If you use your dad as a reference, it’s best to tell him!



Once upon a time there was a girl who had earned her Master’s in accounting and passed the CPA exam.  Her family and friends were so proud and they were certain that her future was bright.  The girl (me) wasn’t so confident.  You see, I didn’t particularly like accounting and was in no rush to start my career.  So, I waited tables at a waterside restaurant.  I wore a short shirt, hopped on and off yachts with a tray full of cocktails and made a ridiculous amount of money, considering I was just serving food and drinks.  Especially ironic since twenty years later I earn nothing for doing the same thing!

My choice to keep waitressing worried those around me.  Eventually and reluctantly, I took a job as an accountant at the local corporate office of a restaurant franchise (different from the one where I waited tables).  The job did not pay well, and therefore I continued to moonlight as a waitress.  I had a standard of living to maintain, after all.  As time went on though, even I began to wonder what in the h*** I was doing with my life.

I considered applying for a job in the white color crimes unit of the FBI.  I don’t recall who suggested this to me, but I must have respected them – because I did indeed send in an application.  No one was more surprised than I when they called me in for an interview.  Shocked, and lacking much confidence, I only told two people.


As I pulled up to the Miami Division of the FBI, I must admit, I was excited.  I was definitely nervous, but I’d begun to fantasize about flashing my FBI badge to everyone – particularly my brother and maybe even a couple of ex-boyfriends.  That would teach them to mess with me.


I was quickly ushered into the office of Steve Rodriguez – and I’m amazed that after all these years, I still remember his name.  He enticed me with compliments on my passing the CPA exam and how I would be training in Quantico, if I was hired.  He assured me that my background check was good, and the only hurdle left was a polygraph.  But before that was administered, he needed to check my references.  He then indicated that he would be doing so right then and there.

Hmm.  I thought that was weird.  Don’t most places check references before they call you in?  Even stranger, he was going to do so with me in the room, on a speaker phone.  Again, I thought it was a little out of the ordinary, but I certainly didn’t anticipate a problem.

Reference # 1:

He called my boss, Robin.  Robin was one of the two people who knew where I was, because she gave me a half day off of work so I could interview.  Even she thought I needed to get on with my life.  The phone call went fine.  Steve even allowed me to say “hi” to her.

Reference # 2:

My Aunt Ginny.  Ginny was one of the voices in my head who was telling me to do something with my life.  I purposefully didn’t tell her that I’d applied to the FBI, because I didn’t want her to keep asking me about it.  Also, if I didn’t get the job, I didn’t want to disappoint her.  At the time, Ginny and her friend owned a small motel in Lancaster County Pennsylvania.  Mr. Rodriguez called the hotel and her friend Martha answered.

“Hello, this is Steve Rodriguez with the FBI Miami Division, I’d like to speak with Virginia McGrath.”

There was a long pause.  Very long.  Martha replied with an exaggerated, “Oh?”

I stated to giggle, but quickly covered my mouth.  I knew Martha and she sounded very strange.  Steve smiled at me.  This was my first inkling that perhaps he liked making these phone calls.

Martha said that Virginia wasn’t there and asked if she could tell her what this was about.  Steve explained that it was a personal matter and he could only talk to Virginia.  Martha replied that she would see that Virginia got the message.

Reference #3:

Barbara.  I’d known Barb since childhood and she was the only other person who knew what was going on.  I lived with her and her dad when I was in graduate school and we had some good times!  My nickname for her was champagne Babs.  Steve called her at work, and hearing her unruffled professional voice sent me into another muffled fit of giggles.  She confirmed all the pertinent information.

Reference # 4:

Mr. Nadeau, Barb’s dad (and my benefactor).  Mr. Nadeau rescued me when I most needed it.  I was a very unhappy camper when I attended Florida State and Barbara had tired of my whining phone calls.  She suggested I transfer to FAU and live with her and her dad in Fort Lauderdale.  This gracious man only charged me $100 a month for rent, utilities and food!  And the south Florida sunshine!  He was an accountant for the city of Larderhill, FL – and all business.  He asked Mr. Rodriguez why he was calling.  He then promptly refused to confirm or deny whether or not he knew me.  I gasped.  What in the world?  Mr. Rodriguez asked him why, and Mr. Nadeau explained that he had no idea if this call was legit.  And may I add, his voice was rather stern.  Mr. Rodriquez assured him that the call was real and that I was currently with him at the bureau.  Mr. Nadeau told him he needed to hear confirmation from me. Steve waved in a manner that indicated me wanted me to speak up.  I said “hi” to Mr. Nadeau and the call proceeded as expected.


Reference # 5:

Mindy.  Mindy was a friend, but also a former employer.  Mindy is from the Bronx and she don’t mess around.  So I was surprised when she appeared to be flustered by the phone call.  I believe she said something like, “I beg your pardon.”  Steve tried again.  Mindy half laughed.  I understood why.  At this period of my life, I pretty much told Mindy everything.  Hearing second hand that I’d applied to the FBI had most certainly blindsided her.  After she regained her composure, she explained that she was not comfortable giving out any personal information without my permission.  I got the wave again from Steve and told her it was okay. Just before she hung up, she said, “Call me Ooopie!”  Ooopie was the nickname she had for me.  Don’t ask.

