She went for the job interview at the pharmacy and they said the last part was a lie detector test.
(She never forgot this it haunted her all her life.)
She was trying hard to find a job but no one believed she was. They thought she was trying to sabotage it so no one would ever hire her. People in her own family had no idea how hard she tried.
She had just lost a job as a waitress because she could not remember the seating of the tables fast enough and everyone chided her,
“You read so fast and you are so smart and yet you can’t even recall the placement of tables in a restaurant? You MUST be lying!”
All the time she heard that word over and over like the words ‘witch’ and ‘crybaby’ and ‘loser’ and the list of words was endless. She was trying to get a job in the local pharmacy with the ‘shi shi’ girls. She really thought she could do it and the interview went so well….
She went into the office where they did the lie detector stuff and decided to be totally honest no matter what they asked. She did not rehearse anything. They hooked her up and she was terrified of the gadgetry but managed to mask her face. This was IT. She had to do well!
The man kept trying to get a reading. He adjusted the gear. He adjusted the terminals. He shook his head. He set the operation up twice and that made her even MORE nervous. Surely this was not going to wrong! She had failed so many times. She didn’t know why she was so smart and so stupid at the same time. All she knew was that most people hated her, jeered at her, or ignored her in embarrassment.
“What’s your name?”
She told him the truth.
Have you ever done drugs?
She told him the truth.
Every question she answered with bald honesty and he shook his head again and cut the interview short. He would not answer any questions.
She lost the job.
She went to the pharmacist and asked him point blank why she didn’t get the job. Her papa made her do it because he wanted to know what she was doing wrong in the interviews so that she could get a job.
“Why didn’t I get the job?” she asked the pharmacist.
“Well…” he looked down almost ashamed…”Well you lied about everything.”
“But I didn’t lie! You know my name and family and the answers! You know them before I gave them! The test was just incidental you know I answered truthfully YOU KNOW ME! My name is Mary Shannon McCloskey and I answered EVERY QUESTION with total honesty!”
He looked almost embarrassed and said, “I know you answered honestly but we can’t employ someone who thinks they are lying about their own name.”
She looked at the girls behind the pharmacy counter. All beautiful. All with perfect hair and teeth and smiles. The pharmacist reached out and scraped his finger on her nose. She hated that because her nose is what everyone made so much fun of. Her flat chest and her huge nose. He waved his finger in her face.
“Blackheads. You have blackheads.”
She dropped her head and went out to her papa’s sedan. She told him the truth. “They say I am a liar. I told them my real name and they say I am a liar. I told them the truth and they say I am a liar.”
Her papa’s face looked sardonic.
“You are a liar.”
She went back later to ask for that job if it wasn’t taken. There was an older woman behind the counter.
Ruth was not beautiful on the outside but she was on the inside and she watched that girl-who-always-failed ask for that job and called her over,
“Hun. I want to hire you.”
She looked over at the shi shi girls in their ivory tower and she looked at the hot grill and the bacon press and the soda fountain. She squared her shoulders and said, “Yes I will work for you.”
It was the first real job she was ever good at. She wasn’t very good at it at first but the clientele of one of the last ice-cream soda parlours in America were forgiving. Ruth did not mind her screw ups and soon she was the best damn grill cook ever and, at the end, could open and close the whole little corner on her own but every day she had to LOOK at the people she was ‘less than’.
One day she said a cuss word loud enough to hear it. She didn’t mean anything bad by it.
That old pharmacist came sailing around the corner and started to yell at her about using bad language in front of all the shi shi girls and the customers and everything. She lost it. She cried so hard that everyone in the store left. She forced the pharmacist to let her call her papa to come get her on the public telephone. She sat out on the curb for two hours and when he got there she was finished crying.
Dry as a dead bone in a desert. She had nothing to say to anyone for two days.
He was angry but not surprised. Why should he be surprised? She was a loser.