and wife talking to him in the background.

Even better, he’s in traffic not even at his computer. How does he expect to troubleshoot the issue? I don’t know either.


Idiot Pirates (ur doin it rong)
“So… I downloaded this from a website and I can’t get it to work right. Yeah… I didn’t buy it. It’s the free version. I don’t know what pirating is and I don’t think I’m doing that, but my friend said there was this free version. So I went there and I downloaded it and now it doesn’t work. Can you help me?”

Conspiracy Theorist
This guy is super paranoid. You’re out to steal his identity, send him spam, break his computer, and take his money and still not get anything working. He is not going to give you the info you need to solve the problem. He wont even give email address so you can look up and see what he has or send him a fix. What he somehow doesn’t realize is that he’s already given you (the company you work for) all of his info. What he doesn’t know is that you’re trying to help him and his identity is not worth stealing (since apparently it’ll mean an ulcer).

If you get far enough, he might start letting you know what he thinks the issue *really* is and insist you should check into it. These will not be plausible theories, they will be somewhere in left field or even outer space.

“Why do you need my email address? No! I’m not giving that to you. As it is, your company’s website has already broken my computer.”

Yeah I Tried That. It Didn’t Work.
You’ll wrack your brain. You’ll troubleshoot until your brain bleeds. I, the customer, will then admit I didn’t actually do what you told me to about twenty minutes (or three emails) later. It’ll be fun. Whee.

“*Sigh* Ya… I did that already. Of course I did.”

When The Dinosaurs Were Old
“I remember when we didn’t even have computers. What start menu? What’s that? Slow down there… you’re going to have to repeat that. I’m not very computer savvy like you youngsters. You have to understand… *long unrelated story*. Wait, you don’t make this? I called the wrong number? Are you sure?”

“(horrified voice) I might need to upgrade!?”

Anger Management
I don’t know what’s wrong or how serious it is, but I’m angry and I need someone to blame. It’s not my fault, so guess who’s going to take the fall? I’m not interested in getting this working so much as ripping out your heart and eating it.

It’s not that the customer is always right, it’s that he or she HAS a right… that is the right to verbally abuse you.


Whole Myth

I’m still learning what owning a vehicle in the state of MA means since I haven’t even had it for a a year yet. I got the truck last September and it’s about the time where you get another insurance quote I guess. I asked my dad about what I need to do when September rolls around (things with stickers and whatever) and he asked me how long I’ve had the truck.

“Two years?”

“No, a year in September.”

I was about to write it off as a “You’re getting old, Dad.” moment when it occurred to me that a lot has happened since September, when I got the truck, and the end of November when I returned to Massachusetts from Virgina. I’m not sure how much more my life could have turned around.

And it’s not done turning, even now things are spinning. There is control in this rotation, but a constant honing is happening as I try to round out my life in all its ways.

My recent undertaking is completely cliche- more so than the career switch job search thing. I’m working in an office I drive to and I need to find a way to stay healthy.

For the company meeting we went to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. This was a couple weekends ago and a ton of fun. While there me and my guest took on a portion of the Appalachian trail. We didn’t have hiking shoes, never mind any other gear, but why not? We’re young and able.

That’s how I know I’ve moved from the category of young and able to young and out of shape.

Just last summer I had calves of steel. I walked probably about ten to twenty miles a day for my job and then I had no car to boot. My body and I were friends, even if I wore a less than flattering L. L. Bean polo to make it so.

Now I spend so much time using mental and social skills, and becoming tired doing so, that I forget about the rest of me. I’ve very satisfied with the challenges and the days go by fast, but where is the time and motivation when that ends to excise the rest of me?

I recently purchased a Wii and have a Wii Fit to boot. I figure if I can trick myself into thinking it’s a video game, I’ll exercise. Truth be told, it is working, but I’m starting to think it’s not enough. It can’t replace all of those miles I used to walk by a long shot.

So now I have to figure something out. I could take up some fun outdoor activities I love. It’d be nice to play paint ball again. Most of the things I can come up with are group activities which I don’t have a group for. Adding a social aspect to it makes it even less appealing. Remember my attempts to start roleplaying again? I just wanted to roleplay, but people got in the way. I don’t want to leave this in the hands of other people, so that kind of rules out sports and other group exercise. I’m kind of back to square one with virtual fitness.

I’m sure I’ll figure this all out. As each part of my life falls into place, things have an adjustment period. Once they become easier, then you can add on something else to make your life more fulfilling until one day maybe things feel whole. I wonder and suppose that feeling completely whole might just be a myth. But they say it’s about the journey. It doesn’t stop me from pursuing and striving. And I’m happy, proud, and much more satisfied than I have been in a long time as a result.

What Do You Do?

Armed Dragon Fantasy Villgust
This post’s screen shot is from the NES game Armed Dragon Fantasy Villgust. This guy is reading the first chapter of Adventuring for Dummies.

What you call yourself? What do you say when someone asks what you do for a living?

Many people say: a student. A student of what? That sends many into a flurry. If you’re a student of everything, aren’t we all? And aren’t you forever a student of your field(s)? You don’t wear a cap and gown and quit learning…

Many people cite what they do to make money. However, what you currently do for money may have nothing to do with it. Working at Dunkin Donuts is a means to an end, not a living. Have the confidence to associate yourself with your longterm goals and dreams. Little sister would say she’s a musician. And she is. She was when she worked at KFC and she still is serving donuts and coffee. Her ability at the oboe doesn’t diminish as she uses the cash register.

Money has nothing to do with it. Was Ray Charles not a musician until he got his first paid gig, or signed his first record deal?

It has everything to do with passion.

What would you still be doing even if no one were paying you to do it? There may lie your answer.