A Job Interview Opens My Eyes
Yesterday, I was sent by a temp agency for a job interview in lower Manhattan for a part-time position: as a proofreader and reader for someone whose daily dealings involve some of the most complex and impenetrable agencies both within and outside the government. He happens to be legally blind. (No, it’s not who you think.)
Just getting into the building was a challenge: I walked blocks out of my way (thanks, HopStop!) and circled around multiple entrances before finally locating the public one and submitting to a security check; my mom’s necklace set off the metal detector. Then I sat down on a bench and waited, figuring (based on the agency’s briefing) that I’d be able to spot my interviewer because he would be escorted by someone.
Several minutes later, a strikingly handsome man with the trim and taut physique of a marathon runner (which I later found out he was) approached me with only the slightest hesitation and held out his hand. He was alone, and I followed him as he turned and whisked me through the lobby and into the elevator to his office. After a comfortable chat, I was introduced to the means, both human and mechanical, by which he navigates his complex work. So as to get the feel of our pace and interaction, he had me read from a multi-page document with sections, subsections, and sub-subsections, indicating when I should wade through the explanatory paragraphs or jump ahead. As I wrapped my mouth around the unfamiliar, bureaucratic language, working to enunciate and keep it flowing, I was aware of how much someone’s inflection could smooth or obstruct even the simplest of sentences, and thought about how most of us take for granted being able to skim something and process it without the filter of another person’s comprehension. When it became apparent that half the document had failed to print, he sat down at the computer to find out why; a special software program magnified the part of the screen that was inches from his nose. I thought of how often I’d felt like pulling my hair out when a technological bug brought my work to a standstill. If he was frustrated, he never showed it. There was no accounting for the glitch, but as I flipped back and forth between pages, he determined that the printer had stopped—luckily—just after the material he needed. His watch announced the time. A friend of his arrived to pick him up, and the three of us headed into the elevator, joking and laughing; they strode through the lobby and I rushed to keep up. Outside, we shook hands and expressed mutual pleasure in having met before heading off in opposite directions. It wasn’t until I had swiped myself through the subway turnstile at Chambers Street that I glanced at the Metrocard I had hastily purchased from a vending machine at the 190th Street station earlier—and gasped. On the back was a quote from Schopenhauer: “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” And I had just met someone who treated his own limits of vision as nonexistent.