Chapter 6: Round Two
Daria walked into the building at 8:59 am. Hattie was waiting for her in the lobby.
Looking at the clock on the wall Hattie exclaimed, "Good Morning, Daria. You are the first one here. If the others aren't here in 6 minutes they will be out of the running. Are you ready to do some work today?"
Daria answered, "I'm ready to do whatever you need me to do today. Care to share the itinerary?"
"I'll let it remain a surprise. However, I will tell you that we are starting out at the writers' meeting at 9:15. By the way, I wanted to tell you that I like your look with the bohemian dresses and jacket. They really go well with your hair color. If you get hired we will have to chat. I'm dying to know where you got them."
Daria said, "Thanks. I got them…" She never finished that sentence as the other two candidates came rushing in. They were both out of breath. Clearly they had been running.
Hattie turned to the two new arrivals and said curtly, "You're late. Production doesn't wait for you. Now let's go." She had everyone sign in and take visitor badges. Then they walked to the elevators and rode to the floor with the writers' suite.
As they entered the writers' suite Daria noticed that the air conditioning seemed to be set rather cold today. The smell of coffee was strong. One of the writers yesterday had mumbled something about free coffee being the only perk of this job. Hattie motioned the interviewees to sit in specific seats around the table. The writers started filtering in and taking other seats. All were carrying coffee mugs. About half were looking at their phones. None spoke to the interviewees. At 9:30 sharp everyone put their phones away and turned toward the whiteboard.
The head writer stood up and said, "OK. It's time to get ready for tonight's show. Today we have interviewees with us. As the last part of the interviewing process they will be working with us today and have assignments like everyone else." He proceeded to go through various pieces of information regarding the waiting list of stories, status of those in process, and a list of the ones which aired the night before. There was also a board with score keeping of how many stories each writer had on air in the past six months. The guy who had been fired yesterday had none. His name had a big 'X' through it.
"So, interviewees," the head writer said. "Your assignments for today are to come up with two story proposals. Your computers have full wire service access. You also have access to other sites which may give you some insight into what is going on in the world. You can also get the format for story proposals on our private website. That site also contains the videos. I want the two proposals by noon. Then I will give you assignments to write stories which will compete for inclusion on tonight's show. You will present them at the afternoon meeting. Who knows? You might just get your story on the show if you are better than these hacks!"
The group of writers grumbled at the last comment and someone threw something at the head writer. He managed to dodge it. His comment then was, "Now all of you get to work. You've had enough break time." Everyone got up and started filing out of the room. The interviewees looked at Hattie.
Hattie said to them, "Use the same cubicles as yesterday. Now get to work. I'll check in on you during the day. In the meantime, you know who to go to if you have questions." She gestured with her thumb pointing at the head writer.
Daria walked over to her cubicle. There she sat down and started going through what was on the computer. In a momentary flash it dawned on her just how much dating Tom had affected her thinking. A year ago she would not have found this nearly as straightforward as it seemed. Sure the library she once worked in had procedures, but they weren't as rigid in time as what was expected here. Tom had really shown her that processes existed and needed to be followed. Those processes often had no underlying theoretical basis in and of themselves. They just were. Processes allowed work to flow and people to know what was expected of them. This was clearly the case here.
Daria could see that the process was roughly: orientation, proposal, review, assignment, product, selection, and finally production. Writers' products were not only reviewed by 'the boss,' but by their peers as well. The primary quality control metric was the number of stories you had aired within the last six months. If there were none, then you were clearly fired – in a most humiliating way. Daria guessed that this metric also related to things like annual review and raises. There were probably other metrics as well. Tom had given her more than a few lessons – more like lectures – about how businesses operated. That knowledge may give her an edge in this interview and hopefully the job. Well, it was time to get to work. This wasn't an exercise in free creative writing. She needed to turn out stories that would grab people's interest no matter how inane the subject matter.
By noon Daria had already written two proposals, received critiques from the head writer, revised her copy and resubmitted it with about 15 minutes to spare. While not quite working up a sweat in her cubicle, nevertheless it had been a busy morning and she was ready for the lunch break. Hattie came in just before noon, gathered the interviewees and took them to the lunch place on the ground floor. It wasn't a company cafeteria, but more like a deli with a few additional hot offerings.
Daria took soup and a sandwich for lunch. She also grabbed an additional couple of granola bars in case she needed some energy in the afternoon. Hattie paid for all of the lunches and then they sat down. Lunch seemed to be mostly a debrief about the morning. Hattie also gave them more information about the corporate structure and how the writers fit into it. Daria found the relationship between the reporters – who were mostly on-air talent and not real reporters – to be the most interesting. Both reporters and writers were needed in order to put the show on the air. Daria could see that it would be a disaster to put the writers on the air. A couple of them were real slobs. At least they all seemed to bathe!
Thirty minutes later Daria found herself back in her cubicle with two story assignments and the screen of her word processor staring back at her. She looked up some information and then started typing. It wasn't an hour before her phone rang.
"Daria Morgendorffer," she answered.
"Daria, this is Hattie. Meet me by the elevator in 10 minutes. Bring your purse." Hattie hung up before Daria could acknowledge what she said. What had been said was enough to make Daria's stomach form a distinct knot. Was this the end? Was her writing so awful that she wasn't even being allowed to finish the interview? It was a long 10 minutes, but Daria managed to finish her first story and send it to the head writer for review. Right after sending she got up, took her purse, and walked to the elevator. Hattie was waiting.
In total deadpan Daria asked, "Is this where you take me downstairs and unceremoniously throw me out into the street?"
"No," Hattie replied. "Mr. Bergen wants to see you."
"Why?" Daria asked.
Looking at Daria, Hattie replied, "I have no idea. He never has more than one meeting with an interviewee. So, I am stumped as well."
As Daria was working at Lucky 12, Tom was meeting with a relocation specialist used by Doodle, Bottom, and Potts. They were going over potential rentals for Tom. He was also using the opportunity to develop a list of possible rentals for Daria. He was considering stepping up to a 2 bedroom apartment in order to have a home office. He also wanted to provide some space to keep things for Daria and maybe make it look a little more attractive to move in with him rather than keep a place of her own.
The New York rental prices were high even by Tom's standards. He could easily spend a quarter of his after tax income on rent. The places available on Daria's likely salary ranged somewhere between tiny and depressing. After about three hours they had a list of 5 apartments to look at in the afternoon for Tom. Before going out and looking the person agreed to meet tomorrow and show Daria two apartments.
Ultimately, Tom decided on two single bedroom apartments. Both were about 900 sq. ft. (83.5 m2). The neighborhoods were decent and both were very close to subway stations. Hopefully they would both still be available tomorrow after he accepted the employment offer. He would just have to wait. Tom thanked the relocation agent and headed back to the hotel to wait for Daria. There he called Doodle, Bottom and Potts and accepted the job offer.