I was wearing a camel-colored Brooks Brothers skirt suit that my father had bought for my mother in the early 80s when garments from Brooks Brothers were still Made in the USA, and people actually bought polyester suiting. My mother disliked its texture and never wore the outfit, so the material was cardboard stiff by the time she bequeathed it to me more than two decades later.
It was late September and still hot and humid at 9 in the morning, but sartorially, it was a season that called for a jacket, especially for a job interview. I would much rather have had on a smart, woolen pantsuit from J.Crew or Banana Republic, but I was penniless and jobless, and yet had to look professional. And so I stepped out of my Prospect Heights apartment looking like a flat-chested Asian Peggy Olson.
This was interview number umpteen, but I had a good feeling about this one. Rocking out to Ted Leo on my mp3 player, and feeling cool and competent in heels, I strutted down Washington Avenue towards Prospect Park to the Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum subway station. I felt confident that today was the day I would become employed.
Right as I stepped off the curb onto St. Johns Place, I saw flashes. They weren’t flashes of my life before my eyes; they were just flashes of a car, the street, and then metal. When I realized what had happened, I was hunched over the hood of a large clunky vehicle that was clearly domestic—not a curvy Volkswagen or a smooth Toyota. My polyester-armored arms were splayed in front of me. There were shouts and gasps of horror from the few neighbors who were out on the street at that time of the morning. But I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t say anything. I simply slid off the car and crouched down to face the reckless driver.
When I peered into the driver’s seat, two droopy eyes stared back at me from behind a pair of enormous old-person glasses, square as his car. Again, I couldn’t say anything. While my fellow pedestrians closed in on us, I just watched the old man turn onto Washington Avenue, and drive away. The scene played out in slow motion the way dramatic scenes do in movies. Either that or grandpa was a seriously slow driver, which was probably why I was still standing on my feet.
"Yo! You shoulda stopped him!" someone reproached my non-confrontational un-New Yorker-ness.»
Photo by Sarah Weisz
I just shrugged, probably surprised by my intactness, babbled about being in a hurry, and scurried down the street. To be honest, my knees felt a little weird, but I wasn't sure if it was from the actual impact or simply from shock. Also, I had an interview to get to.
As I ran away from the scene of the accident, I looked down at the skirt my mother had given me. There were skid marks on my skirt—actual skid marks caused by friction between rubber and a perfect, plastic, polyester surface. It would have taken me 10 minutes to turn back and change outfits, but I had timed my trip into Manhattan so that I wouldn’t have to rush and make a sweaty first impression. Deciding that punctuality trumped style when it came to job hunting, I headed towards the subway station, and continued on my journey to the corporate world of Midtown.
“I’m sorry I’m a mess. I was hit by a car on my way over.”
“Oh my god! And you still made it to the interview five minutes early? That’s impressive!”
On the 2 train, I practiced the icebreaker I would use when I met my interviewer. I was full of hope, but wearing my desperation on my skirt.
Makiko handles communications for a sustainability think tank, and freelances as a Japanese-English translator.