He said words I will never forget: “You are more qualified than even my boss, but you are selling yourself cheap.”
It was a hard smack in the face.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because when I asked you your wage expectations you said you’d work for the minimum wage. When a person who is qualified asks for the minimum wage it makes the hiring manager hesitant. It means you don’t have confidence in yourself, so why should we have confidence in you?”
I went back to the shelter with those words sizzling in my ears.
I went right to sleep and woke up early the next day. I really care about fashion and making sure my wardrobe matches, so I use an app that tells me what colors my clothes are. But I didn’t do it that morning. I woke up with hope in my heart but depression in my brain. I put on a shirt – I didn’t even know what shirt I had put on – and got on the D subway.
The train was full of people but I didn’t expect anyone to offer me a seat. There was a woman standing in front of me.
“Hey” She said to me. “Did you run the Brooklyn marathon?”
I shook my head with a fake smile. “No ma'am I didn't run the Brooklyn marathon. I’m blind.”
“Oh, I only ask because you’re wearing a Brooklyn marathon shirt.”
“Oh yeah – this is one of my favorite shirts.” I lied, I didn’t want to appear foolish – a blind man who doesn't know what he's wearing.
“Actually I ran the Brooklyn marathon and there were a lot of blind people running with guides.”
We started talking. She had a youthful voice.
“What’s your name?”
“Laurel.” I replied. “You?”
“What college do you go to?”
“I work, I don't go to college.” She said. “What do you do?”
The latest job I wanted to apply for was at the United Nations, so I said, “I’m looking for a job at the UN as an Arabic interpreter, but I don't meet the qualifications.”
“You don’t say.” She replied. “I work for a translation company and we actually need Arabic interpreters.”
She gave me her card with her cell phone number on it. It all happened so fast.
“Take care Laurel. It was nice meeting you.”
After she got off the subway I shook my head trying to make sense of what had just happened.
‘Is this lady crazy?’ I thought to myself. First she asks a blind man if he ran the marathon. Second, how could she offer a potential job to a man she met on the subway?’ I thought to myself: ‘Well you've interviewed at a million other places. What could it hurt to interview at one more?’
I grabbed my phone which had my resume in a drop box, attached it to an email and sent Dawn a message.
An hour later she emailed me back: “That’s the fastest I ever got a resume from someone! I gave you my business card and before I got into the office I had your resume. I would like to offer you an interview. Please let me know if you are interested.”
I started replying fast and then decided to slow down – I didn’t want to appear desperate. I waited 15 minutes and then told her it would be a great privilege.
She replied back: “Will you be free Tuesday at 4:00 PM?”
Of course I was free! I was free all the time – I was homeless and had no job or school.
I started to reply “yes” but then I deleted the email and told her that unfortunately I was unavailable on Tuesday at 4:00 but free Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2:00 – 4:00 PM.
“My apologies but I am all booked on those days,” she said. “Will Tuesday at 4:30 work?”
“I have an event but please give me a day and that might change. I will let you know tomorrow.”
The next day I responded that I was unavailable Tuesday at 4:30, but if she could please let me know if she could squeeze me in between 2:00 – 4:00 on Wednesday.
“I'll make time.” She responded.