After exiting the Arctic , where we lived for three years, give or take, I applied for a job from an ad in the Globe & Mail Newspaper. A recruiting firm was looking to hire a House Manager for a wealthy family; let’s call them The Roses in Toronto’s Rosedale. Eagerly, I applied for the position thinking that I had the attributes mentioned in the ad.
I made the cut.
At the end of the first interview with Braun the hiring manager, I asked him why they picked me out of the three hundred applicants. He said they liked both my creative leaf-art at the bottom of my resume as well as my military experience. Both sides of the brain.
Braun had spent the better part of a dozen years working for the Eaten Family and he knew the kind of person that would do well in this job. Detail-oriented, strong work ethic, well-spoken, able to foresee disasters and their solutions, appreciative of wealth but not themselves wealthy and, let’s not forget, approval-seeking. Yep. I had all of those qualities.
After the second interview with the agency, I was told I would next be going to the offices of Mr Rose to be interviewed by him. I made sure to have a sturdy note pad, and a good pen. I donned my navy blazer, blouse and skirt. For the first time I was missing my military uniform which made wardrobe decisions so easy. In my mind, I was a Captain heading to a meeting with a General. Just putting it into perspective.
It went well. I could tell Mr Rose was happy with my confident eye-contact, my note-taking and my questions. My seriousness but also my quick smile. I even managed to negotiate my salary up to the next notch, which I could tell both amused and impressed him.
He told me that the next step would be to visit with his family. Meet them, tour the houses and property. Get an idea of the scope of the job.
I had been told they were a Jewish family. Knowing nothing about the Jewish faith, I sought the opinion of a Jewish acquaintance. He said my visit would be during one of the Jewish holidays – Rosh Hashanah. I was nervous about being the House Manager for a family with a completely unfamiliar faith to the one I had known growing up. I was bound to make mistakes, even subtle ones, just because I had no idea.
At the time, I was reading a book by Deepak Chopra. In this book, he advised to always show up with a small gift when going to someone’s house. Wise advise, I thought. I picked up a small box of chocolates and made sure they were kosher. I donned my conservative attire and grabbed my sturdy note pad and reliable pen.
I drove into their estate in my 3-cylinder shit box I called ‘Puny’. The same one I had bought before driving the six days from Comox, British Colombia to Borden, Ontario in 1988 almost all the way across our huge beautiful, empty country of Canada.
The house was modern and grand. I knocked on the door and smiled gently as I was met by Mrs Rose. I passed her the little box of chocolates and made nicey-nice while she showed me the huge kitchen and writing nook where she wrote her cookbooks. Then Mr Rose took me to the other house which backed onto theirs. His 4000 square foot Man Cave.
The door opened to a dining room with a chandelier bigger than me and a table which sat twenty-two. Enough said. The place was perfect. A lot of brown, gold and beige tones with the odd hint of deep burgundy. Very mannish. He told me, and this was important, ‘I want this place to always be absolutely sublime‘. K, I didn’t even know what sublime meant back then. The first thing I did upon getting back to Scarberia (North Beaches really but, whatever) was look it up.
Sublime: Perfect, without blemish.
I was sweating. I knew I could do this job, but, did I WANT to? It sounded like a lot of bullshit to me. My mind imagined my days on that property. Worried about every little thing. I was completely stressed just thinking about it. When Dean and I had traveled to Australia, we had seen the movie: The Remains of The Day. Was I meant to be a glorified Butler / House Keeper; a combination of both Anthony Hopkins’ and Emma Thompson’s characters? Was I to walk around with a feather duster and white gloves?
Then, the call came. Braun the Hiring Manager was dressing me down for bringing a box of chocolates to the interview at their home. He told me it was inappropriate. Mr Rose had mentioned it and said it was like I was trying to ‘butter’ them up to hire me. Geez. This guy was a freak. I wasn’t even hired and he was already disappointed in me.
I remained silent when Braun stopped speaking. I was in a phone booth in the village of Magnetawan on Ahmic Lake, near The Camp in Cottage Country of Ontario. It was a gorgeous early summer day. I looked at the shiny water near the locks. I looked at the nodding heads of the wild flowers growing in every possible crack or fissure.
Sublime: Perfect. Without Blemish.
I took a deep breath and told Braun that I was no longer interested in the position. I said, ‘If Mr Rose is that worried about a proffered tiny box of chocolates, I don’t think I can work for him. I don’t want to work for people like that. Sorry.’
Braun was speechless. He had invested a lot of time in me. He would have to start over. ‘You mean, you don’t want to work for The Rose Family? At that salary? Maybe I can get you more money, M.’
‘Sorry, Braun. I can’t do it. It’s not for me.’
I walked away from that phone booth feeling a massive weight lift off my shoulders. I felt like I had dodged a bullet. Next, I went for a swim in the shiny waters Lake Cecebe.
Sublime: Perfect. Without Blemish.
(All but the first picture comes from Google Images. Thank you! The dock and chair was taken by my fabulously talented sister, Eva. xo)