While we were on the phone with Mindy, a woman stuck her head in the office and told Steve that there was a Virginia McGrath on the phone for him.

Reference # 2, Part 2:

Steve put Ginny on speaker, and Lordy, my Aunt sounded panicked and out of breath.  I assumed she’d been cleaning a room in the motel when Martha told her, and she ran back to the office to make the call.  At the time, my brother was in the Marines and she’d thought for sure that this phone call had been about him. (My brother had a knack for getting himself into trouble.) When she explained that he was calling about me, Ginny was speechless.  That was a first – Ginny at a loss for words.  She said nothing.  At this point I felt that Steve was getting a little tired of this game.  He tried again by asking her if she knew me.  Ginny squeaked out a, “yes.”  He told her the reason for his call and my Aunt’s demeanor changed drastically.  I could feel her excitement – I’d finally made a move!

Reference # 6:

Mr. Soprano (not his real name).  In high school, I had two very good friends who were Italian and sisters. Their dad didn’t care for teenagers very much, but for some reason he always liked me.  He was also a very successful businessman, ergo I thought he’d make a good reference.  Now, I must admit that there were occasional rumors surrounding Mr. Soprano, but they were never substantiated.  Having spent quite a bit of time in his house, I didn’t believe any of them.

His secretary (that’s what they were called back then) answered the phone.  “Good Morning, Soprano Inc.  How may I help you?”

Steve:  “Good morning.  May I please speak with Mr. Soprano?”

Secretary:  “Certainly, I’ll put you through.  May I tell him who’s calling?”

Steve:  “Yes.  This is Steve Rodriguez with the Miami Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Dead silence.  Crickets.  I think I heard her gulp.  Those rumors popped into my head.  Oh sh**.

Secretary:  “Just a moment please.”

We were put on hold.  We waited.  And waited.  And waited.  No one ever picked the phone back up.

Reference # 7:


My Dad.  In retrospect, I’m not certain why I listed my dad as a reference, but I did.  At this point in my interview, I was embarrassed and Steve seemed a little irritated.  Plus his secretary had interrupted to say they were ready to give me the polygraph.  When Steve dialed the number, it was around 10 a.m., way too early for my dad.  When he finally answered, you could hear the phone hit a surface, repeatedly.  Presumably, it had been a late night because my dad was obviously was having trouble answering the phone.

He groggily answered and I rolled my eyes while mouthing the words “That’s my Dad,” to Steve.  He nodded that he understood.

Steve:  “Good Morning. This is Steve Rodriguez with the Miami Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. May I speak to Ed McGrath?”

Dead silence.  Oh no, here we go again.

A short beat of time passed before my dad cleared his voice and said, “Um, Ed’s not here right now.”

I dropped my head into hands. Oh my God!  Please tell me this is not happening. Check please! When I finally looked up, Steve was staring at me.

Steve:  “May I leave a message for him?”

My dad:  “Certainly. Let me get a pen and paper.”  He put the phone down and I’m sure at this point he was splashing water of his face and freaking the hell out.  He picked the phone back up and said, “I’m ready.”

Steve:  “Could you please tell him I have his daughter in my office and I need to speak with him as soon as possible.”

Oh no, oh no, oh no.  I actually felt sorry for my dad, but I was frozen.  I didn’t know what to do. Another short beat of time passed.

My dad:  “Oh, wait a minute. I think I see him in the parking lot (my dad lived in a condo).  Yes, I do.  I see him.  Hold on a minute.”

I kid you not when I tell you he put the phone down, with emphasis, and walked, stomped actually, to his front door.  We could hear him open the door and yell, “Ed!  Ed!  Wait a minute! You have a phone call.”  Again, some more loud stomping before he picked up the phone again.  “You’re in luck.  I caught him.  Hold on a minute.”  Then he plopped the phone back down on the counter.

Yeah.  Now, Steve’s mouth was wide open in astonishment!  Wait, it gets better. We heard my dad slam the (front) door.

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My dad:  In a disguised voice, “Hello?”

Steve clears his throat, and proceeds to explain why he’s calling.

My Dad:  “And she’s there right now?”

Steve:  “Yes.  Would you like to speak to her?”

My dad:  “I would.”

Me:  “Hi dad.”

My dad:  With an embarrassed chuckle, “Hello darling.  I didn’t know you were applying to the FBI.”

Me:  “Well, I am.”

Steve asked his questions and Dad answered.  And I got realistic about my chances of a future with the Bureau.  For the life of me, I don’t know why it never occurred to me that my friends and family would freak about a phone call from the FBI.

That my friends, was an EPIC Fail!


I did not get the job with the FBI.


