The Universe Has a #$%! Sense of Humor

Eventually, it was bound to happen: I found myself on a job interview yesterday. First one since I joined the ranks of the unemployed a little over three months ago. I initially had mixed feelings over the whole thing. The opportunity sounded fantastic – a copywriting position with a local company close to home. There was one big drawback, however…my ex-wife works there.

Thank you, Universe.

I mean, seriously. Out of all the companies in the Portland metro area, the first one interested in me – and, I might add, one of only a handful of jobs I’ve applied for that actually appealed to me – happens to be the same one where my ex works? What are the odds? Is somebody upstairs toying with me for fun?

I would never have applied for the position had I known it was with her employer. But, it was a blind posting through Craigslist, one of those anonymous ten-digit e-mail addresses you encounter quite frequently when replying to an ad. It wasn’t until they called and left a voicemail message stating they wanted to interview me that their true identity was revealed. What followed was one of those dramatic moments where I stared at the sky, arms stretched out and head tilted back, and screamed, “Whhhhyyyyy???”

OK, not really. But I was bummed out, and faced a dilemma. Do I return the call and schedule an interview, or pretend it never happened?

According to the state of Washington, I would be in danger of forfeiting my unemployment benefits if I didn’t set up an interview that was offered unless I had compelling reasons. I don’t think “awkwardness” applies. Here’s the thing: I don’t hate my ex. On the contrary, I have been the one who has constantly attempted to keep the lines of communication open and flowing. After a falling out, I extended the olive branch. I try to be positive, friendly, and level-headed despite the fact that she is now married to a man who is not only responsible for our ultimate demise, but doesn’t seem to like the idea of my existence very much. After all, we had a lot of good years together, and ended up with two kids to show for our troubles. Things weren’t exactly rosy that last year or two, but until then, we got along pretty well. High school sweethearts and all. (As romantic as that sounds, I don’t really recommend it to anybody – you simply are not the same person at 37 that you were at 17. Change is inevitable, and a slow but steady drifting apart seems to be the end result. I would rather meet somebody who is 40 39 38 37 a few years younger than me but still mature enough to know who they are and what they want and not suddenly turn into a completely different person one day. That’s the basis for a lasting relationship).

Anyway, the point is, even though we kind-of sort-of get along because of the kids, working in the same building as my ex-wife is not something I would ever feel comfortable with. I can’t imagine running into her at the water cooler, or sitting across from her in a conference room, or bumping into one another on the way back from the mailroom. I would be on edge every minute of every day, waiting for the inevitable and regularly-occurring crossing of paths. That’s no way to live. Productivity would suffer, not to mention my mental state.


One positive thing about this company is, they’ve got eight different buildings spread out over a couple of locations. There was a chance, at least, that we might not end up working in the same office – or even the same city.

Dressing up for a job interview.
I despise wearing ties. Can you tell?

Plus, I am locked in a battle with the state of Washington currently over my freelance work. Back in December, before I set forth on this venture, I contacted the unemployment office to make sure that I would still be able to collect unemployment benefits while doing some freelance writing on the side. I felt it was crucial to have all my ducks lined up in a row, just in case. They replied that not only was it allowed, but it was encouraged. My weekly checks would simply be reduced by whatever amount I earned for the week, allowing my benefits to actually last longer, since I am drawing from a specific amount that was approved when I filed my claim. Win-win for everybody. But when I checked YES next to the question about earning income through self-employment when my first paycheck came in, all sorts of flags were automatically raised. I had to call them, answer a bunch of questions, and then they sent me a ten-page form asking all sorts of additional questions about my self-employment. How many hours I’m devoting to it, how much income I’m anticipating, the number of employees I have working for me, what I’d do if offered a job, yadda yadda. I filled everything out with a copy of the e-mail they sent to me stating that freelancing was just fine and dandy with them, and now have to wait 6-10 weeks (!) for a “decision.” In the meantime, they’re still paying me, but it’s considered “conditional” and I might possibly have to give it all back to them. Plus, every week when I file my claim, I am prompted to call in and talk to somebody and go over the whole song and dance. To say it’s frustrating is an understatement. I would love to be earning enough from my freelance writing to be able to drop the unemployment thing entirely, but I’m not there yet.

So I decided to go ahead and call these guys back to set up an interview. It was scheduled for yesterday afternoon.

