There’s nothing like a bad pun to get things off to a good start.
‘How was your train in?’ the interviewer asks.
‘Ah, well -’ I begin, ‘hopefully I’ll be training here soon enough!’
I pause in anticipation of the inevitable roar of laughter.
It takes longer than expected. The interviewer cocks his head slightly to one side, like an owl that ultimately decides a particular worm is, in fact, too disgusting to eat.
‘Oh,’ he says.
Perhaps the joke wasn’t clear. I make sure.
‘Train! TRAIN!’ I mime the choo-ing of a train, and then the chewing of the brain that takes place when knowledge is ingested.
‘Yes,’ he says.
A pause. Then -
‘Please - have a seat’, he gestures with a veiny, hairless palm.
‘Many thanks,’ I respond assuredly, moving on from my underappreciated gag by decisively placing my posterior into the outstretched hand.
‘What?’ he asks.
‘Hm?’ I say.
‘No.’ he shakes.
‘Ah. The chair.’
He nods sadly. I apologise generously and move from hand to seat.
Things are going well.
‘This is my colleague - Ermingsworth.’ He introduces a seated and commanding woman next to him.
‘Pleasure!’ she barks treeishly. I nod at her curtly, suspicious of this outsider to the interaction.
‘And I am Smith,’ he gestures to himself as if he is about to sing a breathily intense acoustic reinterpretation of Miley Cyrus’ eternal classic ‘Wrecking Ball’. He refrains - for now.
‘Excellent, excellent,’ I speak out commandingly, dominant and at ease in the room.
‘So, to get things started, I’ll just give you a rough outline on how this interview will proceed -’
‘I’m going to cut you off there, Smith my boy,’ I interrupt assertively, ‘for I’ve heard this organisation is full of dynamic action takers, and there are few more dynamic takers of action than myself. Just this minute for instance - you were touching on the format of the interview and other meaningless necessities and I decided, no! Time to take action! Let’s get things done!’
I slap the back of my left hand into the palm of my right, and clench it into a fist finger by finger then finally thumb. Conviction writ large through medium of limb.
‘Hm’, Smith wonders.
‘Haha!’ cries Ermingsworth.
‘Next question,’ I demand, rolling up my sleeves and placing my legs on the pot plant in front of me. I am expertly demonstrating that I am not to be trifled with or even custarded.
‘Well,’ Smith recommences, ‘this will be a rather short, introductory set of questions just to make sure you’re comfortable -’
‘Comfortable, ha! Do I not seem comfortable to you?’ I remove my tie hurriedly and begin unbuttoning my shirt. If it’s comfort they want, then they shall have it! I produce my old mahogany pipe from my back pocket.
‘Please, Smitherson’, I ask, ‘do you perchance have a light?’
‘No,’ he writhes uncomfortably.
It takes me several minutes to light my tobacco, due to the airless nature of the room no doubt. Eventually, after an abyss of silence in which I swim free and easy, I achieve my goal.
‘See,’ I gesture, ‘I am persistent and tenacious and I like getting things done. Comfortable, too.’ I unloosen my belt, puff out a great hoop of smoke and belch loudly.
‘I like the cut of your jib!’ Ermingsworth screams.
‘How dare you, it’s not for sale!’ I retort.
This woman is quite evidently dangerous. I must mind myself.
‘Right, well, this is all most unusual,’ Smith quibbles.
‘Indeed - I am quite an exceptional candidate.’
Smith nods in ponderous agreement. Ermingsworth lolls her head back and moves from side to side in a great rush of delirium.
‘I think,’ Smith glances at his watch, ‘that we only have time for one more question.’ He coughs nervously.
I knew I was good, but I have clearly blown them away in my 2 minutes in the room. This is unprecedented.
‘Go ahead, Smith, old chum.’
‘What would you say is your greatest weakness?’
I am struck by his sincerity and honesty. This is an astonishingly direct line of questioning for a professional interview - Smith has shown great emotional depth here. It shows me that this organisation does not seek to simply know the excellent job I would undoubtedly do - they also seek to know the very fibre of my soul.
Amidst the chaos and concentration of the interaction, I am suddenly alone in the forest of my own subconscious, kept company only by my dreams, my hopes, my regrets, my frustrations. The trees move softly in the breeze, as all my thoughts agglomerate into one whole and then, just as quickly, diffuse one by one into the sky.
I fight back the tears, and find myself back in the room.
Then I speak poetry and wisdom true- ‘Well, I’m something of a perfectionist.’
Smith looks up from his notepad, bewildered. Ermingsworth stops her to-ing and fro-ing for the briefest of moments as if she has caught the final notes of some beautiful aria.
This brings the interview to a close. We have shared something special here today - it is palpable to all three.
I have learnt from my earlier error and when Smith extends his hand, I do not sit, but rather nuzzle it in a professional display of warmth. He looks down, presumably deeply moved.
‘We’ll be in touch,’ Smith nods sympathetically. Ermingsworth has commenced a slow-motion macarena.
‘Excellent,’ I murmur, and move gracefully into the night.
I eagerly await their response.
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