Chapter 4: The Big Guy
Mr. Bergen's office was in stark contrast to the rest of the building. It was large and clearly he liked leather furniture. His taste also included oriental rugs and antiques – and not antiques as in old half-broken office furniture! The office was also clean, neat, and the painted portions of the walls looked like they had received a recent coat. He motioned Daria to sit on one of the leather couches. He sat down by her on an adjacent chair.
"So, Ms. Morgendorffer. Tell me how did you like Raft?" He asked.
Daria answered, "I liked Raft quite a bit. I lived on campus all four years. I especially liked the English faculty."
"Is professor Durbin still there?" Mr. Bergen asked.
"He retired at the end of this academic year. In fact, he was my advisor for my senior honors thesis."
Mr. Bergen replied, "I know. He is part of the reason you are here. He gave your entry – and you – a strong recommendation. He even called me. Once I had a chance to review your entry in the contest I knew you were one of the people I wanted to interview."
Daria wasn't quite sure what to say. It was now clear to her that the mysterious alumnus that had been mentioned was none other than one of the most senior people in the organization!
"I started out writing for this show shortly after graduating from Raft. I had one short gig in-between, but I landed here and stayed. I've been here for over 20 years now. Sick Sad World has been very very good to me and it can be very very good to you! Work hard, write well, and never take anything for granted. That advice was given to me and I am giving it to you. If you perform well in the rest of this interview process I will make you an offer. But don't think you can get it by just being a Raft graduate!"
Daria said, "I would never make that assumption Mr. Bergen. I want you to choose me because you believe I am best for the job."
"Good. Now I have a question for you that I am asking each candidate. What was your first job and what three things did you learn from it?"
Daria smiled at Mr. Bergen and replied, "I worked in a nut house." Then she paused.
"Really Ms. Morgendorffer. Around here you should probably call it an institution which helps people with mental illness."
"No Mr. Bergen. It was a nut house. A nut house in the mall. We had dozens of nuts. However, I think calling it an institution for the mentally ill might not be far from the truth – but they weren't helped by it."
Mr. Bergen chuckled and said, "Go on. Tell me about the cast of characters."
"Well, there were three main ones. I was a very rational and somewhat anti-social teen. The manager was a guy obsessed with nuts. I would call him OCD. He could not only tell you every little thing about every nut, but he wanted the nuts packaged in just a certain way. You had to wear the uniform – a black smock and squirrel faced hat – in just a certain way. Furthermore, he had installed cameras to record everything that happened in his little mall kiosk. He would watch the footage to make certain that the employees both smiled and greeted every customer with the required greeting. It was something like 'Welcome to the nut house. We are crazy about nuts. We munch our nuts day and night. For breakfast or for lunch we can't help but play with our nuts!'"
Mr. Bergen looked at Daria and exclaimed, "You've got to be kidding!"
"Yes I am. Actually it went 'Welcome to It's a Nutty, Nutty, Nutty World. We're just nuts about nuts. Crunch nuts with your lunch. Buy them by the bunch. Send them to friends far away to munch.' That stupid greeting will never get out of my head. So, lesson number one – work is work and not play. It may not be a pleasant experience and can scar you for life."
"Go on," Mr. Bergen said.
"Well the third character in this Greek comedy was my school's quarterback. I would say that he was dumb as a post, but that would be insulting to the post. He could never get the greeting right nor could he identify the correct bins of nuts. He couldn't even run the cash register. He was, however, quite capable of smiling, especially at pretty girls. The one thing he was good at was the thing his girlfriend, who was head cheerleader, hated the most. Of course, the manager was glad to have him because of who he was not because of any qualifications he might have had. Thus came lesson two – life isn't fair. Get over it. At least I was the one to become the first 'employee of the week.' Of course, I was gone by the next week."
Mr. Bergen asked, "Why were you gone by the next week?
"My mother the lawyer heard about the way that the manager was treating me as the lesser of the two employees. She went and reamed the manager a new one and threatened to sue the company. So, he fired me. Thanks Mom. I may not have loved the job, but at least I had some income!"
"So what was your third lesson?"
"The third lesson was really a personal one – don't work in retail. I have been part of many teams in classes. I have worked with effective teams on the school newspaper and Raft's literary magazine. However, working with random members of the public who happen to walk up to me is just not something I am comfortable doing. I will give you 'Lesson Four:' Sometimes experiences teach us what we don't want to do. I prefer a job where I can use my creative abilities."
Smiling, Mr. Bergen looked at his Rolex watch and said, "Well it seems our time is up." He smiled as he stood and shook Daria's hand. Daria walked out his office door and Hattie escorted her back to her cubicle.