Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tales of the Unexpected [revisited]

Continuing my countdown to resurrection (a shade premature for Easter, I know, but I've never been one to hang about unduly), here's one of my favourite stories from my dear, departed TeflTrade blog, first published several years back. I've included a few of the original comments too, but please feel free to add your own, either critical, positive, or just idiosyncratic.

Tales of the Unexpected

I went for the interview this morning – the one with the publishing outfit, for selling advertising space on a ‘charity’ magazine. I should have guessed it would turn out strange. I mean, have you ever heard of such a thing as a ‘charity magazine’?

I actually turned up early, as something in my bones told me this could well turn out to be special. I’d even put on my shiny green suit, the only one I really own (as opposed to merely possess), and had polished the shoes up to military standard.The tie even complemented the shirt (a pale sort of brickish-red on a pastellyyellow background – quite cool, I thought) and the teeth had been cleaned twice, in order to bring good luck, in accordance with ancient family tradition.

Well, it all went downhill from thereon. I was escorted into a rather dark and smelly wood-panelled office, and introduced to some exceptionally seedy-looking middle-aged character with a double-barrelled name, probably something like Mr Streemly-Nasty. I can’t actually recall the moniker at all, as I was quite stunned by the exemplary specimen of upper-middle-class low-life before me. If anybody had ever been expelled from Public School for beating minors, stealing their pocket money, and then making them eat worms, then it was surely this greaseball of an item.

By his side sat an enchanting-looking Indian woman called Beena (Beano?). A greater contrast could not have been achieved – Beauty and the Beast, in the flesh. Or Dennis and Gnasher, perhaps.

What followed was a bizarre sort of presentation. At one stage I even thought I was being set up, a sort of Candid Camera, or a Jeremy Beadle experience. But no, these guys were serious. They told me all about the company, how it was a mould-breaker, a style-setter, and was about to change the world of publishing. Lots of figures were bandied about, always in hundreds of thousands, or millions. It was pure hard sell, in fact, like it was some sort of a timeshare ‘opportunity’ for an as yet unbuilt resort.

However, by the end of the sermon I was still none the wiser as to the magazine’s name, its content, or its target audience. So I asked. Stupid me – I should have realized that was ‘client-sensitive’ information, whatever that means. I even got scowled at for this apparent intrusion into the world of ‘corporate affairs’. Naughty boy!

Then they asked me what particular skills I could bring to the job. Now, I’d anticipated this, of course, and was about to reel off my skills at personal communication, getting on people’s good side, ability to remain sober, er, I mean focused, etc. But then I realized that they hadn’t actually told me anything about the job. There had been lots of guff about the company, the ‘mission’, the brave new world of the future, but not a single simple sentence about what the bloody job would involve.

So I said “What job?”. They looked puzzled. I pointed out the fact that they hadn’tactually referred to or described the position at all. Beena than sprang into life – had she forgotten her part on the spiel? Yet her short monologue was as vague, rambling and unfulfilling as a Bob Dylan epic.

However, by then I wasn’t listening anymore. I’d finally twigged that this so-called ‘charity mag’ was probably more of a wank-mag aimed at teenagers, or something equally unhealthy. Mr Streemly-Nasty was plainly the proprietor, and Miss Beano his latest ‘discovery’ - or something along those lines. I was thinking of a way out, and pronto.

My inattention had clearly rattled them. They groped at my CV and started to gently pull it apart – would I really be suitable for an office-based position? they mumbled.

Here was my chance, I thought. I summoned up all my courage, and spurted: well, if you didn’t like my CV, why did you invite me here for the interview – just to insult me? Their looks of incredulity encouraged me to push a little further –they were on the metaphorical ropes. I scowled and snorted, berated them for wasting my time … and scuttled out of the room like a startled beetle.

“Have a nice life” I heard the greaseball chuckle as I was halfway down the stairs. Nice life, indeed.

When I got home there was a message waiting for me on the answer-phone. A certain school was a bit short of a teacher next week – could I ‘step into the breach’ and help them out? Well, although I’d much rather be slipping out to the beach, I figured this had just got to be better than another ‘interview’ courtesy of the Job-Centre.

Better the devil you know, after all.

First Published: Friday, 14 October 2005


'A visitor' left this comment on 15 Oct 05
This is so well written Sandy - I especially enjoyed this part:
"(W)ell, if you didn’t like my CV, why did you invite me here for the interview – just to insult me? (...) I scowled and snorted, (and) berated them for wasting my time."
I'm all for standing up and walking out of an interview if they're full of crap. In Copenhagen I once attended a sales pitch with about fifteen others interested in doing some telemarketing (yes, I'm sorry, but I needed the money - I've still never done it, though). On the phone, I made a big thing about commission - I wouldn't work for it. He assured me there was only a flat rate, with no commission, just as it said in the job ad. The moment he then mentioned the commission at his presentation, and I asked a question to double-check, I stood up and walked out; there was no reason to stay. The man got really angry and he started shouting at me about my lack of etiquette for not staying until the end (possibly trying to stop some of the other suckers from doing the same). I just kept on walking.

'A visitor' left this comment on 16 Oct 05
Thanks for the kind words, David. I take it your experience was all in Danish, right? Why didn't you give the guy a blast of fine Old English expletives?!

'A visitor' left this comment on 17 Oct 05
HoHoHo. yes life outside tefl. I almost became an insurance salesman in Sunderland when it looked as if things were going downhill. I also 'walked'.

'A visitor' left this comment on 17 Oct 05
Selling insurance in Sunderland?! I assume it wasn't health insurance, was it - more like 'protection', or the like? Well, I s'pose most people need it round those parts.
But it could've been worse - it could've been Hartlepool, after all.

'A visitor' left this comment on 17 Oct 05
I think that sometimes it feels right to vent, and at other times the best option is just to move on as fast as possible, without wasting any more time or energy. And yes, it was all in Danish. But I certainly understood it correctly.

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