Tuesday, September 04, 2007

So Sad Because It's True

A true story.

It happened to me late last night and early this morning. Things like this always seem to happen to me. Nothing is ever as straightforward as it seems.

So, you know that I’ve been looking for a job? Things have been getting pretty bad and I’ve become pretty desperate to find something with decent pay while allowing me to continue to write. Well, at ten thirty last night, Tricia from the job agency rang me up.

‘Chip?’ she says, ‘we’ve an opening for a writer or sub-editor to work on a magazine in your area. Would you be interested?’

‘Would I?‘ I gasp as my chin hits the floor. This is the woman who usually offers me work in telesales. This was a writing job. Let me emphasize that so you don’t misunderstand me: this was a writing job.

‘Yes. They’re desperate for somebody to start soon,’ she says. ‘Should I read you the job description to see if you’re interested?’

‘Of course, read away,’ I reply, having to sit down to calm myself.

‘Well, they need somebody who is hard-working, creative, open-minded, and who enjoys meeting people, is comfortable on the phone and relishes working as part of a team’.

‘Great,’ I say. ‘Anything else?’

‘Yes,’ says the agent. ‘You'll need to be flexible and versatile, writing everything from strap lines, captions and headlines to 3,000 word stories…’ And so it went on, every word of it sounding perfect. A well paying writing job less than 5 miles away from my doorstep, three minutes on the train. I immediately arranged to go for an interview this morning.

So, at eight o’clock, I’ve dressed myself up in my very best suit, with a pile of my shorter written pieces in a folder just in case they want to read some of my work.

I get there early. It’s a modern office block used by a dozen other companies who rent office space. One corner of the building belongs to the people I’ve gone to see about the writing job. Their foyer is dull, just a sneering woman behind a desk with the name of the company embossed on the pale vanilla-yellow wall, comfortably chairs from IKEA, and the usual discarded biro next to a plastic cup with half an inch of cold coffee at the bottom. In a corner there’s a drinks machine demanding exorbitant prices for cans of Fanta and Coke and next to it sits a plant that might have been real, might have been plastic, might have been triffid. I really don’t know.

The sneering woman tells me to wait. I don’t know what she has against me so I don’t make conversation. I wait ten minutes before a man comes in through an insignificant little door and shakes me by my hand. He’s one of the young confident Turks you often get in business. All determination, arrogance, and a hint of a personality imbalance that might make him qualify as a sociopath.

‘Mr. Dale?’

‘Hi,’ I said and shake his hand back.

‘Good of you to come. Come on through. I’ll take you to my office. Do you want a drink first?’ He nods towards the machine.

‘No thanks,’ I reply, ‘I don’t live far away. Not long since I had breakfast.’

‘Ah, local!’ he replies. ‘Excellent. Well come on through…’

And that’s when I realised that somebody had made a very big mistake. I know I hadn’t made it. The guy offering the job hadn’t made it. Tricia at the job agency certainly had.

Before I go on, I want you to look back on the job description that Tricia read to me. Notice anything incongruous here?

‘hard-working, creative, open-minded, and who enjoys meeting people, is comfortable on the phone and relishes working as part of a team. Flexible and versatile, writing everything from strap lines, captions and headlines to 3,000 word stories…’

I’ll give you a clue. It’s not the missing comma that should have followed ‘headlines’. It was the bit about being ‘open minded’.

I walked through the door and was immediately greeted by an A2 flip chat containing a large photograph of two ladies sharing something that looked like a large vegetable but wasn’t. It was made of rubber. Then there were the breasts. Lots and lots of breasts.

‘We publish some of the country’s top men’s magazines,’ explained my host who must have noticed that something was wrong when I turned white and began to make gagging noises. ‘Twizzler, Minge Weekly, Mammary & Matrons Monthly?’ He gazed up at the ceiling as he ran through the full catalogue of speciality publications. ‘Hairy Hungarians, She-Man, Bikers And In Her Tubes, Rubber Lover…’

I know that somebody in my game shouldn’t be shocked by this stuff but I have my limits…

The interview didn’t go well.

‘Any questions?’ he asked once he’d finished giving me a brief resume of my tasks.

‘Just a few,’ I said, having recovered enough to ask what was uppermost on my mind. I began by asking what exactly is a strap line?

‘I know it’s not the strap on a bra because these women don’t wear them. And what exactly am I meant to describe? Do you want me to be literal or metaphorical? Am I meant to write that “‘Brenda has large breasts which she likes to fondle against fairly random industrial backdrops” or would you prefer that I say “Brenda often has her hands full at work and often finds it hard to satisfy the health and safety officer”? If I’m meant to be literal can I use medical terms? If I can use medical terms, what is that pink thing called? I know it’s not a nipple. I know what they look like. I have two of my own and they’ve won awards. What you’re got there look more like two disproportionably sized midgets attending a garlic eating competition while balancing bowls of soup on their head.’

He looked at me in a vague and confused way so I just continued with my questions.

‘And what story needs 3000 words when you have pictures like that to illustrate it? Do the words matter? Does anybody read the words. What kind of stories are they? Human interest? What kind of human has these kinds of interests? Do they know you keep their names on a database?’

‘I can see you’re not impressed,’ he said, going quite cold at my rant. ‘That’s a shame because this is a great opportunity.’

‘An opportunity to become a soulless peddler of pornography in this increasingly decadent age when footballers can hire Yorkshire prostitutes and nobody bats an eyelid? I ask. ’And what exactly is attractive about a Yorkshire prostitute? Do they sound like Geoff Boycott and always talk about the corridor of uncertainty? Perhaps it’s a Portuguese thing.’

After that, things turned ugly. I didn’t get the job. In fact, they had to escort me off the premises.

Like I said: a true story.


Andrew said...

How true is true? Oh civilisation, I knew you once.

Reading the Signs said...

Things like this always happen to you? Then they are asking to be written down. This is good story stuff.

Ms Baroque said...

Chip, excellent!

I mean, I'm sorry.

Mopsa said...

Ha ha ha! You should have taken the job and attacked from within.

elberry said...

Hilarious, i knew your writing job golden dream would turn out to be a cruel hoax as i was reading your blog from old to new posts; i was tempted to rush to the end but carefully made myself read each installment as if there could be any doubt.

There are no golden writing jobs except for a lucky dozen or so human beings - the rest of us have to make do with shit jobs and try to find time to write in the evenings after cooking, eating, tidying, exercising, killing, eating manflesh, etc.

ElizaF said...

Awww Chip, Chip.

You should have taken the job and converted them to being thong lovers.

Job done.

Big Chip Dale said...

My problem wasn't one of thongs. It was a problem of things: what exactly would I call them? Do you know they had vegetables made of rubber that weren't actually vegetables?