The interview was at the University of Saint Louis. I didn’t know a thing about Saint Louis except that it had built a huge arch near the river for some reason and that’s where the Saint Louis Cardinals played. I had kept track of the Cardinals at one time because they had a good team. That was during the time they had Bob Gibson one of the greatest and meanest pitchers of all time. Watching him throw was a glory.
I liked their name too. Cardinals. Not enough teams are named after birds, except maybe the eagle which is a cliché. And as a kid in the south, I had enjoyed it when the cardinals arrived in the spring all bright red and perky looking. So I had good associations with the word, “cardinal.” Maybe because of the cardinals I thought of Saint Louis as being in the south; though when you look at the map, maybe it’s in the Midwest. I couldn’t tell you.
I was going to a place that I didn’t know anything about and where I didn’t know a living soul to get a job and leave the place I had been for 15 years or so. But the job was tenure track. That meant if I did some publishing that probably I would get tenure and finally get that holy grail of lifetime freedom from the fear of unemployment. And the housing had to be cheaper than where my wife and I were living, pouring 900 a month into rent, and with absolutely no prospect of ever owning a home, not when they wanted 20% down.
So in spite of the fact that the very idea of the on campus interview tied me into knots and cast me into a near hysterical fear of peeing or befouling myself in a public situation, I felt I just had to do it even thought one glaring problem with the whole gig was sticking out like a sore thumb. The University of Saint Louis is a catholic institution, and I am not. Catholic I mean.
I had to face it. They odds were they would hire a fellow catholic, and I couldn’t blame them for that. Birds of a feather flock together. I thought for half a second about pretending to be catholic, and took about half a second to dismiss the idea because I didn’t know enough about being catholic to pretend to be one, and pretending to be one wasn’t honest anyway. And knowing me, if I did pretend, my honesty would break through I would end up declaring that, while I had pretended to be a catholic, I was, in fact formerly a Presbyterian, and at present an atheist.
And maybe they knew I wasn’t a catholic anyway. I couldn’t remember the interview that well, but I couldn’t remember any discussion of religion. I don’t think that legally people are allowed to ask about your religion. I don’t think, in all my interviews, that I was ever asked anything about religion. I wonder if there’s a way to get around the prohibition against asking about religion. Maybe you could ask, “Do you believe in God?”
That would be one hell of an interview question.