Another one from the archives. Or, more accurately, the multitudinous, multi-faceted ether of my iPhone notes.
Does it surprise you that it’s always been my dream to work at the UN? If it does then I’ve been highly misleading in these diaries. Well, dearest reader, that dream almost came true for me the other night only to be hopelessly dashed in a fug of stuttered unintelligibilities (not a word and therefore representative of the kind of vocabulary displayed in my interactions with aforementioned Institution of my idolatory) and profuse, incorrigible sweating.
By “up” I do not mean awake but vertical, as I’d spent most of the night grimly willing myself to sleep and tossing and turning like the cliched Hollywood heroine I know myself to be.
It began innocently enough, as these things tend to do. An ubiquitous salutation into my Gmail, a hesitant response. A suggestion, much like the prompts of a Tinder algorithm, to submit myself to scrutiny, assessment and rigorous judgement all in the name of finding “the one.” In this case, the “one” was not a bearded, vintage shirt-wearing, earth-loving male comfortable in his sexuality and capable of dealing with – and articulating – his emotions but rather a job with, you know, just this super obscure, virtually unknown organisation called…is it the UN?
The nudge came hurtling into my email at 9pm on a Tuesday night. I was drinking and thought perhaps the third IPA had been a mistake and was thus creating further errors in my cognitive function. Holly! It read. Here’s a UNV job for you. A job you actually seem qualified for – imagine!! We know you’ve JUST made yet another life plan and drastic schemes to move to the underworld of Australia for which you have quit a job, house and city to enable to happen but let’s say to hell with that and submit you for the absolute craic. Oh, and by the way, the position’s in Kingston. Yes, the Kingston that is in Jamaica.
Three-can Holz’s response was automatic, unconscious, unquestioning: sure!
I clicked accept and off some CV went spiralling into the vortex. I drank another can, thought nothing more.
Six days later and I’m frantically trying to smooth my hair into professional levels of slickness in the Zoom camera while I wait for three formidable interviewers to admit me into a meeting.
The plan was not to get an interview. The plan was to simply respond to the call of the universe and, for the first time in my life, pray for rejection.
And rejection was what I got. After already suffering the disorientation and frustration of the interview being rescheduled once before, 8.03am Monday morning found me staring red-eyed and crazed into the unblinking pupil of my laptop camera, a maniacal smile glued to my face as I shuffled my notes, anxiously cleared my throat for the 1,300th time and adjusted my culturally appropriated Hamer tribe beads that I’d worn for “flair.” I was three minutes into being stood up. We were scheduled to commence at 8 meaning I’d naturally been up at 6. By “up” I do not mean awake but vertical, as I’d spent most of the night grimly willing myself to sleep and tossing and turning like the cliched Hollywood heroine I know myself to be.
I was, quite frankly, a mess.
By 8.05 I was positively up to ninety as the Zoom failed to display a glimmer of other life in the great, digital beyond and the blusher I’d generously if not carefully applied at 7.57 was overrun by an unbecoming flush of anguished stress and confusion.
RIGHT, I said. If it gets to 8.07 and they still haven’t appeared, I’ll send them an email. Because I am ASSERTIVE and PUNCTUAL and can show INITIATIVE. But also mainly because, in testing the video call connection a few days before with the primary interviewer, I perhaps was so late accessing the call that she had to send a courteous but firm email prompt politely wondering if there was a valid reason for my delay.
NOT TODAY, I thought grimly. Not again. So, when 8.07 rolled around, I swished my beads, rouged myself up a little more with an injection of gumption and started typing a gallingly simpering email innocently announcing my eager readiness to engage in the interview whenever the panel were ready and adding, for good and equally sickening measure, that if there was anything I could do to help should there be a technical glitch, I would be more than happy to oblige.
Whoo, exhale, coffee sip, smug victory dance for assertive, grown up Holly.
At 8.08, just as the option to undo my sent email faded from my screen, a colleague IM’d me: “What time’s the interview?” She asked.
“Ugh, it’s supposed to be now but they’re so frigging late!!!!” (Much like my gin-pouring, peanut butter-slathering, and moral tendencies, I am very liberal with my punctuation)
In this case, the “one” was not a bearded, vintage shirt-wearing, earth-loving male comfortable in his sexuality and capable of dealing with – and articulating – his emotions but rather a job with, you know, just this super obscure, virtually unknown organisation called…is it the UN?
