It has come to my attention that when I interview there is, well, an issue. No calamity or whiff of disaster, to be sure – but something’s just not quite right. In an effort to improve communication – and incidentally my chances of continuing to eat on a semi-regular basis – I want to confront this problem head-on. Honesty is in all of our interests.

I am awkward. There’s no use hiding from it;  I couldn’t if I tried. Awkwardness – sometimes called the “silent killer” because it doesn’t actually cause physical harm – is an epidemic that has been excluded from our national debate for far too long. To ignore it is to empower the disease and allow it to ruin the lives of ordinary, hard-working Americans like you and me.  Especially me.

There are many different types of awkward. Seasonal awkwardness is often associated with allergies to pollen, pet dander and human interaction and tends to spike in the spring and summer months when everyone is really happy and irritating. Stress-induced awkwardness comes at times like Christmas, your birthday, and the hazardous ordeal that is Bastille Day. Acute awkwardness can occur as a result of singular events over which you have little or no control, like when your leg gets humped by one of the Queen’s corgis at Ascot or you arrive at a book club only to discover it’s hosted by Heidi Pratt.

As it happened, it WAS a gun in his pocket

But there is a condition still more serious. It is chronic awkwardness. Some fifty million Americans are sufferers, making it the most dangerous crisis to American health care since polio or restless leg. Chronically awkward people find almost every social situation perilous and struggle to get through the day without performing an inadvertent racial slur or sexual advance on a high-ranking military officer. Chronic awkwardness can cause profuse sweating, vomiting on others, inappropriate secretions, dramatic and unsightly skin conditions, faceplanting, and even social coma.

Sometimes even everyday situations like a trip to the corner store can be nearly impossible to a sufferer. The temptation to knock down a display case while swordfighting with squeegees, making inappropriate gestures with bottles of soda or tennis balls or replying to the shopkeeper in an exaggerated Indian accent can be too great for an awkward person’s sense of judgment. The long-winded, frantic and breathless apologies that follow are inevitably more awkward than the initial faux pas, and prompt renewed bursts of maniacal laughter as an awkward man or woman insists that they really had not intended to shoplift a bungee cable to use as a replacement belt after theirs was taken by a carjacker in the process of going to Safeway for some cottage cheese. (It is well known in the community that not only are awkward people the number one consumers of cottage cheese, but they are our primary means of subsistence.)

But why am I coming forward now?  In a word, money.  I’m poor.  I’m so poor I’m po’.  I sold the last two letters to buy more cottage cheese.  And everytime I go to an interview people look at me like I have two heads when in the middle of answering a question about writing press releases I slowly place my finger all the way into my nose.  One woman actually shrieked when, halfway through describing my publishing experience, I started rocking back and forth and singing “On Eagle’s Wings.”  What right does she have to judge me?  Would you judge an AIDS patient?

All right – a cancer patient, then.  It’s the same principle.

But it’s not just my po’verty I’m concerned about.  It’s getting that syndrome bling.  Big money goes into research to solve pressing health problems like AIDS, cancer and thin eyelashes.  If we have a chance to help all of those potential awkward people out there – to get jobs, loans, and desperately-needed haircuts – then those of us who might be called “high-functioning awkwards” have a duty to help.

The key?  A foundation.  All the best disorders have one; we need one too if we’re to be taken seriously by the government-nonprofit-health care triangle.  The Institute for the Study of Awkwardness and Awkward-Related Disorders will not just be a clearinghouse for information and research: it will also be a tool awkward people can use to find jobs, schools and communities prepared to cater to our needs.  Equal opportunities must include thirty year-olds who play hackey sack indoors if it is to mean anything at all.


Your new Something Assistant

You might now be thinking: I see that this is a problem, that it needs to be fixed.  But what can I do?  This brings me back to the beginning, because you can strike a blow against awkwardness by hiring me.  Realizing this dream will take hard work and an apartment capable of supporting an office/spare bedroom/beer pong table. It will also take a visionary with a salary of no less than six figures. While that may still be far off, you – and only you – can get the ball rolling.

So when I walk into your office, head hunched like a linebacker, hair in my eyes and tie stuck to my ass, remember that the awkward are people too – gloriously funny people. We have much to give. And you can be part of that.

I look forward to working with you.

Yours &c.

Peter Wahlberg

P.S. I’ll hand you a handkerchief just before we start. Take it. Trust me. It’ll make sense in about fifteen minutes.


