I leaned back on my hands and enjoyed the warm sunshine on my face, which was a massive improvement over the chilly shade we’d been sitting in. I grabbed a couple peanuts, sipped my cold beer, and watched the boys of summer prepare for the season in a spring training game. It didn’t matter who was playing. I was enjoying the last moments of my spring break before I had to head home and face my last set of finals in law school, a summer of studying for the bar exam, and the search for a job. I savored every minute.
It would be hours later when I looked in the mirror that I learned of my fatal mistake — I’d forgotten to put on suntan lotion. How could the March Florida sun be that strong? And how exactly was I sitting so that only two-thirds of my face was sunburned? The sunburned part of my face was so red, and the non-burned part was so white. I looked like the reverse Phantom of the Opera.
Immediately upon my return from Florida, I had an interview for a yearlong clerkship with a judge, which was the first stepping stone in my legal career. No pressure. I did the best I could to cover it up with makeup, and I walked in there as if the Phantom sunburn was normal. And somehow I got the job.
Months later as my clerkship was ending, I learned that one of the reasons the judge had hired me was that I had actually showed up for the interview, despite the weird sunburn. And here I had hoped she didn’t notice. Since then, I’ve had to talk myself out of getting a Phantom sunburn before big job interviews. I just let me resume do the talking.