The 84 Block Journey

I rushed across 2nd Street in a blaze and rapidly approached the stairs leading to the train station. I looked down at my watch, and then realization dawned on me; I was already 15 minutes late for my very first job interview! I scurried down the stairs, careful not to touch the dirty railings, and made my way to the platform. I looked at the bright neon sign above my head that said I had to wait three minutes for my train. Three entire minutes! I couldn’t believe that I had to stand on this dreadful platform and watch the clock slowly tick by. In the meantime, I was wondering how I was going to deliver the news of my tardiness to my annoyed interviewer. While I hoped that they will empathize with me, and even take pity on me, I knew that in the end I would just be wasting their precious time. I started to tap my foot out of worriedness and frantically check my phone. Suddenly, I heard a loud wailing sound, the most beautiful, glorious sound I had ever heard. My train, my savior, had finally arrived!

I turned around and looked at the big sign above my head. As I looked closer I realized that I had been standing on the wrong platform the whole time: the train coming was taking me to Brooklyn, which was nowhere near the interview. In that moment I wanted to bang my head against the unsanitary train walls. How could I have been so blind? In a hurry I sprinted up and down several flights of stairs to my platform, and I looked up at that menacing sign yet again, only to find that the train wasn’t coming for another 10 minutes. I didn’t have the time to wait around for some dumb slow train for a whole ten minutes. Worry filled my body, and I started to break a sweat. I started considering taking a cab instead because the trains had become extremely frustrating, but then realized I only had 10 dollars in my wallet, because I had spent the rest buying pasta, chicken, and fruit for my little sister who was home with the flu. My mother was in Florida working with her tech startup company, Gigawtz, and attending a series of women in coding conferences along with that. I checked my jacket pocket for any more leftover change and to my dismay only found two dimes. I looked back up at that looming shiny sign that read two trains were coming in two minutes, but could only take me to 60th street when I needed to get to 84th. I decided to go with my gut and take the train heading uptown. I subtly speed walked toward the small platform and boarded the train.

The woman’s voice saying “Stand clear of the closing doors, please” seemed to mock me. Her robotic voice irritated me to a point that brought all of my insecurities out of the dark: pinpointing my failure, reminding me of the fact that this wasn’t just any internship. I don’t know why something like that would trigger me so much.

I reminded myself that even if I wasn’t late, the probability of me getting in wasn’t very high. Even though I had taken coding summer courses for years, done coding projects on my own, and visited my mom’s office occasionally, my confidence was at rock bottom. Two of my friends were also very into coding, and one got in because her uncle was the manager of that Microsoft office. My other friend was a coding prodigy and got straight A’s but wasn’t good at public speaking or communication in general and sadly didn’t get the internship. I couldn’t tell how I compared with them, my connections, my public speaking, but either way I knew it wasn’t good.

I smoothed out my cream-colored blouse and wondered if I chose the right outfit to wear for today. I had been anxious about what outfit to wear for days, and the thought of appearing to be trying too hard or not caring enough scared me nearly half to death. I had chosen a light gray skirt that wasn’t too short or long that took me ages to find. It had been laying at the bottom left corner of my closet alongside my old dolls and my favorite stuffed penguin. That put together penguin with his beautiful tuxedo, top hat, and glossy shoes had been my best friend for years, but now it was dusty, worn out, top hat tattered and broken laying alone at the bottom of my closet.

The conductor’s booming voice on the loudspeaker announced: “We are approaching 48th and Sixth, next stop 53rd!”

53rd! I thought. Surely we can’t be moving that slowly. Sure enough it had been 11 whole minutes stuck on the train.

I looked up from my phone to see a tall, tan woman yapping on her phone, blabbering loudly to her friend: “Ceci, I simply can’t deal! I was supposed to buy the hors d’oeuvres for the party in five mins, but I’m going to be late. What are they going to do without me.” She paused for a few seconds and then dramatically sighed and sadly said, “Ceci, I can’t. This party, they need me.”

She sounded like a conceited war hero, and everyone else stuck on this dreadful train felt the need to slap this girl in the face to get her to stop talking. She finally hung up, and I thought to myself, She’s worried about being late to a party. My life is on the line here. Well, not my entire life, but I mean it would help a ton for college, and it would be a cool experience.

I looked up from my phone to find a nice-looking old man giving me a repulsed glare. He sighed loudly and looked away, leaving me feeling extremely insecure; the people on that train were looking at my self-absorbed self and becoming annoyed with me too. At least I had these kinds of opportunities. I mean, it’s not every day that you could be working at Microsoft. Looking at my preppy little outfit, crossed legs, and stressed face, I probably seemed like I felt above everyone, like getting to this interview was far more important than anything going on in there lives.

