When I was nineteen or twenty years old I answered an ad in the newspaper, and was summoned to a job interview in Charleston. The ad was vague, but mentioned the federal government, fantastic benefits, and job security.
So I went up there, believing I was going to be in the running for a cushy can’t-be-fired file clerk gig. And I was psyched. Man, that would be a dream come true!
The interview was to take place in an unfamiliar office building, and I had trouble finding a parking spot and the specific room number. I arrived about five minutes late for my appointment, and apologized profusely. And the dude was about as humorless as a severed spine. Sheesh.
We went into a small room, and I quickly learned that this had nothing to do with a file clerk position. No, it was something COMPLETELY different. I was still a little unsure about what was going on, but he seemed to be talking about… the FBI agent training program. Gulp.
Beads of sweat were rolling down the middle of my back, but I answered the guy’s questions, and he sent me on my way. Holy shit, I thought, while driving home. Holy fucking shit.
And a few days later, they called back. I returned, on auto-pilot, and answered more questions. This time they also fingerprinted me, gave me an IQ exam, and asked if I’d have any problem undergoing a polygraph test. I told them it was cool, but it never actually happened.
I had no overwhelming passion for any of this, but no major objections, either. I was adrift at that point, with no direction whatsoever. So, I figured I’d just ride the deal out, and see what happened. It was certainly interesting, if nothing else.
Then reports started trickling in from people I knew, about men showing up at their doors and asking questions about me. Wha’?! They talked to a couple of my high school teachers, random neighbors, and even my friend Tim, who was in the Army and stationed somewhere in Colorado.
Heh. Tim said he was ordered to an office out there, and someone with substantial authority started asking questions about me. And this happened on the other side of the continent, while Tim was serving in the military! He thought, “Oh my God… what’s that idiot done now??”
I was working at a shitty grocery store then, collecting carts in the parking lot, stealing quarters from the Coke machines, etc. And I was there one afternoon when I was paged, over the loudspeaker: “Jeff, you have a call on line one!”
I thought it was going to be my girlfriend, and answered, “Yeeeellow?!” But, of course, it wasn’t my girlfriend. It wasn’t her, at all. It was the Federal Bureau of Investigation, ordering me to report to the J. Edgar Hoover Building in thirty days.
The floor of my ass almost fell out.
They were going to put me up in a dormitory in Washington D.C., pay me twelve thousand dollars per year, put me through some sort of training program, and also pay for my college education. I would be required, I was told, to have a law degree.
A law degree? The J. Edgar Hoover Building?! Man, I’d just wanted to disappear into some sort of office setting, and make enough scratch to buy Mickey’s Big Mouths on the weekends. This shit was getting waaaay out of hand.
But I decided to go. I was nervous as hell, but viewed it as a rare opportunity.
And then I told my parents about it, and they both went white. I think they knew me better than I did, and realized this might not be the greatest idea in the world. I was about twenty, chronologically, but roughly twelve, emotionally. It took me a long time to grow up, and I was nowhere near in 1983.
So, my folks launched a campaign that finally convinced me to turn down the offer. I called the, um, FBI, and told them I wouldn’t be reporting after all. And they weren’t very happy about it, not in the least.
I tell Toney this story now, and she gets irritated with my parents. I would’ve grown-up if I was required to do so, she says, and it probably would’ve led to a fantastic, exciting life. Who knows?
It was certainly an opportunity that would’ve changed everything. If I’d actually gone, everything that’s happened to me to this point, probably wouldn’t have. All my experiences would likely be different, almost completely.
I don’t regret anything, that’s not really my style, but I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened if I’d entered that parallel universe, or whatever. Where would I be now? Who would I know? What would I be doing? Or would I even still be alive?
Have you ever been faced with a potentially life-altering decision like that? Have you ever been to the proverbial crossroads? How did it work out for ya? Tell us about it in the comments, won’t you?
And I’ll see you guys again tomorrow.
This is Agent Kay, signing off.