The Employment Application

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Tina Louise is a seventeen-year-old high school dropout who was filling out an application for a job she had discovered advertised in the Rialto edition of the San Bernardino Sun. The job was offering a full time position as a dock loader for the newspaper itself. At the bottom of the form there was a limited space to address whether the applicant had ever been arrested/convicted of a crime. She answered, yes! The application also had a space for her to explain what was the situation that led to the conviction. She simply wrote, “not enough space.”

A few days later the human resources department of the San Bernardino Sun’s manager came across, Tina’s application. She immediately went to section to check on convictions, and saw the “not enough space to tell” remark Tina left behind. At first the HR manager tossed the application in the undesirable pile, but then later, when back through the stack, pulled out Tina’s application, and read it again. She thought, seventeen, no prior employment experience, a high school drop out in the ninth grade, and sparse other available information. Somehow, this applicant suddenly appeared to the Sun’s management. She dialed the telephone number that was provided on the form, but it was a number that had been disconnected, or was no longer in service. Who was this Tina Louise? At seventeen, she certainly wasn’t the famous TV actress that played a movie star on a long running TV sitcom that had been in syndication for several decades. Ms. HR, responsible for hiring a dock loader that week found herself, and almost without reason, driving to the address that Tina’s application had provided.

It was one of the worst, crime riddled areas in the community. When Ms. HR came upon the actual building, she could immediately locate the apartment number that was on the application, which was apartment 2C. 2C was the third apartment on the second floor. It was the apartment with the blown out light near the front door area.

Ms. HR parked, her car, and wondered if it would still be there when she returned, and quickly found herself leaping up the steps, and approaching, and then ringing the doorbell, which didn’t appear to be working. She then knocked on the dilapidating door of apartment 2C. A hoarse, grizzly sounding female’s voice penetrated the door. “What is it?” “Hello, I’m from the San Bernardino Sun. I’d like to speak with Tina Louise please.” “Why, what did she do now?” “Oh, it’s not like that. She applied for a position that we have available.” The door opened, and much to Ms. HR’s surprise the woman didn’t appear at all like the voice that emanated from her. Ms. HR could also see that behind the woman was a tattered old apartment, but clearly well maintained, from the perspective of the tenant. “Tina’s not here.” “Do you know when to expect her back?” “I never know when to expect Tina. She comes, and goes whenever she pleases.” “Well, thank you for your time.” Ms. HR handed her business card to the woman, she suspected was Tina’s mother, but wasn’t about to ask. “When you do see Tina, can you tell her that I’d like to speak to her about the job?” “I’ll do that.” “Thank you, that’s great”! As quickly as the conversation began, it ended. Ms. HR returned to where her car was located, and it was still there. She entered it, and was about to drive away when she saw a teenage girl walking toward the apartment building. Ms. HR, rolled down her window, and called out, “Excuse me, are you Tina Louise?” The girl stopped, and looked over at that the car, which had yet to be started. She began walking toward the car, simultaneously stating, “Why do you ask? And who are you?” Ms. HR sensed a bit of hostility in the girl’s tone, and reached over, and pulled Tina’s application out of her bag, and waived it toward the girl. “I wanted to talk to you about the job you applied for.” Tina said, “Which one? Taco Bell? Starbucks? The Shoe Outlet? I could go on, and on, so I’m sorry you’ll have to excuse me. Which job?” “The one for the San Bernardino Sun, dock loader.” Without any emotion, inflection, or excitement Tina said, “Oh.” Just oh! Ms. HR said, “There’s a Mr. Donut down the street. Why don’t we go have a donut, and talk about the job?” Tina responded, “Sure. OK!” Ms. HR picked up her bag, which was on the passenger seat, and placed it onto the back seat floor. She flipped the lock and opened the door for Tina.

Soon enough the two woman were sitting at a booth in the donut shop. They both were trying to avoid drinking the coffee, as it was too black, for either of them. It was also still too hot to drink. In front of Tina sat a chocolate donut covered in a powdery white sugar, and peanut bits. Ms. HR had a vanilla donut covered in toasted coconut shreds. Tina picked up a spoon, and removed a small piece of ice out of a glass of water that sat before her. She placed it in the hot coffee. Both women watched in silence as the ice melted away. Tina, while not taking her eyes off of Ms. HR, picked up her coffee, and sipped it. She then dunked her donut, and joked that Dunken’ Donuts at Mr. Donuts probably violated some criminal statute.

After a bit of small talk, and Ms. HR learning that Tina really had no experience, and not much schooling either. She finally got to the reason they were sitting together. Ms. HR asked, “On your application it asks had you ever been convicted of a crime. You’re on seventeen, what could you possibly have done to answer in the manner that you did?” Ms. HR finally got it out. The question! After all, from all appearances, it seemed the girl hadn’t really hadn’t done much of anything to merit, “needing more space.” Then Tina began… “When I was fourteen, my mom, and I got into a pretty big fight. The police came, and took me away for disorderly conduct. Something like that. I had no idea somebody could be disorderly in their own home. But, there you are. I hadn’t really done anything wrong, just arguing with my mom.” “What was the argument about?” “I can’t remember. Probably it had something to do with not cleaning up after myself. My mom’s a clean freak! A control freak too! Rather, she used to be, but not now. She’s still a clean freak. Even worse than before, but trying to control me all the time, well that’s come to an end.”

