Auditioning the Apprentice
I admit it, I waited in line with about one hundred other ambitious people, and tried out for Donald Trump's new reality series: The Apprentice. It's not like I'm a big fan of the show, or that I've even seen it.
I auditioned equipped with only the aforementioned facts and my roommate's insistence that I would be wasting my time if I went.
"Lindsey, they don't take waitresses" He had said.
"But I have a degree."
"Degrees from UH don't mean shit. Especially when they're not in Business."
His little pep talks never failed to chafe my ego, but this one really made me wonder. Though, I had long ago accepted that my Bachelors in American Studies and Communications couldn't get me a job, I was not prepared for the thought that it might not even be enough for a reality show. What a scary thought. I guess a degree from an institution under constant danger of losing it’s accreditation doesn't inspire much respect from anyone.
Still, my aspiring actress friend Synna had committed to hit every audition to roll through Honolulu and I was her standing date. The next morning, she called me twice before I finally got out of bed. It's not like I had anything better to do. I printed up a copy of my "professional" resume, pulled out an old picture and waited for Synna to arrive.
We got to the Hawai'i Prince Hotel at 9:30am and were both greatly impressed by the size of the line. There were about fifty people milling around on the sidewalk in front of us. Apparently a lot of people did not trust their UH degrees.
I had figured that I would be the lone victim of the Gap in a sea of tailored suits, but that was a misjudgment. Most people were dressed pretty casually, some even in surf shorts and T's.
One lady was dressed in a wedding gown that had a metal chain in place of a back strap. She was stout with long bleached blonde hair, I remembered her from the recent "Hawai'i" casting call. At that call, the woman had been wearing black booty shorts and a black leather bikini top with what might have been the same back-chain.
"At least she has some clothes on this time," Synna remarked. "Do you think she just goes to all of these things no matter what?"
We sat on the sidewalk next to the channel eight camera guy and I filled out my apprentice application while Synna gave the newsman an interview. I answered questions like, "Tell us about your most embarrassing experience," and Synna answered questions like, "What makes you qualified to be the next apprentice?"
One thing's for sure, I racked up many embarrassing experiences on my quest to get a degree from UH. I wondered what all those Harvard and Columbia guys had to say to that one. I wrote: My most embarrassing experience involved a rest stop in Wyoming, projectile vomit and two busloads of second graders. Take that.
Shortly thereafter, a woman arrived and gave us both wristbands imprinted with our individual numbers and the name of the show. Synna asked, "What's your number?"
"I'm Forty-seven." She said. "Forty-seven and forty-eight. Those are our lucky numbers."
"Wait. Forty-eight, that number means something to me." My mind, still slow from lack of coffee, took a few seconds to make the connection. "It's my server number at work."
Synna and I waited for our group interview for about two hours, during which time we made five trips to the bathroom and one to McDonald's. In line, we saw a former Miss Hawai'i and a member of local girl group, Forte. I wondered if, Synna, the Biker Bride and I aren't the only ones who attend auditions sans discrimination.
We also met a curious woman who ended up being in our interview group of eight. Her name was Maria. She told us that she was a victim's rights advocate and she had been at Starbuck's reading the paper when she saw an ad for the audition and decided to come out.
"If I had known I was going to be doing this I would have gotten dressed and made my face." She said in her Boston accent. "I figured I had to come, though. I've been to a few of these and I always make it."
I liked her fiery personality and asked after her previous auditions. "I went to this playboy one about twenty years ago and got it, I also got one to be on a national talk show. ‘ Synna and I were both duly impressed. We were still chatting when they called us in.
The interview room was a converted meeting room. There was a large rectangular table in the middle of the room. We arranged ourselves around a guy in his early thirties. He was dressed in what I like to call "production cool." He was wearing khaki shorts, tennis shoes and a plaid shirt. His curly brown hair was messy and appeared about four months shy of a trim. The look was completed with the standard black rimmed geek glasses. He pulled it off well, and struck me as really cute in a backyard barbecue kind of way. There was a female member of the production staff who sat silently behind him, observing the proceedings.
"Alooha!" He exclaimed.
