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A (Free) Tip for Interviewers

I know, everyone’s all like “where’s Ryan’s best of 2009 list” and frankly I’m way ahead of you. And by ahead of you, I mean next week. And by next week I mean, maybe.

The other day I found a t-shirt I thought I had lost six months ago in the trunk of my car. That’s when I got this stroke of brilliance.  And by stroke of brilliance, I mean I slapped myself on the forehead and made Homer Simpson-esque noises. But for all intents and purposes it will be known as The Ryan Method, not to be confused with The Rhythm Method, though they are probably equally as reliable.

So, here’s the thing. The perfect question to ask in an interview: “What’s in the trunk of your car.” I’m so convinced this can tell us everything we want to know about someone’s writing. Or at least about how untidy they are. For instance, in my trunk there are weird “souvenirs” from all of my previous jobs. There is a Rolling Stones windbreaker my boss at the gas station gave me from his days as a limo driver for the stars. There is a shop towel from the mechanic’s shop I worked in (I filched it for checking my own oil). There is a 5-in-1 from when I painted houses (after they screwed me out of some $ I figured there was no reason to give them all their tools back, unfortunately this was the only one I had). And there’s the hardhat from my time doing construction in the Arctic Circle.

What can you tell about me from that? That I worked a lot of blue collar jobs. What does that say about my writing? Well, I write a lot about blue collar lives.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “How can we apply this to other people?” And what kind of person would I be if I didn’t give you some examples. So here are a few “real” quotes from some other writers you might’ve heard of regarding their trunks:

E. Hemingway: “Fishing rod. Tackle box. Fitzgerald book torn to shreds. And a marlin carcass, half torn by the shark that was attached to its tail.”

J. Joyce: “A map, of circuitous route, taking you to the driver’s seat, then to the passenger’s, and back, without a care for the shift stick between.”

F. Kafka: “In the deepest corner, the fuzz of the interior is taking a shape of it’s own. In the dark, when you’re driving you can hear the low moans of its matter falling into place.”

The Ryan Method is guaranteed to work (though we will not refund the time you’ve lost reading this or trying to put The Ryan Method into practice) all it’s crunchy goodness on the subject of your interview. Give it a shot.

  • Ryan W. Bradley has pumped gas, changed oil, painted houses, swept the floor of a mechanic's shop, worked on a construction crew in the Arctic Circle, fronted a punk band, and managed an independent children's bookstore. He now works in marketing. His latest book is Nothing but the Dead and Dying, a collection of stories set in Alaska. He lives in southern Oregon with his wife and two sons.

18 thoughts on “A (Free) Tip for Interviewers

  1. I’m hoping your enthusiasm for this idea will extend to the actual purchase and distribution of cars to those of us who do not have one, just so we’ll be properly equipped when asked such a potentially revealing question.

    1. well, if it makes me famous and I get infomercials and shit, i’ll totally hook you up.

      on the other end of the spectrum, this could possibly ruin my chance of ever getting to interview any self-respecting citizens.

  2. Three pairs of high heel shoes, dirty gym socks, empty reusable grocery bags, a filthy blanket, two umbellas, a box of liquor from The Dollar King in New Jersey.

    Great post, Ryan.

      1. Of course there’s some booze for you, Ryan! Although I meant to write Bottle King, not Dollar King- I’m a card carrying member. It’s a great store.

        1. yay! you know the way to this boy’s heart!

          this also made me realize i haven’t been to a liquor store since my wife told me she was pregnant (a little over two years ago now!)… is it weird that makes me a little sad (the no liquor store thing)?

          1. haha. no, When I had 18 month olds, I was asleep at 8:30 on a regular basis. Then they grew up, and now I have more grown up time.

  3. nice post, ryan! tennis racket, yoga mat (both woefully underused), clothes to donate/sell and blanket, sweater and first aid kit (it’s the virgo in me. never was a girl scout and was rather bitter. hebrew school blew.) and no room for groceries, but i can’t afford those anyways.

  4. Ah! I do not have a car! But I guess that says something about me…

    An alternate question for bikers: What’s in your pannier? I always carry an Allen wrench, wet-wipes, a towel, some chain grease, tissues, and a spare lock and seat leash. Plus my lights, natch. (Sexy, I know.)

    Also, I use iGo, and last week or so I found a diary in the trunk of a car I was using. (Of course I read it before handing it into the office.)

    1. man, now i feel bad. i wasn’t trying to exclude the car-less. maybe when this takes off i can do The (Green-Friendly) Ryan Method!

      diaries are meant to be read by strangers. that’s my philosophy anyway.

  5. i thought this said ‘a free trip for interviewers’ so i kept reading.

    that being said, i will offer a free trip to anyone who wants to interview someone. i have a transportable wheelchair in the trunk of my car, so we just need to hook that bad boy up to a tow rope and hold on tight and i’ll take you for a spin through my neighborhood; you just need to provide the interview and drive yourself to vermont (and maybe bring a helmet, there’s a lot of hills here).

  6. Jumper cables. Definitely, definitely. Had to jump my car twice last week. Jumper cables.
    Nice post.

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