This post was inspired by Finish the Sentence Friday and yours truly came up with this week’s sentence.  “Whenever I hear the term epic fail, I think of the time….”  I’m also co-hosting, along with Kristi of Finding Ninee and April of 100lb Countdown.  Be sure to click on the links below to visit all my friends!

What was your epic fail?  Have you ever applied to the FBI?  Have you ever used references that perhaps weren’t the best?

42 thoughts on “If you use your dad as a reference, it’s best to tell him!”

  1. Oh man I was so smiling by the end of your story about applying to the FBI, especially with your dad having to change and disguise his voice. Great story and really can’t believe you didn’t get the job after all of that!

  2. So um, I’ve met you and Audrey in real life and I swear that photo of you with your dad could be her!!! OMG! Seriously you look so much alike!!! And um yeah, to never getting that job with the FBI. Maybe that’s a good think though 😉

    1. Thanks Kristi. I think so too, but we are in the minority! Everyone thinks she looks like her dad. And I agree that it was good I didn’t get the job. One – I am so not FBI material and two, I would have never met my husband and therefor the little Smithies would not be:(.

  3. Allie, I remember reading the part of the story about your Dad and the FBI interview. I hadn’t realized that it was just the last call in a series of semi-successful reference checks. Not sure why they did the checks with you in the room, except that the FBI Agent was having a bit of fun. Sorry that you didn’t get the job — it would have been a different perspective on life for sure!!

    1. Thanks Anna. I’m so sorry – I swear I didn’t remember writing the story about Dad before. Isn’t that crazy? I must be losing it. I couldn’t come up with an epic fail, ridiculous since it was my prompt. I asked my husband – thinking he’d have a long list of them:). Nope – he suggested I write the FBI story.

  4. Oh, Allie, this was the BEST post! First, I am so sorry you didn’t get the job. Sitting there with the interviewer calling your references with you in the room? Oh wow. But you have a great story to tell for sure! I cracked up so hard all the way through this that by the time I got to your Dad, I was crying. Tears streaming down my face.
    This was hilarious!

    1. He was very unapologetic about it! He claimed his reaction was normal – and that nobody wants to talk to the Feds. Secretly, I don’t think he wanted me working with “the enemy!” Dad liked to color outside the lines.

  5. So so cute!!! Did you tell a pinch of this story before? It seemed familiar but I definitely didn’t remember all the details. Love that your dad went through all the trouble to make “Ed’s” appearance legit. That was my favorite part. I felt myself holding my breath for your Aunt Ginny even though I knew what the call was about. Poor thing! LOL!!!!

    1. Kenya, I did. Honestly, I’d forgotten that I had until Anna mentioned it. Busted! I wrote an essay for the Huffington Post last Father’s Day about Dad, and it included a very abbreviated version. I posted the HP essay on my blog last fall for a FTSF post, “The best advice my dad ever gave me was…” I pledge here and now, to never write about it again:)!

  6. Oh my, I know and I mean KNOW I should not be laughing my butt off but I am….I am just picturing the whole thing and simply dying of laughter. I would apologize but it is just too freaking funny!!!

  7. What a great story about your father. I got a call like that once — can’t exactly remember who was applying for the FBI job. Ha. Guess it was a long time ago. I think it was a co-worker. Don’t think I ever heard if they got the job either.

  8. Ok so I’m sitting in the hair salon after getting my hair cut. The wifi at home isn’t working and my lovely stylist has said it’s fine if I catch up on the FTSF stuff here. Picture it. Woman chortling into her phone. Huge guffaws. Yep I howled when I read the bit about your dad. Oh my god. Hilarious. They should have hired you knowing you were related to this clever man.

  9. This was sooo much fun to read!!! Your dad, hilarious! I would die if the interviewer called my references with me there!!! That’s a lot of “balls” on his end, but also kind of cool!!! So funny!

  10. Allie I love the way you told this story! The anticipation and omg-factor grew with each phone call, which is exactly how I imagine it felt for you sitting in the office with Steve. Poor Dad! I think it’s fabulous that your nickname is spelled Ooopie with three o’s :)

  11. Came here after reading your moving essay on FGP.

    As for getting references, I don’t think I’d be able to find seven people to contact, but I definitely take the point about asking them first.

    Best of luck.

  12. What an awesome story you have to tell – and you told it so well! If I were Steve, I would love my job – getting people flustered only to tell them everything was okay. How fun must that have been? You totally should have gotten the job, by the way.

  13. hahaha! I really had to read most of this aloud to Cassidy as he cooks dinner. It is that good. And hilarious.
    I love the people who were so protective of you and needed to hear your voice! And I love the people who just.. never picked up the phone. Cough.. cough.. Mr. Soprano.
    So maybe he was up to no good? (just kidding)

  14. I swear I remember reading about your dad before…? BUT I don’t remember this entire story!!!


    I can only imagine how nervous YOU were with each phone call… I swear this could be a movie scene, or sitcom!!!

    I literally laughed OUT LOUD.

    (I don’t think we are FB friends, are we? I don’t know your last name! FIND ME!!!)

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