‘This way please.’
Mike followed the receptionist to a room that was bland and faded, despite the people
in the room and the colours on display. The walls were dark green and mostly wrinkled
due to the paint appearing as old as the building itself. There were also magazines dating
back to last year near the middle of the room.
‘If you’d like to sit down, someone will call you shortly’, said the receptionist. She then
walked down the corridor, the sound and cadence of her walk resembling a horse been
guided to stables.
As he sat down, he looked outside the window and noticed the grey morning sky, its
dullness and bleak nature reflecting his current mood.
It was the same situation again. Only the environment was different. It was the fifth time
in six weeks he had been through this process. The recession had made things bad, yet he
did not expect it to be like this. A supermarket, a fast food restaurant, a cafe and a sports
shop. Each vacancy he had applied for previously and each time he had been unsuccessful.
Go to school, college and university, get top grades in all three, find yourself a nice job
and someone nice to be with, was the mantra his mom had programmed into him from a
young age. It was a wonder she had not made him get on his knees, clasp his hands
together by his bedside and chant that it out loud before going to bed each night, such was
her disciplinarian fervour to that paradigm she considered essential for a successful life.
For fear of falling foul of her wrath, he had followed it to the tee. Even when he had
grown a foot taller, the conditioning of that path stayed with him and the vice of his
mother still affected him so much, that he would internally jerk up as suddenly as the
horse of the Buckaroo board game he played as a child.
Yet here he was, in an interview, for a sales assistant in a bank, which went against his
beliefs. He despised the way in which the reckless behaviour of the banking industry had
not only gone unpunished, but also how the government had hounded down the general
public for tax debt, even if it the debt in relative terms was small and not the fault of the
individual. Lax paperwork on the part of the supermarket where his mom worked as a
cashier six days a week had meant she had a tax bill of £500, which was been taken out in
£50 increments over the next ten months. It was money she could barely afford to lose.
The contrast between the treatment his mom suffered compared to the banks made him
sick. He was also single, due to this partner of two years dumping him via text for his best
All around him were clones. Smartly dressed, gelled hair, sitting with a straight back, bar
one woman who was slightly slumped. He had struggled for years to establish his own
identity and yet here he was, the same as everyone else.
He expected the wait to be the same as always: quiet, bar the rustling of magazine pages
being turned. He only turned his head to look at the clock mounted on the right hand
corner of the wall. To help the time go by, he tried to strike up a conversion with the
woman to his left.
‘Why are you applying for this job?’ asked Mike.
‘Well,’ the woman said as she adjusted her posture to a more upright stance, ‘I’d like to
earn more money, get up on the career ladder………’. At this point, Mike stared through
her, his focus concentrated on the exit door. The woman, lost in her riot of words, did not
appear to notice.
‘That’s um..interesting’ , Mike retorted, once he was aware that the woman’s lips had
He was guided to an office not much bigger than a broom cupboard. Its claustrophobic
nature made him nervous. Behind the desk was a man, whose mask of stoicism reminded
him of his headmaster at school.
‘What do you hope to achieve in this job?’
‘What qualities do you bring to the workplace?’
These questions were leaving the man’s mouth and Mike, having heard them numerous
times, responded to them like a well-rehearsed sales pitch. Each prosaic answer told the
man what he wanted to hear, not necessarily what was the truth, nor what was the reality
of the workplace.
As they shook each other’s hand near the office door after the questioning was dispensed
with, Mike noticed the man was wearing white patent crocodile skin shoes. The irony of
the difference between the manager’s stern demeanour when he asked questions and the
liberalism of his dress sense was not lost on Mike. He walked down the corridor and
sighed out of earshot.
He had not walked far down the pavement when his mobile phone bleeped.
‘How did it go’, the message from his mom said.
‘Alright’ he replied. But it was far from alright he thought. He felt fake, a fraud. He was
not himself in that situation. He walked head down, knowing he would be going through
the same routine in a few days’ time.