Ms. HR asked Tina what happened when the police arrested her. Tina quickly corrected her. “Not arrested mind you, detained. I was detained, which is police talk for, trying to figure out something to pin on someone, and I don’t mean a blue ribbon! Anyway, they took me to a youth facility, and the next day I went before a judge named Wackenmeir.” Ms. HR had heard the name, but at the moment couldn’t connect the memory with the man. “The judge said, I was probably on drugs, and sent me to the Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility, which was a place the authorities sent a kid like me. By “kids like me” I mean, kids who hadn’t done anything wrong. I’ll bet you heard that one before. Soon enough, I found myself convicted of being under the influence of an illegal substance. I never learned what that was supposed to be, and I was on my way to a place that was to evaluate me, transform me, and turn me into a good kid that didn’t do drugs, and had no druggy friend, and listened intently to all of my mom’s desires, and followed them to the T.” She adds emphasis, “T, for Tina.”

By then, Tina’s donut was gone, and Ms. HR’s still sat on her plate untouched. The coffee was cooling down a bit, though neither really noticed. “Are you going to eat that?” Ms. HR responded, “You can have it if you like”. Tina liked, and soon it was gone. Tina stuck her fingers into the fallen bits of coconut, and licked them off. She continued, “The biggest kids ran the place, those, and the ones who had been there the longest. Every day there were fights. Real fights! Kids pitted against other kids to assure the tough ones were broken, and conformed.” Ms. HR asked, “Conformed to what?” “Conformed to doing whatever it was that they wanted you to conform to. It was all bullshit though. Nobody was conforming to anything. Everyone was just scared, trapped, confined, and did whatever the hell they had to do to make it appear that they had conformed.” “How did you get out?” “Court order.” Tina then said, “You work for the newspaper, and you don’t know this story?” “I’m not a reporter. I’m the head of human resources. I hire people when the company has an opening.” “You mean like the one that I applied for?” “Yes, exactly.” “So”, said Tina. “You work for the paper, but you don’t exactly read it?” Ms. HR was struck by that question. “Well,” said Tina jokingly. “I’m not the interviewer Ms. HR, you are. I was just joking.” “Anyway the place was shutdown. And that’s fine with me. There weren’t any classes, no school, kids were being pepper sprayed, beaten by guards, and it was run like it was a supermax. There was no corrective services going on there. Not at all! When Chad was built, it was modeled after a high-security adult prison and the worst of the worst offenders were brought there. Like me! Someone who had a shouting match with their mom. I wasn’t there long. Soon they moved me to a boot camp out in the desert in Death Valley. I wasn’t there very long either. After only a few days, we were in a group of twelve kids, both boys, and girls. It was really hot, and they forced us to go on a long hike. They didn’t bring along any water, and one of the boys overheated. He was really sick, and it was obvious he wasn’t faking. But, the guards refused to allow that kid to have any of his water. They just kept telling him to get up, and finally when he wouldn’t they started to beat, and kick him. He really couldn’t get up after that. An ambulance came, and everyone watched as the boy died. He was already dead before the ambulance arrived. Everyone was warned not to say anything, but all of us did. There was an investigation, and that place was closed too. I was sent to the Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, and released shortly thereafter.”

Tina continued, “The day the cops raided the place, they just all rushed in, and arrested the assholes in charge, and told us that we were free to go. The cops who ‘detained’ me were present during that raid, but I don’t think they could remember me because my head had been shaved, and it had barely grown back. I also lost a lot of weight. But, I was OK with that. Walking out into the sunlight for the first time in nearly two years was… was… still is… something, something hard to explain. Shocking? Terrifying? Freaky? Was it a joke?”

The good guys were the bad guys. And all we were taught to conform to was really nothing more than a money machine for private run facilities that were contracted by the state. The more they transported us about, the more they made from the state. One girl that was released from there went home, and murdered her mom. She was raped by a group of boys, and blamed her mom, because it was the old lady that got her sent there. I remember a girl they called Little Suzie, because she was always sleeping. I ran into her a few months back. We recognized each other. It was at the Rancho Cucamonga music store. We pretended that we didn’t see each other, and then I pretended once again that none of that ever happened. I’m sure she does the same thing. My mom? She can’t talk about it. We never discussed it. Not ever! Her cleaning habit has gotten worse because of it. I’m sure of that. She can’t clean up what happened, because it is out of her control. So, she’s constantly cleaning up because that’s something that she can control. She doesn’t nag me any longer. Sometimes I leave little messes, like not wiping the crumbs off of the toaster lid, or removing my fingerprints from the ice box handle, or face the shampoo in the right direction, lining it up with all of the others items in the bath. I don’t do it to be mean to her. I do it so she has something to do in her spare time. She’s agoraphobic, and can’t leave the house. She’s terrified of public places. So, she has lots of time on her hands.” Tina shrugs her shoulder.

All that for yelling at my mom! Have you heard of the Kids For Kash story?” “No I haven’t said, Ms. HR.” “Looks like you need to get out more often,” said Tina. “Anyway, after that there was another hearing, and the judge expunged my case. Can you imagine? After all that, my record was erased, I got to return home, and ended up missing out on two years of school. By then, it was too late to try, and make up for lost time. You know, I was almost a straight A student, before all of that. I had only missed three days of school my entire life. How time flies! Before long I turned seventeen, which is what I am now, and here we are now. It’s on the application. You know I’m only seventeen right? Look, at the application, right there. 17!” Ms. HR sat silent. You know, I really wasn’t looking for a job. I just like filling in those ‘have you ever been convicted of a crime’ sections, and writing down that I don’t have enough space to respond.”And with that, Tina stood, and thanked Ms. HR for the donuts, and excused herself.

Just before Tina exited she turned back to where Ms. HR sat dumbfounded. Tina said, “Oh, in case you wanted to know… you’re the first person to actually interview me for a job. The only one that ever responded! So, thank you for that.” And with that, Tina turned to go.

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