I expected sympathy from this message: I did not get it. Instead, I got the full punch of stomach-slamming, retch-inducing realisation that I have just made a grave and irrevocable error.
“Holly”, she wrote. “Isn’t it the middle of the night in Jamaica?”
I have never googled anything so quick.
Reader. It was approximately 10 minutes past 2 am in Jamaica, a whole three minutes since I had emailed the person who had the potential to make or break my deepest career aspirations to passive aggressively ask what was keeping them.
Oh. Dear. Jesus.
“Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck”, I wrote back (and shouted several times into the shaming void of my bedroom.)
Not only had I showed up late to not even an interview but the simplest and quickest of tests, I had now essentially bootycalled the only institution I’ve ever really loved. I needed to retract, recalibrate and redeem myself: fast.
The follow up apology email sent at 14 minutes past two was every bit as simpering and insufferable as the first but this time there was several added truckloads of pious humility and grovelling self-deprecation. Every emphatic and hyperbolic add-on under the sun was employed as I “so” and “really” and “very” and “truly” and “extremely”d my way out of it.
I then had to start my actual job and pretend that everything was TOTALLY FINE and I wasn’t going to spend the next five hours sitting in a calcified pool of my own sweat agonising over how to properly apologise when the real interview took place at 2pm.
Yep, despite having felt at this point like I’d lived through all current seasons of both the UK and US Apprentice, I still had yet to do the interview and thus was going to have to re-energise and re-psych myself up (Jesus that is terribly clunky and lazy language, isn’t it?) while still maintaining an aura of calm professionalism and demonstrable productivity.
Clearly that never happened.
2pm rolled around and the pupils were now fully dilated and my hands actually quivering with the amount of caffeine and adrenaline coursing through my body. Within the first five seconds of the four-way Zoom interview, I realised one important thing: that I don’t come across very well virtually. This was made all the worse when, after the pleasantries had been concluded, we were then asked to turn off our cameras so that I was essentially talking to myself. Or rather, a highly demanding black square who kept asking for concrete examples that I couldn’t for the life of me pluck from the pulverised sludge my brain matter had become.
Perhaps this is why I kept referring to the interview as the internet. This in itself is worrying particularly as, even though I could hear myself saying it and therefore knew it to be wrong, I still couldn’t muster the necessary brain power to self-correct. What made it more troubling is the simple fact that I was referring to the interview whilst taking part IN the interview in the first place, no? Why was I referencing an event everyone in the conversation was already not only aware of but experiencing in increasingly-frustrated real time? This is the question that continues to haunt me; I remain stumped. All I can say is that’s about as strange as referring to yourself in the third-person.
I gesticulated, floundered, hit my head several times off the keyboard and generally wanted the glorious 1980s carpet to swallow me up as disembodied voice after disembodied voice asked me rudimentary interview question after classic interview question and each time my blubbering was interrupted with one of two gentle prods: “yes but still if you could give just one concrete – YES, CONCRETE – example of a time you were challenged please, Holly” or the far more direct “let’s move on as we’re running short on time.”
Never has the excuse of poor internet connection been so ruthlessly manipulated. Pretending I was a newsreader giving a live studio update that is always three seconds delayed, I would freeze – musical statue style – each time a question was asked, immobilised in an encouraging smile to buy myself time and plead internet delay. Again, while I knew this was a completely redundant tactic as nobody could see me, I appeared powerless to stop doing it. Within minutes, my cheeks were aching from the faux and frozen smile that was my decoy.
And this was before I even started talking.
So trapped was I in the hamster wheel of spoof-spinning that at one point one interviewer asked, as I recounted yet another drab “formative work experience”, “sorry – what job are you actually talking about?”
By the time the interview had overrun by a solid 10 minutes, I think we were all relieved the ordeal was at an end.
“Any questions?” One asked without much hope for a response.
“Nope!” I chirped, committing the final, singular faux-pas of interview etiquette. To ask any kind of detailed question was to belie the glaring reality that there was no way I would be moving to Kingston, Jamaica and so I thought, what the hell, let’s just end this for everyone – it’s better that way.
I hung up, calcified, salinic, saturated in sweat. As I stared at the now-silent screen, I idly wondered if it would be inappropriate to add “bootycalled the UN” to my CV.
I’m still deliberating, to be honest. I think it shows initiative, creative thinking and a hearty dose of self-belief. What do you think??
- Anti-perspirant. Let’s hear it for bloody chemicals, amirite??