Your next CEO: Me

21 August 2009

Dear potential employers,

It has come reluctantly to my attention that the job market is not in such a condition that a 21 year-old with a liberal arts degree and a bad attitude commands employment.  At least not the sort of employment that consists of an unforgivably cushy white-collar job and possibly access to an organizational line of credit.  Sadly, I am grossly unqualified for positions that involve actually performing some useful task by the collective inadequacy of the American school system, and I have become convinced that my attempt at writing an edgy cover letter has simply come across as unhinged.  (Perhaps this is what I get for attempting to use the word “felicity” after 1800.)

The problem

The problem

Nevertheless a job must be had if I am to pay for my British-style teeth in the absence of British-style health care.  So not only must I cast a wider net – indeed the entire interwebs!!!!111! – but also must adapt the horizon of available jobs.  This is difficult for me.  I do quite like money.  But I’m not terribly fond of work.  You see the dilemma.

But in every problem lies a solution.  It was the recognition of this trite rhetorical truth that revealed to me the very simple fact that I must be your next CEO.  Chief Executive Officer.  By repeating the acronym in full I sound decisive and grounded.

You see, I watch television.  I even watched CNBC once.  I found all of the numbers boring and obtuse but I got the jist of it.  The market is a shambles.  Corporations are leaderless and in disarray.  Lately leading these behemoths of industry has become a job that is as political as managerial or economic.  What aspiring young executive wants to be hassled by irritating politicians and C-SPAN obsessives while collecting a paycheck backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government?  Not you.  Doing blow just isn’t the same when Lou Dobbs is watching.

That, of course, is why you need me.  I am the perfect Chief Executive Officer for today’s American corporation.  Indeed I’d thrive in any of the most benighted of our country’s gentle giants.  Why?  I thought you’d never humor me by asking while mugging to your friend at an adjacent table.

I have no past. I don’t mean this like, “I don’t have a criminal record.” (Though at present I do not.)  What I mean is this: where am I from?  Who have I worked for?  What have I done for them?  What happened to my twin sister?  There is absolutely nothing for an enterprising young journalist to discover in my closet simply because my life before becoming Captain of Industry has been empty and pointless.  I haven’t made any of the occasional mistakes that give American business a bad name.  You needn’t worry about scandals anymore.  Nobody goes looking into the vice presidents.

I can pretend to understand anything. No one need know you’re hired an incompetent to direct a multibilliondollar enterprise.  I will stymie Board members and federal investigators alike with my clever tactic of speaking slowly and repeating everything said to me as a question.  Consider:

    Board member: Profits are off fifteen percent on the quarter.

    Me: Fifteen percent?

    Dilletante: Yes, we’ve lost significant market share since the details of Project Lambda became public.

    Me: Oh – market share?

    Obnoxious twat: For some reason investors don’t like to hear that we’re intentionally poisoning an entire Idaho town.

    Me: The whole town?

    Rabblerouser: So that it could be bought out and replaced with a theme park dedicated to Hannah Montana.

    Me: Miley Cyrus?

    I will do only what you tell me. Too often when a company runs into trouble, the government or some know-it-all

    Me with United Colors of Benneton office staff

    Me with United Colors of Benetton office staff

    douchebag on the Board insists on busing in a technocrat directly from Harvard Business School to turn your company around – a technocrat who might not see the wisdom in committing genocide in the name of a rural tween-themed menagerie.

    I have no such obstreperous moral compass.  I don’t know anything about your company and I don’t want to.  I’ll come in at 9:30, leave at 5, take long lunches and sign whatever is placed under my nose.  If necessary I can also develop a bumbling-but-loveable public personality to deflect public attention from the growing black hole emanating from the Accounts department.

    All gone!

    All gone!

    I am completely disposable. Let’s be honest.  I’m just along for the ride, and eventually your continued leadership will continue to degrade your company’s position. What then?  You get yourself a new CEO. I’m perfectly capable of faking my own death or getting caught up in an embarassing sex scandal/drug bust/furry-themed birthday party to help ease the transition. I go down to a humiliating end and ride off into the sunset, never to be heard from again.  You hire another blank suit to rubber-stamp your decisions.  Best of all, I won’t even require a golden parachute!  Your saavy leadership will be the talk of the Board, and there will be nary a wink or whimper from me.  Better to have loved and lost…

    Here’s the bottom line.  I need a job and you need a stooge.  We need each other.  The economy is going nowhere fast and you never know when the ground will fall out from underneath you.  When it does you have a choice. Boy genius with the MBA and career-ending zeal for “transparency,” or a sound, dependable man without particular scruples?

    I think the answer is simple:

    A whole town, Detective?