Slippers and rats

If looking for a job was daunting, attending interviews was utterly terrifying.

Once I’d stopped shaking, my first interview in 20 years was actually ok.  The two woman who interviewed me were lovely and all in all I was glad to get it under my belt.  I didn’t get the job, but they did send a lovely email asking if they could keep my details on file.

My next interview was for a firm of architects based in the middle of nowhere.  I wasn’t sure about this one, it was full time, and the hours meant I wouldn’t get home until after 6.30pm – which was a little bit late to be leaving the kids (I had no childcare, and the job didn’t pay enough to fund any.  I didn’t mind leaving them for an hour or so after school, but any longer didn’t feel fair to them).  Everything that day seemed liked fate was screaming at me to not go to the interview.  First of all as I left the house I was stuck in a cab, for 15 minutes, waiting for a skip to be delivered to a neighbour.  Then as we drove there I realised exactly how remotely it was located.  The job description had said I’d need a car, but I’d hoped maybe I could walk/cycle or bus the journey, but as the cab driver and I meandered down an increasingly muddy road, without a house, or a bus stop, in sight, it became apparent that I’d definitely need a car to get to this one.  When we finally got there, the security gate was locked and I had to climb out of the cab, stepping gingerly (in my nicest, most pinchy, shoes) over the mud to buzz the office to ask them to let the car through.

The cab then dropped me in the car park and I picked my way towards the office, tripping on the uneven surface, cursing my pinching shoes, and just wanting to turn around and go home. Then, having made a complete spectacle of myself (being an architect’s office, this place was newly designed and had loads of massive windows – great fenestration – that everyone working there could see me through) I couldn’t work out which way to open the front door to (you can see how well this was going). Having pushed instead of pulled (story of my life) for what felt like an hour I pretty much fell through the front door.  I then sat in reception recovering my composure and wishing I’d worn boots not shoes.

Just when I thought I couldn’t hate my pinchy shoes more or look any more of an idiot, I realised that everyone here was WEARING SLIPPERS (I assume to protect the lovely hardwood floor).  I walked to the interview room conscious that my my shoes, which were clicking and clacking, in what I’d previously thought was a very sophisticated, grown-up fashion, probably sounded like inconsiderate hammer and chisel blows to everyone who worked there and knew the ‘office shoe code’.

In the end the interview itself was ok, but the whole way through my brain was screaming “get me out of here!”  I was actually rather into the concept of slippers at work, but everything else was wrong for me.  Clearly they felt the same way, and I was quietly relieved when I didn’t get offered the job.

My next interview was for a job which was even more out of my comfort zone.  However, it was at my local upper school, so it meant school hours, term times and a ten-minute walk from my house.  The job title – Science Technician – was greeted first with concerned disbelief and then howls of derisive laughter from the kids, three of whom attended the school, and all of whom knew my talents did not lie in that direction.  I told them that the school had assured me that, whilst based in the science labs, no science qualifications or experience were necessary and that what they really needed was someone capable and organised, but we were all slightly nervous about this one.

I was told that this interview would be in three parts: 1) a tour of the school 2) a 15 minute in-tray test, 3) an interview.  The first thing that occurred to me was: “what the actual fuck is an ‘in-tray test’?”  I was slightly mollified when google suggested it would probably be admin or problem-solving based.  It wasn’t until I got there that I realised that the whole interview process would be happening alongside other two people shortlisted for the job.  At this point I knew I was totally fucked.  One of the other applicants was a recent graduate in her 20s with teaching experience (and enthusiasm).  The other was a woman a bit younger than me, who not only had school and teaching experience, but who just looked vastly more competent than me.

I dutifully trotted round the school tour, trying to look confident and saying “hi” to the teachers I knew (all of whom looked slightly concerned to see me).  I even smiled like I knew what I was doing, when I was told that this job involved setting up the experiments for the next day’s classes and included checking the FROZEN RAT stock levels and defrosting them as and when needed for dissections.

Next was the in-tray test.  Any hopes I had of something involving admin or problem solving were completely blown out of the (science-y) water.  This test was an actual science experiment/procedure.  We were taken to a biology lab, given a test tube, a beaker, a pipette, measuring scales, stirry things, measury things, chemicals and a piece of A4 paper with instructions (mainly diagrams and equations) for preparing a chemical solution.  It was probably quite basic stuff, but to someone who hadn’t been near science or maths for over 30 years, it might as well have been a Chemistry PhD exam.  How I didn’t just run out of that lab and I will never know.  I calmed myself down and followed the instructions as best I could, but, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing – unlike the other two applicants who might as well have been wearing white lab coats, goggles and badges saying “I know science stuff.”  In the end I’d produced a weak solution that looked vaguely semen-like and I stood and stirred it with the stirry-thing – nodding wisely and trying to look like I knew what I was doing – until they said the in-tray test was over.

By stage three of the process, I was, frankly, so happy that the in-tray test was over that defrosting the rats would have seemed fun. The interview itself was lovely.  The two members of staff who interviewed me we’re very nice and didn’t once mention the complete pigs-ear I’d made of the in-tray test, for which I was very grateful.  They called me later and told me that they’d offered the job to one of the other candidates, they didn’t mention if the solution I’d prepared had made had caused concern re the potential of creating fire hazards etc in the school, but I suspect it may have done.

The news that I hadn’t got this job was greeted with hugs from the girls, a quiet sigh of relief fom Oldest Son, who had four years left at the school and was quite keen on science, and slight disappointment from Youngest Son, who quite liked the idea of the frozen rats.

I was beginning to lose hope of finding anything, when my lovely friend mentioned that her office might need some help over the summer.



2 thoughts on “Slippers and rats

  1. You are a great storyteller. I too, enjoy the glimpses of your sense of humour in your writing, and the fact that you are able to laugh at yourself and the situations you have had to face. Finding lightness and laughter in the pain and heaviness. You are courageous, brave and delightful!


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