I was late, very late, for my interview at the Hilton Hotel in Boston circa March 1976. Somehow, the hapless hero of this forty-one-year tale managed to get lost in a hotel. On a piece of legal paper, I had written down the room number and gave myself ten minutes to find an elevator, press a button for the correct floor, and search for room 2113 (not the correct number). A six-year-old child could manage that task with ease. However, after wandering the hallway, I discovered I was in the wrong section of the hotel. There was an annex as well as the older building. Prone to panic, I raced to the elevator and well, without filling in the glorious details, I found the correct room. My memory says I banged on the door with the power of Thor’s hammer. Probably not true since I was wobbly from nerves and exhaustion-- this was my eighth interview of the day.
I rattled off an explanation of why I was late, complete with meaningless gestures and babbling up a not- so- merry storm. Mr. Teitelman smiled, introduced Tuck Ganzenmuller (Head of Upper School), Chuck Leonard (Head of Lower School), and Larry Sanders (Business Manager), and urged me to sit down.
Soon, it was time for the serious business: the interview. Mr.Teitelman discussed the history of the school, the position itself, the school’s philosophy, etc. Then, all opened their ring binders and asked questions, many of which were the same ones I had answered all day. I calmed down and did my best, trying to avoid my penchant for honesty gone amuck and prolixity to the max. I behaved and strove to answer clearly and concisely the questions. Alas, I erred from time to time. What idiot would respond to a question, “What is your philosophy of teaching English?” by laughing and finally muttering platitudes I had learned from “sleeping” through my education courses at St. Joseph’s College.
Suddenly, Mr. Teitelman closed his ring binder and said, “Phil, talk about a hobby that would tell us more about you.” The pinball machine in my brain went ballistic. My first thought was to talk about Alfred Hitchcock-- tabled that one. It would surprise no one from my classes in the 80’s that I chose to talk about Katharine Hepburn. It was a delightful monologue punctuated by a few questions and even some laughter. After twenty or so minutes, Mr. Teitelman stood up, told me it was time for all of us to rest, and I should check the message board in the morning. I thanked all for their kindness and scurried out of the room.
In a slough of despond, I questioned almost all my responses and wondered why I didn’t discuss someone other than Miss Hepburn. Not much sleep that night -- I devoured the Boston Globe, mocked the Boston Herald, and hours later, nodded off while reading an Ellery Queen mystery.
The next day I came upon Mr. Teitelman and his wife Marlene. I apologized to him, especially for my verbal mishaps. He assured me the interview had gone well. He told me to check the notorious message board. I raced to the board and read his message -- giggled that someone’s handwriting was worse than mine. He urged me to call Chris Stormont, his secretary, and arrange to come for an interview. Later that day, I saw Mr. Teitelman who remarked I had been the only candidate they had met that day with any spirit.