"Alooha!" We all said.
"I'm Tom and I'd like to welcome you to our Honolulu audition. We're going to have a very informal meeting today. Let's just have a nice interesting conversation." He continued, "I would like to get started by having you all introduce yourselves and tell us all little about yourselves."
Synna and I sat next to each other at one end of the table and Maria sat at the other end. There were two men in the group: the tall blonde guy, was a used car salesman and the other a mainland born self-described, "first generation Filipino" had some kind of business degree. There were six women including myself, Maria and Synna. The other three all had similar business degrees and were working at various hotels around the island.
After the initial introductions, Tom asked the first question. "You all live here, right? So tell me, what's different about business here from the mainland. Is it easier or harder to do business here?"
Immediately, the business degrees began throwing out emphatic replies.
"The government here is totally corrupt!" One of the women exclaimed. She was of mixed Asian descent, probably in her mid twenties. "When people with money try to come into Hawai'i to do business, they always have a really hard time getting anything done."
"It's a lot harder to run a business here." Said the used car dealer.
"Why do you think that is?" Tom asked.
"Well," the dealer started, "There are a whole slew of regulations that effectively strangle small businesses."
"How so?" Tom asked.
"Well, they have taxes on top of taxes here." He said. "There's a 4% sales tax on everything: food, insurance, even rent. On top of that, Hawai'i has one of, if not the lowest, property tax rates in the nation. Because of that, it is really hard for young people to get land here. Those who do have land are not willing to give it up."
"That's right!" Said another one of the female business degrees. She was young, pretty and from the mainland. I figured from the beginning of this interview that she would probably wax sympathetic to big business. She looked like the corporate type, and she was. "I work out on the Waianae coast with this really great guy. He's got a multi-million dollar hotel that has proven its worth to the community, but when he wants to expand, he always has difficulties getting permits and stuff--it's like the people don't want to develop the land."
Throughout this, I sat silent on my side of the table. I figured that Trump's people would not really be interested in my views. I never can quite bring myself to understand how people in business can pretend that it is as simple as that. Business to me is about the use of the masses to make a few people rich, and I love the fact that locals see that. Why should they develop land that they now enjoy? So they can make minimum wage at the new hotel?
No, they wouldn't want to hear my liberal beliefs that the people we should worry about are the ones who really make a business go around. The real little guy. He's the one who works 19 hours a week, because at twenty his employer has to spend money to provide him with insurance. This guy does the minutia, the dirty work, and does it with a smile, for six bucks an hour. What about that guy? What about the regulations that strangle those people?
As in life, the real issues never came out, instead the interview degenerated into a racial discussion. Unfortunately it was one of my comments that sparked this. When Tom asked how service in Hawai’i compared to that of the mainland, the room became a chorus praising Hawai'i's “Aloha Service.”
“I beg to differ,” I said. “I just got back from a trip to the states and every time there was more than one person in line at the checkout, they opened another one.” They rarely do this in Hawaii.
"Well," Said one of the local female business degrees, "I don't mean to sound racist, but I think that's just because you are white. When I was on the mainland people were so mean to me."
Color me politically incorrect, but I thought race was one of those untouchable interview topics if you actually wanted to get the job.
"No, I really don't think that's it," I said. I didn't bother to tell her that I took this trip with my mother whose main goal on vacation is finding every ghetto and reservation in her path.
Then Maria interjected, "I feel like a nigger here."
I just sat there stunned. It felt as if the clock had missed a tick.
Then she said, "they treat white people like they are niggers in the south. I've been spit at, swore at--and the courts here make me sick."
Once. Twice. I was pretty sure Maria wouldn't be adding this to her list of successful auditions. The last question Tom asked was predictable, but I was unable to answer it. He asked, "Why do you think you would make a good apprentice?"
Every one of the business degrees took this as the question of a lifetime. I was silent. I couldn't think of one reason why I would make Mr. Trump a good apprentice, or even wanted to.
I seriously doubted that anyone of this group of people would find themselves in Trump's conference room anytime soon. In the end, however, I do not think Synna or I will either. Oh well, at least I won't have to hear those dreaded words, "you're fired."