Even though this was my first job interview in almost seven years, I didn’t feel the slightest bit nervous. Maybe because I felt I had nothing to lose? I figured, in a worst-case scenario I’d just delete this contact from my job search log. Erase its very existence and move on. I felt very uncomfortable dressing up and wearing a tie, but otherwise, I walked in there brimming with confidence. And then I saw my ex’s car parked in the lot and the butterflies came calling. I quickly dispelled them, and spent about twenty minutes with a person from their HR department, going over my qualifications and learning about the job opportunity. Turns out they are actually interviewing for two different positions, and while I was initially interested in the Copywriter job, their Social Media Specialist is actually a better fit for me. I’m seeing similar jobs posted quite often these days.

“What does a Social Media Specialist do?” I asked.

“He maintains our corporate presence online by frequently updating our Facebook accounts and sending Tweets,” she replied.

Sounds too good to be true, huh? I know a thing or two about social media. I have a blog (duh), a Twitter account, two Facebook accounts (one personal, one for my freelancing business), and I’m LinkedIn. I’m perfectly qualified for the position. Plus, the salary is exactly what I am looking for (a fair amount higher than what I was earning before). And, best of all, the position is located at their other office, meaning no uncomfortable vending machine chitchat with the ex.

Suddenly, I was intrigued. And glad I didn’t skip out on the interview. She said they’ll be making decisions on who to call back for second interviews within a week, so my fingers are crossed.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

23 thoughts on “The Universe Has a #$%! Sense of Humor

  1. the Unvierse does indeed have a sense of humor–but I bet you’re glad you went!

    I will be praying that the Universe surprises you in a wonderful way–
    great post!
    glad to be catching back up, too…



  2. As I was reading the part about dealing with unemployment, I was nodding my head, yes, yes! OMG, I had to go through the same thing while on unemployment and taking on freelance work every so often. It’s like they want you to work, but if you do, and you’re honest about it, they interrogate you like a criminal.

    Hey, this new job sounds perfect for you, Mark! I bet you’re super glad you went through with it. I’ll keep positive thoughts for you, my friend!


    1. That’s exactly what it’s like, Ron! They want you to find work, but when you do find work, they want to take either the work away from you if it isn’t a full-time job, or the money. Ugh. Crazy system.


  3. I love the picture! I bet the choking has nothing to do with wearing a tie ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I bet you’ve got it. Why wouldn’t they pick you? Excellent writer et al. The ex part is hilarious, I’m surprised that hasn’t happened to me yet!
    Fingers crossed!!


  4. Best of luck on the job outcome, it does sound like a great opportunity! Sending good karma your way! You did eat a maple bacon bar in honor of me right??? lol.


  5. Good for you here’s hoping you get the Social Media Specialist Job. I too am divorced and remarried. I work with my husband it’s been 9 years. I used to work with my exhusband when we were married. I couldn’t imagine though having to bump into my ex at work everyday it would be hard. I remember being on unemployment and having temporary work and yes in Canada they claw back everything you make on the temporary work and there is more paper work to fill out because of it. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that everything works out for the way you want it to.


  6. If there is a chapter in my future book that details “You Can’t Make This S$@t Up” stories, I will be coming to you to contribute.

    This. Is. Crazy!

    (and something that would totally happen to me!)

    Best of luck, Mark! ๐Ÿ˜‰


    1. A bunch of my friends said, โ€œOnly you, Mark.โ€ Apparently, only meโ€ฆand that Mikalee girl whose blog Iโ€™m so fond of.

      Thanks for the well wishes!


  7. I will be “holding my thumbs” as Sunshine in London puts it. Apparently a South African term for crossing your fingers for luck. Good luck with the second interview and a possible new job. Jeanne

    PS. I’m sure that the universe has a sense of humor, why else would one of our mechanics be standing in front of my desk at work holding a pair of my underwear with a pair of pliers asking me if they were mine?


  8. I also have been freelancing, but have counted it as working for whatever organization I’ve done the work for, and have had at least one awkward moment when the state tried to collect unemployment payment from the source of my just-ended freelance job. Sigh. And just how does one figure days worked when working from home and sometimes not putting in more than an hour or two on a given day? If one counts it as a “day” when one has worked, one gets docked from unemployment as though it were a full day. Frustrating. But God does have a sense of humor.


    1. Interesting. In Washington, you have to figure out the number of hours worked in self-employment rather than count them as whole days. I guess that’s fortunate for me.


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