The Refugee Job Search or How Not to Conduct a Job Interview
Act II, Scene I
Advocate is seen driving to the home of Burmese Refugee, Candidate #1, in South Philadelphia. He’s not home, so she waits on the garbage-strewn sidewalk. Up he comes, driving a red car, which is nicer than hers (not hard to do, says her long-suffering Husband).
Advocate (astonished): Whose car is this?
Burmese Refugee (serenely): Mine.
Advocate: You have a license!? How long have you been driving?
B.R.: About five months. (The family has only been in this country since July.)
They get into Advocate’s car and she drives the 17.6 miles to the Landscaper’s office.
At one point, she questions aloud about the veracity of MapQuest, but defers to its superior knowledge. Outside of Philadelphia, she is lost, trying to find the street address.
Advocate (calling Office Manager): I’m lost (not an unusual occurrence)!
Office Manager: You’re very close. We’re upstairs at the club house, on the golf course.
Advocate: But there’s no street number!
Office Manager: There’s no need. We get no visitors.
They park and walk all around the grounds, trying to find a building with the aforementioned purple sign for the Landscaper. Finally, they enter the main club house.
Advocate: Where’s the Landscaper’s office?
Club Staff Member: Oh, he’s upstairs. You take the stairs around the corner.
They blunder up the fire stairs instead, and open the door to a suite of rooms, each with a massage bed. It is the Club Spa. Office Manager answers her yahoos. They enter a cramped office behind the Spa. Office Manager is wearing a foot brace; a pair of crutches is propped by the wall. They chit-chat about his injury and he hands them an application form. Advocate helps Burmese Refugee formulate appropriate answers, such as job history.
Advocate: He’s married.
Office Manager (peering at the application form): There’s no room to write that in.
Advocate (smiling): It’s because you’re not supposed to ask that question, but I’m telling you he’s married.
Office Manager: Oh, that’s good, because he has responsibilities and would be more reliable. (Then going whole hog) Does he have children?
Burmese Refugee: A girl– a year and four months.
Advocate (who does not mention she has spina bifida): And his wife’s expecting!
Office Manager writes it all down. Then more chit-chat.
Office Manager (to Advocate): You’re Jewish!?
Advocate (proudly): Yes, I’m a Chinese American Jew.
Office Manager holds up his hand. Advocate realizes that he means to high-five her, so she holds up her hand to meet his. Burmese Refugee looks on, puzzled.
Advocate (breaking all rules of job interviews): He’s also a Christian.
Office Manager: That’s okay. Some of us are Jewish and take off for the Jewish holidays. The ones who do not, can continue working. (More chit-chat. To Burmese Refugee:) You have a 50% chance of landing this job. You realize we’re interviewing another candidate? (They finish the interview.)
Advocate (to Burmese Refugee): You want me to drive you home? Or do you want to try out the public transportation route? (Burmese Refugee choses to be driven home.)
Office Manager: Oh, it’s easy with GPS.
Burmese Refugee (calmly): I have GPS.
Advocate (astonished for the second time): You have GPS!? I don’t have one!
Office Manager: It only costs about $40-$50 for one.
Advocate: Yeah, but you have to learn the how to use it.
Office Manager: Not if you get the voice-activated kind.
Advocate: Can you get the kind with a sexy male voice? (wondering whose voice would that be? Comment later censored.)
Advocate: When do you want someone to start?
Office Manager: As soon as we meet the other candidate. When can that be?
Later, Advocate gives a verbal report to Case Manager, telling him about the scene early that morning.
Translator: I’ve given him [Burmese Refugee] a job as a waiter at my restaurant!
Advocate: So, why am I doing this? I’ll ask the Case Manager for another refugee.
Translator: No, I want him to go on this interview. My job will be long hours.
Advocate recalls her father’s years of toil in a Chinese restaurant since their arrival in this country.
Back to present scene:
Case Manager: If the Translator has offered him a job, then he should take it.
Advocate: Yeah, he wouldn’t even have any commuting costs. But what about Candidate #2, Eritrean Refugee?
Case Manager: Oh, he’d be a better candidate! He’s taller and bigger and his English is better.
Advocate: I hope they think so.
Later, Advocate reports to Husband.
Husband: We’ve always managed before without a GPS.
Advocate: But I’m always getting lost in my assignments!
Thinking of her refugees, who have a better sense of direction than does she. Her linguist daughter has told her that other cultures prize geographical intelligence more than do Americans. Advocate was absent when they were teaching map skills in school.