Wallowing in angst of being rejected by a faceless entity I didn't care about until it rejected me

Caleb Walsh illustration

I remember the day I found the job listing. Among all the listings posted on Craigslist that day for positions I was wildly unqualified for or completely uninterested in or that paid shockingly little or, frequently, all three, the listing for a part-time dishwasher position at Red Lobster stood out as, like, very whatever. You know how sometimes you see someone whose appearance is shockingly nondescript, and you go, "Wow, that is absolutely the most average-looking person I've ever seen in my life," and you openly stare at them, searching for descriptive words, and literally the only ones that seem appropriate are "beige" and "mediumish"? Well, that's what this job was. Nothing to get excited about, but also probably extremely easy. I mean, it's washing dishes.

I'd been to Red Lobster once, several years ago, with some friends while we were on a road trip. I think we were in Ohio or something. I'm guessing I ordered seafood, but I honestly don't remember much about the experience. The only thing I remember with clarity is that while we were there the restaurant played some obscure Blues Traveler song that I had never heard before that one of my friends thought was their biggest hit.

"Um, no," I said condescendingly. "That would be 'Hook.'" (I'm very cool.)

This job would probably be... fine, I thought, in regards to the dishwashing job advertised on Craigslist in the "food / bev / hosp" section, and quickly filled out the job application. The only requirement, it seemed, was to be 18 years or older. Not to brag, but I have never been more confident that I met a job requirement. I have been over the age of 18 for 13-plus years and consider myself an expert. I also have a higher-than-average capability in scraping food into the trash and also lack the dignity that might prevent other people from completing mindless tasks while being micromanaged by someone eight years younger than them. I felt fully prepared, and already a little bored, to accept my new job part-time dishwashing at a New England-themed chain restaurant for pay that would partially cover my monthly student loan payment. It wasn't my dream job, it was leagues below even my backup dream job, but it was a job that existed and the application was easy to fill out. And that's all I could really ask for.

I hadn't even considered they might not want me.

When I didn't get an interview, I went into a downward self-esteem spiral. Why didn't Red Lobster want to interview me? Was my resume that bad? Was I not 18 years or older enough? I absolutely loved scraping food into the trash — had that not come through in my cover letter? Should I have mentioned my aptitude in pulling napkins out of half-full water glasses? Suddenly, all I wanted for my life, more than happiness or riches or a job that utilized my degree, was an entry-level position at Red Lobster that paid minimum wage.

Then I thought — was this some kind of scam? Was Red Lobster negging me? Was this the newest way for companies to get unsuspecting, overqualified applicants more excited about crappy employment opportunities in an effort to get them to work for less pay and little to no personal fulfillment? Because if so, I will happily accept an unpaid dishwashing internship at Red Lobster. Suddenly I feel a desperate need for chain-seafood-restaurant industry experience.

Red Lobster, hit me up, please. We'd be so good for each other. ♦

Chelsea Martin is the Spokane-based author of five books, including Caca Dolce: Essays from a Lowbrow Life. Her website is jerkethics.com.

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