The conductor’s booming voice on the loudspeaker broke me out of my trance, and to my relief we made it! Only twenty blocks to go, and then I had to find some way to get a cab really fast and make my way to the interview room. In a hurry I stepped off the train and began to casually run by the multitude of people in my way! I began to notice how slowly everyone was walking, and I just wanted to scream with frustration. Finally I made it out the train station on onto the street. I stepped out on the sidewalk in search for a glorious yellow taxi, my salvation, only to find that about ten other people were waiting for cabs! I decided to walk two or three blocks up to find (hopefully) more cabs and fewer people. After walking three blocks, I came across a cab. I wanted to jump for joy in that moment. Finally something had worked for me! Then I looked behind me and saw a tiny old woman waving her hands in the air frantically, obviously trying to get the cab I was about to get into to. My first instinct was to leave. Who cares about this old woman? This is your job on the line. Go!! But then my more mature instincts kicked in and told me to wait and find out where the old lady has to go, and compare the two circumstances.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” I said as politely as possible.

“It’s fine, dear,” replied the old woman. “I was just trying to get my poor dog Lulu to the vet. She has come down with a dreadful cold, and I feel terribly for the poor thing.”

Immediately I apologized again to the woman. Dogs were a huge soft spot for me, and I let her take the cab. I can’t say I didn’t regret it at all, but a sick animal is also a time commitment that requires immense attention, just like my sick sister. I continued to wait on the curb and hail taxis and hope and pray a free taxi would come. I looked up at the sky and noticed how perfectly calm it all was. The clouds just seemed to float by gently in an orderly fashion, never colliding or crashing into each other. In that moment, being a cloud sounded like the nicest thing to me: no responsibilities, no stress, freedom and peace. Just as I was about to walk up another block, I saw a gleaming yellow taxi come my way that appeared to be unoccupied! I quickly jumped in and told my driver the address, and we set off. The only thing stopping me now was traffic, which could make my 10 minute trip go on forever. I clenched my hands and knees my nerves on the edge, but to my surprise I arrived at my destination in a matter of minutes.

“Thank you very much,” I said and hopped out the car in a flash.

I looked at my phone to check the building number, and after combing through my texts I finally found it. I looked across the street and saw the building, modern, sleek, and made entirely out of glass. It was one of those really calming yet intimidating buildings, extremely tall but reflecting the blue sky.

I approached the door and stepped into the lobby of the building. This it it, I told myself, everything you hope for in this one interview, everything your mother and father wish for, everything your friends have already. You need this job.

I stopped at the lobby desk and asked, “Do you happen to know what floor the Microsoft intern interviews are taking place?”

The sleep-deprived receptionist gave me the very unenthusiastic answer, “It’s on the 12th floor. Just take the elevator that way.”

I pushed the big golden button and saw that the elevator was on the 12th floor at this moment. Had someone else been doing my interview? Would I lose this opportunity because of my lateness? Suddenly my stomach felt like there was a butterfly parade in it, and as I stepped in the elevator, my knees became shaky. What if they don’t like me? I thought. What if they take one look at me and decide I’m not cut out for this. The fear of failure and judgement crippled me and slowly my emotions collapsed. The big, shiny elevator doors opened, and I timidly stepped out. I felt like a tiny fish setting out into that big blue sea all alone. The floor looked exactly as I expected it to be, unexpected. The walls were bright white and looked incredibly clean, like not a single smudge covered their surface. The floor was also extremely clean, and I could see my own fearful reflection. There were glass doors branded with Microsoft’s colored logo, and without thinking I pushed the heavy doors open with the little strength I had. I looked around, and the first thing I saw was an open room full of desks and focused people typing on computers. They all looked incredibly professional, and I looked down at my outfit with dismay.

“Hello there!” said an enthusiastic voice behind me. “I’m Barbra, and I will be interviewing you today, and please do not worry about being late. We were able to fit someone else in before you.”

Her happiness overwhelmed me and caught me off guard. Her booming voice, like the loudspeaker lady in the train station, was mechanical, giving me the chills. I suddenly processed her words, and a river of emotions flooded my system.

Relief but also fear and anger filled the pit of my stomach, and I half heartedly replied, “So nice to meet you! This is such a cool place.”

Barbra started walking, and I walked behind her, well more like ran; her strides were huge! We approached a room numbered 445, and she closed the door behind me. As I walked in, the first thing my eyes gravitated towards were the giant windows at the back of the room with an amazing view of practically the entire city! I tried to take in the simplistic beauty of the room and sat down in the sleek white chair in front of me. I realized that my overall appearance was quite disheveled; I was covered in sweat, and one of my heels was about to fall completely off. What was I doing here? I thought, Why did I ever think I could work in a collected place like this? I heard the scrape of my chair as I sat in it and saw the shimmer of disappointment in Barbra’s joyous face. Her smile was plastered, her eyes glittered with deceit, her perfectly ironed outfit reeked of her character bluntly lying to my face. As I sat down, Barbra took at a green shiny folder and crossed her arms.

“Now.” She paused. “This place is big and intimidating, but what we are doing for women here is more important than some childish fear and insecurity we all have. The question is: are you willing to conquer that fear and stand up to it or let it take over?”

That question has resonated with me ever since, and I have never forgotten her wise words. It’s like a mini battle of selfish needs and powerful fear, or the importance and realization of what you are doing is not for yourself or anyone in particular. It is for the bettering of society.

I suddenly realized that I had left the stove on, and I ran home to my sister.

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